Thursday, September 3, 2009
CITY ISLAND, THE BRONX
People often stop to ask me, “How do you find the places you write about?” Believe it or not, most times I drive aimlessly around Bergen County, Hudson County, New York, wherever, in search of discovering something new and fun. If you’re ever behind a slow moving white Dodge Caravan and want to scream, “Hey lady, what’re you sightseeing???” I can almost guarantee it’s probably me.
Sometimes during the course of conversation someone will plant the seed for a column, like my friend Laura’s husband who originally hails from New York and told me at a 4th of July party, “I can’t find a decent jelly donut in New Jersey!” P.S.: Since his comment, I’ve eaten more jelly donuts than I can tell you in search of that perfectly constructed jelly donut that we all remember eating when we were young. I’m still doing research so stay tuned for that column.
I am continually amazed when in my wanderings I find a new great place because it serves to remind me that you don’t need to venture far from home to find great out-of-the-ordinary places to visit. Recently my family and I decided to take a ride to the historic seafaring village of City Island which is an island right off of mainland Bronx; it’s surrounded by the Long Island Sound and the Eastchester Bay. If you’ve never been to City Island you must, must, must go. It’s less than 20 miles from the GW Bridge and feels like you’ve entered a small New England whaling village.
Admittedly, Friday and Saturdays during the summer brings a lot of traffic to the island, but if you can manage to escape on a weekday, or late Sunday afternoon you won’t be disappointed. Aside from the beautiful old Victorian houses and quaint shops that populate City Island Avenue, the reason you come to City Island is for the fresh seafood. And let me tell you—you don’t have to spend a fortune to eat incredible seafood. All the restaurants are located on City Island Avenue so you don’t have to go searching.
My family’s favorite spot is at the very southern tip of the island—Johnny’s Reef Restaurant located at 2 City Island Ave. Johnny’s Reef is like being on the boardwalk down the shore. The restaurant itself is a huge open-air restaurant with many counters. One counter is dedicated to people not particularly fond of seafood—it offers hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken nuggets… The rest of the many counters are devoted entirely to seafood. Johnny’s Reef will steam or deep fry any piece of fish they have, just look for the sign above each counter to find what you want.
One counter is just for clams—a dozen clams (cherrystone or littleneck) is $10. You have to see how fast these guys shuck clams. If you like shrimp this is the place to be. A huge plate of freshly steamed shrimp in a scampi sauce is $12; an enormous container of fried shrimp is $12; the fried calamari is so fresh and delicious and only costs $10 for a humongous serving. They will also steam a whole salmon, lobster, scallops, whatever fresh fish has arrived that day and so much more. The most expensive item on the menu is $22. They also have a full bar and the drinks are reasonably priced considering you’re in New York. We went to Johhny’s Reef Restaurant with five adults and two children and ordered a few dishes so we could share. The total came to a little over $70 for seven of us and there were leftovers. There’s seating inside the restaurant, but sit outside by the water where you can watch the boats sail by.
After dinner we took the kids to “Lickety-Split” an ice cream shop on City Island Avenue. It’s housed in a small colorful playhouse and has outdoor seating.
Visit my website “Bergen County Mom to Mom” and click on “Links” to find information on other City Island restaurants.
Log onto: www.groups.yahoo.com/group/bergencountymomtomom/.