I have specific memories of the anticipation building within me as my father drove our family van down Main Bayview Road en route to my aunt and uncle’s beach house as a kid. My breath would fog the window as I peered out, silently acknowledging the landmarks of Southold.
One specific checkpoint always stood out to me, letting me know we were getting close. It was a large white wooden house with a vast gravel driveway. I always wondered what was inside this place my cousins simply called “Sophie’s.”
Little did I know what looked like the many inns and bed and breakfasts we’d pass on the way to Greenport or Orient Point, was actually a bar and restaurant with decades of history behind it.
On the first Saturday in July, I finally set foot in Sophie’s and was fortunate to discover a group of young people conversing by the jukebox willing to share their stories with me.
I’m sure those who live in Southold are already well-acquainted with the tales of Sophie Furmankiewicz, the woman who ran what she called the Willowmere Inn, but is more contemporarily known by local residents as Sophie’s. Described with an almost folklorian reverence by Sophie’s faithful patrons, she was a vivacious and entertaining woman, with an uncanny knack for determining what to serve guests, despite what they ordered. Sophie sounded like a strong-willed and dedicated woman, and I’m sure she would be proud of the legacy co-owners Charlie Manwaring and Thomas Grattan Jr. continue at Sophie’s Rest.
“It is a place we can come to during the summer and have conversations with one another without yelling,” said Southold native Abigail Heins. “It is a great local spot where you can start the evening, or a place to end the night.”
“It is an open environment for all ages trying to get away from the hustle and bustle,” added her brother, Elisha Heins. “You can just come down and sit and have a good time.”
I saw evidence of this as I sipped a beer and observed Sophie’s atmosphere. I watched a group at the bar chatting with the bartender, while a second crowd gathered around the pool tables and dartboard in the back room for a relaxing conversation. This is the type of place, as Heins put it, where you can reconnect with old friends, or meet new ones; a reflection of the inclusiveness and community interconnectivity Southold is known for.
Elisha informed me one of the most attractive aspects of Sophie’s is its hours.
“You never get the feeling like you have to rush out,” he said. “It is easy going, and they let you hang out and enjoy your last beer with good conversations.”
Weekly attractions advertised on this North Fork gem’s blackboard include Wednesday Trivia Night and Prime Rib Dinner Tuesdays. It’s also a great place for sports fans to catch a game.
Furthermore, this unassuming watering hole has expanded its food menu in recent years, though the locals say the pizza Sophie’s has always been known for is their go-to order.
Despite summering less than a mile from this Southold staple, fellow first-time patron Nicholas Pirolo shared that Sophie’s reminds him “of a neighborhood bar in [his] area of Brooklyn.”
“There’s people all around the bar talking to each other, both young and old,” he said.
Age didn’t seem to play a factor in the enjoyment of Sophie’s patrons. Everyone had the same goal in mind. Enjoy a cold beer and some good conversation with friends.
Sophie’s is located at 730 Main Bayview Road in Southold. Look for the big white house with the charming front porch and outside patio.
The author is a Connecticut school teacher spending summer break in Peconic for the first time and blogging about it on northforker.com. Check out her other stops along the way: