City Island is an anomaly of New York City that feels like a small New England maritime town transported to the Bronx. From seafood restaurants to bait and tackle shops to antiques stores, City Island can feel like an escape from New York City. The island even houses a Nautical Museum with historical documents, maps, and ships. With a population of just over 4,000, the 1.5-mile island houses nearly 30 restaurants, many of which with a view of the rest of the city or Long Island.
City Island was originally inhabited by the Siwanoy tribe and was settled by Europeans when Thomas Pell bought the island in 1654. By the mid-1700s, the island had a population of 1,000 and housed a number of farms. A man named Benjamin Palmer bought the island in 1761 and created a plan for the island with shipyards, docks, farms, houses, and schools. Palmer also changed the island’s name from Minefer’s Island to City Island, yet his plans were not fully carried out due to the Revolutionary War.
In the 1830s, Orrin Fordham, a shipbuilder from Connecticut, began to breed oysters, and soon after city island became one of the United States’ primary centers for oysters. By the mid-1900s, City Island developed a large shipbuilding community that still remains today.
Here is our guide to the best restaurants on City Island from seafood to Latin American to Japanese cuisine.
1. City Island Lobster House
The City Island Lobster House, at 691 Bridge Street, is a very popular and touristy seafood restaurant on the north of City Island. Overlooking the Long Island Sound, the eatery is easily visible with its vibrant sign that can be seen by the new City Island Bridge. The eatery features a Hemmingway Room with velvet-backed booths and an outdoor terrace overlooking the restaurant’s own marina.
The rather expensive eatery features a vast selection of freshly caught seafood options ranging from mahi-mahi to Chilean sea bass to halibut. Scallops, calamari, and oysters are popular fried dishes, while crab cakes, Ipswich clams, and oysters Rockefeller are well-liked appetizers. The restaurant also offers a large selection of Mediterranean dishes like Jojo’s Pasta Special with lobster and other seafood, sole francese, and shrimp and lobster alfredo.
Lobster features prominently on their menu with options like lobster clam bake, steamed or broiled lobsters from 1.25 pounds up to six pounds, and BBQ Lobster Feast with a whole lobster, baby back ribs, fried shrimp, and snow crab legs. Lobster also stars in their paella, a Spanish-inspired rice dish with shrimp, mussels, clams, and pork sausage.