Chef behind Jennie’s at Drossos takes over Salamander’s in Greenport

Salamander’s in Greenport is closed after 26 years in business. Ellen’s on Front will fill the space in the spring. (Credit: Cyndi Zaweski)

The chef behind the popular seasonal pop-up Jennie’s at Drossos has taken over the former Salamander’s space in Greenport.

Jennie Werts, who along with her brother Andrew launched the pop-up at Drossos Motel in the summer of 2017, closed on the Front Street space earlier this month.

The Wertses are aiming to open Ellen’s on Front in May with an American comfort food menu similar to Jennie’s at Drossos. Ellen’s — named for their mother — replaces Salamander’s, which recently closed after 26 years in business.

Claudia Helinski operated three different businesses under the Salamander’s name since 1992. The first was Salamander’s Café at Brewer’s Yacht Yard on Manhanset Avenue, which focused on internationally inspired cuisine, followed by Salamander’s General Store on First Street, focusing on takeout and its famous fried chicken. In 2012, Helinski opened Salamander’s on Front, a combination of its predecessors.

Ms. Werts said purchasing the business was especially meaningful because of her longstanding relationship with Helinski.

“One of the first kitchen jobs I had was at Salamander’s — when it was on First Street —with Claudia,” Ms. Werts said Monday. “The goal was always to have a restaurant in Greenport and this location is exciting. It feels like it has come full circle.”

The 2,000-square foot restaurant, listed last year according to Multiple Listing Services of Long Island, is undergoing cosmetic updates ahead of its anticipated spring opening. Andrew Werts, who works in advertising in New York City and manages the business side of Ellen’s on Front and Jennie’s at Drossos, said the new 60- to 70-seat restaurant would focus on casual, family-friendly dining and less on the take-out counter that was popular at Salamander’s. Though the new menu has not been finalized, Andrew said guests can expect a variety of options from burgers to shareable plates to double fried Crescent Duck wings.

“It is not high-concept food; the goal is ‘food for everyone,’” he said. “We want it to be an inviting space.”

The brother and sister team grew up summering in East Marion and have long hoped to open a restaurant in the village. They launched the weekend-only summer pop-up at Drossos in 2017 and expanded its hours to seven days a week when it reopened for the summer season last May. The plan is to open the pop-up for a third season this summer.

Jennie’s at Drossos was the Wertses’ first restaurant. Jennie is a graduate of The French Culinary Institute (now known as The International Culinary Center) and began her career working alongside noted chefs Tom Valenti and Richard Sandoval. In 2014, she was named executive chef at the award-winning Wolfert’s Roost in Irvington and has spent time working locally in the kitchens at Salamander’s and Bruce and Son during college. She was most recently executive dining room chef at Credit Suisse in New York City.

Ellen’s on Front will be located at 38 Front Street.

czaweski@timesreview.com 

3 Comment

  • Kudos to Claudia for providing superb food and ambiance for over a generation. My family always found her cuisine delicious, though her famous chicken was sinful for those who were weight conscious. Oh well, a leg or two never did harm. I am delighted that Jennie has both the culinary skills and the appreciation of Claudia’s tutelage. I wish her luck, while Claudia takes a well-deserved vacation in Thailand.

  • Re: Ellen’s….Please keep the fried chicken!!