Bacon sparked the grease fire that shuttered the restaurant.
"We're back and better than ever now," said manager Robert Cormier on Monday. "It feels great, wonderful to be back."
Cormier said renovations took over nine weeks, but the time allowed for time renovations and repairs, painting, a refinish of the cedar shake outside, a freshly restored door, and other touches to give the restaurant a facelift.
"We really gave the place a nice cleaning," Cormier said. The kitchen has a new hood system and new appliances, with everything "looking like new," he said.
The fire, he said, also gave staff the chance to reconfigure the kitchen.
"Out of a rotten situation, came something positive," Cormier said.
Since reopening, Cormier said customers have been coming back to support the longtime downtown eatery, owned by Cliff Saunders.
Even staffers, who were able to continue working at Saunders' other two locations during the time while the restaurant was being repaired, are excited about the renovations, Cormier said. He added that for employees, it was a "win-win," because those who wanted shifts at the other two restaurants had them, and employees at those two locations were able to take days off during the summer.
"It's like everything else, when you get that new TV, everyone can't wait to crowd around. All the people that work here are loving it."
The entire community showed support after the fire, Cormier said, and the town board worked to waive permit fees and expedite the renovation process.
"They couldn't have been nicer," Cormier said. "If something rotten had to happen, at least, with so many wishing us well, it made it all worth it."
And, Cormier added, while some asked if the staff lamented the loss of the summer season, he and others decided not to "cry over spilt milk," but, instead, to focus on the positive, including pumpkin season, which brings crowds to downtown Riverhead.
"It really worked out well for everyone, and we're all back to work. We can't ask for more than that. Thank God it wasn't any worse," Cormier said.
Damage to Cliff's was considered minimal compared to the devastation at the Athens Grill down the street, which was destroyed by fire only days after the blaze at Cliff's Rendezvous.
"We don't have an opening day," he said. "We are still in demolition mode."
The community came together in force to support the rebuilding of Athens Grill, with fundraisers, and the town board waiving fees for both restaurants in an effort to keep mainstays of downtown viable.