The revamped restaurant opened this week at the Wading River, N.Y., club, offering a casual atmosphere with a variety of craft ales and spirits, locally sourced dishes that include tapas and traditional entrees, and organic ingredients.
After an extreme makeover that rendered the space unrecognizable from its former self, Pure North Fork, a trendy American bistro has emerged after more than seven months of floor-to-ceiling renovations at Great Rock Golf Club, the Riverhead (N.Y.) Local reported.
The restaurant opened this week at the Wading River, N.Y., club, offering a casual atmosphere and an affordable menu that offers a variety of craft ales and spirits, locally sourced dishes and organic ingredients that are used to make everything from scratch, right down to the salad dressings, Local reported.
“The journey’s been a lot longer than we expected, but we wanted to take the time to do this right,” said Brian Curtin, manager of Pure North Fork and Great Rock Golf Club.
Pure North Fork was designed to be “different,” Curtin says—not only from Blackwells, which previously occupied the space, but from other local dining options as well. That starts with the menu, which in addition to traditional entrees, prime steaks and burgers, also includes made-to-order flatbread pizzas from a double-deck pizza oven, Local reported.
The restaurant also offers a special menu of about a dozen tapas—popular European-style small plates between $6 and $8 that provide a lighter alternative to larger entrees. There is even a designated tapas room, with a 12-foot-long communal table and several high-tops where customers can interact with the chef through a large window in the wall, Local reported.
“Tapas are very conducive to a nice, casual night out with friends without breaking the bank,” Curtin said. “Each person orders a few, everyone shares and gets a beer, and you’re out of the door for under 30 bucks.”
A new menu and a new concept also called for a new look, which couldn’t be further from the ultra-formal ambiance of its predecessor, Local reported.
“In the past we were always known as the big event place,” Curtin said, “and it’s very flattering that people would hold off on coming here until they had an anniversary or a birthday or something to celebrate—but when you’re open seven days a week, that can really hurt you.
“We wanted to give people a reason to come out on a random weeknight, with no special occasion,” he said.
Blackwells closed abruptly after Great Rock came under new ownership in the spring of 2014. Curtin had been managing both the golf club and Blackwells since 2008, so he was thrilled to hear that the club’s new owners wanted to do a complete makeover of the club’s long-struggling restaurant, Local reported.
“After six years, I had a pretty good idea of what was working and what wasn’t,” he said. “We’ve basically done a complete 180 from where we were. The whole concept is much more casual and inviting than it used to be.”
Mahogany panels were removed from the walls, sanded down and repainted in soft green. White linen tablecloths were replaced by tables with couch seating and custom high-tops made of wood imported by boat from Indonesia. The stately foyer with its grand piano has been transformed into an open, brightly lit hall with glass-paneled walls and doors, Local reported.
“We wanted it to be much more open,” Curtin said. “It used to have a very rich, private country club feel, but that meant people would walk in wearing jeans and a t-shirt, look around at all the mahogany and walk right back out again.”
Not only did that shut out locals seeking a casual weeknight dinner, but it also was intimidating to the club’s golfers, who were typically just looking for a quick bite to eat after a round of golf, Local reported.
“Guys coming off the course just want something laid back,” Curtin said. “They might be sweaty or a little dirty. They didn’t feel like they were dressed appropriately for a white linen restaurant.”
To make matters worse, Blackwell’s limited layout often did not provide enough seating in the restaurant’s bar room, where its more casual, local customers came to dine. And for those who showed up without a reservation to eat in the main dining room, they might have found it occupied by a catered event, since Blackwell’s designated catering room could only accommodate 30 people, Local reported.
Pure North Fork attempts to solve all of these problems by not only changing the restaurant’s menu and atmosphere, but by rearranging rooms to make the most use of the space. The restaurant’s former catering room went unused for about 80 percent of the year, so the wall between it and the bar has been knocked down to double the size of the tap room and build a much larger bar. The tap room now houses a lounge area with couches and a fireplace, where patrons can have a drink while waiting for a seat or simply come to relax and share tapas, Local reported.
A spacious room that used to house the club’s library has now been transformed into a catering room that can accommodate more people than the old one, with its own 16-tap bar and sweeping views of the golf course. Next spring, Curtin plans to also use this room for golf lunches, Local reported.
Even the kitchen has been “completely flip-flopped” based on workflow. “Over time, you get to have your own opinions about the way things should be,” Curtin said. “It’s nice that we have the freedom to finally do what we’ve learned over time.”
The restaurant’s executive chef, Michael Mandleur, headed up the Jamesport Manor Inn for several years before coming to Pure North Fork. Mandleur and Curtin first worked together 15 years ago at Maidstone Arms in East Hampton, where Mandleur was just a sous chef and Curtin a bartender, Local reported.
“This is really a dream realized for both myself and for Mike,” Curtin said.
None of this would have been possible, Curtin says, without the patience of the club’s owners. “We didn’t want to miss the golf season, but they didn’t want to sacrifice the quality of the product just to get it open,” he said. “It really allowed us time to put all the right people and systems in place.”