The Gristmill Brick Oven Bistro in East Rockaway reads like a riddle. For starters, there’s a brick oven—but not a gristmill. Rather, the name is a nod to not only the Grist Mill Museum nearby, but the flour-y roots of owners Jerry Miele and John Orphanos, who met making pizza and pasta, respectively, at Grotta di Fuoco in Long Beach.
There’s also fresh handmade pasta, pizza, and ingenious uses for both types of doughs—but don’t confuse it for an Italian restaurant. French and Southern flavors see to that.
There’s a well-considered set menu—but don’t get too attached; an emphasis on seasonal inspiration, relics of sous chef Meredith Machemer’s time as Executive Chef at the now-shuttered (and much-missed) Grey Horse Tavern in Bayport, means it’s subject to change at any given moment.
And they also serve brunch—but on a pop-up basis with off-the-moment offerings, giving you additional incentive to follow their social media accounts. And for this offering, all bets are off.
“We’re testing the waters by offering Sunday brunch as a pop-up,” says Machemer. “And even more so than with dinner, there isn’t really a style of food we’re sticking to. We just love breakfast and we’re doing it our way, with a nice balance of sweet, savory, and classic with a spin.”
And so the pattern of expectations designed to be turned on their heads continues.
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“We’ll have Eggs Benedict, but the combinations will change,” she says, noting for example that a recent variation featured Creole-seasoned shrimp with tasso ham on jalapeno-cheddar grits cakes.
“We have chicken and waffles,” but the type may differ from the sweet potato iteration with roasted apples, candied pecans, and bacon they just did. “We’ll have pizza, but it’ll be a Hungry Man,” she says enthusiastically. “Anything is possible!”
Thus with each iteration of the pop-up brunches, diners can expect to come back and try something different each time.
But that begs the question, what if we fall in love, as we are inevitably bound to do, with these seasoned chefs at the helm? Will the affair end with the morning and become a lost connection?
Machemer responds coyly, “Some items may stick around.” Oversized cinnamon bun, slathered in bourbon cream cheese frosting and topped with candied pecans … we’re looking at you.