Montauk Becomes Foodies’ Delight With Two New Stores

Over the next two issues, The Independent will be looking at some of the new stores in Montauk. This week’s issue looks at two food purveyors that have sprouted up.

Providing restaurant-quality food as take-out meals is the goal of Hooked, located on the same South Etna Avenue block as Goldberg’s Famous Bagels and Flagels, and the Continental Market. “We have lots of grilled local fish,” Brian Mooney, chef and manager of the store, said Saturday. “Yellowfin tuna off the grill, swordfish, mahi-mahi. One of our biggest sellers are the fish tacos.” They contain grilled mahi-mahi, with a Sriracha salsa.

The name Hooked was a middle-of-the-night inspiration from Jillian Mooney, Brian’s business partner and wife. They both are veterans of the restaurant and food business: she, a former partner for over 10 years at Herb’s Market on Montauk Main Street, he, former chef, manager, and doer of whatever it takes to make the business run at the Clam Bar on Napeague Stretch. He was there for more than 20 years, Mooney said, as he shucked a dozen oysters.

“We have a lot of local support,” he said. A volunteer with the Montauk Fire Department, community is very important to him. The oysters he was opening were from Montauk Pearl Oysters, run by Mike Martinsen, conveniently located right across the street. For fish, he goes to Gosman’s, and relies on local fishermen.

Even decorating the interior was a product of local support. He was talking to Chuck Morici of Montauk about his plans for the new store. “Come on, get in the truck,” Morici told him. They put together an eclectic collection of lobster traps, buoys, and other oceanic items that festoon the tops of the display fridges.

The Mooneys have three children, all in the Montauk School. “You go out to a restaurant, it is going to cost a fortune,” he noted. That factor, along with the normal two-hour restaurant stay with restless young ones, was the inspiration for their new establishment.

The owners will feel out the business when it comes to how long their extended season will run. One thing not in the cards, at least for this year, is home delivery: that is a lot more involved than people realize, Mooney said.

At the other end of downtown Montauk is Balsam Farms Montauk Market. The store employs five Montauk residents. It is different from the popular Balsam Farms farm stand in Amagansett on Town Lane. Besides its own produce, Balsam Farms Montauk Market carries dairy and packaged items produced by other purveyors, almost all locally based, as well as numerous items produced by Balsam Farms, Dennis Doherty, the store’s manager said.

While fresh produce dominates the front of the store, the back of the house is where you will find many of Balsam Farms’ most popular jarred items. “These are some of our best sellers,” Doherty said. “The heirloom tomato sauce. The Bloody Mary mix. And the cherry bomb hot sauce. It is not real hot, but it has a lot of flavor.” And, of course, the season’s first corn is also a top seller.

Arlene McCarthy, a city resident who has been coming to Montauk for the summer for several years, was shopping while Doherty was giving a tour of the store. “This store is like a dream for us,” she said, as Doherty showed her some sourdough bread.

Balsam also carries some grab-and-go food products from Naturally Good, located a few blocks east on Main Street. You can also find fresh mozzarella cheese made by Villa’s in East Hampton. If you are looking for a way to beat the heat, Doherty said, you can buy a pint of Sag Harbor’s Joe and Liza’s ice cream.

Ian Calder-Piedmonte, a partner at Balsam Farms, said recently that they had been talking about a store in Montauk for many years. They have had a stand at the farmer’s market there, as well as supplying fresh produce to Gosman’s. “There is the need and the desire for fresh produce, so it has been on the back of our minds for a while. Then somebody approached us with this [location].”

Balsam Farms will still run its stand at the farmer’s market, and will continue to supply Gosman’s. As with Hooked, the goal right now is to stay open for an extended season, though both are playing it by ear.

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