Sag Harbor Restaurant Review: M.J. Dowling’s Steakhouse and Tavern

Nachos Caliente at MJ Dowling’s in Sag Harbor
Nachos Caliente at MJ Dowling’s in Sag Harbor. Photo credit: Kelly Laffey

On Saturday morning, I took a pretty intense spin class. And Saturday afternoon, I needed a hamburger. Luckily, I had plans to eat at M.J. Dowling’s, a steakhouse and tavern on Noyac Road just outside of Sag Harbor Village.

Family owned and operated, M.J. Dowling’s is a locals’ place that also has the distinction of being inviting to those outside of the Sag Harbor social circle. Upon arrival, we were immediately greeted by Mike Dowling and his wife Betty. Though we were eating during an “off” hour, there were a few people sitting at the bar, enjoying college basketball on one of the enormous, flat-screened TVs, and more sauntered in as the afternoon wore on. My dad remarked that, with the spacious bar area, numerous beers on tap and game room in the back, this would be the place to watch the following day’s “Big Game.”

With various sports photos and memorabilia—as well as an assortment of license plates—dotting the walls, M.J. Dowling’s is the quintessential sports bar, complete with an all-star-worthy menu. A cursory glance at the selections revealed that M.J. Dowling’s walks the line between being a bar and restaurant, serving fare appropriate for game-watching, like burgers and quesadillas, and for a date night, including seafood and steaks.

We started with two apps—nachos caliente and mini burgers. Smothered in chili, pico de gallo, cheddar, jalapeños, sour cream and guacamole, the nachos had a kick to them without being overly spicy—or soggy—a fault that often befalls lesser chips. I asked that the jalapeños be included on the side, and our server Kelly happily obliged. The app is not for the faint of appetite, and we took the nachos home, saving them to enjoy on Super Bowl Sunday.

My dad’s sliders, which he opted to have topped with cheese, were our first introduction into the type of dish that has made M.J. Dowling’s famous, as they’re perhaps best known for burgers and steaks. Mike revealed that it took some time to find the right combo of meats to include in the patty, and the one he eventually decided on is mostly comprised of brisket. Fresh ground beef is delivered from the city several times a week.

For an entrée, I had to try the burgers, and I went with the Mount Misery, which comes with jalapeños, guacamole and jack cheese. Most of the burgers are named for Sag Harbor locales, and each of the 10-ounce creations are served with French fries, cole slaw and a pickle. With fresh tomatoes and onions, the juicy burger hit the spot. Again, I opted for jalapeños on the side, though in retrospect maybe they would have paired well with my cold brewski.

My dad went for the Reuben sandwich, which was filled with corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing. As I watched it disappear from his plate, he declared it the best Reuben he’s ever had. High praise from an Irishman.

In addition to their regular menu, M.J. Dowling’s has a lineup of nightly deals and an ever-changing menu of special dishes. A $26 prix fixe every day allows diners to choose between a salad, an entrée and a dessert. Sunday is steak night—$19 for a variety of cuts, all served with seasonal vegetables and a choice of French fries or mashed potatoes. Enjoy shrimp specials on Monday night, where $19 gets you a salad and a number of shrimp options, including shrimp scampi, stuffed shrimp, coconut shrimp and shrimp quesadilla. Tuesday pasta nights feature a variety of Italian options, including spaghetti with meatballs, baked ziti, eggplant parm and penne ala vodka. Fajita night is Wednesday, with your choice of steak, chicken or shrimp. Cap off the week with
$8 burger night on Thursdays.

We ordered off of the specials menu for dessert, indulging in profiteroles. The cream puffs and ice cream were perfectly sweet and paired well with our coffee—another dish that crosses the line from bar fare to restaurant cuisine.

M.J. Dowling’s Steakhouse and Tavern, 3360 Noyac Road, Sag Harbor. 631-725-4444,

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