Many folks in Brooklyn have fond memories of City Island. A slip of land just off the “coast” of the Bronx, City Island was – and to some extent still is – the seafood Mecca of New York City. I had never been and neither had my husband. So, on a warm Saturday, not too long ago, we went on a little road trip.
From our place in Brooklyn, it took just about an hour and a half thanks to traffic, but it was easy and quick enough. When I said before that City Island just a “slip of land,” I meant it. It doesn’t get much smaller than this little village. There is one main street with several smaller ones jutting off of it and none of those streets are any more than about ten houses deep. Every road ends on the water and you get the sense that families have lived in those houses for generations and will continue to do so for generations to come.
There is a post office, a grocery store, two schools, and not much else… oh, yes, except for the seafood restaurants. Those fond memories I mentioned before are of said restaurants and the fresh, readily available seafood they provided. However, as per usual, the memories are more sparkly than the reality. The reality is, that while the seafood may have been wonderful once upon a time, there’s nothing on City Island that isn’t just as fresh, or just as tasty as the local Red Lobster, (for that matter, not any cheaper, either). So fine and so close to Brooklyn with its own rich history!
That little disappointment aside, there was one sparkly food moment on City Island by way of Johnny’s. If perfectly fried shrimp, scallops, and fish is what you’re craving, I’ve got really good news for you. Now, despite what some might say, there is a definite art to frying and even more so when it comes to seafood. When I tell you that the fried scallops were massive, incredibly massive, but so moist and perfectly cooked, I truly mean that.
We couldn’t get enough. In fact, we ate so many of the damned things that we didn’t leave room to try the fried lobster! Yes, I did say fried lobster and while you might cringing right now, you’re also curious, admit it. We prefer living in Brooklyn to the City and from where we are, this little secret is so within reach, just amazing what they all do here.
I also have to mention the phenomenal New England Clam Chowder. Contrary to popular belief, a proper NECC isn’t that goopy, overly creamy junk that people seem to love. In fact, the best, most traditional NECC is thin, milky, and intensely clammy. At Johnny’s, they delivered the real deal. It was addictive. Incredibly addictive. If I thought I could have eaten even one more bite, I would have ordered a second bowl along with those scallops. So the bottom line is: if you’re up for a tiny little adventure and are craving some deliriously good fried scallops and NECC, you know where to go. Read also this post about how the Cobb Salad was born in Brooklyn.
As we licked our ice cream cones in the ice cream Shoppe on the main drag, though, I couldn’t help but think that what City Island really needs is a makeover. It seems to me that someone with enough wherewithal could make the sleepy little village a real seafood Mecca. Let’s get some talent out there! Maybe give Danny Meyer free reign, see what he could do. All it would take was one stellar eatery before they all came flocking. And, while the people who live on City Island might not be used to the noise, traffic, or crowds, something tells me that a shot of real culinary excellence is what that town (and its economy) needs. Just don’t you dare touch Johnny’s!