Longtime lurker -- first time poster. Montauk is a topic i'm very passionate about. I've been about a half dozen times now (i live in jersey) with my wife and trusty black lab. We rent a small cottage usually for long weekends and love to fill our days with beach walks and great meals. After 6 visits, i now feel like i can provide a decent report and some on the culinary fun we've had. I'll start by admitting i'm not a local, but i do know good food when i eat it. I'll add to/update this thread again in july after the long weekend we have planned. for those planning a trip there in the near future, i hope this helps you and i hope you enjoy your time there as much as we do.
Best in class:
Dave's Grill (davesgrill.com)-- wow. i must admit after perusing their online menu, i was not feeling the hype. positive reviews and solid word of mouth took us there for dinner last september and were we ever impressed. some memorable items included their day's appetizer special, a fresh fresh tuna tartar (likely caught that morning?) -- best ive ever had. they only made 10 servings that day- so for those thinking about going, don't sit down too late! a courteous waitress warned they were down to two left as soon as she greeted us at the table and asked if she should hold one for us which met with a resounding 'YES!'. skip the crabcake, do the chopped salad (a visual pleasure, but sorta blends together). will no doubt try the honey-hoisin spare ribs now that i know what these guys are capable of (tried not to outfinesse myself the first time... entree highlights including a potato/onion crusted flounder (their version of fish and chips) which was beyond magnificent. top2 fish&chip experience i've ever had, the other being a small halibut shanty in alaska. comes with fresh-cut fries and a wonderful cole slaw- a simple classic. i had the striped bass, which was quite pleasent- but clearly a sideshow next to my wife's lobster roll. now, the dave's grill lobster is NOT for the faint of heart. not your classic mayo/celery recipe, but rather a butter poached version served on a toasted brioche. holy rich. my wife loved her rice pudding desert. the bread pudding however was fouled by the grand marnier sauce. a simple new orleans brown sugar/butter version would be the perfect fit for them. their ressy policy is quirky, so make sure you know the rules. oh yeah, they open LATE for the season (not till mid-may this year) but stay open till late sep/oct i believe so call ahead if you're planning to arrive pre-memorial day... you can imagine how disappointed we were the to miss their 2009 opening by one weekend this year...
All seasons can't go wrong:
Harvest on Fort Pond (harvest2000.com)-- the successful flag ship of a small family of great restaurants. our first restaurant destination the first night on our first trip to montauk and we weren't disappointed. it sits right on fort pond which creates a very soothing/serene visual-scape if you're dining prior to sundown, absent are the ocean waves and breakers you're used to at the other montauk harbor locales. in the autumn/winter, it's equally warm and inviting on the nights when the mist/fog settle on the pond. semi-casual, but sophisticated is the best way i can describe it. its family style with entrees suited to feed 2-4 people each depending on the number of dishes ordered. my wife and i felt fine ordering one pasta and one entree to split, knowing we would have leftovers. when my parents joined us last time, we split two pastas and two entrees- again, plenty to take home. if you're doing a pasta/entree combo for couple, i would suggest skipping an app- you'll be rolling out of there. the calamari salad seemed to be on everyone's table, but we just thought it ok. both times we had a fussili with large scallops, mushrooms and bacon (pancetta?) and this was nice, not overpowering- but a plainer simple. we lucked into a veal bolognese on our second visit as a daily special and waived it in- equally wonderful warmed in the microwave the next day. the parm they serve you at your table is weak and stands as their biggest place to improve- would've preferred a plastic bottle of kraft. iirc, they're bread couldve used a lift as well. the porterhouse was good, but not lugers good even though it had a balsamic finish which i really like on my steak. in any event, when eating here- know you're getting stuff FRESH. the corn in your salad or on your daily special halibut dish, if purchased in season, will be shaved right from the ear. no order here is complete without their sidedish spinach with mushrooms and shallots- my dad's favorite item. eager to try one of their pizzas next time- the one with jalapenos i think. if you have room for dessert, you're better than i was. i think we tried a blueberry cobbler on our last visit, and it wasn't as good as my wife's oatmeal/brownsugar/butter easy recipe. this is old reliable though when all the other places are closed for the season. i think this falls on the must visit list in montauk- the first place i recommend to friends doing montauk for the first time.
Inlet Seafood (inletseafood.com) -- this is right on the opposite side of gosman's. very reminiscent of the classic seattle harbor/bay salmon/crab house. a newer construction with a very fresh feel and big windows. almost feels like a contemporary beach house turned restaurant from the exterior and the interior boasts a really great bar space and a nice open dining room with 2 great exposures over the inlet and out onto the ocean. the menu offers a range of surf and turf, which i hope to explore in more depth next time (my wife wants the scallops, i want to try the burger!). we instead opted for the sushi side of the menu which we heard so much about prior to our visit. wow. i hadn't had sushi this good and fresh since my family fishing trip in british columbia (sorry jewel bako). ruby red tuna, no doubt caught that morning or the day prior. blue crab california rolls. great spicy tuna/salmon (something with some mango on it). a great variety of offers on perhaps a slightly condensed menu that i look forward to giving a greater chance the next time we're there. we were on our way out of town at the time of our last visit and were forced to carry out and park at the point (on the beach) since we had our lab with us. will report back on this one in july.
The Lobster Roll 'LUNCH' (lobsterroll.com) -- no fishing village is complete without a great clam shack. the lobster roll, at a glance, appears to be the most touritsty of all the options which maybe true. its also my most likely of all the amagansett roadside spots to be 'park sloped' (kid crowded), but it shouldnt take away from your meal. true to name, they're lobster roll is the real deal. classic, subtle, simple mayo/celery/lobster combo- toasted (hotdog?) roll - truly delish. a perfect 'first timer' lobster roll if you're looking for a true old fashioned lobster roll- and priced at a modest $18 (with cole slaw), its about 4-6 bucks cheap to the manhattan fishhouses. their signature fried puffer fish is a must try- i suggest splitting it amongst your table as an app. other good fried stuff include the shrimp (and i never order fried shrimp) and their oysters. didn't try the scallops, but i would say def skip the clams (can't tell if fresh or frozen). their fish and chips (cod i think) all are super fresh and the batter is wonderful- the best fish and chip combo in montauk (although i still haven't tried o'murphys). even the slaw and the crinkle cut fries are nice- solid orings too. arguably better is 'the clam shack' in kinnebunkport maine.
Runner-Up Clamshacks: The Clam Bar and Cyril's.
Personally, i didn't think much good came from Cyril's. if you're 20s (maybe 30s?) and looking for an afternoon, evening cocktail spot in a rustic/surfer setting then this is your place. if you're looking for the best clam strips (dodge the whole belly) out of the three roadsiders, then this is surprisingly your place (the only thing they do well). if you like a deafening about of dill in your almost grey colored lobster roll, then this is your place. if you're looking for great classic clamshack seafood- try someplace else.
My wife and I have a softspot for the Clam Bar. It most resembles a true clamshack fit with a plastic tabled 'steamer' garden and garner's my vote for best spot to chill with a bucket of beers for a fried snack. pretty decent whole belly friend clams (skip the strips) and a very good fried fish batter - light, but hearty tasting. my standing order when i go. popular are the steamer's and the fresh battered/fried tuna bites. both i found just ok. good lobby roll here too. but their winning offering imo if their soup. the best n.e. clam chowder south of new hampshire and if you're lucky, they'll be featuring their spicy crab and corn chowder (recurring theme in montauk: order anything/everything with corn in it btw july/sep). if you happen to hit town slightly offseason (none of the clamshacks open year round) and it's a cool day/night- stop by the clam bar for a blue pointe toasted lager and a bowl of the chowder(s). the perfect cold day sweatshirt roadside lunch. this is my spot for a bucket of beers and a fishwich on a nice day. if it's not too crowded, they'll let your dog sit shotgun at your table. they also boast the friendliest, most competent staff amongst the three (by far).
The Montauk Bake Shoppe (montaukbakeshoppe.com) --- did i say best breakfast? i meant donuts... donuts are a food group right? anyway, get a boston creme, a jelly and a sugar cruller and call it a morning. good coffee too, enough turnover there that the oldfashioned pot/warmer system (which normally makes me think of burnt steakandshake coffee) still seems to work- not sure when/if ever they make the switch to thermos'. they have fresh baked bread and bagels as well, but you'll have had better in your not so distant past. the donuts however, are sublime. they also bring some sweet stuff cakes/pastries which also look good, but trust me when i tell you- stick to the donuts and you'll be just fine. maybe try one of their curious 'cruffin's' if you're feeling brave.
The Hideaway (thehideawaymontauk.com) -- a mexican/bbq joint hidden behind a couple drydocked boats in diamond cove marina. this place is a true gem. the kind of gem people on chowhound scour the internet for, and we only finally discovered it on our most recent trip. VERY casual setting complete with little plastic corona flags around the bar, you wouldnt think much of this place at first glance. you certainly wouldn't think that they're capable of wonderfully fresh sope's and fish taco's considering you may even have doubt's that they have a kitchen at all when you walk in! we waived in about 5 items (the grilled mexi-corn, the guac, pulled pork sopes, a shrimp quesadilla and the fish tacos) and they were all lovely, especially the fish tacos. the corn was offseason and it was still a pleasure although not the best of its kind (try westville in the west village for the best mexi-style grilled corn). truthfully, none of them were the 'best' of their kind, but they were pretty darn good. Still, the quality was WELL above average and imo superior to the fancier-fair at micocina, rosamexicano and doscaminos with the exception of maybe the missing tableside guac treatment. this is old school taqueria style complete with plastic squirt bottles full of sourcream/crema, green tomatillo and hot salsa. some fresh-fried churros and vanilla ice cream for dessert were a nice finish (although i'd love to see some old-fashioned casa gallardo syle sopapillas on the dessert menu- an item noticably missing from ny area mexican joints). will try their ribs next time in town (and hopefully they're tamales if they're not out of them). Almost forgot, the best rocks margarita i've had in a long time. no joke- might be the best blend ever, served in plastic cup no less- CLASSIC!!!
Places I would skip:
Second House Tavern: nice space- nothing memorable from our trip there though. fish batter needs def work. main dining room hadn't opened yet though- we'll give it one more shot next time we're there off season (noteworthy that they were one of the few open during our december visit)
Gosman's: most places in montauk are touristy if you happen to visit in season. this one oozes tourist though. it does have a nice outdoor deck though and if you keep your ordering simple, you'll get decent food. there are better options all around you though.
John's Pancake House: pretty good, but not epic, plain pancakes. nothing else of note. consistent with typical NY boring breakfasts though. you have to travel south or east of new jersey to find a real breakfast. on this trip at least, stick to the bake shoppe. will try anthony's and bird on a roof on one of our next visits- i expect more of the same though (bland uncreative diner food in a quaint setting).
Duryea's Lobster: place got a lot of hype and in my personal estimation failed the test bigtime. their deck is nice and it pretty much stops there. if all i wanted was a plain boiled lobster, i could pick one up at st. peters catch and do it back at my cottage for half the price. their sides (boiled potatoes and corn) are boring and freshness fails to compensate for the lack something. i never add salt to my food- i did here (bad bad sign). worst of all was their clam chowder- a very brothy (almost snobby) version. oh, and did i forget its expensive? someone needs to remind them they're serving on styrofoam plates with plastic forks. $35 for a 1.5lb lobby and $1 worth of baked potato/corn. thanks, i'll pass. sign me up for the eat-like-king menu at dave's grill for less the price. i gave this place only one chance- i will NOT be going back.
Shagwong: landmark eatery. could it really be popular with the locals? the divebar part certainly seemed to be (we were there in december). the food was, bleh. if you sniff the inside of this place between may-october, you've done something wrong.
ENJOY!!! hope this helps. will add more in july. looking forward to trying a sangwich at Joni's and the burger at O'Murphy's and maybe, just maybe the pasta at Manucci's...
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