Spotlight Interview: Bay Kitchen Bar

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Since the start of the 2014 season, Bay Kitchen Bar in East Hampton has found success. Its menu, beverage selection, and killer sunset view has scored with the public, still running in its sophomore year. How well has the restaurant done? It’s opened a second location… in Manhattan. We checked with GM Adam Miller to see what it takes to go and grow west from the Hamptons…

Congratulations on the success you and your group are having with the BKB brand! It’s not every day the evolution of a restaurant starts in the Hamptons and then heads west—although Red Stixs in Southampton also recently made a similar move. Do you suspect we’re seeing the birth of a trend?  

I think that because so many restaurants out East are focused on a seasonal crowd, they don’t see their concept working in the city at first. Once you build up a strong following in the Hamptons, you realize you can make a year-round concept in the city. There are so many great places in the Hamptons. It speaks to how great the Hamptons culinary scene is and what talented chefs we have out here.

Can you describe what exactly about Bay Kitchen Bar in East Hampton inspired such a move? Was this always a plan or did something happen in the Hamptons that planted a seed?

We realized that some of the foods we love, like hard shell lobster and oysters, are in season in the colder months so we aren’t able to offer them at Bay in East Hampton. I don’t think you can really plan a roll-out, you need to see how your concept is received and when you have a winner, go with it. The success of our first summer led us to believe this would be a good concept to replicate. We only wish there were more days in the week so we could expand faster!

Can you elaborate on what particular items (if any) have carried over from East Hampton to NYC? Seafood clearly drives the East End menu—is oceanic fare as critical to the identity of your Manhattan branch?

Both are sea-to-table concepts for sure, and many dishes rolled over like our lobster roll, pan-roasted fluke, burger and raw bar selections. Although seafood-centric, we really try to appeal to whatever the diner is in the mood for that day, whether a full multi-course meal with a raw bar tower and the works, a glass of Sancerre and nice roast chicken, or a simple burger and beer. We have all of that under one roof.

One of the East Hampton location’s top draws are its cocktails—but a quick peek of the BKB NYC menu reveals a very different list of choices. Is there a plan behind adding or moving to/from what works super-well out east?

We didn’t want to do the same exact cocktails at both locations so there’s some variety between the two restaurants. People want different things whether they’re coming from their boat, a relaxing day at the beach or the bustling city streets. Restaurants are expected to have a good cocktail program these days. Bringing our Beverage Director Maura McGuigan on board has been a great addition. We believe that the drinks should be on par with the food, and she makes a lot of bitters, infusions, and orgeat in-house using old school and state-of-the-art techniques. So you can also count on us for a great Manhattan or Gimlet as well. 

Let’s suppose it’s almost Labor Day, and I’ve yet to grab a bite at Bay Kitchen Bar in the Hamptons: what perfectly paired dish and drink must I absolutely try before leaving the East End at the season’s close?

That’s the last couple weeks of soft shell crab season, so you have to try our Soft Shell Crab special with a Hotel Paradise cocktail, served in a ceramic tiki glass that’s shaped like a shark head.

Now we’re in Manhattan, the very next day, and I’m at BKB NYC for the very first time—what paired drink and dish should be my introduction to your newest spot?

If you haven’t tried our Lobster Roll, get it here. It brings the feeling of the Hamptons to the city with fresh-shucked lobster and a light dressing. Our new Beatrix Kiddo cocktail with mezcal and tequila, yuzu, honey, and blackberry cordial is a great way to bid the summer farewell.

The final question: Bay Kitchen Bar is very well-known for its magnificent sunsets—but of course, in the city such a view is hard to come by! What would you say is the most exciting visual you might see while dining at BKB NYC?  

At BKB, watching Maura in action behind the bar as she stirs up cocktails and tests new recipes as well as popping downstairs to check out our open kitchen both offer great views!