Daycation Destination: City Island, da Bronx
Over the river and through the Bronx there's an oasis called City Island
In the 1993 movie A Bronx Tale, Robert Dinero drives his bus to City Island. The 2009 movie City Island, starring Andy Garcia, is filmed almost entirely on City Island. It's a 30 minute straight drive away, and yet, so few people know it even exists. The place is City Island, da Bronx. And it is a hidden gem. What Arthur Avenue is to Italian food, City Island is to seafood.
City Island is an historic seafaring island village, a bridge away from mainland Bronx, surrounded by the Long Island Sound and the Eastchester Bay. If you’ve never been to City Island you must, must, must go. It’s 13 miles from the George Washington Bridge and has the look and feel of a small New England whaling village.
The editor decided to go there on the Fourth of July and, believe it or not, it took exactly 18 minutes to get there. Generally, weekends during the summer can bring a lot of traffic to the island, but if you can manage to escape on a weekday, or late Sunday afternoon, you won’t be disappointed. Aside from the beautiful Victorian houses and quaint shops that populate City Island Ave., the reason you come to City Island is for the fresh seafood. And let me tell you—you don’t have to spend a fortune to eat incredible seafood.
There are so many restaurants to choose from -- Crab Shanty, Lobster Box, Artie's, The Black Whale, Portofino and at the very southern tip of the island—the uber-casual Johnny’s Reef Restaurant and Tony's Pier.
Johnny’s Reef is like being on the boardwalk down the shore. It’s a very large open-air restaurant with a counter for every selection. One counter is dedicated to people not particularly fond of seafood—it offers hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken nuggets and is great for those little picky eaters. Another counter is just for fresh clams on the half-shell; another just for steamed seafood; another for shrimp. You name it, there’s a counter. Johnny’s Reef will steam or deep fry any piece of fish they have, just look for the sign above each counter to decide what you want.
Tony's is also casual, but just a bit more upscale. It, too, has the freshest seafood, but truth be told--you go there for the clams on the half shell. Shucked to order, a dozen clams are $11. That and a cold glass of beer, or nice chilled glass(es) of white wine, and it doesn't get much better.
The restaurants offer a more formal experience, but most of them have clam bars, and all of them are out of this world. Great place to bring friends and just relax into the night on the island.
The Lobster Box is a waterfront favorite. The raw bar offers all types of clams and oysters. The Lobster Box will prepare lobster any way you like it: steamed, broiled, stuffed, fra diavolo or in marinara sauce.
If crab is your thing there’s The Original Crab Shanty. They have a separate menu just for crabs. Snow-crab legs, King crab legs, hard shell crabs, soft shell crabs, Dungeness crab, crab platters…They also have platters of seafood to share and non-seafood offerings as well.
If the kids are with you, there's the infamous ice cream shoppe Lickety-Split on City Island Ave. that’s housed in a small colorful playhouse with outdoor seating. Sitting in the garden eating ice cream makes you feel like you’re a character a children’s story book.
If you want to get a sense of how beautiful City Island really is, go to the library and take out the movie City Island starring Andy Garcia and City Island. It’s a funny movie about an Italian-American family, their traditions and their hidden secrets. And there's the iconic Bronx Tale, Robert Dinero's directorial debut.
The bottom line is this: for a great daycation destination--get out of town, try something new, and visit City Island. Old fishing village, fresh seafood, fresh sea air and only minutes from home. You're guarenteed to love it. If you go, let us know how you liked it.
- GWB to 95N
- Take Exit 8B toward Orchard Beach/City Island
- Merge onto Shore Road
- Slight right onto City Island Road
- Go over City Island Bridge and welcom to City Island--you're on City Island Avenue, the main road on City Island.
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