The Pequot Inn on Fishers Island is a summer staple

Pequot Inn's fish tacos (Ann Baldelli)
Pequot Inn's fish tacos (Ann Baldelli)

Let’s be honest, it’s never been about the food at The Pequot.

Like many millennials who grew up locally, The Pequot Inn on Fishers Island has always been about the bar. More than 40 years ago, my generation was going there to catch the late-night last call, and our children, young adults today, are continuing the trend.

But I’ve been back several times over the recent decades to get a burger, or fish tacos, with friends after a day at the beach and was among the disappointed a couple years back when the place closed, albeit temporarily.

Since it reopened under new management, there’s been a good buzz about The Pequot, and when I looked at the website and saw that the kitchen had been remodeled and new specials added to the menu, I was determined to get on a boat and visit Fishers Island.

That’s the catch: you need a boat, or a friend with a boat, or have to be willing to take the Fishers Island Ferry out of New London to get to The Pequot. If you take the ferry, it’s about a 20-minute walk from the dock to the restaurant, or you could call an Uber. The good news is, the ferry runs often and late.

So is it worth the effort to get there? Like I said, it’s never been about the food, but always the adventure, visiting The Pequot. We went on a recent weeknight, and the place was packed. In season, The Pequot is closed Tuesdays, but the week we went, it had closed Tuesday and Wednesday, and when we arrived about 6 p.m. Thursday, it appeared that every summer resident on Fishers Island was at The Pequot with their children.

Little kids were running everywhere, inside and out. There’s ping pong and pool and Foosball tables, corn hole, and something called Tiki Toss, which, let me just tell you, don’t get too close. But this review is supposed to be about the food, so let’s forget the rambunctious kids and talk about what there is to eat.

The menu at The Pequot is limited, which I appreciate. It makes deciding what to have easy. There are a couple each of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, three featured entrees, and a half dozen wood-fired pizzas.

Despite the big crowd, we only had to wait a short time in the bar to get a table on the patio, so when we heard they were ready for us, we picked up our drinks, dodged the little ones, and headed outside.

Our beverages included a house cocktail, the No Vacancy ($11), which was tequila, Campari, lime, and grapefruit juice. We asked the barkeep to hold the simple syrup, and the drink was refreshing and tasty. The other drinks were more standard, a can of Fishers Island Lemonade ($10) — someone had to get it since the beverage was created there — a can of Tecate ($6), and a Tito’s and soda ($8).

Out on the patio, our waiter immediately asked if we were set on drinks and told us he’d be back shortly. And he was. We never got his name, but he was great. It was the kitchen, we believe, that wasn’t up to snuff.

There were four of us, and we agreed to try as much on the menu as we could. We wanted the Buffalo wings ($12), but our waiter said they were out, so we opted instead for the Oysters Rockefeller ($12), which was a mistake. The oyster-eater at the table said the three small baked oysters with bacon creamed spinach, Pernod, and fontina cheese were the worst he ever had.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. All in all, the food was OK, our waiter outstanding, but the delivery of food abominable.

The Caesar salad with chicken ($17) came first. It was likely crisp romaine when it arrived, but it wilted by the time everyone else’s dinner was served. It would be another 15 minutes after the salad before the oysters came out and then 10 minutes more after that before the Steak Frites ($26) was put on the table.

Another 10 minutes passed before the White Clam Pizza ($22) arrived, which was followed fairly quickly by the Double Smash Burger ($15). But the lonely Fish Tacos ($15) were delayed 10 more minutes, arriving close to an hour after the salad was served.

The waiter repeatedly apologized and said the usual chef was away and the kitchen “backed up.” Our waiter was clearly frustrated and doing his best.

Here’s the positive. The chicken on the salad was perfectly seasoned and cooked and tasty even after sitting waiting for the other dishes to arrive. Our steak-eater said his steak was very good and rare, just like he enjoys it, even after realizing that he was never asked by the waiter and never shared how he likes his beef cooked.

The burger, grass-fed black angus ground with bacon and served with cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickles and a choice of salt and vinegar fries, sweet potato fries, or onion rings, was rated good, and the onion rings, especially good. It was the same with the frites that came with the steak. The steak came resting on a big bed of salt and vinegar fries with a bacon aioli, sautéed spinach and scallions. Every last fry was consumed.

The pizza was over cooked and could have had more toppings on it. “Too much crust,” said our taco-eater, who may have been famished waiting for her plate to arrive.

Which brings us to the tacos. We are pretty sure the fish was cod, and they piled on guacamole, pico de gallo, pickled cabbage, and cumin lime crema. There were two on the plate, the fillings nested in double soft shells, but there was no pizzazz, and the dish a disappointment.

All in all, despite the slow delivery of our food, we will give The Pequot another try, and you should, too. The place is a summer staple that we believe we hit on an off night. Getting there is part of the fun, including the walk to The Pequot from private boat slips or the ferry, and you get to see some of the locals and the scenery.

It’s great for people-watching as long as you dodge the kids. They’ve got all kinds of games and entertainment, music, a rocking chair made from lobster pot materials, Adirondack chairs for sitting and sipping, and a gentle breeze blowing across the patio.

And, it’s the only game in town for non-residents. Originally built in 1901 as a boarding house for three grand hotels that were once on the island, today The Pequot is Fishers Island’s only public bar and restaurant. If you go, make sure you have a way home after; they no longer lease rooms at The Pequot.

The Pequot Inn (Ann Baldelli)
The Pequot Inn (Ann Baldelli)
Pequot Inn's steak frites (Ann Baldelli)
Pequot Inn's steak frites (Ann Baldelli)

The Pequot Inn

246 Montauk Ave., Fishers Island, NY 

(631) 788-7246

Find them on Facebook: thepequot.com

How to get there: Private boat or Fishers Island Ferry. For ferry schedules, visit fiferry.com.

Cuisine: It’s a mix. Pizzas are popular, but there are a few entrees, including catch of the day, a pork chop, and steak frites. Also, two salads, clam chowder, a burger, chicken sandwich, fish tacos, and wings.

Atmosphere: The bar is a like an over-sized, old-fashioned basement, with country music playing the night we were there and lots of people mingling at the pool tables. There’s dinner and dancing on Saturdays, karaoke on Sundays, and a host of other events you can find on the website. Out on the patio, there are about 20 tables with plastic tablecloths, some Adirondack chairs, a ping pong table, corn hole, and Tiki Toss.

Hours: The Pequot opens at 5 p.m. every day but Tuesday, when it’s closed.

Service: The wait staff is attentive, and there seems to be a lot of them, but the kitchen wasn’t running on all cylinders when we visited.

Prices: Remember, you’re on an island, and everything arrives by boat, so expect to pay a little more. The food is not cheap, but it’s not outrageous either.

Credit cards: Yes, they take them.

Handicapped access: There are steps out front, but the dirt parking lot is at patio level and accessible to both outdoor and indoor seating.

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