In late February, Starr Boggs officially sold his eponymous restaurant in Westhampton Beach more than 40 years after he arrived in the area to work as a chef. A little more than a month later, on March 30, he died at Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead. Boggs turned 70 earlier this year.
Boggs was truly a Westhampton legend. His restaurant was one of the longest-running, most popular restaurants in the Hamptons. It had a presence in Westhampton Beach every summer since 1985 — with one exception in 2003 — across four different locations.
The restaurant was known for its local fish specialties, dry-aged prime beef and an extensive wine list that Boggs curated himself. A self-professed oenophile, he stressed the importance of pairing the right fine wine with a particular meal. Monday night lobster bakes at the restaurant became a Westhampton tradition that drew crowds.
Boggs had been looking to sell the restaurant on Parlato Drive for several years and he was ready for a new chapter in life. David and Rachel Hersch of Rooted Hospitality, which owns Cowfish and RUMBA in Hampton Bays, bought the place with plans to turn it into a sister restaurant for flora in Westhampton Beach called fauna.
As happy as Boggs was when he spoke to Behind the Hedges after the sale had gone through, it was, of course, bittersweet. In that final reflection, he spoke less of his legacy ending and more of his gratitude for his loyal customers, his dedicated staff — many of whom returned year after year — and his friends who helped him along the way.
“I’m going to miss working here on Long Island and with the beautiful food that we have,” Boggs said in February, but, “I’m celebrating the fact that I’ve had a great run.”
Starr Boggs — that’s an Irish Welsh family name — grew up on a 1,000-acre farm in Virginia, where, “We grew, raised and fished for everything we ate. That instilled a real passion in me for local sourcing and I continue that tradition,” he told Dan’s Papers in 2018.
He was readying to play football at William and Mary College when he was sidelined by a knee injury. His fallback was a budding culinary passion.
Boggs came to Westhampton by way of Nantucket in 1981 when Susan McAllister, who owned The Inn at Quogue, needed a new chef. “She flew me down here — like her and like Long Island, it reminded me of where I grew up on the Eastern Shore of Virginia,” he recalled. After the first season, he and McAllister went over to the Patio for lunch, and when they found out it was available, they leased it and later bought it, running two restaurants for a time.
McAllister’s help in getting him a piece of the restaurant was his “stepping stone,” he remembered. “I came here with less than almost pocket change in my pocket, no automobile, a sail bag and that was about it.”
In 1985, they sold both restaurants and he used the proceeds as start-up money for the first Starr Boggs, which he opened on Sunset Avenue, where Tony’s Asian Fusion is now located. The 40-seat restaurant received four-star ratings from both The New York Times and Newsday. Boggs recalled how there was a waiting list for months.
He later brought Starr Boggs to the ocean, opening at the Old Dune Deck Hotel on Dune Road, which he leased for 12 years. During that time, he also opened Starr Boggs at Hampton Square, a year-round business at the old Howell House. He sold in 1996, then gave up the space at the beach in 2002.
A year later, he bought the building at 6 Parlato Drive and opened in 2004. Leonard Riggio, the founder of Barnes & Noble, was his real estate partner. He and Boggs had been friends for more than three decades, from their years both living in Quogue.
Looking back on his time in business, he said it was all because he was lucky to have good friends, good staff and good customers.
Arrangements are still being finalized.