Behind the bar with ‘North Fork legend’ Andy Harbin

08/03/2016 10:34 AM |

Andy Harbin is one of the most recognizable bartenders on the North Fork.

And that’s not just because on any given night he can be found behind the bar at either Sophie’s Rest in Southold, The Frisky Oyster in Greenport or Legends in New Suffolk.

No, Andy is well known mostly because he’s so darn good at his job. 

“He’s got it all down,” said Chuck Glowacki of Peconic, one of a handful of Friday night regulars who look forward to Harbin’s shifts at Sophie’s. “You walk in and he knows exactly what you want. He takes very good care of you.”

Harbin, 50, has been working in restaurants since his teens. He started off in the kitchen, but realized he liked interacting with people much more.

His first gig in the front of the house was waiting tables at the Old Mill Inn in Mattituck, the same hamlet where he attended high school. There was no bartender on duty during the day, so Harbin would jump behind the bar and fix the drinks himself. He said he learned to make drinks by reading books about bartending.

Now you can find Harbin talking sports at Sophie’s three nights a week, mixing up cocktails at the Frisky Oyster on Sunday night and running around the big bar at Legends on Thursday and Saturday nights.

“These were three of my favorite places to eat before I started working at all of them,” he said.

Tom Grattan, co-owner of Sophie’s since 2012, said he knew Harbin to be a true professional who would “do things right” at the bar. The regulars lined up for a spot at the bar by 4 p.m. Friday, waiting for Harbin to start his shift, show Grattan his instincts were correct.

Sophie’s, which is located on Main Bayview Road in Southold, has a homey feel, serving up everything from thin-crust pizza to burgers and scallop quesadillas. It’s more of a brew pub than some of the other places Harbin has worked.

“This place is more of a down-home place,” he said.

Over at The Frisky Oyster, Harbin can be found more often with a shaker cup in his hands. Located at 27 Front Street, the bar offers specialty cocktails, a wine list and a mix of local and imported beers.

“It’s a special place,” Harbin said, adding that he thinks the restaurant serves some of the best food on the North Fork and he enjoys not only mixing drinks for the people at the bar but also being able to suggest different meals for them to try.

Harbin said The Frisky Oyster has its regulars, but it’s also a special occasion place.

“A lot of people when they come there it’s for a special reason, so a lot of people are just celebrating and happy,” he said.

Patron Charlie Scudlo said he and his wife visit The Frisky Oyster all the way from Amityville. He said he not only loves the food and drink selection, but also the opportunity to talk with Andy behind the bar.

“He is absolutely the best,” Scudlo said. “He’s accurate, he knows all of the drinks, he is friendly and he’s personable.”

Harbin said one of his favorite parts of the job is meeting and talking to different people and he makes a point to make everyone feel welcome in whatever bar he is running.

“There are a lot of jobs that can be very rewarding,” he said. “My end product is somebody that might be a little tipsy. So that’s not the greatest reward, but making them happy and making them laugh.”

Three mini-beers — Licor 43 with heavy cream on top — a Sophie's special. (Credit: Krysten Massa)

Three mini-beers — Licor 43 with heavy cream on top — a Sophie’s special prepared by Harbin. (Credit: Krysten Massa)

On a Saturdays at Legends, Harbin never stops moving his feet. Along with manager Tim Staron, the two men race around the big rectangular bar together, talking sports when they have a second to break.

“With the craft brew craze there is right now, Legends is the perfect place to go if you’re into local beers and craft beers,” Harbin said. Located opposite the New Suffolk waterfront, Legends has a big sports bar on one side and a dining area on the other. Harbin described it as almost a combination of the other two bars he works at.

“At Legends it’s about the sports and the food and having fun,” he said.

Bar owner Dennis Harkoff described Harbin as a North Fork “legend.”

“Everybody knows him and everybody likes him,” Harkoff said.

Harbin said he was humbled to know so many people asked northforker to tell his story when the blog announced it was doing a series on local bartenders.

“I think whatever you do in life you should have some pride in it and be happy going to work,” he said, adding that he has been lucky enough to work at a lot of great places over the years and learned from many different people.

“I’ve been lucky that I like doing it and I’m happy with my job,” he said. “There’s a lot to be said for that.”

Editor’s Note: ‘Behind the bar’ is a series of profiles on local bartenders. Have a favorite server you’d like to read more about? Email [email protected] to make a recommendation.

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