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A piece of preserved history on Main Road at Modern Snack Bar (Illustration by Kelly Franké)

Driving down Main Road, it is impossible to miss Modern Snack Bar’s iconic neon sign. The sign is a landmark — an indicator to visitors of their arrival on the North Fork. 

Immediately walking into the restaurant, guests are transported back to the mid-20th century. With its dark wood paneling, retro floral curtains and timeline of family photos spanning over seven decades, Modern Snack Bar is a piece of preserved history. 

No matter the day of the week, patrons old and young are bound to run into at least one of the Wittmeier brothers, who can be seen joking with each other and customers as they make their rounds. John and Otto have spent the majority of their lives in their family-run Snack Bar and now in their 60s and 80s, the duo still love what they do. 

“You come in once, you come in for life,” said Otto, the elder of the pair. “We love that coming into work is like seeing old friends. Our staff and our customers have become our family over the past 34 years and even beyond that.” 

The iconic landmark has not always been in the Wittmeier family — nor has it always been a restaurant. It originally served as the homestead for the Magee family, who owned the blacksmith-turned-gas station next door around the turn of the century. As traffic began to slightly increase east of Riverhead in the 1930s, the family relocated and the Aquebogue home was converted into a snack bar. 

Those with a long history on the North Fork most likely have a memory of stopping at the Snack Bar — originally called Al Magee’s Snack Bar. At the time, it was a simple place, with a short-order menu of sandwiches and ice cream. Passersby would walk up to the window to order or sit inside on one of the 20 blue metal high chairs. 

“My Aunt Lill worked for Albert [patriarch of the Magee family] throughout the ’30s and ’40s,” said John. “In 1950, Al sold the Snack Bar to my aunt and it’s been in my family ever since.” 

Six years after purchasing the restaurant, Lillian Finch decided to sell the business to her sister and brother-in-law: John Sr. and Wanda Wittmeier. Wanda, who worked the front of the house, would ask customers what kind of food they wanted to see on the menu. Many requested comfort foods such as roast duck and turkey. The couple proceeded to build a kitchen and a larger dining room, converting the small roadside snack bar into a fully equipped restaurant. 

Throughout the next decade, more renovations were done to expand the restaurant. John and Wanda moved their children into the upstairs apartment. The iconic neon sign, built by the Patchogue-based Neimeyer Sign Company, went up and thus the Modern Snack Bar as it is known today was born. 

Since the early 1970s, not many things — from the interior to the menu — have changed. Modern Snack Bar still sells their now revered roasted Long Island crescent duck and their “world famous” lemon meringue pie and lobster salad. 

John and Otto took the restaurant over when their parents retired in 1988 and have raised their own families in the Snack Bar. The duo continues to emphasize Modern Snack Bar’s commitment to quality and making people happy. 

“There aren’t many brother teams left on the North Fork,” said Otto. “We complement each other and have the same goal: to take care of our staff and keep things as simple as possible. Not much has changed here but we can assure that no one ever leaves hungry.”