Informal, friendly, authentic: a slice of Long Island in Indian Harbour Beach.
Along the far coast of Long Island, near the Hamptons and around the Accabonac harbor, are found some of the country’s proudest fishermen. More akin to Cape Codders than Manhattanites, these New Yorkers, who have a parlance all their own and a culture that goes back generations, call themselves Bonackers, and the little eateries they operate are prized not for the elegance of their ambience, but for the freshness and quality of their food.
Bonackers in Indian Harbour Beach aspires to be just such a restaurant.
Operated by food and beverage veterans Richard Cooney and Jack Adams, Bonackers is most reminiscent of those friendly, up-North venues, with spacious wooden booths, nautical mementos on the ceilings and walls, a full-service bar that is not the center of attraction, customers who are not afraid to dine in shorts and flip-flops and a diverse menu.
It got that way after much thought on the part of Cooney, who spent 17 years with Outback Steakhouse as well as time with Panera and local food and beverage purveyors.
“Something inside me kept saying that I needed to own my own restaurant, and my dream was to open a restaurant called Bonackers. I am a Bonacker,” he says.
The restaurant opened quickly, four days after the closing of former tenant R.J. Gator’s, and Cooney says it has done well in an area in which a frequent complaint is “Why are there no good, informal seafood restaurants around here?”
At Bonackers, diners have choices of burgers, chicken, pasta, steak and barbeque, but the emphasis here is on seafood, ranging from northern fish and lobster to local fish and shrimp.
“It is all fresh,” Cooney says. “You will see the (delivery) truck in here every day, and the (northern seafood) we have shipped in from East Hampton.”
It also is all rather classic, from the Accabonac Harbor Clam Fritters served with a mustard remoulade, to the E.H. Fishery Combo, a plate heaped with mahi, shrimp and scallops. Soup are made on the premises and include a Manhattan clam chowder that is about as authentic as can be found in the area, with thick chunks of tomatoes, potatoes, vegetables and clams.
Dining at Bonackers also means receiving substantial portions, with sandwiches that serve as meals in their own right. The Indian Wells Grilled Salmon Club is comprised of a big slab of grilled salmon topped with sautéed onions, lettuce, sliced tomatoes and bacon, as well as lemon-basil mayonnaise on a Kaiser-style roll, served with fries and a Kosher pickle.
But the piece de resistance at Bonackers is its Montauk Clam Bake, and Cooney, an East Hampton man who recalls collecting clams for dinner, grins at the very mention of the thing.
“It comes in a tray that is probably half the size of a table and it is just piled with food. People can’t believe it, and if you order it, you should be hungry,” he says. “I tell people, ‘If you’ve never had it, this will change your life.”
Indeed, as the meal-for-two includes a whole Maine lobster, clams, mussels, shrimp, chicken, chorizo, potatoes, corn and onions boiled in beer and Old Bay seasoning. Dessert – chocolate cake – also comes with the $49.95 experience.
It’s all part of Cooney’s vision, which is to have locals and visitors, “recognize this as the seafood place on the beaches,” and in time, he would like to expand to Boca Raton or Fort Lauderdale, but not just yet.
“We’re not a chain and don’t want to be, Cooney says. “We just want to give people the best seafood we can.”
Address: 490 E/. Eau Gallie Blvd., Indian Harbour Beach
Phone: (321) 622-4232
Web site: www.bonackerseafood.com/
Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
Other: Full bar with outdoor tables; live entertainment on weekends; special events