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John Fraser at North Fork Table & Inn, which is reopening in Southold. (Credit: David Benthal)

Following much anticipation around what the acclaimed North Fork Table & Inn will look like after months of renovations, the restaurant will finally open its doors tonight.

Since buying the place in January, John Fraser and his hospitality group JF Restaurants, have revitalized the inside by opening up the dining room space.

“The interior physical renovation was really more like a restoration,” Fraser said. “Really looking to highlight what the building had and open up the spaces.”

“Like every building, every house, there’s issues,” he continued. “But there was so much charm. It was really about looking at the things that were working and amplifying those and minimizing the things that weren’t working.”

The restaurant will be open at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday for both indoor and outdoor dining. The food truck remains open as well.

Fraser wanted to stay true to what original owners Claudia Fleming and her late husband Gerry Hayden had in mind when opening the spot 14 years ago, including a heavy reliance on farm-to-table dishes sourced from the North Fork land and waters. He also created a menu he hoped would satisfy the regular who comes to the bar to eat and the guest who comes in for a special celebration.

“I think that the food is craveable, pretty simple and straightforward.” he said. “It has a couple of chef-y moments, but a nice mix of them. I think coming off the boat and having dinner is just as appropriate as a special occasion.”

The new menu hits all those points, and features some items cooked over the new wood-burning hearth. From Peconic scallops with peas and amaranth to the local fluke with a ceviche of maple cured carrots with jalapeño and carrot juice, and the smoked hen of the woods mushrooms with celery root and celery branch and a caper vinaigrette to the grilled tuna with a turnip and tonnato sauce, butter braised turnips and turnips salad, the menu caters to many tastes while highlighting local products.

“I think the dish I am most proud of, I’m calling it the Southold Mixed Grill,” Fraser said. “It’s a little bit of a play on the old school way that people would go to chophouses, and you would get one of each kind of thing. But this is going to be the best of what’s around in these waters.” This dish will spotlight five or six small portions of fish from the local water, served with grilled lemon and a citrus vinaigrette. 

They will also have a bar menu for more of a “casual interaction.” Outdoor seating has also been expanded, both to allow for social distancing, but also to act as a secondary dining space. 

As the restaurant opens its doors with a new owner, Fraser realizes that things could change.

“I think this is where we start,” he said. “Where we end will probably be two different things; in the next couple of weeks we’re going to learn a lot.”

Something he does hope guests, both returning and new, see is that this new version of North Fork Table & Inn is a continuation and evolvement of what it has always been.

“I hope that [guests] realize this is version 2.0 of an original vision,” Fraser said. “And I hope that they embrace it, as an aspirational concept that things can continue to evolve and this is the next version of it. I hope that they feel that we’ve honored the restaurant, and what it was and we’ve created something exciting.”

For now, Fraser is excited to finally open, serve the North Fork community and get people back to work.

“We’ve been working on this for a really long time, and we finally get to bring it to market,” he said. “Honestly, spending the summer here is the thing that I’m most excited about. And there’s other company things like getting my people back to work, which is really important to me. Some of it is emotional and some of it is just being excited by the idea of being able to serve an assortment of fish from less than 10 miles from here.”

57225 Main Rd, Southold, 765-0177

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