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 The island even houses a Nautical Museum with historical documents, maps, and ships.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.
2. The Original Crab Shanty
The Original Crab Shanty
The Original Crab Shanty is one of City Island’s most famous restaurants, appearing in The New Yorker and on the Food Network. The restaurant opened in 1977 at 361 City Island Avenue, which used to be the home of a silent movie theater in the early 1900s and the City Island Post Office later on. The restaurant actually wanted to be called “The Post Office” but they were turned down by the federal government.
The restaurant prides itself on large portions at rather cheap prices in a cozy setting. The old-fashioned dining room features many velvet and gray-patterned booths and tables with red tablecloths as well as glass mosaics of ocean life. The eatery offers a selection of hot and cold appetizers like a steamerpot with Little Neck and Ipswich clams, clams and oysters casino, and lump crab cakes. Blue fish, striped bass, and swordfish are popular broiled options, while soft shell crabs and clam strips are must-try fried options.
For crab lovers, their Banquet for Crab Lovery comes with crab cakes, garlic crab, stuffed Dungeness crab, softshell crab, and snow crab legs. Crab also features in their Italian options like Pasta del Mar and Pasta Alaska with Alaskan King Crab leg chunks. Lobsters range from 1-1/8 pounds up to five pounds, while lobster tail can be paired with jumbo shrimp or snow crab legs in their “Cool Combos.” Also popular are their pastas like linguine with white or red clam sauce or penne alla vodka with prosciutto, all served with garlic bread.
3. Johnny’s Reef
A staple of City Island’s seafood scene, Johnny’s Reef, at 2 City Island Avenue, has been serving fresh seafood for over 60 years. Mayor Michael Bloomberg noted, “I used to drive my kids to Johnny’s Reef Restaurant, which is all the way out on the point. We would order baskets of fried clams and eat them outside on the picnic tables overlooking the water. I still go when I can. It’s a great escape without leaving the city.”
The eatery is cafeteria-style dining in which diners order from counters like their fried section, steamed section, clam section, their bar, or their soda and desserts section. Fried options are piled high with seafood like clam strips, scallops, soft shell crab, and sometimes even frogs legs as well as greasy French fries. Little Neck and Cherrystone clams are popular options from their clam bar, while whiting, porgy, and lobster tails are well liked from their steamed section. A handful of Italian-style dishes like linguine with clam sauce, mozzarella sticks, and meatballs are also available.
4. Artie’s Steak and Seafood
Artie’s Steak and Seafood
Artie’s Steak and Seafood, at 394 City Island Avenue, offers a selection Mediterranean seafood and American-style fine dining fare. Opened over 20 years ago by Spiros Chagares, the eatery prides itself on locally sourced ingredients prepared using creative cooking methods. The eatery’s decor features white tablecloths with wooden chairs, white brick walls, an ornately decorated gray ceiling, and paintings of fruits and vegetables.
Reasonably-priced appetizers range from grilled octopus served over gigantes beans to coconut panko-crusted shrimp, to buffalo chicken wontons with diavolo sauce. Artie’s also offers a selection of clam and mussel starters as well like little neck clams Posillipo with cherry tomatoes and white wine. Italian-style pastas include Frutta di Mare in a spicy tomato sauce, rigatoni with sweet sausage, and their Zuppa di Pesce for two with a selection of seafood over linguine.
Artie’s offers a rather large seafood menu with creative and cross-cultural dishes like Caribbean jerk mahi-mahi, shellfish jambalaya, and miso-crusted Chilean sea bass with cellophane noodles. In addition to a selection of fried seafood, Artie’s offers more traditional fare like fillet of sole stuffed with crab meat, broiled lobster tail, and poached salmon. Non-seafood entrees include Southern-style baby back ribs, NY sirloin with crunchy onions, and Italian-style pork chops.
One of the only Latin American options on the island, Vistamar, located at 565 City Island Avenue, offers a selection of Latin fare, specializing predominantly in Puerto Rican cuisine. With a view of the harbor and the rest of the city, Vistamar takes pride in its ambiance, with a spacious dining room with white chairs and white tablecloths, bright red flowers contrasting the white walls, and large windows allowing for natural light and a view of boats parked in the harbor.
Appetizers range from savory empanadas to stuffed green plantains to jumbo shrimp cocktail. Larger tables can also split their Picadera Mixta with marinated pork, boneless chicken, sausage, empanadas, and fried cheese. Soups include sancocho, a clear broth with oxtail and vegetables, and asopado, a Puerto Rican spicy shrimp soup with rice. Octopus salad and fresh mozzarella and tomato salad are also popular starters.
In addition to Latin-inspired options, Vistamar offers a selection of Italian pastas like lasagna, shrimp fra diavolo, and lobster ravioli. Puerto Rican entrees include mofongo, mashed fried plantains served with choice of seafood, roast pork, or chicken; pernil, slow-roasted pork leg or shoulder; chicharron de pollo, fried chicken chunks; and rabo, braised oxtail. Vistamar offers a selection of steaks like Porterhouse, T-Bone, and Churrasco (skirt steak), as well as a large selection of seafood options like paella, stuffed Maine lobster, and branzino, served with sides like pigeon pea rice and yucca.
6. Ray’s Cafe
About a quarter of City Island’s population is of Hispanic origin, and City Island houses a handful of eateries serving food reminiscent of this demographic’s population. One such eatery is Ray’s Cafe, at 205 City Island Avenue, serving Puerto Rican, Spanish, Mexican, and American dishes. The eatery is rather small, with only a handful of tables and a hot food counter with orange and yellow walls.
American dishes are reminiscent of those at a corner deli, ranging from breakfast omelettes and burritos to deli wraps to hamburgers. Ray’s Cafe offers a selection of Mexican options as well like a pernil sandwich, tacos, quesadillas, nachos, and fajitas with options like chorizo or shrimp.
Popular Puerto Rican-style dishes include mofongo, asopao soup, shrimp with garlic sauce, and fried flounder with rice. Meat entrees range from breaded chicken and steak to chicharron de pollo to pepper steak, served with sweet or fried plantains. Ray’s Cafe also offers a selection of daily lunch specials which include baked chicken, lentil soup, stewed goat, and codfish.
7. Archie’s Tap & Table
Archie’s Tap & Table
Archie’s Tap & Table is a popular and highly rated gastropub serving American comfort food in a modern setting. Chef Alex Pertsovsky, who has worked in top New York and Chicago restaurants, uses locally grown seasonal ingredients for the eatery’s small yet innovative menu. The eatery’s decor is simple and modern, with metal chairs and wooden tables, wood walls with small colorful artworks displayed, and a white-tiled bar.
For appetizers, their crispy Chipotle honey wings are served with Maytag blue cheese, while their mushroom parmesan cigars are accompanied by smoked paprika yogurt. For a taste of the sea, their PEI mussels are prepared with amber beer and chorizo, while their saffron glazed shrimp are paired with pickled jalapeno. Their Bibb lettuce salad with frisee, Applewood bacon, and scallion with a blue cheese vinaigrette is also a popular starter and can be made into an entree with the addition of buttermilk fried chicken.
Main dishes include a classic fried chicken with waffles, Cajun pork chop with mushroom and baby kale, and cheddar pork sausage with pickled onion. Seafood features prominently in their king crab mac and cheese prepared with cheddar, goat cheese, parmesan, and gruyere, as well as in their oven roast halibut with mustard seed, sunchoke, asparagus, and fennel.
On weekends, Archie’s also offers a brunch menu featuring classic options like corned beef hash and eggs, poached eggs with Canadian bacon, sour cream pancakes, and a shrimp and avocado omelet with herb-dusted French fries.
8. The Black Whale
One of City Island’s most popular eateries, The Black Whale serves a variety of American bistro classics as well as a few Mediterranean and Latin American options. Situated at 279 City Island Avenue, the restaurant’s decor feels almost like an antique shop, with old-fashioned chairs and lamps, a barber pole, antique signs and pictures, and street signs.
Must-have appetizers include chicken empanadas with black bean chorizo dip and potstickers served with a ginger-soy dipping sauce. Seafood starters range from New Zealand mussels with white wine sauce and Maryland crab cakes with a basil remoulade. Salads range from a classic Cobb to a more creative Mediterranean salad with chicken or shrimp, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, and roasted peppers.
The Black Whale offers a number of wraps and sandwiches like a pressed Cuban sandwich with pernil and garlic aioli and a Fajita wrap. Pastas range from Mediterranean orzo with sun dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts to “The Starving Artist,” orechiette with white beans, spinach, and mozzarella. The Black Whale’s meatloaf and BBQ St. Louis ribs are popular entrees, while freshly sourced seafood includes tequila lime shrimp and grilled pesto salmon with Israeli couscous.
Portofino, at 555 City Island Avenue, is an old-school seafood-focused Italian restaurant and staple of the City Island dining community. Most of the eateries on this list offer a selection of Italian options, but Portofino is one of the only eateries on the island devoted entirely to classic Italian cooking. Facing the harbor, the dining room has a rustic feel with red leather chairs and booths and brown walls painted with scenes of the Italian countryside.
Appetizers include a selection of seafood dishes like spedini, fresh mozzarella with an anchovy and caper sauce, baked clams, and seafood salad, in addition to escargots with parsley and garlic. Salads range from their Adriatic salad with fruit and walnuts to their Tri Color salad with arugula, radicchio, and endives.
Portofino offers a small selection of pastas like seafood linguine with calamari, shrimp, clams and mussels, risotto pescatore prepared with a selection of seafood, and fettuccine puttanesca with capers, olives, and anchovies. Meat entrees include classics like chicken alla Romana with prosciutto and fontina cheese and filet mignon as well as original creations like Veal Portofino, veal scallopini with crab and mozzarella in a champagne sauce. Seafood dishes like lobster Allargiatta, deep-fried lobster sauteed with garlic and hot spices, lobster tails, and stuffed tilapia are all popular among seafood lovers.
The only Japanese restaurant on the island, Ohana, located at 500 City Island Avenue, offers a hibachi dining experience with a special emphasis on seafood. Opened a decade and a half ago, Ohana, which means “family” in Japanese, houses a number of hibachi tables in its large dining room with red and white walls and traditional Japanese artwork. To accommodate to the local population, Ohana also offers a selection of Japanese and Puerto Rican fusion options as well.
Appetizers range from Japanese-American classics like shrimp tempura and shrimp gyoza, karaage, deep-fried chicken, and hibachi scallops in addition to tostones, green plantains. Hibachi combinations include choices of chicken, steak, shrimp, lobster, scallops, and filet mignon, all served with shrimp appetizer, fried rice, and assorted vegetables. Other hibachi options include calamari, salmon, and red snapper.
In addition to a selection of sushi and sashimi with popular options like the Ohana Dragon roll with eel and chopped tuna, Ohana offers a Jap “A” Rican Dinner with eight different components: miso soup, mixed salad, shrimp appetizer, chicken, white rice, Puerto Rican beans, plantains, and dessert.
Next, check out the Top 10 Secrets of City Island.