Photo courtesy of River Rat Cheese  

From freshly-caught fried filets and world-famous dressing to luxurious riverside dining and restaurants sporting storied pasts, the Thousand Islands culinary scene is sure to please any palate! Your foodie journeys may lead you to a rooftop with spectacular panoramic views of downtown Oswego or a fishing charter on the St. Lawrence River, catching and preparing your very own shore dinner. Get ready to chow down with this list of everything you have to eat in the Thousand Islands-Seaway.

Hometown Classics

Thousand Island Dressing 

green salad with thousand island dressing

Whether you choose to put this world-famous dressing on your salad, burger, or sandwich, one thing is for sure: Thousand Island Dressing is delicious! While this dressing is 100% born in the Thousand Islands, there are two stories about how it came to be, both involving George Boldt who built the famed Boldt Castle. The first involved the chef of Boldt’s yacht when he created the dressing after he ran out of the usual supplies. Boldt enjoyed it so much that he named it after the region and added it to the menu of his hotel, the Waldorf-Astoria. In the second story, Thousand Island Dressing was a unique piece in a local guide’s shore dinner. One of the customers, silent film star May Irwin, loved the dressing so much that she shared the recipe with her friend in New York City, George Boldt. Be sure to grab your own locally-made “Original” Thousand Island Dressing at River Rat Cheese in Alexandria Bay or purchase a bottle online

Shore Dinner 

Credit: Oswego County Tourism

A tradition that dates back more than a century, a visit to the Thousand Islands isn’t complete until you experience an authentic shore dinner. This special meal consists of freshly-caught fried filets, sandwiches of pork fatback and onion, garden salad with Thousand Island Dressing, salt potatoes, locally-grown sweet corn, and a dessert of French toast topped with local maple syrup. Experience the ultimate traditional shore dinner for yourself with Sign Man Fishing Charters, where you'll spend the morning fishing amid the stunning scenery of the St. Lawrence River and afterward savoring a special meal featuring your own catches.

Cheese Curds/Squeaky Cheese

A basket of cheese curds from River Rat CheesePhoto courtesy of River Rat Cheese

If you’re planning a trip to the Thousand Islands, stopping for cheese curds is a must! Cheese curds are the youngest form of cheese and when served fresh, make a squeaking sound against your teeth, hence the name “squeaky cheese.” For the squeakiest of cheeses, head to Colosse Cheese in Pulaski or River Rat Cheese in Clayton, the latter supplying the United States with all kinds of cheesy goodness. For a real treat, stop by the famous River Rat in the summer when they fry up their delicious cheese curds every weekend.  

Must-Try Meals

Koffee Kove

Koffee KoveCredit: @lauriepickerd on Instagram

Rated as one of the best breakfast spots in the state, Koffee Kove in Clayton is the place to sit back, relax, and dig into a delicious brunch. While the breakfast menu may stand out with jam-packed omelets, combo plates, and decadent pancake stacks, their lunch and dinner menus also feature favorites like homemade lasagna and juicy burgers.  

Tin Pan Galley

A plate of French toast drizzled with syrup and topped with apples and whipped creamCredit: @tinpangalley on Instagram

Buffalo chicken fusilli, lobster mac and cheese, creme brulee French toast, and more make up the indulgent menu at Sackets Harbor’s Tin Pan Galley. This cozy little restaurant, found in a building listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is the perfect spot to take in the historic town. Dine outdoors from the patio and gardens, where you can enjoy live music alongside your meal.

The Blue House

A plate of tuna Onigiri and a plate of steamed mussels with french friesCredit: @thebluehouseny on Instagram

Enjoy wood-fired creations made from locally-sourced ingredients at this adorable eatery in Madrid. This restaurant is found in a cozy blue house overlooking the historic Madrid Dam and Grasse River. New creations await on the ever-changing menu, which features everything from tempura-fried walleye to wood-fired stromboli to 17 signature sushi rolls.  

WiseGuys Ristorante

Beautiful sunsets and delicious Italian cuisine can be found at WiseGuys Ristorante in Chaumont. We recommend taking a look at the menu dedicated entirely to pizza, featuring everything from hand-tossed New York-style pies to specialty creations. Aside from pizza, entrees include decadent seafood dishes, sirloin steak, pasta with WiseGuys marinara sauce, and more.  

Channel Marker 243

Spend the day strolling through the quaint and scenic town of Cape Vincent and end the evening with a bite to eat at Channel Marker 243. The dinner menu features Jack Daniel’s glazed pork chops and local catches like walleye and perch tossed in homemade beer batter, but if nothing is catching your eye, choose from delicious toppings and build your own pizza! 

Unique Dining Experiences

Dine on the water

A red and white steamboat with a red paddlewheel and the name, Uncle Sam Boat Tours, painted on the side.

Not much beats a delicious meal aboard a St. Lawrence River cruise. Uncle Sam Boat Tours offers a variety of tours through the area including a luncheon cruise, which follows a scenic tour route through Millionaires Row and Boldt Castle alongside a delicious buffet lunch, and a Sunset Dinner Cruise, where you’ll admire the brightly-painted skies along the river while you dig into freshly-prepared meals like premiere prime rib and Italian cuisine. More of a breakfast person? Set sail on the 1000 Islands Ultimate Breakfast Tour with Clayton Island Tours which serves up a delicious continental breakfast and an unforgettable tour of the area’s landmarks.

Gristmill Brewery

Interior of bar and rustic decor of Gristmill BreweryCredit: @iheartnoco on Instagram

Sip on cold brews and tasty bites among the rustic atmosphere at Gristmill Brewery in Massena. Once a fully-functioning gristmill, this now renovated space still pays tribute to its roots with decor made from former gristmill parts. There’s also an outdoor beer garden with stunning views of Grasse River and a menu that features smoked pork burnt ends mac and cheese, Guinness-infused bratwurst, and hand-crafted brews.

The Sackets Boathouse

Housed in a boathouse originally built in the 1940s, this restaurant and bar in Sackets Harbor is as historic as the village itself. With floor to ceiling windows and an outdoor patio that sits directly on the water, there’s no shortage of great views to enjoy a meal from a menu that includes Ahi tuna crisps, Thai mussels, a Cajun chicken sandwich, and more.

The Rooftop Lounge

Some of the best panoramic views of Oswego await from the outdoor terrace at the Rooftop Lounge. Located in the heart of downtown, this luxurious and vibrant restaurant offers a superb selection of mocktails and cocktails, as well as small plates like duck dumplings, Thai cauliflower bites, and pasta primavera.     

Rainbow Shores 

Take in a beautiful sunset, revel in the flavors of an exquisite meal, and enjoy the sounds of live music from Rainbow Shores in Pulaski. This summer dining hot spot is found on the eastern shores of Lake Ontario with a patio that sits right on the water, offering up spectacular views alongside entrees like wild mushroom filet mignon, prosciutto parmesan pasta, and more.

International Cuisine

Tatlim Bakery

An iced coffee and sprinkle-covered macaron in front of the exterior of Tatlim BakeryCredit: @wandercuse on Instagram

White chocolate covered eclairs, freshly-baked Baklava and Kadayif, and macarons in every flavor line the shelf at Tatlim Bakery in Oswego. This Turkish-owned and operated bakery is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth with tasty pastries and baked goods, which pair perfectly with one of Tatlim’s Turkish coffees. 

B-Hat Curry House 

Delight in delicious Indian and Nepalese cuisine at B-Hat Curry House in Watertown. At this veteran and family-owned establishment, you’re spoiled for choice. The extensive menu has something for everyone from vegan and vegetarian options like Aloo Gobi, mixed veggie curry, and Chana Masala to fish and shrimp Biryani, Kadai chicken, and lamb Seekh kebabs.   

Wish Thai Kitchen

Enjoy freshly-prepared Thai food from the warm and welcoming dining room at Wish Thai Kitchen in Watertown. Check out the menu’s diverse range of dishes, each created by a professional chef who graduated from the Thai Culinary School in Thailand. For those who like some serious spice, the Thai curry roasted duck is a favorite. For something a little more mild, try the tamarind stir fry.  

Tropicx Jamaican Restaurant

Delicious authentic Jamaican cuisine can be found at Watertown’s Tropicx Restaurant. With a menu that includes oxtails, curry goat, and rice with plantains, no matter what you choose you’re sure to enjoy your meal. 

Sweet Treats

The Scoop

Credit @ay.weaves on Instagram

Treat yourself to a scoop at The Scoop in Clayton! This fun and cozy eatery is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth with delicious ice cream and waffle cones made in-house. Grab a bite to eat from the food menu or indulge in one of The Scoop’s ultimate milkshakes (pictured), best enjoyed alongside a view of the St. Lawrence River from Frink Park

Lil’ River Fudge Company

Inhale the heavenly scents of freshly-made fudge at Lil’ River Fudge Company in Alexandria Bay. This sweet shop is famous for its fudge, which comes in all kinds of creative and classic flavors like chocolate, maple, peanut butter, and mint cookie, but the ice cream is a must-try on a warm summer day.

Nadine’s Ice Cream

Soft serve, flurries, sundaes, milkshakes, and more can be found at Nadine’s Ice Cream in Ogdensburg. Good luck deciding on what flavor to indulge in with options like black raspberry and maple walnut, or try one of the flurries which come in blended flavors like peanut butter cup, Oreo, and banana split.

Chrissy Beanz Bakery and Cafe

Sip on hand-crafted coffee, bite into a warm pastry, and revel in the inviting atmosphere at Chrissy Beanz Bakery. Visit one of the two locations, Sackets Harbor or Watertown, for tasty treats like lemon poppyseed muffins, blueberry scones, and bagels topped with s’mores cream cheese and bacon. They’ve even got pup cups for your furry friends!

Taylor Marie’s Ice Cream 

If you’ve got a craving for homemade ice cream, Taylor Marie’s is the place to go! The hard ice cream menu features flavors like black cherry, peanut butter Oreo, and bubble gum. Don’t leave without taking home one of their irresistible ice cream pies. 

Food-Centric Events

Great NY State Food and Wine Festival

Food and Wine Festival - Photo Courtesy of Food and Wine FestivalPhoto courtesy of Food and Wine Festival

Each year food and wine enthusiasts make their way to Clayton’s Cerow Recreation Park Arena for the Great New York State Food and Wine Festival. Featuring more than 70 exhibitors from all around the state, this three day festival celebrates all things New York food and drink. Sample the state’s best wines at wineries from Long Island, Buffalo, and the Finger Lakes, as well as other products like candy, cheese, meat, nuts, dips and sauces, herbs and spices, maple products, cookies, fudge, desserts, jerky, popcorn, wine flour, distilled spirits, and more! This year’s festival takes place June 7-9, 2024 and also features live music.

New York State Maple Weekend 

Shaver-Hill Maple Farm during Maple Weekend, held annually state-wide the last two weekends in March.

Whether you're craving classic maple syrup on a stack of pancakes, maple candies, or maple-infused treats, indulge in the sweetness of the Thousand Islands at NYS Maple Weekend! Each spring, family-owned farms throughout the state open their doors to the public, giving visitors the chance to experience the maple sugar making process for themselves. Be sure to take home a bottle or two from local producers like Otter Creek Maple Products and Winery and Steiner’s Running Wild (open August-November).

Food Truck Frenzy

Fresh lobster rolls, Italian ice, tacos, and the most delicious bites around await at Watertown’s Food Truck Frenzy! Each May hundreds of small businesses set up shop at the Salmon Run Mall, bringing with them homemade culinary delights, handmade clothing and handbags, and free activities for the whole family. 

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