Meet The New Rams Head Inn

A Shelter Island favorite gets refreshed, recharged and reimagined By Kathleen Boyes
Three local oyster farmers offer their freshest harvest. Photo: Rise Media

Most people would be intimidated taking over a beloved 100-year-old Shelter Island establishment. Not Aandrea Carter. “I love that The Rams Head Inn came with character, history and a soul,” she says. “The challenge was how to respect and embrace that, but freshen it for modern times. I spent this past year putting some lipstick and rouge on the lady, and now she’s ready to dance.”

Carter didn’t focus on one thing in restoring the place; she refreshed everything, addressing every mood, need, want and desire. First, there’s the new brighter, lighter look of The Rams Head Inn’s main rooms, with their glossy white walls and bleached floors, filled with blue and white upholstered wingback chairs and sofas. Crystal sconces and oversize vintage mirrors grace most walls. All 17 guest rooms have also been updated and individualized with an airy touch.

Yet for Carter, refreshing The Rams Head Inn was more about the many experiences offered than the chic new decor. “For me, The Rams Head Inn is about creating your own experience. I want you to star in your own movie, whether you choose a Dirty Dancing summer vibe, or a more elegant, Great Gatsby approach,” says Carter, the sole owner of The Rams Head Inn. “Every moment is a scene, and the idea is you can go from one to the other, be it chilling out or revving up. It’s all here.”

For most East Enders, Shelter Island is more of a destination than just a place to enjoy a meal. Rams Head Inn invites you to spend some time here. Whether you arrive by boat or on the ferry with your car, day or evening, something, somewhere on The Rams Head Inn’s 4.5 acres is calling your name. It could be an invigorating water sport—paddleboarding or kayaking—taking a curated picnic basket on a nearby nature trail, lounging on one of the roomy beachside beds or sharing a glass of wine while sitting on one of The Rams Head Inn’s signature white Adirondack chairs that dot the expansive lawn.

If you do come just for a meal, however, you won’t be disappointed. The menu features healthy farm/sea-to-table eating. Lunch is served waterside every day, while the weekends bring leisurely brunches on the Inn’s veranda. At night, Executive Chef Joe Smith creates dishes using ingredients grown on the property or caught in the waters by it as much as possible. The new sommelier has a suggestion for every meal, while the mixologists keep it fresh with daily offerings at the newly installed vintage maple wood carved bar. The drinks’ flavors and garnishes often come straight from the organic gardens.

Paramount to Carter is The Rams Head Inn’s wellness program, for which she has hired Troy Mills as wellness director. Carter has a broad view of what wellness means: “Wellness is everything from yoga to centering and managing your stress level to enjoying sunset artisan cocktails and dancing till midnight. We’re all part sinners and saints. Life wouldn’t be fun if we didn’t mix it up.”

Carter ensures that no two weeknights are the same: Sunday is live jazz. Monday, competitive trivia. Thursday is Oyster Flight night, where three local oyster farmers offer their freshest, and Friday wraps it up with live music and dancing.

“We have a unique opportunity to educate here as well,” Carter continues. “Since we grow so much of our own produce, our agriculture director Arielle Gardner is happy to give Q&A tours of her work and we invite you to join our free weekly Aquaculture Educational Tasting Club, as part of our partnership with the Cornell Cooperative Extension Marine Program.”

There’s even more to enjoy here: fireside chats—indoor or outdoor—featuring authors, directors, newsmakers and other interesting personalities, as well as regular disco nights and family holiday-themed festivities. The Inn’s Instagram account is updated daily with up-and-coming events.

“The Rams Head Inn is part of so many families’ histories and stories, with the hundreds of weddings and celebrations having been held here. My vision is to continue that heritage. To have people come in groups—couples, families of every generation, workmates—maybe stay for an overnight or two, and let everyone find their own way. People have different needs. You have the person who has to have her daily yoga fix, and another who wants to stare out into the water and do absolutely nothing. Then you have the nature buffs and those who want to pick up a weighted Hoopla Hoop and find their inner child. Your time here can be as spontaneous or planned as you want. This is a place where everyone is invited to create their own story.”