No checks. No yapping mutts. No sensitive drunks. No screaming kids. No cell phones. No strollers. No public restrooms. No requests. No dirtbags. No whining. No wimps. No chickenhawks.
If this list feels unfamiliar, then you, dear friend, have never visited the famous Montauk outpost known as The Dock, where owner George Watson has lorded over patrons with a bullhorn since 1973. Watson, once a New York City firefighter, purchased Fitzgerald’s Bar & Grill over 40 years ago, at once establishing it as a go-to for locals. Watson is still at the restaurant every day of the season (which, for The Dock, spans from mid-April through November). The restaurant occupies the back space of the famous Gosman’s fish market.
How can one possibly describe the rich fabric of The Dock to someone who has never been? Begin, naturally, with the ephemera that adorns the restaurant interior, yes, and that spreads, too, to the outdoors. Out front and to the left, a fake shark devouring a female mannequin recalls that other famous mid-1970s event (the film release of “Jaws”). There are signs warning against man buns, buoys hanging from trees, and signs reading, paradoxically, “No Locals.”
Inside, there are photographs that are the old-timey equivalent of memes, paired with taxidermy, political paraphernalia, and a sign for every occasion. Walk behind the bar and visit the curated “museum,” more oddities on display for the fine folk of Montauk. What happens if you break a rule from “the list,” you ask? Expect Watson himself, bullhorn in hand, to call attention to your failures. It’s public embarrassment as cheeky theater.
Food is hardly beside the point at The Dock, which benefits, in large part, from location; it’s literally perched on the Montauk fishing docks. One of the dishes it is known for is the substantial tuna melt, a full tuna steak, crosshatched with grill marks, and served, yes, with cheese, atop an English muffin. The fish speaks for itself.
Daily specials feature whatever fresh catch happens to be good that day, from scallops to fluke. There are steamed clams and mussels, soft shell crab sandwiches, and a well-constructed lobster roll. As with any good pub, one can also find comfort food. In the case of The Dock, that means grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, fried zucchini with horseradish sauce, nachos, and chicken parm.
Hulking desserts — all of which exist off menu — are made in-house and are consistently impressive. In summer, a berry crisp might be just what the weather calls for, although I can think of no finer slice than the peanut butter and chocolate pie, which is a lofty, creamy, and impossibly light slice of calories. It’s worth it.
The ethos of The Dock is, perhaps, what has made it famous — a casual gathering space for the like-minded, the humorous, the shoe-less, jacket-less surfing crowd. “At The Dock,” the website boasts, “we feel that, in order for a joke to be funny, it must be told at someone else’s expense. We tell ethnic, sexist, and racial jokes — everyone gets their turn in the barrel.” Somehow, even in the era of political correctness and sensitivity training, The Dock has retained the edgy, unapologetic black humor that earned it a reputation in the first place.
This is, to be clear, the Montauk of Yore and not the Montauk of Now. The Dock is no-frills, and those who love it love that about it. Which is why you may find yourself battling them — the locals, that is — for a place at the bar on any given afternoon or evening, during its extended season. At least you’ll find yourself in good company.