KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO
Bartender Jimmy Best serves cocktails to Robert DiMartino of Jamesport (center) and Billy Kenzig of Wading River at Billy
Two new restaurants in Greenport served up a whole bunch of casual cuisine — from fresh local seafood served on paper plates to juicy burgers spiced with the flavors of Istanbul — over the sunny July 4 weekend to hundreds of hungry locals and tourists.
Billy’s by the Bay opened in June in the deck-heavy building formerly occupied by Antares Cafe at Brewer Yacht Yard on Manhanset Avenue. Andy’s Unbelievable Burgers and Seafood opened in mid-May in the site of a former bodega on Front Street across from the Harborfront Hotel.
Customers Robert DiMartino of Jamesport and his friend Billy Kenzig of Wading River, sat at Billy’s outdoor tiki bar Friday afternoon, the first day the restaurant had a liquor license. They said they were impressed with the changes that owner Billy Gremler and his father, Billy Sr., had made to the place, formerly known for its upscale cuisine and romantic dockside atmosphere.
Now, they said, the ambiance is more down-to-earth.
“It’s hospitable to everyone,” said Mr. Kenzig, a retired teacher who said he had his mind set on a lobster dinner to kick off the long weekend. “And where else can you get a $15 lobster?”
Following in the footsteps of popular Greenport hangouts like Front Street Station and the Chowder Pot Pub, the owners of both new restaurants say they are “filling a niche” in the village with their casual mix of affordable food and laid back atmosphere.
“We’ve hit the ground running in this joint,” said the elder Billy Gremler, 51, Monday morning, after what he described as a phenomenal weekend for the fledging restaurant. “The East End needs a casual place with paper plates and fresh food.”
Billy’s by the Bay offers clams, oysters and lobsters and also features bacon-wrapped bay scallops, spicy steamed shrimp, Manhattan and New England clam chowders and an array of fried seafood. Appetizers run from $1 for a single clam to $7.95 for calamari. Entrees hover in the $15 range, and the most expensive item on the menu is the surf and turf at $25.95. Hamburgers and hot dogs are also available.
The younger Billy Gremler, a 24-year-old plumber by trade, owns the restaurant. His father, while handling the family plumbing business, also helps his son run the eatery.
The father and son duo used to dock their fishing boat in Mattituck but moved it to Greenport last year. That’s when they started to think about opening Billy’s by the Bay at the old Antares spot.
“We just decided to give it a whirl,” said the elder Mr. Gremler, adding that he ran a restaurant in Mattituck about 15 years ago called Blue Water Seafood, and his son grew up helping in the restaurant and has experience catering. “We came in with what we feel is a very simple menu served on simple plates for simple prices. It’s a good, quick product.”
For Herman Demirciyan, owner of Andy’s Unbelievable Burgers and Seafood on Front Street, the big weekend was also unbelievably good.
“Yesterday, people showed up from as far as West Islip and Bayshore just to come here,” he said Tuesday morning.
The restaurant is based on a popular burger joint Herman’s uncle, Andy, ran for years in the 1970s near Universal Studios in Los Angeles. Andy’s “unbelievable” $10 burger is actually two 4-ounce charbroiled burger patties on a 12-inch hoagie topped with tomatoes, pickles, onions, pepperoncini, homemade chili, eggs, American cheese, bacon, and the Demirciyan family’s special sauce, with Turkish accents.
“It was the best burger in the area,” said Andy Demirciyan, the 73-year-old owner of the original restaurant who now helps his nephew cook at the Greenport location.
Andy Demirciyan said that famous customers at the Los Angeles site included Helen Hayes, Lee Majors and Alan Alda. Several articles from the ’70s on the original burger joint are displayed on the walls of the new restaurant. When Andy closed up the Los Angeles restaurant and retired a few years ago, he said he decided to plant himself on the North Fork, where his brother already had a home.
Hamburgers with more traditional toppings are also available at Andy’s, as are a variety of soups, salads and seafoods including raw clams and steamed lobster. Lamb and chicken shishkebobs and “shish burgers” are also on the menu.
Originally from Istanbul, the Demirciyans moved to New York in the early 1960s. Herman Demirciyan, 42, shifted from a jewelry business in Manhattan to the restaurant a year and a half ago, when he and Andy began to discuss reopening Andy’s Unbelievable Burgers and Seafood.
“Greenport to me has been a dream,” said Herman, a Greenport resident for seven years. “I love the water, I’m a boater — but of course all that is on hold for me right now.”
Working seven days a week at Billy’s by the Bay, hasn’t left much time for anything else for father and son Gremler either. But once Labor Day hits, the elder Mr. Gremler said he’ll limit restaurant hours to Thursday through Sunday until it gets too chilly to stay open.
“That’s when we’ll close the doors and go back to plumbing,” he said.