Survey: North Fork Table earns high marks

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | North Fork Table and Inn owners Claudia Fleming and Gerry Hayden on Tuesday.

There was very good news on the menu at the The North Fork Table and Inn in Southold this week.

The just-released 2011-2012 Long Island restaurant survey, considered by many to be the gold standard for rating fine dining, placed the Main Road restaurant best in food and service. In the food category, North Fork Table received a rare near-perfect score of 29 out of 30.

The survey included 901 restaurants reviewed by 6,217 diners.

“We know that we work hard, but we don’t always know that people think that highly of what we do,” proprietor and chef Gerry Hayden said.

“We don’t do it for the praise, but this means the world to us,” said pastry chef and co-owner Claudia Fleming, Mr. Hayden’s wife. “It’s all the more flattering because this reflects popular opinion. These are our patrons talking. They take the time to go online and rate their experience on the Zagat website. It’s enormous.”

Mike and Mary Mraz are also partners in the business. “It’s pretty cool to be recognized for what we do,” Mr. Mraz said.

The two couples opened The North Fork Table and Inn in May 2006.

“It’s really a labor of love,” added Ms. Fleming. “We see ourselves as members of this community, and we’re committed to the local experience. I really want to promote what we have here on the North Fork and I want to be here forever.”

The restaurant obtains its ingredients locally as much as possible. “How we source our food is a big part of what makes it so good,” Mr. Hayden said.

The North Fork Table and Inn isn’t at all “stuffy,” the chef said, although people sometimes think that’s what fine dining is about.

“So many people have come here — and I’m talking fishermen, plumbers, you know, regular people — and said, ‘it was different than I thought it’d be,’” Mr. Hayden said. “We’re just regular people,” Ms. Mraz added. “We just want you to have a really great experience. There’s a high price tag, yes, but you get what you pay for.”

The survey also showed:

• Average meal costs dropped for the first time since 1998, from $41.41 to $40.42.
• Meals out per week remained constant at 2.8.
• Top complaints were service at 66 percent, noise at 17 percent, food at 6 percent, prices at 5 percent and crowding at 3 percent.
• Favorite cuisines: Italian, 38 percent; American, 18 percent; French, 10 percent and Japanese, 10 percent.
• Going green: 56 percent of diners consider locally raised, organic or sustainably raised food important.
• Manners: 68 percent said it’s rude to text, tweet, telephone or email at the table.