The Suffolk Theater is doing away with dinner — at least in the traditional sense.
New executive director Gary Hygom said the theater has closed its kitchen in an effort to think outside the box about the way it handles food service and to be a better partner in the community
While Suffolk Theater has partnered with area restaurants to head up its kitchen in the past, most recently the restaurant group behind Ellen’s On Front in Greenport, Hygom said servicing the large venue has always proved a challenge.
“I thought, ‘OK, let’s think outside the box of what has traditionally been done here,’” he said.
As restaurants continue to open in downtown Riverhead, Hygom explained that he wants to encourage guests to visit other businesses downtown when they come to see a show.
“My feeling on performing arts centers, in general, is that we need to be a big part of the community itself,” he said. “I want us to promote the restaurants around us, get businesses flourishing on Main Street. You can feel that Riverhead is on the verge of this re-emergence.”
Suffolk Theater’s dinner-and-a-show hook will not vanish, though. In the future, the kitchen will be used to prepare small plates, appetizers and desserts, and Hygom is also planning a supper club series, which will pair curated meals with special performances. Hygom is currently searching for a catering partner for the series.
“I think a stage presentation or concert can be far more [exciting] when you’re pairing it with food that works with the piece you’re seeing,” said Hygom, “whether it’s something as simple as an Irish band and Irish fare, or something that pairs with a film. It’s a more all-encompassing experience.”
The theater also hopes to partner with specific restaurants to curate deals for different shows, something Hygom did when he oversaw the Patchogue Theatre, which is also located in a busy village.
“In Patchogue, we paired shows with restaurants in the village,” he said. “Here, we can do it in the room.”
The Suffolk Theater bar is also going through some changes, with specialty cocktails, an expanded wine list and craft beers.
Hygom pointed to Riverhead’s bustling beer scene and the North Fork’s wine culture as things he wants to highlight through the bar.
“Liquor has always been part of show business,” he said. “It ain’t going nowhere.”
Hygom hopes that going forward, Suffolk Theater’s reach and reputation will continue to grow.
“Suffolk Theater seems to be the best kept secret on Long Island,” he said, pointing out that the space is flexible and the layout can be changed to suit different concerts and shows. “If people have not experienced the uniqueness of this place, it’s worth checking out.”