By Emily J. Weitz
Island Boat Yard on Shelter Island was, for the past few years, just a boat yard. Sailors and seafarers would tie up at the dock to refuel, and if they were feeling adventurous, they might catch a shuttle to the Heights to find out what exactly Shelter Island had to offer. But with Keith Bavaro and Alison Beviliaqua taking on a lease of several buildings on the premises, the Island Boat Yard is becoming the first and last stop for boaters, and a destination for others as well.
The hope for this young couple, who met in the restaurant business on the Island, is that this property can become a resort destination.
“For a while this place was strictly for boaters,” says Bavaro. “Now we’re hoping people will say, ‘Let’s spend the weekend here.’ There’s a full-service marina with showers, laundry, and pool. But then there’s great food at Salt, there’s a bar, a wine tasting room, and shuttle service to other spots on the Island.”
Salt is an upscale restaurant with mid-range prices. Creative cocktails like strawberry basil mojitos and jalapeno margaritas kick off any evening at the marina. The menu is comprised of small main courses and large appetizers ideal for sharing. Fish tacos, grilled calamari, and shrimp skewers are all right in line with the vibe of the outside decks literally on the water.
“Our executive chef, Carrie Mitchum, put together a phenomenal menu,” says Bavaro. “We are going for fresh, not fancy. This is a place for social gathering. It’s about being on Shelter Island and enjoying this magical place.”
Salt, with its views out over the marina with West Neck Harbor beyond, highlights both the heritage and the beauty of Shelter Island. There are 80 boat slips at the marina, including 50 seasonals, 25 transients, and five slips just for people coming to Salt. To reserve a slip, you can call the Dockmaster at 749-3333.
Bavaro and Beviliaqua are clearly driven by their appreciation of Shelter Island.
“I spent nine years in Hawaii,” says Bavaro, “which is beautiful. But the reality is that this island is as beautiful, and this is home. Ali and I were summer kids, and we’ve chosen to make it a full-time home. This place is about being at peace with myself, and finding Ali and settling in.”
Salt is just the beginning of their plans. In addition to the restaurant, there’s a separate building: a schooner from Greenport called the Shipwreck, which now serves as a bar.
“The Shipwreck is open weekends from 3pm on,” says Beviliaqua. “We want people to come and feel comfortable, whatever their budget. So we have this bar with cans of beer and live music.”
On the other end of the spectrum, they have transformed another building into Shelter Island’s first satellite tasting room. Jamesport Vineyards is on board for these tastings, but they won’t be limited to Jamesport.
“We have a bar and wine shelves all set up,” says Bavaro, “and we’ll be featuring all East End and New York state vineyards. We’ll also have vodkas and bourbons. We can pour by the glass but sell by the bottle or case.”
Between the restaurant, the bar, the tasting room and the pool, it might be hard to find the time or motivation to leave the Island Boat Yard. But they have set up various ways to do so, in addition to the shuttle that was already in place.
“We’ve partnered with Venture Sports,” says Bavaro, “for scooter rentals for boaters. And there will also be SUP rentals and tours with Claudia Patino Tarlow. We’ll have racks on the premises where people can rent boards and then lock them up.”
The idea is that people can feel comfortable coming from one activity to the next, with a real feel of being at a resort.
“We think of this place as fresh, not fancy,” says Beviliaqua. “It’s good food you can eat in your board shorts and flip-flops.”
“We have the built-in clientele of the boaters to start,” says Bavaro.
“And we love the boating crowd,” chimes in Beviliaqua. “The boating community is close – if your friends on the boat next to you say this place is great, you’re gonna go check it out. We’re counting on word of mouth, and we want to reach out to both the North and South Forks as a destination.”