Westlake: Fresh From The Fishermen

“We want Westlake to be as authentic as possible for what Montauk is,” said Laura Escobar, co-owner of Montauk’s Westlake Fish House. “If Montauk is offering fresh food, and you’re located at the marina, you should offer fish and chips. Our chef was born and raised in Montauk, so he knows what is good and what’s not around here.”

In the six years since Escobar and her husband, James Lyons, took over the space — which was previously the Clam & Chowder House — Westlake has embraced the calling of the sea.

It isn’t just the location, but that helps. Perched on the fishing docks, a table in the covered bar area makes you feel like you yourself just got off a boat. That’s probably the desired effect. Everything about Westlake speaks to a vacation mentality. Outside, a pea-gravel patio offers access to ring toss, cornhole, and a view of the water. Inside, the bar serves a formidable list of frozen cocktails that are impossible not to enjoy. Consider the frozen avocado margarita, which arrives at your table with a carved avocado (think Totem pole-style, with a flat face emerging from the pitted skin). Is there a better expression of summer anywhere on the East End?

There are all kinds of fishy finds on Westlake’s menu, and they’re all worth your time. I’m personally fond of the inventive, wide-reaching sushi menu, which features composed rolls, maki rolls, sushi, and sashimi. The Lighthouse roll represents Montauk at its most bountiful: spicy local scallops, tobiko, avocado, fluke, and tuna.

For a fairly reasonable $28, diners can choose any three maki rolls for a do-it-yourself combo. “In this area, it’s Salivar’s and us,” Escobar said of the sushi selection. “But we also offer another menu, for people who don’t want to eat sushi.”

That menu, like the sushi menu, is the work of Montauk native Shawn Hewitt, whose personal relationships with the fishermen — he is, himself, a former fisherman — allow for unfettered access to the area’s best fish. Each night, he adds a host of specials to the menu, displaying whatever happens to be freshest. When possible, he utilizes produce from local purveyors, and prefers to source as much as he can from the State of New York.

Linguine with clams features local clams, naturally, and the fish and chips is made from off-the-boat fresh fish. The Westlake Clam Chowder is billed as “New England-style” — meaning tomato-free, much to the delight of us New England transplants. Impressively — and in tune with the ethos of catering to the locals — Westlake Fish House serves three meals a day, beginning at 5 AM and ending at 9 PM (10 PM on weekends). In summer, the restaurant also offers brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, from noon to 3 PM.

After six seasons, Escobar considers her team to be more of a family than anything — a family that serves some of the best seafood in Montauk, that is. “They fall in love with the restaurant and the family that we have created,” she said of her returning staff. “This is like a pot of people from different cultures. We sponsor people from the Czech Republic and Ireland every year. There are employees that just like to work here . . . they ask to come back next year,” she said.

The family that she and Lyons has cultivated is an unusual phenomenon in a town renowned for its hyper seasonality. So, if you don’t already know about this diamond-in-the-rough, make it the next stop on your culinary tour of the East End.

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