When I began writing restaurant articles for The Independent, over a year ago, it was designed to profile restaurants on the East End that had been in business for 20 years or longer. Week after week, I researched, ate, and wrote — but eventually, I moved on to restaurants that were newer, because the East End is a place of regeneration, too, and 20 years is a long time.
How, then, did I miss Dockside Bar & Grill?
Open since 1996, Dockside definitely should have been swept up in my initial round of restaurant profiling, but it somehow escaped my radar. The more I thought about it, actually, the more I realized that escaping notice is kind of the point when it comes to Dockside. Yes, it serves great food, and yes, the location is superlative. But it’s also an unassuming, local-friendly restaurant located in the old American Legion building.
The chairs on the front “patio,” which is really just an extension of the sidewalk, are white plastic. You’re more likely to see the American Legion sign out front than you are any mention of Dockside. All of this is kind of the point.
Since 1996, Sag Harbor has changed in countless ways. Corner Bar is still there, of course, and so is the American Hotel and Provisions, but Conca d’Oro now serves much more expensive Neapolitan pies, La Superica is now ‘K Pasa, and what was once Cigar Bar is now . . . well, who knows? It’s a changing village with changing tastes. Even Billy Joel can’t stay put, which is why his house-cum-garage, located near the Dockside, is currently up on stilts, mid-renovation.
And so, in some ways, Dockside is a relic, and I mean that in the best of ways. Here, from the relative comfort of a plastic chair, you can enjoy a water view without having to put on country club attire. You can watch the boats bob in the marina while sinking your teeth into a lobster roll, meat overstuffed into a brioche bun (although, at $31, I can’t reasonably say that the prices have not climbed with the times).
What does Dockside do best? Seafood, full stop. There is the lobster roll, yes, served both at lunch and dinner — the restaurant is open for both meals seven days a week. There are also pan-fried crab cakes with a lemon-basil aioli, seven spice-seared scallops with a wasabi-tamari glaze, herb-crusted cod with a lemon beurre blanc, lobster bucatini, steamed lobster, citrus-blackened Scottish salmon, clam chowder, oysters on the half shell, lobster-avocado spring rolls, steamed mussels, and fried shrimp — to name a few. It’s a seafood Mecca, to be clear. An ocean lover would be hard-pressed not to find an item worthy of a sincere wallet opening on the menu, and that’s without mentioning the rotating daily specials.
Recently, those specials included steamers (dear to my own heart, since I grew up 20 minutes from the Maine border), as well as a grilled swordfish with Mediterranean salsa. Those were the sea-faring specials, I should say. For the meat eaters, Dockside offered a pan-roasted pork chop with a peach-fennel slaw. Although the restaurant’s finest offerings are — in my estimation — of the sea, a land lover would have no problem finding a home here, either. There are selections for all. Ah, the equality of old school Sag Harbor.
So, my sincere apologies to forgetting you until now, Dockside, although, in truth, you should be happy I did. Because you’re the type of place that does not really need recognition. Carry on, Dockside. Your casual elegance suits you well.