After 20 years of serving as master chef and host of Greenwich Village’s Black Sheep, one of the first restaurants in the country to openly cater to a gay clientele, Michael Safdiah lost the lease for his building under not-so-pleasant conditions. Shortly after, however, he opened up his home in Fire Island Pines as the Black Sheep in Exile, a guest house and restaurant. Safdiah, an incredibly welcoming and affable host, offers two rooms (both with separate entryways) and a large deck right on the bay with brilliant views of the sunrise and sunset. Dogs are welcome to stay and romp with Blondie, the Labrador retriever (Iris, his 18-and-a-half-year-old cat, holds court here as well). Breakfast includes fresh-squeezed orange juice, eggs, bagels, oatmeal and other seasonal foods. Dine under the property’s many holly trees or by the bay on whatever special feast is prepared that day (such as steamers or other shellfish — the menu changes often). Amenities include TVs, use of the owner’s computer and use of a stereo.
This property, located on the harbor directly where the ferries pull in, was originally thought of as a “white elephant” by its owner, as the property remained unrented in its first year of existence about 25 years ago. He decided to open up the place himself as a burger joint, calling it, not surprisingly, the White Elephant. Unfortunately, it flopped. He made some changes, including the name, which became the Cultured Elephant, and reopened.
It flopped again.
He changed it back to a casual burger place with a bar but decided not to bother changing the name. The third time turned out to be a charm — the Cultured Elephant has been serving burgers, chicken sandwiches, salads, fried clam baskets, and fried seafood ever since. Specialty frozen drink of the house is strawberry daiquiri, and most people sip them out on the canopied deck that overlooks the harbor. The bar is usually lined with a legion of locals — among them the butcher, the postmaster, real estate agents and the grocer — who have made the Elephant their local hangout.
Trouble (the cat) and Trouble’s fellow feline companion, Calli, will welcome you to the Seasons, formerly the Four Seasons B&B, which is located a half block from the bay and two blocks from the beach. Seven bedrooms with shared baths await you in this simple, clean inn. Although many of the lodgers come from New York City, the Seasons attracts people from all over the world and from diverse backgrounds — doctors, lawyers, honeymooners and everyone in between. Smoking is not permitted inside the inn, and there is an emphasis on healthful, natural foods (even vegetarian) and cooking. Breakfast includes fresh- squeezed orange juice, homemade muffins, lox, bagels, cream cheese, eggs and omelets. Afternoon tea, at 4, includes a light meal of salads, pizza, pasta and sandwiches.
On Saturdays, the Seasons throws a barbecue that often features salmon, London broil, hamburgers and other fare. The outside hot tub is unfortunately not operational (thanks to weird local permit laws), but there are bicycles, wagons, fishing poles, beach chairs and towels available for guests’ use for no extra charge. Young children are not permitted here, but the owner also rents out nearby apartments for those with little ones in tow.
Every Friday and Saturday evening, 300 to 500 people gather at the oceanside dock for an event dubbed “The Sixish.” It’s arguably the best place on the entire island to watch the brilliant departure of the glowing star. If you want to dine while watching the sunset, visit the Dock restaurant. One side of the building is entirely made up of windows, and indoor mirrors on the other side multiply the view. Standouts on the menu include grilled sushi-grade tuna in ginger lime broth with coconut rice and coconut curry tiger shrimp. In addition to abundant seafood choices, the menu also offers steak, chicken and pasta dishes as well. A children’s menu is available and dress is casual. A DJ spins on Friday and Saturday nights.
Owned by the same family since 1937, Flynn’s is a local Ocean Bay Park dining and nightlife haunt. By day, the crowd is casual, relaxed and diverse: older couples, younger couples and families eating dinner during sunset. The restaurant’s large windows afford a clear view of the bay and a glimpse of Islip and Bayshore, which are located across the water. The menu includes burgers, steaks, seafood, chicken and pasta dishes. One standout is grilled tuna with soy- ginger glaze and cucumber relish. A kids’ menu is available as well. DJs liven up the place on Friday and Saturday nights, and reggae music is featured early Sunday evenings.
This gay-friendly guest house is located a short walk from the harbor and offers seven guestrooms – – some with private baths, some with shared baths and some with views of the water. All rooms connect to the common living room area and kitchen. Free continental breakfast includes muffins, bagels, juice and coffee; and Pines Place has a kitchen if you prefer to prepare your own meals — an amenity, considering how pricey a stay on the island can be. Pines Place also has a pool and nightly cocktail hour.