You will love this story. I’ve passively researched the topics here over the last six years of living in Montauk, and so I give you: a good story. It is a story about food and the people who eat it. I’ve been impressed with how smart people are about their food in Montauk. Fresh isn’t fresh, and so on. It doesn’t matter what you do for work; even if you don’t work, you’re probably an unsung gourmand. You are probably conversant in the menu items of a very short list of restaurants that you haunt regularly and without shame. You know where the duck tacos are. You’re smiling, because you do. There’s an excellent calamari salad at…there you go, smiling again. If you’d like to try a variety of dishes, served on small square plates, you probably know where to go, too. You’re terrifically critical, almost to the point of merciless about the places you don’t like. Even if the service isn’t good at a place you do like, you probably know your server personally or peripherally and will tip well regardless. You might not. But you probably will. You’re smiling again. You know you frequently tip too well.
Maybe you’re a little nervous about who you’re going to see when you go to Manucci’s on Local’s Night. Or Manucci’s Pasta Night. Twelve pastas for $12 apiece, etc. Maybe you’ll see someone you saw last week at Pasta Night and try to pretend like you didn’t see them—“passive avoidance”—when you came in because you exhausted all conversational topics with that person last week and won’t have more until the next big storm, or the next big game, or at least two Pasta Nights down the road.
If something I’ve said so far rings untrue to you, you’re probably not being honest with yourself. You’re probably passively avoiding the truth. I am a writer and so I have incredible intuition. I feel these truths like an old football injury feels the rain coming. And that’s the halfway mark of this piece, folks. There’s more.
There’s a really great place that sits overlooking the inlet to Montauk Harbor. Obviously it’s called Topside. The views are unrivaled by any other restaurant in the Harbor. Topside is the ultimate escape. My brother and I were enjoying rum cocktails on its high-flown deck recently, the blast of the 3 p.m. sun winking off our sunglasses, safe from all that cold ocean fog roiling over downtown, when we started to talk about how perfect the Topside would be if, for example, you had a date that you wanted to hide from people. Maybe you were at Liars’ Saloon the night before and you took down a number you wished you hadn’t, and then sent a series of texts to that strange number you wished you hadn’t. Let’s say you were so foolish as to have arranged a date with the number’s now mysterious correspondent. You’re sunk, right? Wrong. Topside, baby. A beautiful vista and full of tourists.
Anonymous dining at its finest. You might be smiling now if you weren’t before. Or maybe you find this juvenile. Maybe you’ve been taken to Topside on a date.
I, like you, cannot get away from my own very short list of restaurants whose menus I cherish and defend. If someone I know spills his drink at the bar, then he’s going to get a ribbing. If someone I don’t know spills his drink at the bar, then I’ll get very quiet and hawkish around the eyes, because such behavior is never acceptable from strangers. We might have made friends last night in the boiling pot of Liars’ at 2 a.m., or while breaking balls at Sail Inn, but now we’re in a restaurant, a restaurant so sacred I might even refer to it as “my restaurant” if the mood takes me. Assuming undue ownership of things in Montauk isn’t considered lying but the highest form of pride, pride so real it sometimes confuses the truth of the matter, and that’s okay. Because there are a lot of us like that, and there is safety in the pack. Cheers.