My dear friend Gael Greene emailed me last week to ask what East End restaurants I could recommend for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. She was planning for one of her periodic foodie tours out here in “Far Manhattan.”
Our staff was in “double-heavy production” with our annual Summer Preview and the weekly magazine about to deadline, but it was GAEL GREENE—she invented food writing as we know it! So instead of taking my usual 15-minute lunch, I stole a few moments to reflect on some great meals I’ve had since moving here 15 years ago, and I put together a “hit list.” I realized that a lot of great eateries have come and gone over the years. As good as their food may be, many restaurants can’t survive the extreme seasonality of the East End economy.
In the past Gael and I have dined together on the South Fork at Bay Burger, Espresso (now closed), Osteria Salina, the Plaza Café and, of course, at Dan’s Taste of Two Forks. We tried to get our schedules to gel to go to Comtesse Thérèse Bistro in Aquebogue together, but now that’s becoming the Petulant Wino. I know that she wrote up Fresh and the Topping Rose House last season and, in the past, I turned her onto the Jedediah Hawkins Inn under Chef Keith Luce (it’s now under a new chef) and the North Fork Table & Inn (which I assured her IS all that it’s cracked up to be), so I skipped all of the aforementioned restaurants.
I thought about new places for her to try, then I thought about the best places for her to try. I don’t take much interest in trendy. I’ve cut back on reviewing restaurants as I spend more time in my garden—but I make a point of going out at least once a week. I find that this is enough to take the temperature of local dining culture. My old standbys are exactly that: Le Chef, Sant Ambroeus and the Tuscan House in Southampton and the Dockside in Sag Harbor.
I was upfront and told Gael that I don’t generally eat breakfast or brunch out—but I do know from experience that Pierre’s in Bridgehampton rocks these morning meals. That croque monsieur! C’est magnifique! I admitted to curiosity about brunch at First and South in Greenport and Muse in the Harbor in Sag Harbor. They are both fun places that appear to really do up brunch.
Lunch for me during the week is usually a big salad of my own making from Schmidt’s Market nearby in Southampton. I suppose I’ll begin to migrate to the new Southampton Citarella for lunch sometimes, especially if I’m looking for gourmet ingredients for that evening’s meal. A quick—and inexpensive—lunch can be had from La Hacienda in Southampton. I’ve heard good things about Red Hook Lobster Pound in Montauk but haven’t yet had the pleasure. I LOVE to hit the Lunch Truck behind North Fork Table & Inn in Southold for a picnic. Best. Squash. Soup. Ever. But probably my favorite local lunch is to split a Gorgonzola salad and an eggplant parm sub with my husband at Conca D’oro in Sag Harbor. Simple and filling. (Ask for a little extra sauce.)
For dinner I suggested Gael try the Bell & Anchor or the Coast Grill in Noyac, the Cuddy in Sag Harbor, Race Lane in East Hampton or Robert’s in Water Mill. I had a two-part epiphany while dining during an open mic night at Robert’s last month: 1. I would have to drink A LOT of wine before I ever got up to sing. 2. I would scale the Montauk Lighthouse naked if there was a piece of Robert’s coconut cake waiting at the top.
All this talk of food has me salivating. I hope Gael will ask me along to sample with her!