The restaurant resurgence continues in Riverhead with Monday’s opening of the new Pulaski Street Grille.
After 26 years in Aquebogue, former Meeting House Creek Inn owner Tom Drake has made the move to Polish Town.
“I never would have left Aquebogue, but my lease was up,” Drake explained. “I looked all over the East End and I kept coming back to this spot. I think Riverhead is up and coming, there’s a couple new restaurants in town, so why not?”
Riverhead has seen a restaurant revival within the past year with the opening of eateries like Sonoma Grill, PeraBell Food Bar, Mazi and the reopened Birchwood.
Pulaski Street Grille will open at the site of the former Doc’s Tavern, where renovation has been underway since the fall.
“We started in October, working on the place,” Drake said. “We basically gutted the inside and just finished a few weeks ago.”
The new space is split between two dining rooms accommodating up to 90 people, down from 165 at the Meeting House. A large bar serving local craft beer — including Long Ireland, Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. and more — greets patrons as they walk in.
“It’s more of an upscale pub, we couldn’t do a tablecloth restaurant, which is what Meeting House Creek was,” Drake said. “We’re in a different direction now and we’re scaling down, so I knocked the menu down as far as size goes.”
A lot of Meeting House Creek Inn favorites still made the cut, though, like their chicken saltimbocca, seafood casino, and fish tacos. New pub style offerings like a po’ boy sandwich and custom burgers with local names complete the dinner menu.
Drake’s wife Leslie is also back in the kitchen, baking her signature sweets.
“She’s known for her desserts,” Tom said. “Our first night somebody ordered a strawberry shortcake to go already.”
Monday nights’s opening saw the restaurant packed with the Drakes’ old friends and customers.
“We have a large customer base from Aquebogue,” Tom said. “I saw a lot of them last night, many familiar faces. And at lunch [Tuesday], I knew nearly everybody, it’s nice to see that.”
Leslie Drake concurred, her eyes watering slightly.
“It was so nice last night to see old friends and customers,” she said. “It was so fun talking with people and catching up, it brings a tear to my eyes.”
The Drakes have more plans as the restaurant settles in, including a Sunday lunch, and maybe a Sunday brunch down the road.
“We’re going to feel it out and see,” Tom said. “If we feel there’s a need for it, I already have a menu in my head. I want to complement The Birchwood, I think the more restaurants in town they definitely complement each other.”
Pulaski Street Grill is located at 424 Pulaski Street in Riverhead.