The Hamptons’ Top Spots for Feasts for the Eyes As Well As the Stomach
The menu may bring you to a restaurant, but oftentimes it’s the environment that makes you stay. Be
it a perfect patio lunch, a luxuriously long dinner, or a night of dancing you’re after, these restaurants have all the visual ingredients to make you never want to leave.
Harbor East (44 Three Mile Harbor, East Hampton)
There’s something fabulous about looking track of time, when long lunches roll right into cocktail hour, and before you know it the stars are out and you still haven’t bothered to go home to change. These sorts of laissez-faire days are exactly what creative entrepreneur James Willis encourages at Harbor East in East Hampton, which opened last year. Here, he combines the vibes of the beach clubs on the white sands of Bali with those of the brasseries lining the rocky shorelines of the South of France. Think long banquettes and awnings striped in black and white, mixed with rattan, banana-leaf textiles, and big urns overflowing with tropical plants.
Food is what might be described as beach-chic—a round of tuna tartare topped with a layer of avocado, burrata with watermelon and basil, citrusy salmon, lobster rolls served on buttery brioche—as is the crowd, especially on nights when a DJ comes to spin tropical house music. On such nights, when the lighting transitions from sun pouring in through skylights to the reflections of a glistening disco ball, that’s the cue to move from the fine wine list to the cocktail card, which boasts tipples like a coconut oil-washed rum tiki drink and rosemary-infused sake mixed with St. Germain. Raise a glass to the motto that a life well traveled is a life well lived, be it on a shoreline somewhere far away or right here in the Hamptons.
Duryea’s Lobster Deck (65 Tuthill Rd., Montauk)
Most fresh fish markets get a free pass on the design front because of the food. Plastic chairs are cracked and it smells like fish? Not a problem when your meal was still swimming just hours ago. However, after 80 years of being a proud member of such category of establishments, Duryea’s Lobster Deck underwent new ownership in 2014 and scrubbed itself up to be one of the nicest seafood purveyors in the Hamptons. Inside, big paper lanterns hang above cases of the freshest local catches and tables of all sorts of specialty items you didn’t know you needed—local herbed goat cheese, homemade pickles and preserves, gravlax, caviar… However, Duryea’s biggest draw nowadays is its enormous back deck, grounds for one of the most picturesque seafood restaurants in the Hamptons.
Warm-toned wood tables are sided with white-pillowed chairs or done picnic-style for larger groups, every single one offering un- obstructed views over Fort Pond Bay. Being a market and all, things are still done fish-monger style, with orders taken at a window or at the oyster bar and then delivered to your table with a smile, but that doesn’t mean that your eating should be hurried. Once you snag a spot here, it’s the perfect place to work on your tan or watch the sun set with a couple glasses of champagne.
Wölffer Estate Vineyard (25 Main St., Sag Harbor; 4 Amagansett Sq., Amagansett)
In Sagaponack, Wölffer Estate Vineyard has been producing some of Long Island’s finest wines since 1988. A few years ago, after having established itself as a staple in every Hamptons wine cellar, it began venturing into the restaurant biz, opening two Wölffer Kitchen restaurants—one in Sag Harbor and one in Amagansett. In the plainest of terms, this could be seen as Wölffer trying to keep an edge among the growing number of other local vineyards, but one meal at either Kitchen will prove that the intended purpose here was far from anything as bland as portfolio diversification. Rather, these two eateries seem designed to be the go-to spots for oenophiles who want a night as trigger-happy as a successful dinner party but don’t want to do the cooking.
The younger of the two, in Amagansett, is cute and cozy, with a palette of teal, white, and black and sweet touches like hanging diner lights, while the original in Sag Harbor feels more like the passion project of that one wanderlusty friend everyone has, with murals of botanicals and seahorses comingling with dark accents and glossy wood. The food varies a bit between the two, the former being a hodgepodge of globally influenced comfort food like Thai spiced bouillabaisse, crab tacos, and Moroccan-style shrimp and chorizo, while the latter is more Mediterranean with fare like a blood orange salad piled with pistachios and ricotta, duck tortelloni with black truffle butter, and steak frites done with a house Merlot bordelaise. A specialty of both (aside from the wine cellars, of course) is brunch, when plates of local duck hash and brioche French toast are the perfect fodder for a boozy start to a weekend day.
Scarpetta Beach (290 Old Montauk Hwy., Montauk)
It’s no easy task to get a dish as simple as spaghetti in tomato sauce to get a rave review from the New York Times’ food critic Frank Bruni, but when Scarpetta opened a decade ago in Manhattan’s Meatpacking district, that’s precisely what happened. (The cod, scallops, and sirloin, among others, were noted too.) Fast forward to 2015, and the restaurant extended its arm out to the shores of Montauk, opening a waterside sister location as the main restaurant of the posh spa resort, Gurney’s. Here, Scarpetta Beach holds its own against the panoramic ocean view in an effortless way, foregoing the glitz of its Manhattan self for mocha wood floors, driftwood pillars, macramé wall hangings woven like the ocean waves, blown-glass chandeliers, and a vast terrace that has nothing between itself and the horizon except for sand and sea.
The price tags here are unarguably steep, but come rewarded with unabashedly luxurious food: ravioli stuffed with duck and foie gras, tuna with preserved truffles, limoncello semifreddo with pistachio cake. However, though, the best thing on the menu might just be the spaghetti with tomato and basil. Sometimes, understatements make the biggest splash.
Bay Kitchen Bar (39 Gann Rd., East Hampton)
Perhaps you don’t want anything handsome, or chic, or bohemian, or even cozy. Perhaps all you want on some nights is to feel like you’re well and truly in the Hamptons, in all of its preppy, nautical glory. On nights like these, book a table at Bay Kitchen Bar, which is all but universally agreed upon as being one of the best dockside dining establishments in the East End. As if plucked from the dreams of Ralph Lauren, every- thing is navy and white and stripes and sunshine, a pleasant mix of white tablecloths and porch vibes, with rattan lamps, pillow-strewn banquettes, ceiling fans, and Americana details like red-white-and-blue paper straws that make it feel like the Fourth of July all the time.
The harbor views will have you snapping photos, but so too will the food, though you wouldn’t guess it from the menu. Homey-sounding dishes like fish and chips, chowder, and a clambake come much more artfully presented than one would imagine. Bottled cocktails and diner-style desserts like key lime pie and hot fudge sundaes keep things playful, and the most appropriate attire jeans and a white tee.