The laid-back environment of Seaside Johnnies’ seasonal, family-friendly seafood restaurant right on Rye’s Oakland Beach truly does feel like a mini-vacation, miles away from New York.
The restaurant, which overlooks the Long Island Sound, has become a summertime tradition for regulars from the time the restaurant opens in April or May until its September close. It’s located within the beautifully maintained Rye Town Park, and restaurant owners John Ambrose and Sam Chernin renovated the pavilions that neighbor the restaurant, which can be rented for catered events.
Upon entering the restaurant, you’re greeted by a huge lobster tank —housing crustaceans ranging from 2 to 10 pounds — and a fresh sushi bar presided over by sushi chef Cuong Truong, formerly of Tao in Manhattan. Down past the open kitchen’s counter is a small bar area with doors that open up to an extended cocktail patio. A large indoor dining room is surrounded by sliders and aided by fans, but where you really want to be is outside on the sunny patio overlooking the crescent-shaped beach.
Unsurprisingly, Seaside Johnnies specializes in seafood, served up in large, shareable portions. For land-lubbers there’s a good selection of chicken, beef and barbecue options.
You can see Rye Playland from Seaside Johnnies, and diners get a perfect view of the park’s biweekly fireworks displays every Wednesday and Friday night throughout July and August. Seaside Johnnies hosts its own beachfront DJ on the Fourth of July, spinning patriotic tunes from 4 p.m. until the fireworks start around 9.
“You can eat anywhere, but when you come here, the food tastes better, people are in a euphoric mindset — it’s an idyllic scene. Everybody feels better. People are in vacation mode; you can relax on a different level,” says Ambrose. “I like to say it’s a wellness center — we do healing here!”
What we tried
Garlic Bread: It comes automatically to the table, but I’d be remiss not to mention it. A full loaf of soft, super-buttery bread studded with chunks of garlic. Absolutely delicious and hard not to let yourself fill up on.
New England Clam Chowder: A generous portion of rich, creamy New England style clam chowder utilizes a recipe Ambrose and Charnin have used in their restaurants for the past 25 years. Good-sized chunks of clam, but perhaps a little too much potato.
Roasted Corn Chowder with Rock Shrimp: Another big bowl, this time filled with a chunky, hearty mixture of corn, Floridian rock shrimp, and potatoes. A popular Southern soup, corn chowder can be scarce around these parts, and customers often order large containers for parties. The soup was very tasty with a little kick of spice.
Fish and Chips: Classic battered New England cod, fried just right. Flaky, white, delicious. Accompanied by delicious fries.
Fisherman’s Platter: A delicious platter of fried clam strips, fried calamari, scallops and a few shrimp, topped with a large filet of sole. The homemade tartar sauce was tasty, but we would have liked some cocktail sauce for a little variety.
Sunny Roll, California Roll, Avocado Roll: Sushi Chef Truong prides himself on presentation and freshness, and both showed on our sushi order. The Sunny Roll featured salmon and avocado inside, topped with spicy salmon, Masago caviar, and crunchy tempura. Very filling and satisfying.
Blackened Chilean sea bass: This was a special; in addition to their regular daily deliveries, Seaside Johnnies also has a fish buyer who goes directly to the fish markets a few times a week to see what looks good. Paul Prudhomme’s New Orleans Cajun seasoning blend added a ton of flavor to the deliciously charred exterior of the mild, buttery-soft fish.
Drinks and dessert
The bar offers an array of tropical drinks, any of which can be enhanced by a floater of Bacardi 151 for an additional $3. Seaside Punch, consisting of light, dark, coconut and orange rums along with fruit juice, is served in your choice of a 30- or 84-ounce tropical fish bowl, with lots of straws — bring some friends to help you out!
Beach-goers, families and Rye locals.
Johnnies will refund $10 of the $15 non-resident parking fee on your bill if you show them your parking voucher.
What we will order next
I think attacking one of the larger platters might be a fun thing to do with a larger group of seafood-loving friends; we can wash it all down with a fish bowl drink! My husband was also tempted by the lobster stuffed with shrimp or crab. I’m not a huge seafood-eater so I’ll probably try their barbecue next — I hear the ribs are delicious!
Rye Playland is visible from the restaurant, and then of course there’s the beach itself!
The 411 on Seaside Johnnie’sCuisine: Seafood. Entree price range: $25-50 Great for: Big Groups, Date Night, Solo Dining, Seasonal Menu, Cocktails, Dining at the Bar, Girls’ Night Out, Kid Friendly, Late Night Eats, Meeting for a Drink, Outdoor Dining (Patio, Porch, Deck, Sidewalk), Open Kitchen, Going Out on Mondays, People Watching, Dinner with Grandparents, View, Waterfront Noise level: Moderate. Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight daily (seasonal; late Spring to September) Go: 94 Dearborn Ave, Rye; 914-921-6104
By Christine Gritmon. Read on lohud.com.