Greenport eatery earning rave reviews in opening summer

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | First and South owners Sarah Phillips and Peter Pace in their Greenport restaurant Monday.
GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | First and South owners Sarah Phillips and Peter Pace in their Greenport restaurant Monday.

When former Jedediah Hawkins Inn employee and one-time Jamesport resident Sarah Phillips met New York ad man Peter Pace, she had no idea that she was just months away from moving to Greenport and realizing the dream of owning her own restaurant.

The two met in the beginning of the year at a hotel/restaurant holiday party for one of Mr. Pace’s clients, Lieb Cellars.

Not long after, they signed a 15-year lease for the Greenport building that would become their American bistro, First and South.

Mr. Pace said the name is more than just a description of the intersection it occupies, it’s also the first restaurant run by Ms. Phillips, a South Shore native who grew up in Babylon Village.

“I’ve been waiting for this chance to present itself,” she said. “I’ve had offers to jump in on other restaurants or buy into places I have worked, but they were just never going to be what I wanted them to be. I want this to be a place people can be comfortable taking a date, friends or family — a place where you’re happy to pay the bill when it comes because you enjoyed the food you ate and the experience you had.”

The restaurant occupies the space of the former Vine Wine & Café.

The New York Times reviewed the restaurant Aug. 10, calling it a “charmer.” The tough-grading Times gave First and South a “worth it” rating, its second-best.

The menu is American with international twists, such as the English influence evident in the bangers and mash — chicken apple sausage, poached egg, brown gravy and mashed potatoes. It also offers crispy duck tongues, a decidedly uncommon snack, but doesn’t leave American classics like cheeseburgers and fries in the dust.

First and South offers brunch from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and opens at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Happy hour is held daily, 4 to 6 p.m., with a special late-night happy hour Sundays through Thursdays. Dinner is served every night between 6 and 10, with a limited menu offered on Mondays.

Mr. Pace, a co-owner whose work in the city involves re-branding and launching products, said jumping into the restaurant deal with Ms. Phillips goes along with the “discovery” element of First and South, which he said sets it apart from other village eateries.

“Our tag line, ‘Find your way,’ speaks to a lot of things,” he said. “For one, I love that we’re off the beaten path and not on Front Street — so one needs to find their way to the North Fork, find their way to Greenport and then find their way to First’s. Even our menu is American classics with a discovery element to it. I think life is a journey of discovery, whether you’re finding your way to love, good food, happiness or friends.”

Six months into her Greenport life, Ms. Phillips said her new home reminds her of Babylon.

“When I first started working at restaurants, there were only one or two places you’d consider decent; 12 years later, there are tons of restaurants, great shops, wine and beer bars. It’s just a matter of keeping things balanced and making a location an attraction.”

Though business in Greenport can sometimes get as cold as the weather, Ms. Phillips said she isn’t worried about keeping her doors open.

“I’ve run places on Fire Island, which has a 16-week season and doesn’t have the agricultural blend there is out here in Greenport, so this is the best of both worlds,” she said. “You just need to build the regularity and the consistency that’s made places like Legends and Love Lane Kitchen possible. The truth is there’s plenty of people who live here year-round in Orient, Southold Town and Shelter Island, so I’m not worried.”

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