Most summers on the East End start the same way for me. The week before Memorial Day weekend, I drive 20 minutes out from my house in East Hampton to Montauk, to the first place that ever made space for me out east. There, on Lake Montauk, through a green blanket of lawn that boasts a spectacular sunset and a curated vibe — think batik, gentle lighting, sea breeze-worn wood, and the comfortable chic of summer — I tumble into dinner at the Crow’s Nest.
Not this year, of course, because when season started, restaurants were still asleep. And even now, with our groggy reopening finally here, the Crow’s Nest is, like everyone else, just testing the waters of post-pandemic dining, with an adaptive look at restaurant life. The restaurant opened last weekend as a to-go style only operation. Guests can order directly on the website: cocktails, wine, beer, appetizers, and main courses. Food arrives at the host stand pre-packaged and guests can seat themselves at the gorgeous outdoor tables that stud the property. Some are shaded by pergola, while others circle a fire pit. No doubt the most coveted spots, though, will be at the small beach down by Lake Montauk, where the fiery sunset explodes onto the water each night.
Many of the menu favorites from Crow’s Nest 1.0 remain, like the whipped ricotta with honey and pink peppercorn, the mezze platter, the grilled chicken kebabs, and the kale salad. Others are adaptations. The lamb gyro is designed, for instance, to be a more easily consumed option for those sitting on a lawn or by a beach, and the new artisanal cheese boards and charcuterie platters, which offer a selection of fruits, nuts, cheeses, and meats, are also meant to complement the outdoor seating. The indoor area is currently closed for guests, but there are several satellite bars set up for those who wish to order a second (or third) drink during their stay. As seating fills, the restaurant will begin to turn guests away, as it has with indoor seating in the past.
An added perk for those looking to drink well while minimizing contact: the Crow’s Nest is now offering large-format preparations of its specialty and classic cocktails. Guests can order two-person, four-person, eight-person, and, in some cases, five- and 10-person servings of batched cocktails, meaning fewer trips to the satellite bar or host stand (for those ordering from their phones, which is highly recommended). If you aren’t a cocktail lover, fear not: a slim, smart wine list is also available. The idea is to avoid any possible points of congregation, while still providing guests with the lovely experience that the Crow’s Nest has always provided.
And, like everything else in this nebulous world of restaurant reconfiguration, the Crow’s Nest current plan is one that’s applicable for this particular moment in time. As New York learns more about the phased reopening, the restaurant will adapt its strategy, and, possibly, its hours of operation (the current plan is to remain open Friday to Sunday, although that is subject to change).
Staff members will be wearing protective masks, and guests should, too, if they are within a six-foot distance of anyone else. The good news is that summer is most definitely not canceled. The Crow’s Nest, in its current state, has, for a decade, signified summer in Montauk: lazy days, airy nights, a carefree spirit. With its return, a certain part of the East End has returned, too, and we can begin to pick up the pieces of summer, with a side of whipped ricotta.