A century of serving quality food out of the same location will garner any restaurant a lot of headlines.
The historic Pine Grove Inn was no exception.
The building that opened in 1910 on 1st Street in East Patchogue along Swan Creek used to house an actual inn on its second floor. Nowadays, one of those 14 former guest rooms upstairs serves as a veritable library of newspaper clippings.
“Hearty fare at the Pine Grove Inn,” reads a Fire Island Tide headline from 1982.
“Try the black forest treat,” advises a Daily News headline in 1976.
Then there’s the “Dining with Sully” column from a 1976 edition of The Suffolk County News. The column carries no headline but starts as such:
“If ever there was a credible restaurant, it’s the Pine Grove Inn.”
Hight praise, we imagine.
The neighborhood mainstay closed prior to Hurricane Sandy. Later, it appeared as if the superstorm sealed the building’s fate after a swelled creek pushed several feet of water up onto the large property and into the dining room.
“The food was always good; the atmosphere was always good, plus there was nothing else over here,” remembered Bruce Loesch, who grew up nearby and still lives in the neighborhood.
“It was kind of a local spot,” he said. “You either knew about it or you didn’t. And if you did, that meant your family and friends knew too, so every time you walked in there you knew somebody.”
Loesch bussed tables at The Pine Grove Inn during most of his high school years. That was the only other job he’s ever had outside of the family’s business, Outback Portable Toilets.
When Loesch got engaged in 2009, a party at The Pine Grove was a given. He and his future wife celebrated with friends and family on the back patio and lawn on Swan Creek.
In the last few years, many in the area began to think such festive nights on the creek were over.
Michael Goberdhan of Manhattan is now looking to bring the party back.
Goberdhan, who’s been in finance and property management for over 20 years, purchased the building from investors in December. He’s since had the walls sanded and painted, floors raised and leveled, and the wood flooring replaced with water-resistant concrete and ceramic tile.
Adding up the purchase price and renovation work, Goberdhan is dumping about $1.5 million into the project, he said.
But since the building was closed for so long, he lost some crucial grandfathered-in allowable and now must upgrade the property’s septic system to accommodate the near 200 people the 6,078-square-foot building fits.
To that end, he received some help from county Legislator Rob Calarco of Patchogue.
“Even though the [septic] system has the capability of handling the flow, it was no longer grandfathered in and thereby no longer conformed to the standards that were revised 10, 15 years ago,” Calarco explained. “That would have dramatically reduced the number of seats.”
Between the septic upgrades and slightly less seating than the old Pine Grove Inn, Calarco said Goberdhan has been granted enough seats to make the business sustainable, around 175.
“We worked out a solution, recognizing the uniqueness of this situation with the storm,” he said.
“He has a good plan to get it back up and running,” Calarco continued. “It’s an establishment that goes way back in the community, and quite honestly it’s a building that if Mike doesn’t come in and do something with, we’re going to have an empty, vacant parcel on our hands for some time to come.”
Goberdhan says he’s confident the time and money will be worth it; he’s hoping to open later this summer.
The initial plan is to run The Pine Grove Inn of East Patchogue as a higher-end steakhouse, with meat aged on-premises.
He’s also preserving the wood furnishings of the historic restaurant, saying it’s appropriate while referencing the decor at Peter Lugers Steakhouse in Brooklyn.
“We’re looking at a contemporary steakhouse,” he said. “Simple American food, steak and seafood.
Goberdhan, who looked at several possible restaurant locations in Suffolk before settling on East Patchogue, is proud of the building’s history and his part in restoring that history to the neighborhood.
“From what people are telling me, the food was just awesome,” he said. “From the Long Island duck, to the sauerbraten — which was the tradition of this restaurant — people would come form Queens and Brooklyn and Manhattan. People would come from all over.”
“The people would fall in love with the food, they would fall in love with the area, and then they would move here,” he continued. “I just hope I can restore everything to what it once was. I’m working on it.”
Bonus: Here’s news of a Pine Grove bash exactly as it was reported in The Suffolk County News on Nov. 17, 1922: The Patchogue Field Club. 1922 champions of the South Shore Baseball League, celebrated the winning of the pennant on Tuesday evening with a banquet held at the Pine Grove Inn. Patchogue. to which the local baseball players as well as fans from the villages having teams in the league were invited.