Top of the Bay

Top of the Bay Bistro

1 Dock Walk, Cherry Grove, NY

631-597-6028 •

By Shoshanna McCollum

Years ago at a job I had on Fire Island, I went through the office mail and saw a promotion for Top of the Bay in Cherry Grove. ‘How glamorous!’ I thought to myself. ‘One day I will dine here.’ It took me almost 30 years, but on the Friday before the 2022 Pride Parade, that day finally happened – and a memorable evening and meal it was.

First, let’s talk about the name. The upstairs location right across from the Cherry Grove dock makes Top of the Bay the only restaurant on Fire Island that can boast 180-degree bird’s eye views of the Great South Bay – and the enclosed sunroom was everything I always imagined it to be. General Manager Ulises greeted us, and told me they had undergone recent renovations, but as a first-timer I was seeing it with fresh eyes. Ulises has extensive experience managing restaurants and has worked in Miami, Philadelphia and Manhattan. He came to Top of the Bay with a mission to elevate it to the next level, and he has certainly succeeded.

Next, we have to talk about the cocktails. My friends know I am not much of a drinker, but Top of the Bay is known for their cocktails and I decided this night to indulge. Peter, our waiter, went over several tempting choices. I went with something called the Rainbow Bench – a tribute to the bench that overlooks the ocean beach in the Grove. The Rainbow Bench was composed of Desolas Mezcal, Amaro, passion fruit puree and burnt coconut syrup. Ulises called it “sunshine in a glass,” but upon my first sip I knew I was sipping pure ambrosia. There were other interesting choices. The Meat Rack – Cartel coconut rum, walnut bitters and demerara sugar. Also, a confection called Do You Top? made with Los Sunday’s coconut tequila, grilled pineapple and condensed milk – I must try these the next time.

My date, Cherry Grove/Fire Island Pines Columnist Robert Levine, and I started with the Rock Shrimp Tempura with sweet chili aioli, sriracha and sesame seeds. Now sauces can be tricky, and I was concerned that the sriracha might overpower the appetizer – but not the case here – it was just the right amount of kick to accent the delicate flavor of the shrimp and not a drop beyond that. Bob also went with a green salad of baby arugula, radicchio, fennel toasted pistachios and aged Parmesan with roasted garlic and balsamic dressing.

When it came to deciding on the entrée, Peter mentioned that the braised short ribs was one of their specialties. The boneless ribs over mashed sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts and red wine au jus did sound wonderful, but I checked out Top of the Bay’s Instagram page prior to our visit, which planted a seed in my brain that I had to try the roasted eggplant, and I am so glad I did. Cooked to perfection in pomodoro sauce, toasted pine nuts and accented with ricotta cheese and herbs this dish was like eating food of the gods – an excellent dish for both vegetarians and those who just chose to go meatless that night. Bob selected the Chilean sea bass with cauliflower puree, kale chips and a saffron beurre blanc sauce. It was a beautiful, fresh piece of fish and he enjoyed it heartily.

Between courses we were greeted by none other than Top of the Bay proprietor Ron King, who paid a visit to our table. He and Bob chatted as longtime friends will. Ron fretted about a recent breakdown of one of his refrigerators and the challenges he faced in getting a suitable replacement to the island amid the supply chain shortages that has made obtaining items like commercial appliances nearly impossible. Somehow Ron did it, and that small story of resolve made me understand a large part of his success with this enterprise.

Executive Chef Xavier Alcequiez

We also met Executive Chef Xavier Alcequiez, the man behind the miracles made in the kitchen that graced our table. A soft-spoken man from the Dominican Republic, Xavier shyly said it was his pride and joy to be here, but Peter had told us earlier about how this determined young man had worked up the ranks over the past decade at Top of the Bay, beginning with odd jobs at first – a true American success story. Ulises mentioned that he and Xavier worked together in Philadelphia in the winter 2018, during Top of the Bay’s off-season.

We then learned the desserts we were about to enjoy were made by Xavier’s mother, Carmen. I chose the vanilla crème brûlée because my gut told me this classic would be exquisite here, and I was not wrong. It was sheer ecstasy, and even Bob, who never shares from my plate, could not resist stealing a spoonful. However, Peter was of the opinion that one dessert between us was not enough, and brought out a slice of flourless chocolate cake made with Nutella, chocolate oat crumble, whipped cream and fresh berries. Peter was right, we needed to try that cake, and all I can say is God bless Carmen.

Meals compose our daily lives and can be rich in memories, but only a few transcend into experiences that we remember for years to come. Top of the Bay was one such experience that I will long savor.