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Vines & Hops Cafe Opens Doors in Downtown Riverhead

Plans for the business include acoustic performances, an outdoor beer garden and a waterfall.

The past few days have been busy for Jeff and Christine McKay, as they worked feverishly to put the finishing touches on their new business, the Vines & Hops Cafe, which had its grand opening and ribbon-cutting on East Main Street on Sunday.

"We just got our liquor license last Friday," Jeff McKay said. "It feels as though we've been running a marathon — and then we had to stop and go to work."

The newly opened establishment features comfortable couches, bistro style tables made of barrels, fall flowers and outdoor lighting fixtures that give it the "cozy" feel the couple was striving toward.

Their dream was to create a place where customers could taste wines, beer and coffee in a place that felt as comfortable as their own living rooms.

And now, that vision has becoming reality, as the Jamesport couple opened at 127 East Main Street in downtown Riverhead on Sunday.

Local, as well as California wines, will be served, McKay said, along with local craft beer and gourmet coffee.

"Our menu will complement the beverages we're serving," he said. "This is different than a bar or a restaurant in the respect that our menu will be something that isn't offered anywhere in Riverhead."

Down the line, McKay hopes to feature a performer playing an acoustic guitar — and plans for an outdoor beer garden are on tap. Also on the drawing board is a continuous waterfall.

McKay also hopes to offer customers in the future the chance to reserve a section where they can have a private waiter. "They'll be waited on hand and foot," he said.

The menu, he said, features small plates with an artisanal focus, with selections including marinated flank steak, empanadas with spinach and goat cheese and fruit platters, pizzas, and different types of sliders.

The menu will be designed to be paired with wines and beers, including Long Ireland and Celtic ale on tap — hot cider will also be served — which will change with the seasons. Pumpkin ales will be spotlighted in October and holiday spirits will be on board for the winter months.

"Our menu will change so that it will be a totally different experience for our customers with the seasons," he said. "We wanted to add that diversity to downtown."

The interior of the eatery allows customers to "sit and relax" after a show at the Suffolk Theater or Vail-Leavitt, McKay said.

Their venture into the restaurant business is a new venture for the couple. McKay worked as a massage therapist and strength conditioning coach but has since given up that stint to focus on his new career. 

"I'm reinventing myself," he said.

As he and his wife cut the ribbon with Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter, McKay said, "We're excited to be a part of the revitalization of downtown Riverhead. We want to help bring an increase in foot traffic back to Main Street. We're excited to be here."

"I want to welcome you to Main Street," Walter said. "Thank you for taking a chance on us." Walter said the town work work to help the couple in any way possible.

With the new gym moving in across the street and the Suffolk Theater come alive, Walter added, "It's an amazing time for us. We know you are going to be a success — because it never rains in Riverhead."

Christine McKay is still employed full-time as a physical therapist for the physically and mentally challenged at BOCES in Westhampton Beach, and works whenever she can at the new business with her husband.

Her hope, McKay said, is to create gift baskets featuring Lenox wineglasses, local wines, beers, and goodies such as chocolate covered pretzels. She added that many of the wines offered are also for sale at Vines & Hops.

And, she added, Vines and Hops will offer, in addition to local wines, some French and California labels, some of which are not available anywhere else locally, such as Colcannon Chardonnay.

The menu, she said, will transform based on what customers like and order. "It's a work in progress," she said. 

"We always wanted to get into the hospitality business," Jeff McKay said. "We put two girls through college and we've never had the opportunity before. We want to have fun with something different we can offer the public. We're excited."


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