Less Eats: A Flurry of Hamptons Restaurant Closings

Closing restaurants cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas
Cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas

A whole lot of Hamptons restaurants closed their doors this past month. Many of them were here for generations. Here are some that made their final bow.

Bay Burger, the eating establishment on the Sag Harbor-Bridgehampton Turnpike, closed. The building was originally built as a classic fast-food restaurant around 1960 and became a chicken joint and a donut joint, all with frequent new owners giving it new names, but about 12 years ago it became Bay Burger.

It had what were arguably the best burgers on the East End. That was the highlight of the menu. There was a long list of add-on items you could have for no extra charge—tomatoes, onions, pickles, mayo, lettuce, cheese, ketchup, fries, slaw, etc. There were also drinks and ice cream. It was really quite wonderful. You ordered at the bar, got a number, and it would be delivered to your table when it was ready. For the last 10 years, it has been the site of Jam Sessions, an impromptu gathering of jazz musicians who would play a set or two for an hour or so on Thursday evenings. It drew big crowds. That is going to continue, but at Union Cantina, the Southampton restaurant in Bowden Square.

Murf’s Backstreet Tavern on Division Street in Sag Harbor has closed. Earlier this year, it had been a focus of the police and the state liquor authority for numerous incidents of unruly behavior by the clientele late at night. Things like that happen in bars of that sort. But usually things settle down. This time they didn’t. It brings to mind the police and zoning officials coming down on Cyril’s, the charming but sometimes rowdy clam bar on Napeague, until they forced Cyril to shut down and go back to Antigua three years ago.

Murf’s Tavern was put on the market at the end of August for $3.5 million and is now in contract, but at this writing, the buyer’s name has not been announced. It’s been said this little saltbox was built in 1782 elsewhere and was moved to its current location many, many beers ago. It might be ripe for preservation.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, when Sag Harbor was really very down at the heel with all the factories closing and blue-collar workers going on unemployment, there were two unruly bars on Main Street across from each another, where you could be walking down the sidewalk and have to stop suddenly so a drunk being thrown out would fly by. They were the Black Buoy and the Sandbar, both with sawdust on the floor. The drunks would mumble something to themselves, shake off the sawdust and go across the street to the other establishment.

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Up in Sagaponack, the Old Stove Pub—founded in 1969 by the Johnides family, two Greek brothers and their sister—is closing its doors. Main courses, always huge, included souvlaki, moussaka, taramosalata and other Greek dishes, along with the most fabulous cuts of charcoal-broiled thick steaks. Two of the three owners were almost always in attendance during the workday there, all were cordial and friendly, but when the two brothers, Gus and Stephen, became elderly and died, their younger sister, Coula, became full-time and carried on for a while. It then closed for a few years and then reopened under new management with almost the exact same menu, right down to the Hot Fudge Sundaes they made for dessert. Now Coula Johnides has died at age 90. The building, two acres and a home adjacent, will be sold.

Silver’s, the classic European bistro on Main Street in Southampton, announced it would close its doors and be sold back in June. It was put on the market. But now, the owner, Garrett Wellins, has announced that his son Ryan will take over and continue the business. It’s been around since 1923 through several generations of that family. I got to know Garrett’s father, Dan Wellins, there back in the day. In those days (before about 1985) it was called Silver’s Cigar Store and it sold tobacco, newspapers and magazines, and it had no tables but a soda fountain counter. Times changed and the offerings changed. I wonder what will be in store for son Ryan in his time. I think it’s wonderful when businesses are handed down from father to son.

There was a rumor that Estia’s Little Kitchen, the cozy little restaurant on the Sag Harbor–Bridgehampton turnpike, would shut its doors. It turns out not to be true. It was mostly a breakfast place at first, a success by its modesty—and also by its middle-aged Greek proprietor, Estia. I have a vivid memory of her from long ago. She was the only other person in the place, besides myself. She took my order, went in the back and cooked my breakfast, served it, cleared the table when I was done and took my cash. She spoke a lot about her late husband—I recall his name as Joe—and how he and she together had started the restaurant but then he passed on and now she would be running it alone.

The rumor, however, is just that. The truth is that on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., during a time when the restaurant is closed, it will become a once-a-week popup called The SHED, a workplace for women run by women. Here, women will be able to rent a workspace, network, have coffee, access to WiFi, chairs and tables, for $25 up to $75 a month. It will be a male-free establishment.

It seems to be something on the order of the old Buick dealership being rebuilt as The Spur where County Road 39 meets Flying Point Road in Southampton. With a fledgling start-up, men and women alike can pay a membership fee for work spaces and use an open arena for networking and promoting ideas and businesses. (The Spur currently works in a smaller space adjacent to the Southampton railroad station.)

Last October, Conca D’Oro, the well-loved local pizza parlor on Main Street in Sag Harbor, closed its doors. The property had been sold and a great renovation would take place, and so about two months ago the new iteration of a pizza joint opened there, but it’s not a joint. Called Sag Pizza, it’s chic and high fashion. And though I don’t know this for sure, some locals say the prices have gone up and they can’t afford it and don’t like it.

Another closure this year was the German restaurant Zum Schneider in downtown Montauk. About once a month, I must have sauerbraten. I am under doctor’s orders to do this. 🙂 I will go to Shippy’s in Southampton, the classic German restaurant there for more than a half a century, but now if I want to go to another German restaurant east of Southampton, it would be in Portugal.

Finally, there is the news that the Blue Duck, a bakery and café that sells fresh pastry, is closing their Hampton Road, Southampton location. They have three other locations, though. One in Riverhead, another in Greenport and the third in Southold. They hope to find a new Southampton location, but rents are high now.

Personally, I regret the closure of two other longtime establishments in Sag Harbor from years ago. The Paradise, which was a luncheonette and later a dinner restaurant on Main Street, closed after more than a half-century run. And then a souvenir and stationery store of the same vintage a few doors down called The Ideal closed. When we first moved out here in the 1950s, I was delighted with these names. You could buy a get-well card at the Ideal and then have lunch in Paradise.

Who could ask for anything more?

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