Johnny’s Famous Reef Restaurant on the far end of City Island in the Bronx, has been attracting travelers to its from-another-era, New England-style fried seafood counters for over 60 years. Chow.com contributing editor Liza de Guia filed the following report.
Sometimes a restaurant is good because of more than just the food. And that’s exactly how I ended up at the far end of City Island in the Bronx with a heaping tray of fried shrimp and lobster tails from Johnny’s Famous Reef Restaurant.
City Island is a gem, and feels like a small New England coastal town; a little past its prime, but charming nonetheless.
Thirty or so seafood houses line the mile-long stretch of City Island Avenue. So, I asked a few locals and found out: Johnny’s Reef is the place.
It’s the fried seafood that makes Johnny’s Reef “famous” -- an accolade that sounded novel when they opened shop 30 years ago, but is now somewhat true. You name it, they fry it -- clams, oysters, squid, smelt, soft-shell crabs, scallops and even frogs legs.
All items get the same cracker meal and breadcrumb-based batter, but not all seafood at Johnny’s Reef is created equal. I say go for the fried shrimp, fried lobster tails, fried scallops or the whiting.
It’s nothing gourmet, just straight-up traditional, crispy, golden seafood with a salty bite, the way a fry shack should be, perfect with a squeeze of lemon and their addictive homemade tartar sauce. Portions here are large, especially with the added pile of hand-cut russet fries, but thankfully, the prices are not.
Once you navigate the confusingly quirky, cafeteria-style lines, head outside to the peaceful, seagull-protected area and chow down with a pina colada or fruity daiquiri. It may not be the beach, but for the view and the experience, it’s a whole lot better.
Johnny’s Famous Reef Restaurant is located at 2 City Island Avenue in the Bronx. For more dining recommendations, visit CHOW.com.