The North Shoreian

Volume 2 / Issue 5 • Health, Beauty & Fitness • June/July 2009

By Shaughnessy Anne Mckenna Dusling

Epicurean Quartet • Fine Dining Review and Profile

When Tiger Lily Café opened in 1998, the brainchild of Lisa and Joanne Cucinello was an instant success. This Mother/Daughter duo's goal: combine Lisa's passion for cooking, music and art into a unique and exciting café. Located on East Main Street in Port Jefferson village, the Tiger Lily Café (TLC) provides a fresh and funky hang out for those interested in fresh alternative cuisine. With a wood plank floor and walls adorned with the impressive art of local artists, the atmosphere greeting customers at TLC is full of flavor; foreshadowing the culinary experience. TLC is a comfy space that is furnished to help you relax and enjoy your visit. Owners, Lisa Cucinello and Kelly Connolly recently added to TLC “Medusa's Lounge,” an outdoor eating area that over looks the village. This private deck is complete with lounge seating, exposed brick, ivy and lantern lighting all contributing to create a sexy coffee house feel.

Aside from the unique atmosphere, Tiger Lily Café is revered for the alternative menu, specializing in vegetarian, vegan and gluten free food items, a fresh juice bar and tasty soy and fruit smoothies. Straying from what some may find to be a typical, bland vegetarian fare, TLC uses soy, tempeh (fermented soybeans), tofu and fresh veggies to create a wide array of gourmet dishes that are both aesthetically pleasing and tantalizing in flavor. Meat eaters can also indulge in the healthy alternatives offered at TLC because they proudly use the leanest meats and poultry.

Upon our visit to Tiger Lily, we were greeted by Lisa herself and escorted to a comfortable and inviting couch. Having the chef at our side, we let Lisa's expertise dictate our experience. As per her suggestion, we opted for a sampling of some dishes that are favorites of regulars at TLC. We enjoyed tasting the various and flavorful (and healthy!) dishes, and would like to profile some of our favorites. I would like to take a moment to preface that my guests, and I, are all avid [even voracious] meat eaters and to this point had a very limited knowledge of the vegetarian options, so our experience was truly genuine and new.

Beginning our visit, we sampled smoothies and fresh squeezed juices. Paul enjoyed the 12-ounce Apple/Pear/Carrot Blend ($3.50). He commented that the blend of sweet carrots and the tart apple and pear flavors was tasty and refreshing. Nothing beats a creamy and ice-cold fruit smoothie on a hot day, and the 16-ounce Calypso ($4.50) hit the spot. This mix of bananas, mango, peaches and orange juice was perfectly blended.

We found the vegetarian and gluten free Newport blues Salad ($7.95) to be exceptional. This salad was comprised of fresh mixed field greens, sliced Bartlett pears, creamy crumbled bleu cheese, brown sugar roasted pecans and Joanna's spicy cranberry vinaigrette. The combination of the cool flavor of the bleu cheese, sweet pecans and spicy dressing created a unique and delicious taste. Also worthy of mention are many of the side dishes that are available daily and sold by the pound. Our favorites were the gluten-free Turkey Chili that was served hot and cheesy, Veggie Tuna Salad, TLC Chicken Salad, Tempeh that was pan-fried with red peppers and onions, and the Teriyaki Tofu Scramble. Kevin found the tofu scramble to be his favorite item of the day. This side of brown rice, tofu, carrots, onions and mushrooms had more flavor than regular fried rice and is definitely the healthy alternative.

Of the sandwiches and wraps, our preferred items were the Roma ($7.95), Smoked Turkey Wrap ($7.95) and the Caesar Salad Wrap ($7.50). Each of these entrees was incredible and we recommend each of them. The Roma is a generous helping of fresh mozzarella, tomato, and homemade pesto mayo on a sourdough roll. The Caesar wrap is comprised of romaine lettuce, Parmesan cheese, croûtons and a house-made Caesar dressing. Both of these vegetarian choices are available gluten free if the bread and wrap is replaced with a salad. Although the Smoked Turkey Wrap is not a vegetarian item, it is tasty and a healthy choice with turkey, Brie, red onion, mesclun greens and a homemade white-wine honey mustard.

To satisfy my unyielding sweet tooth, Lisa provided us with a tasting of the dessert items that are served at Tiger Lily Café. The walnut blondies, peanut butter cookies and chocolate covered pretzels were each outstanding and delicious. Kevin and Janice enjoyed espresso and coffee from the Java bar. TLC offers guests fresh brewed espresso and coffee from the Porto Rico Importing Company in NYC and Gillies of Brooklyn. The Java Bar is so extensive in selection that it could allow TLC to stand alone as a great coffee house.

Music is a big part of TLC's atmosphere. On any given day you are likely to hear the rhythmic and iconic music of Ani Defranco and other various folk rock artists. On Sunday's, Tiger Lily has local acoustic artists jamming out. Tiger Lily also does in-house catering for private parties; if you would like to plan a unique experience, inquire within. Tiger Lily is the perfect place to hang out with your buddies, or meet a date for coffee or simply to eat a little greener. Tiger Lily Café is open daily, 7 days a week.

Overall Consensus: Healthy, fun and funky!

Reservations: None needed!

Special Features: Cozy outdoor lounge, coffee and juice bar, gluten free food.

Wheelchair Access: No, entrance is one step up. Sidewalk dining available, weather permitting.

Price Range: Everything under $10!