By Jano Tantongco
A dated 1924 photo hanging from a wall of Tim’s Shipwreck Diner – which back then was known as Northport Diner – shows the boxcar establishment literally being wheeled into town, a glimpse into its humble beginnings.
The de facto Northport landmark continues to sail on and serve classic culinary favorites to appease palates of all types with ingredients that are as fresh as they are carefully cooked to perfection.
Its current owner, Tim Hess, had to dig out its foundation nearly two decades ago to remove the disintegrating wheels. He said the diner was brought in from Massachusetts on the Long Island Rail Road, its journey to its current home continued on the trolley that once served the area.
In the early 1970s, Hess’ father, Otto, bought the establishment, and handed it to over to his son in 1996.
One of Hess’ rules is that nothing he orders stays on the shelves for more than three days, with new shipments of fresh ingredients arriving each day from local businesses like Sid’s Meats on Fort Salonga Road.
The bustling kitchen, attentive service and cast of devoted locals make this an idyllic American diner, where Hess hopes diners walk away “impressed.”
“You’ll get the best. Everything has to be fresh,” Hess said. “I like everything to be perfect.”
“Using the best quality there is,” diners will be treated to homey, deeply satisfying meals, whether they’re seated in the diner’s classic, cozy interior or relaxing outside in the establishment’s expansive outdoor dining patio.
And, for a moment in the national spotlight on the first episode of Food Network’s American Diner Rescue, Ty Pennington and the hundreds of Northport resident volunteers helped give the diner a makeover in 2014, all unbeknownst to Hess, who was away on a fishing trip in Montauk.
The diner was fitted with a new flooring, sky lights, seats and tables, as well as nautical-themed breakfast counter stools, topped off with a fresh paint job.
To start off with a lunch special salad, the Grilled Shrimp Goat Cheese Mandarin Oranges Walnuts & Raisins ($16.95) is served with mixed greens and a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. The grilled shrimp avoids being too dry and carries a hint of sweetness complemented by the medley of fresh flavors from the greens and occasional bursts of earthiness from the walnuts and raisins.
For a comfort food sensation, try Marion’s Homemade Cheese Blintzes ($14.95), plated with fresh fruit, sour cream and Shipwreck’s renowned homemade jam. Three hefty blintzes are packed with creamy flavor with a hint of cinnamon, all topped with powdered sugar.
The jam, a mix of blueberries, strawberries and raspberries, is a blend worthy of its own company, but guests can find it at the diner, also sold separately at $8 a jar.
For a special treat, available only on weekends, diners can also enjoy a slice of fresh cornbread along with Shipwreck’s jam.
For a sandwich done right, the Grilled Reuben ($12.95) with corned beef on grilled baker’s onion rye with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing is a must-have. A crunchy, cheesy affair, the corned beef is sliced thin and layered for a supremely enticing consistency.
The very sharable lunch special Fisherman’s Platter ($18.95) with soup and salad features fresh cod, jumbo shrimp, flounder and clam strips with a side of tartar sauce. Despite being deep fried, the fish retains an out-of-the-water freshness, with the cod providing a more chewy bites, while the flounder stays delicate and tasty.
Additional reporting by Julia Limmer
Tim’s Shipwreck Diner
46 Main St., Northport Village
Cuisine: Classic American Diner
Atmosphere: Cozy and laid back
Price: Inexpensive to Moderate
Hours: Sunday-Friday, 7 a.m.-3 p.m.; Saturday, 7 a.m.-9 p.m.