By Joey Macellaro ~ Long known as Ocean Beach’s only full-service bakery and busiest breakfast spot, Rachel’s Restaurant and Bakery has expanded its menu significantly in recent years.
“We’re really excited to offer not only a full dinner menu now,” said Manager Angela Doering, “but a full service bar featuring cocktails, a wide selection of beer, and wines including specialty Spanish and Italian wines.”
Angela and husband Joe Doering manage the restaurant with continued help from Joe’s mother Rachel, who founded the establishment as a small bakery in 1975. The family-operated Rachel’s Café in Syosset closed in 2020, when they decided to focus all their attention on the Ocean Beach location.
Rachel’s gained notoriety after being issued a summons in 1977 for allowing cookies to be eaten on the public walks. As a result of this incident and others, village law was relaxed to allow foodstuffs to be eaten on walks in Ocean Beach’s business district. By 1990 the bakery had expanded to include a dining area, usually filled on summer mornings with customers enjoying breakfast or brunch.
After constructing downtown Ocean Beach’s newest commercial building in 2018, the Doerings reopened Rachel’s with attractive new bakery displays and a bright, modern dining room.
During peak dining hours on weekend mornings, be prepared for a wait. When in a crunch for time, all menu items are available to go. As word has spread about the restaurant’s dinner and drink options, there is often a wait on weekend evenings as well.
The staff greets patrons promptly and directs them either to the bakery department or to a hostess for table service. I dined with a friend who had previously only enjoyed Rachel’s baked goods, and he noticed the attention the wait staff gave not only to our table but all those around us in spite of the dining room being full on a busy Friday evening.
From the appetizer menu I had previously enjoyed a bowl of mussels, very fresh and large enough to be an entrée, as well as the grilled clams in a light butter sauce. On this visit, we shared tzatziki and hummus dip with cauliflower chips, a light and fluffy gluten-free offering. The chips were unusually flavorful and an inspired change from standard pita bread. The tzatziki, a Turkish yogurt with cucumber, had a bold flavor that paired well with the chips.
Rachel’s dinner menu includes several entrée salads – the Ocean Beach Salad with salmon is a light and vibrant option. A half-pound Black Angus burger is another favorite, with flounder filet, blackened mahi-mahi, and chicken rounding out sandwich offerings.
We chose orecchiette, one of 10 pasta dishes on the menu, and pork chop Milanese as our main course. The presentation of the dishes was superb, with
bold splashes of color artistically arranged on the plate. The portion sizes at Rachel’s are among the largest of any local restaurant.
The orecchiette featured tender, melt-in-your-mouth chicken as well as sausage with just the right level of hotness in a garlic and oil sauce, sautéed with broccoli rabe and red peppers and bowl-shaped pasta.
The Pork Milanese was the star of the night. The unique pairing of lightly breaded pork chop and salad with arugula, tomato, and red onion with shaved Manchego cheese was a pure delight. The pork was tender and juicy, not the least bit tough, and complemented by breading that was perfectly seasoned and not at all crumbly.
The seafood paella is a personal favorite, as is the chicken Marsala. A grilled 22-ounce porterhouse steak and flounder Francese are among the dozen-or-so non-pasta dinner entrées offered.
No lunch or dinner is complete without Rachel’s delicious gelato, made in-house. Most flavors are gluten-free. Affogato, a vanilla gelato drowned in a shot of hot espresso, is a popular dessert item. During this visit, we enjoyed a margarita and a paloma, made with tequila, lime, and grapefruit soda. The addition of a full-service bar is a welcome change for the establishment.
As noted, breakfast and baked goods have long been Rachel’s specialties. Late-night cookies and brownies are an Ocean Beach tradition. I crave their breakfast potatoes – the best on the beach. The bran pancakes are a popular item. A broad selection of omelets and egg dishes also are available.
A lunch menu featuring wings, salads, burgers, and wraps rounds out the restaurant’s offerings. A special menu for children under 12 is available for both breakfast and lunch.
A Fire Island favorite for over 40 years, Rachel’s has evolved into one of the area’s most popular fine dining establishments. Just don’t forget to leave room for dessert.
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday, 8 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Saturday, 7:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Sunday, 7:30 a.m.-9 p.m.; bakery open later some weekend evenings.
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