An eclectic menu of Chinese dumplings and French crepes mixed with the sweet, timelessness of an Orient tradition, Opties and Dinghies has opened on Village Lane, serving a seamless blend of old and new on July Fourth weekend.
Owners Vincent Bertault and Claudia Lin are bringing their 12-plus years of culinary experience to the North Fork in the storefront previously leased by Brooklyn-based pie company Four & Twenty Blackbirds, which closed after four seasons last summer.
The couple, which has split their time between residences in New York City and Orient for the past 17 years, has served its cuisine at pop-ups in New York City and at high profile events, such as the Hamptons Classic. After dishing out more than 250 crepes in a matter of hours at last year’s Oysterponds Historic Society fundraiser, North Fork Fresh, the idea for their first brick-and-mortar location in Orient started taking shape.
“It has been a joy working with everyone in this community,” Lin said. “There was a need and we wanted to be here.”
Lin and Bertault are offering up a wide-ranging menu that is seeped in family heritage and local nostalgia. Both chefs learned traditional methods of cooking from their families. A Brooklyn-native, Lin serves her authentic Chinese pork or vegetable dumplings two ways — steamed or fried — and pairs it with a special ginger sauce.
“It is all about the sauce,” she said. “It adds a welcomed, but unexpected spice.”
The French-born Bertault brings to the table an array of gluten-free crepes. The selection ranges from savory ham and cheese to sweet Nutella. The menu also includes kimchi salad, fresh lemonade and a full coffee and tea bar.
The couple took over the vacant storefront in December on one condition from the building’s owners:
“It had to have ice cream,” said landlord Howard LeShaw.
LeShaw, and wife Joan Turturro, wanted to keep the sweet summertime treat as a cornerstone of the store, as it has been for decades. Originally, the Idle Hour was where children riding bikes down Village Lane stopped in for ice cream in the 1950s. LeShaw and Turturro operated it as the Orient Ice Cream Parlor and have since leased to others on the promise that ice cream would remain a staple.
“It’s tradition and Claudia and Vincent are the most terrific, friendly people to keep it going,” LeShaw said. “This is the type of village where people need to develop a relationship with the community. They can do that so I know they’ll be successful.”
The 16-seat café with dog-friendly outdoor seating has a rotating menu of 20 gelatos and sorbets, such as salted caramel, green tea and honey lavender.
Lin and Bertault, who now spend most of their time in Orient, already have regulars. In addition to the full-time residents and neighborhood children, the seasonal boating community and Orient Yacht Club members are repeat customers. Lin regularly makes popsicles for the Friday night youth regattas and teaches the children how to make crepes.
The name Opties and Dinghies is an ode to the water-faring community. Opties, short for Optimists, are small-scale single sailboats (similar to sunfish) that are used to teach children boating techniques.
“The sailors need a place to get a coffee and snack,” Bertault said. “The kids come from sailing school in between their classes. The name ties in.”
Opties and Dinghies is the small hamlet’s only late-night option, open six days a week from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. for the summer. It is closed on Tuesdays. The couple said they wanted to “experience the full extent of Orient” by remaining open all day and after dark.
“We always hoped there would be a place like this when we visited,” said Queens resident Charlie Turbak, who has spent the past six summers vacationing in Orient with his young family. “This is the third time we’ve been in here today. We love the feel. They already know our names and we know their names. That is what Orient is all about.”
Opties and Dinghies, located at 1010 Village Lane, will remain open into fall with limited hours through December and reopen in April. The café has no website or Facebook, but you can follow along on Instagram @optiesanddinghies.