I love the parts of New York that take you by surprise. The little areas, tucked away in the corners. The places you have to know about to find them.
I had heard of a seafood lovers’ paradise called City Island for a few years, but located off of the Bronx it’s just far enough to be far. However, when some good friends mentioned getting together for lunch on a recent Saturday, and said friends happen to own a car, I suggested City Island as a means to a.) have fun with friends but also b.) avoid an hours-long public transportation outing.
Simply put: yum. Our group traveled to Johnny’s Famous Reef Restaurant, which was at the end of the long avenue that spans the length of City Island. Johnny’s is set up cafeteria style, and similarly to Katz’s deli for those familiar, you go to the station where you want to order food and get it fresh from the stove/boiler/deep fryer. Of course, I found a way to eat just about every single thing on the menu, either because I went ahead and ordered it for myself, or I ate off the plates of my friends with their grudging permission. And every single thing was delicious.
Here s a rundown of what you can find:
First, the view. The restaurant looks over the Long Island Sound, which is such a relaxing sight. You don’t get these types of views anywhere else (I don’t think) in the five boroughs!
But more importantly, the food.
Fried clams: Perfectly cooked to a golden crisp, the clams were the right consistency with a delicious batter to go with. Even better with a cold beer like you see in front of my friend Jackson.
Fried Whole Fish: What you can’t see in this photo is that underneath the one fish, is another entire fish. This was an incredible amount of food – more than my friend Michelle could eat! She complemented it with some fresh watermelon.
Fried Softshell Clams (front right), Clam Chowder (front left) and Fried Shrimp (back): I consider myself somewhat of a shrimp connoisseur - I absolutely love them. These were so outrageously yummy, I have dreamed about them since visiting. Plump, tasty and fried to golden brown, they were just amazing. I also consider myself an exert in clam chowder. And this one, while not thick, still managed to be creamy and well-seasoned. Even though it was hot out, I took the whole bowl down. Finally, while I’m not much of a softshell crab lover,my boyfriend is and he tucked right into these. They were gone not too long after this photo was taken.
Whole Steamed Clams: Fun story about me. When I was three years old, my dad was eating a plate of steamers and I asked him if I could try one. He told me I wouldn’t like them and I started to throw a fit. So finally he gave in, put me on his knee, dipped ae clam in water and butter and gave me one. In that one sitting, I ate 33 clams and my love affair with them has never ended. There were a dozen of these and they were so, so delicious. The only thing was – they need to be steamed for 10-15 minutes and I ate so much food of the food we already had in that short window that I could only get down 10. I had to be convinced to leave the remaining two behind. I did so, but not very willingly.
Drinks: Giancarlo also ordered us a couple of daiquiris to go with our food. Don’t be fooled by the strawberries or generally slushy look of this drink. It was mostly pure alcohol. I actually had to forgo drinking it because I didn’t want to get too buzzed to enjoy my food – but look no further if you need a quick buzz. These are strooooong.
After we were done eating, we jumped back in the car with the intention of taking a walk down the main drag to digest. Everything kind of looks like this — which is insane because technically, we’re in the Bronx! How crazy adorable right?
We eventually stumbled upon this ice cream parlor, which my other three companions indulged in. Due to my absolute pigout, I really couldn’t fit a single more thing into my stomach, so I sat out. But I have it on good authority that it was delicious.
The ice cream parlor also offered little fun things for kids, such as chalk and hula-hoops. Someone took it upon themselves to write “Ice Cream Is Fun,” which is true.
And that was the day! It’s not hard to get to City Island by public transport if that’s your only option – you just need to budget the time. But if you can take a car, rent one or convince a friend with one to go – you must.