There’s a small debate in the Hamptons over whether Memorial Day marks the opening of the summer dining season out East or whether it’s closer to the Fourth of July. As you’ll soon find out, if you try to score a reservation, those “in the know” anticipate the openings of the area’s new restaurants along with their favorites, booking ahead to ensure they have a taste of the region. Here’s a sampling of this summer’s Hamptons culinary highlights.
On the Beach
Set on a beautiful 200-foot beach, away from the traffic of busy Montauk, Navy Beach excels at just about everything. You can’t beat the setting, the coastal cuisine or the service here. It’s all top-notch. If you’re lucky enough to secure an outdoor table in time for sunset, you’re in for a romantic treat. The nautically decorated indoors with its blue tables, brass porthole windows and wood floors is beautiful, too, with tables arranged for viewing the beach and Block Island Sound.
Come hungry or bring a group of friends so you can try a variety of small plates before you decide on your main course and sides. Local seafood and produce are highlighted, making this an authentic farm-to-table and ocean-to-table East End experience. You can anchor in Fort Pond Bay should you arrive by boat.
What to order: jumbo lump crab cake, tuna crudo, clam and corn chowder, lobster and clam bake, parm fries and Mexi-corn. Wash all down with a Montauk Watermelon beer or a Hot Skinny Wench cocktail made with silver tequila and jalapeno.
At Gurney’s Resort on the southern side of Montauk, Scarpetta Beach is a beachy version of its Manhattan counterpart Scarpetta. Italian is the name of the game here, accompanied by polished service and gorgeous ocean views. Whether you choose to sit inside in the lavishly chic gold-and-cream-tinged dining room or outside on the rustic-but-elegant deck overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, you can’t go wrong.
Service is superb, and every detail from precise wine pairing to recommendations on which crudo dish to order or which cocktail is appropriate for your taste preferences is fantastic. The stylish setting invites a fashionable clientele who understand the nature of beach chic.
What to order: yellowtail crudo, black bass crudo, spaghetti with tomato and basil (a Scarpetta signature), Akaushi Wagyu strip, roasted cauliflower and fluffy crème fraiche panna cotta. The Hibiscus Margarita and Violet Beauregard add color and sass to the cocktail menu.
A Touch of Class
The American Hotel hasn’t changed much since it opened in Sag Harbor in 1846 at the height of the whaling era except for converting its staff lounging area into one of the Hamptons’ most delightful dining settings. Adding to the variety of small “yesteryear” dining rooms, the airy and beautifully lit outdoors is a “new-fangled” place to enjoy the restaurant’s traditional French and American cooking and award-winning wine list. If you look around, you might just see Billy Joel at the bar or perhaps at one of the in-demand tables on the small front porch.
What to order: Peconic oysters mignonette, Long Island duck breast a l’orange, blue-claw crab cakes and grilled salmon with sauce vin blanc. Pair them with a robust Cabernet or a well-balanced Martini or Manhattan.
A landmark in the Hamptons for many decades, the waterfront Lobster Inn has been transformed ever-so-slightly into Manna at the Lobster Inn. Still holding to the restaurant’s seafood heritage, the familiar red restaurant now offers a more refined, slimmed-down selection of fresh seafood, adhering to a philosophy of sustainability under the oversight of a team of aquaculture and culinary experts.
Fish is served simply grilled to highlight the flavor, with a daily catch included and salmon and tuna. Raw items are featured and can be ordered as a platter or tower for two, three, or four persons. The restaurant will have its own sustainable commercial finfish farm.
What to order: New England clam chowder, local oysters, lobster roll, lobster bisque ramen, Lobster Inn Splat (clambake) and key lime pie.
No Reservations Required
If you’d rather not bother with reservations and don’t mind waiting for your table, the Hamptons has choices for you as well.
Coche Comedor in Amagansett is a funky upscale Mexican restaurant housed in a former diner. The art inside is as colorful and inspired as the cooking. The cocktails are ferocious, and the cuisine is fiery and delicious.
What to order: chicharrones; scallop ceviche; chicken adobo with a choice of mole rojo, mole negro, salsa chipotle, salsa verde, duck fat potatoes and coconut tres leches. To calm the fire, try the Smoke & Embers Margarita made with mezcal, pineapple and worm salt.
Have you given up on waiting for Coche Comedor? Sister restaurant La Fondita next door is like a quick getaway to Mexico with outdoor Adirondack chairs and picnic table seating and a full takeout menu of authentic Mexican street food.
What to order: birria de res, tacos de camarones, quesadilla de tinga, agua fresca and Mexican beer.
Plan to visit off-hours for a table at popular Suki Zuki in Water Mill. It’s loud, it’s fun, and the sushi bar is always busy. Tables feast on two signature items, the chicken salad and a tuna sandwich (Japanese versions of both), before ordering a shareable variety of entrees.
What to order: teriyaki chicken salad, tuna sandwich, wonton ravioli, sushi and tempura. An extensive sake menu adds to the spirit.