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Co-owner Carol Wendelken in the dining room of North Tavern. (Credit: Cyndi Murray)

Elevated comfort food is what’s on the menu at the newly opened North Tavern restaurant in downtown Wading River.

The causal American eatery opened in the former Amarelle restaurant space on North Country Road about three weeks ago serving homemade pub-style fare like chicken pot pie and meatloaf as well as shareable appetizers like the piled-high nacho mountain.

“We love that Wading River is the gateway to the North Fork,” said co-founder Carol Wendelken. “We try to be a place for the locals. People can come in every day because of the fun menu and atmosphere.”

North Tavern is a family affair co-owned by Carol and her husband, chef Drew Wendelken, along with Drew’s brother Brian Wendelken and his wife, Denise. The family has decades of restaurant and catering experience.

Drew was trained in classic French technique as a teenager in Manhattan and Brian was the manager of Giorgio’s in Baiting Hollow for more than 10 years. Growing up, the brothers also helped their father operate the Country House Restaurant in Stony Brook, where Carol also worked.

Drew and Carol also owned Drew’s American Café in California with an eclectic menu that helped it gain many fans.

“Home called us back,” Carol said. So the family began looking for a joint venture to showcase their unique brand of family-style food. They researched locations across Long Island and landed on Wading River when Drew and Carol drove by the vacant restaurant space and saw an opportunity in February.

The 80-seat restaurant features a grand fireplace. (Credit: Cyndi Murray)

There has been a buzz around the restaurant since the signs for North Tavern were posted in the spring. The 3,740-square-foot space sat vacant for three years after Amarelle shuttered until Fiesta Mexicana opened there in early 2016. It closed about a year later. The space was also previously home to Andrew’s by the Pond.

Carol said the building’s turnover history is not a concern, noting that the family has a knack for creating special restaurant spots that stand the test of time.

“We’re not going anywhere,” Carol Wendelken said. “This is a gem of an area. We’re here to enhance Wading River.”

The enhancement started with the building. The family has redecorated to transform the restaurant into a crisp and modern space with a cozy vibe evident in the exposed wooden beams and grand stone fireplace in the dinning room. The family also added an outdoor lounge area.

In addition to comfort food staples, chef Drew is dishing up fresh and refined seafood options and steaks. The homemade desserts — which include chocolate fudge cake and apple pie — are all $6.

“We want people to have no reason to say no to dessert,” Carol said. “We want everyone to leave having tasted the full experience.”

North Tavern is located at 2028 North Country Road in Wading River and is opened Tuesday through Sunday from 4 to 9 p.m.