Serving modern American food with touches of Korean and Latin influences, Whalers Restaurant & Bar recently arrived in Bay Shore at the south end of Maple Avenue, adding new life to docks that were once best-known as a summer gateway to Fire Island.
There once was a time when autumn signaled an end to regular activity in the parking area at the end of Maple Ave., once the seasonal Fire Island crowds wound down, but now with Whalers open in the space that was formerly home to Molly Malone’s—right across the street from The Lakehouse restaurant (located at 135 Maple Avenue)—Bay Shore can brag of a waterside dining zone that runs all year-round.
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However, unlike the upscale menu found at Lakehouse, Whalers is somewhat less pricey (compared with the mostly over $30 dinner entrees found at LakeHouse, Whalers entrees tend to stick to an approximate $25 average price). However, that doesn’t mean plain dishes in any way, as the Whalers menu includes squid ink tagliolini, “Korean BBQ Seoul Food” (banchan sides and steamed fried rice with choice of bulgogi beef, spicy pork or spicy chicken) and the current signature dish: braised, fall-off-the-bone short rib with kimchi fried rice and an egg sunny-side up.
My family’s background is a mix of American and Korean,” explains Nikki Kappus, “which is one reason why there are Korean influences in our menu.” It’s her family’s first foray into the restaurant business she adds, but food—especially comfort food—has always been a Kappus passion. “My family’s heritage is also why you’ll find eggs on so many of our dishes,” she continues with a chuckle, “but we’ve always wanted to get into this industry, and with the growth of Bay Shore, we felt like this was a perfect place to get started.”
By place she doesn’t just mean Bay Shore, but also in the dockside home of Whalers, which on a sunny day provides wide views of the canal and bay twinkling through large windows and in its outdoor section, seating which is wrapped in a clear protective curtain and features a bar, lounge seating and several tables. “We’re looking to add heating lamps and keep this open as far into the winter as possible, weather-permitting,” says Nikki, “people enjoy it out here…we really think of the views as beautiful and we want to make sure what’s around is visible.”
The outdoor bar, as well as an indoor lounge and a third-such counter located on the second floor are another side of what Whalers is looking to bring, with a cocktail menu sporting such offerings as the “Nor Easter” (apple cider, bourbon, lemon juice, orange zest) the “Oh, Captain!” (French rose wine, vodka, triple sec, simple syrup, seasonal berries) and the “Montauk Mint” (prosecco, vodka, simple syrup, lime juice, mint).
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While mentioning the Montauk-named mixer, it’s worthy to note that Whalers could very well fit in among eateries found in the Hamptons, with its nautical blue/white color scheme and a Sunday brunch that features such main plates as cornflake-encrusted French toast, a tuna poke rice bowl, a breakfast burrito and the Whalers burger that arrives with pork belly, arugula, sriracha aioli and, naturally, an egg sunny-side up. Of course, brunch also usually means mimosas and bloody marys, and here brunch cocktails are available by the glass or in a two-hour unlimited capacity for $18 per person (mimosas) and $20 (bloody marys).
Keep in mind: the second level, with high ceilings, extensive views and projectors in place for programming of all sorts, will also be at times open for regular dining. However, should you decide to throw a party at Whalers, don’t worry about getting everyone up and down the stairs; there’s an elevator available to shuttle guests to and from the main floor. “We really wanted to make this place as comfortable as possible,” concludes Nikki, “we’re planning to make a special ferry takeout menu for next summer, so people heading to the docks, even late, can still look forward to an excellent meal. We want people to have fun here, and feel great about dining here a few times a week. We’re not just trying to make Whalers a great restaurant, but a part of the community.”