Bayberry in Islip – A Restaurant For All Seasons

Mike Lessing, Jr. has updated Maxwell’s in Islip – a bar and grill his family owned for over 16 years – bringing a new vibe to the spot with his new restaurant Bayberry, one he hopes will give people more options.

On a warm summer evening in August, the windows at Bayberry are thrust open to Main Street. People walking by can get a glimpse at the expansive new dining room, round tabletops, wicker-backed chairs and walls lined with plush teal-colored booths. There is a new vibe to the place filled with modern accents, grander and more refined, with a cooler, lighter, brighter palette than its former incarnation, Maxwell’s, which was pretty heavy on the wood.

Some might miss the old joint but it was time for a refresh according to Lessing, who serves as operations manager for his family’s restaurant group.

“We’ve been in this building a very long time,” he told while sitting at the bar inside the redecorated space. “It was super dark.”

There has been a clear shift in Islip and neighboring Bay Shore and they felt the need to keep up with the times.

“That’s not the scene anymore,” Lessing added.

The bar and grill concept has been upgraded with Lessing working with his restaurant group’s chefs to come up with a new menu along with a whole new atmosphere and decor to match.

“We did a lot of testing and collaborating,” he said. “And we wanted to bring a raw bar to Islip.”

The menu reflects a high/low concept that they wanted to achieve, handhelds alongside new entrees and plenty of seafood.

Oysters (east or west coast), little neck clams, shrimp cocktail and a chilled one-and-a-half pound maine lobster fill out the raw bar.

“All good for sharing,” Lessing said. “That’s the vibe at the bar.”

A part of the menu called Seafood Towers goes all the way up from a Deluxe level (6 oysters, 6 little neck clams, ½ steamed lobster, 4 jumbo shrimp) to the tippy top of the Grand (12 oysters, 12 little neck clams, 1 whole steamed lobster, 12 jumbo shrimp, jumbo lump crab meat and chilled mussels). There is a stop in the middle at the Royal, which is in between both amount and price.

Main courses include a poke tuna bowl, salmon, swordfish and mussels. There are non-seafood choices like the steak frites, pork chop Milanese and a Bayberry chicken.

Lobster rolls, grilled chicken club, a Nashville hot crispy chicken and a dry aged bistro burger are all included on the handheld portion of the menu.

An expanded kitchen gave them more prep space and that’s reflected in the menu. It is, after all, all about opening up the options at Bayberry. When summer ends, Bayberry can be a place you go to for a classic, cozy dinner or drink at the bar while watching a game; the TVs are still there. And for as long as the weather holds out, the back patio – complete with fire pit – is an additional place to enjoy dinner and drinks. Lessing says the space will also be available to rent for private events.

In rebranding the restaurant, Lessing says they also wanted to connect to the local flavor. There’s the lighter, nautical vibe in the decor, the seafood on the menu, and the name. 

“Bayberry is everywhere if you’re native to Islip,” he said. “There’s even a part of Islip called Bayberry Point.”

Location: 501 Main Street, Islip, (631) 210-0011.

Scroll down for some pictures of the newly opened Bayberry  in Islip.


📷 Lon S. Cohen

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