The 2013 East End summer dining scene promises to be as vibrant as any in recent memory.
The North Fork continues to challenge the South for culinary primacy. This year, Greenport boasts six openings, giving Hamptonian strongholds a run for the money. And Southampton is starting to look like Steakhampton, hosting two big city steak house offshoots.
And everywhere, Latin flavors resonate, with openings ranging from a stylish South American- Italian restaurant to a colorful taqueria making its own tortillas.
No surprise that at least two new sources of sushi join the mix. But East Hampton now has a new diner -- albeit one that offers tuna tartare along with a tuna salad sandwich.
CRAZY FORK: Chef and co-owner David Distenfeld offers the North Fork what he felt has been lacking: a casual family-friendly place. In digs characterized by oak floors, wood chairs and ceiling fans, he serves such starters as blackened salmon cakes, fried whole belly clams and fish tacos. You can get a burger or a lobster roll, a chopped smoked salmon salad or Caribbean jerk mahi-mahi. Nothing on the menu tops $20.
10560 Main Rd., Mattituck, 631-298-1100, crazyforkny.com
LUCHARITOS: Lucharito's, a Mexican restaurant with a "luchidor" (Mexican wrestler) theme, was born in December in the space that once housed former Butta Cakes, virtually destroyed by superstorm Sandy. Owner Marc LaMaina went a different route from before, offering table service as well as beer, wine and about 25 different tequilas. On the moderately priced menu: roasted pork tacos, a shrimp burrito filled with cilantro lime shrimp, and demon de pollo nachos topped with adobo-marinated pulled chicken plus the works.
119 Main St., 631-477-6666, lucharitos.com
MAIN: Keith Luce, former chef-partner at Jedediah Hawkins House in Jamesport, has launched a multi-venue compound at Stirling Square in Greenport. "The Square" is anchored by Main, which takes over the former North Fork Oyster Company. A raw bar features a dozen varieties of oysters from both the East and West coasts as well as Europe. The menu, characterized by Luce as "regional American comfort with a twist," features oyster-corn chowder with house-made oyster crackers, the NoFo duck wings first made famous at Jedediah's, a burger, house-made spaghetti with pancetta and clams, and Crescent duck breast.
300 Main St., 631-477-6840, nofosquare.com
NOSH / PREP: Little brother to Keith Luce's neighboring Main, Nosh is a casual, counter-service cafe where customers can enjoy soups, salads, sandwiches on house-made bread, plus pastries, ice creams and sorbets, all made on premises. There is seating indoors and out, where you also can enjoy the excellent pizzas, flatbreads and hot dogs made across the way at Prep, Luce's street-food takeout operation.
300 Main St., 631-477-6840
SAKURA SUSHI STEAK HOUSE: This offshoot of an established Riverhead restaurant has a sushi bar and dining room. While there are some hibachi-style choices on the menu, the cooking is done sans theatrics, in the kitchen.
204 Front St., 631-477-3888, sakuragreenport.com
SALAMANDER'S: Chef-owner Claudia Helinski is closing her takeout store and moving nearby to offer a restaurant and bar. When it opens, sometime this month, she will offer her famous fried chicken as well as a menu that includes grass-fed beef and bar snacks -- yam sticks in panko crumbs, miniature banh mi sandwiches, charcuterie plates and the like. Order at the counter, and your food will be brought to you. A bar will offer what Helinski calls "interesting drinks," both alcoholic and nonalcoholic.
STATION: South American chef Lucia Soria has come north for the summer to cook at Station, which will be open from Memorial Day to early September. Soria, who has two restaurants in Uruguay, has designed a menu of seasonal dishes with Italian, Spanish and Argentine influences: salads, local fish, grilled rib eye, and house-made pasta and breads. The space, which formerly housed La Lanterna, has been renovated and decorated in casual chic with textiles from Sag Harbor's Custom Cool. There is outdoor dining on the covered porch, and live music Saturday nights in the garden. A cafe, open from early morning to noon, serves Stumptown coffee and breakfast treats baked by pastry chef Carolina Ferpozzi.
412 Montauk Hwy., 631-996-4050, stationeq.com
BLT STEAK AT THE CAPRI: Out with the sushi, in with the beef. A new branch of the upscale national steak-house chain will be taking Nobu's place at the Capri hotel this summer. Corporate chefs from the Manhattan flagship will prepare familiar BLT specialties including popovers, chopped vegetable salad, and dry-aged strip and porterhouse steaks. Lunch will be served poolside on weekends, with small plates available at the bar.
281 County Rd., 39A Rte. 27, 631-259-2641, caprisouthampton.com/blt_steak
CAFÉ OSO: For the past few seasons, the Southampton Inn has opened a "pop-up" restaurant with a different theme. For 2013, it has hired Morgan Larsson, a Swedish pastry chef who formerly baked at Aquavit and The Russian Tea Room, and are debuting a European-style patisserie serving sweet and savory dishes. Breakfast will include freshly baked croissants, kardemumma braid and muffins. Lunch (served until 7 p.m.) will be tapas-style small plates with Larsson's take on local favorites such as lobster rolls and grilled vegetable wraps. Dinner, 6 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays only, will feature vegetables and herbs from the Inn's garden.
91 Hill St., 631-283-1166, southamptoninn.com/dining
DELMONICO'S OF SOUTHAMPTON: The newest offshoot of the venerable restaurant group, located in the spot formerly occupied by Savanna's, has a seaside spin. Lighter options such as sea scallop crudo with blood oranges, as well as salads picked from the restaurant's adjacent garden, will be offered alongside its famous steaks and chops. The renovated interior has hand-carved butcher block tables and vintage photos from the restaurant's 175-year history. On sunny weekends, brunch is served on outdoor decks.
268 Elm St., 631-283-0202, delmonicosrestaurantgroup.com/southampton
FRESH: Chef Todd Jacobs, who helmed the kitchens at The American Hotel in Sag Harbor and Tierra Mar in Westhampton Beach before moving on to the Allegria Hotel in Long Beach, returns to his old stamping grounds. Taking over the rustic Southfork Kitchen space in Bridgehampton, Jacobs serves farm-to-table food, family style. Diners can order a whole, half or quarter of an organic roast chicken (raised in Kings Park), depending on the size of their party. Vegetables (many from Bette and Dale's farm down the road) are a la carte. A casual lunch menu and daytime juice bar should lure people in from the beach. Items available to go will appeal to impatient diners at the height of the season.
203 Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Tpke., 631-537-4700
MERCADO MEXICAN GRILL & TEQUILA BAR: Mercado Mexican Grill & Tequila Bar is the new incarnation of the former Agave Mexican Grill. Chef-owner Marcel Link describes it as modern Mexican and more sophisticated than its predecessor. A glance at the new repertoire reveals such choices as mini sushi tacos, crab empanadas, Yucatán grilled chicken in almond cream sauce and chipotle shrimp Mexican street tacos.
1970 Montauk Hwy., 631-237-1334, mercadony.com
OLD STOVE PUB: The owners of Nammos in Southampton have kept the name (and the vintage sign, with its neon red arrow pointing up the long driveway) of this Hamptons institution, but have renovated the interior and built a new outdoor dining patio for their first summer in the spot. The menu has steak house standards, but most diners come for the traditional Greek specialties, including taramasalata, moussaka and baklava. A prix-fixe menu is available Sunday through Thursday.
3516 Montauk Hwy., 631-537-3300
JUICE LANE: Local farm stands supply organic fruit and produce to this mostly grab-and-go juice bar. Usually, you'll find 12 flavors featuring fruits, vegetables and some coconut water. A cleanse program is available for those interested.
354 Montauk Hwy., Wainscott, 631-527-5057, juicelane.com
THE CUDDY: This gastropub (brainchild of Sen owners Tora Matsuoka, Jesse Matsuoka and Jeff Resnick) has been packed since it opened in mid-April. The idiom seems just right for Sag Harbor, a whaling town that's long had a lively bar culture but no comparable bar food. Sip a Gentleman's Favor (rye, bitters, house-made maraschino cherries, and black tea syrup) while waiting for your fried chicken and scallion waffles with tomato chutney and truffle butter. Or dig into a burger made with house-ground beef to go with a pint of Spider Bite Eight Legged RyePA, brewed in Holbrook. Responding to community demand for an all-day hangout, The Cuddy now serves breakfast and lunch as well as dinner.
29 Main St., 631-725-0101
MADISON & MAIN: Chef Eric Miller, who also owns Miller's Real Barbecue in East Hampton, calls his new place (housed in the old Paradise Café space) "a modern American seafood tavern." The local waters, he says, inspire him the way the Mediterranean inspires cooks in France. He is preparing "anything that swims within 100 miles" of the restaurant's Main Street location, including roasted Montauk tuna with eggplant, pine nuts and garlic, and pan-seared local sole with brown butter, capers and lemon. For carnivores, Miller grills prime, dry-aged steaks over a wood-fired grill.
126 Main St., 631-725-6246, madisonandmainrestaurant.com
HIGHWAY DINER: In the former Rugosa digs, near the roadside World War II tank, comes this very Hamptonesque diner. Owner Gunnar Myers describes it as "beachy ... with an easy, groovy vibe" and a modern, sophisticated edge. Chef Robert Gurvich, who cooked at the former Alison in Bridgehampton, does three squares a day: brioche French toast, a Reuben sandwich, roast chicken and grilled vegetables with quinoa. Finish with a house-made chocolate-chip cookie ice- cream sandwich, root beer float or chocolate milkshake.
290 Montauk Hwy., 631-324-0130, highwaydinerandbar.com
This casual breakfast and lunch takeout is the younger sibling of a similar Amagansett spot owned by Mary Schoenlein. Early in the day, there's steel-cut oatmeal, egg sandwiches and yogurt parfaits; later, have a kale salad, a chicken salad sandwich or a Cubano panino, among other choices. House-baked cupcakes, tarts and brownies.
105-107 Newtown Lane, 631-324-1055, marysmarvelous.com
SIENNA RESTAURANT AND ULTRALOUNGE: Owner Jonathan Rapillo is partnering with Tony Fortuna of T-bar on the Upper East Side to bring a fine dining and nightlife destination to the woods of East Hampton. In the space that formerly housed Rapillo's Beaumarchais, the two are serving an eclectic menu with a focus on locally sourced fish and produce. At 11:30 p.m., the dining tables are cleared, the DJ booth goes live, and the restaurant becomes a club. Last summer's party brunches will still be held this year on holiday weekends, with a more sedate lunch served most Saturdays and Sundays.
44 Three Mile Harbor Rd., 631-604-6060, siennahamptons.com
ZOKKON: This space has been home to a string of Japanese restaurants, including Bamboo and Shiki. In December, the owners of Water Mill's popular Suki Zuki took over. Fans from faraway Montauk and Amagansett are rejoicing that they no longer have to drive to Water Mill to enjoy the teriyaki chicken salad, spicy tuna sandwich and other favorites from Suki Zuki's menu.
47 Montauk Hwy., 631-604-5585
GRINGO'S: Nicole and Matthew Meehan allow you to pick the ingredients that will go into your burrito, burrito bowl, tacos (soft corn or flour or crispy corn) or taco salads as you move down a line, in the fashion of Chipotle Mexican Grill. Proteins include lime-marinated chicken, slow-cooked shredded pork and sliced marinated steak, with all the traditional rice, bean and salsa embellishments. Tables indoors and out.
805 Montauk Hwy., 631-668-7500, gringosburritogrillmtk.com
LA BRISA: The offshoot of the Manhattan taqueria Tacombi at Fonda Nolita is now turning out tacos and more on the East End. La Brisa occupies the former La Bodega space, whose curved outer walls are lined with expansive windows. Tortillas are made on premises using an imported Mexican tortilla machine. In the morning, you'll find such dishes as chilaquiles verdes, huevos rancheros and banana pancakes. Later on, there are crispy fish tacos made with fresh locally caught tilefish or fluke as well as chicken tacos, vegetarian tacos and a seviche tostada.
752 Montauk Hwy., 631-668-8338
LUCKY J'S: At this casual counter-serve eatery by the docks, classic Southern-style chicken and waffles share a menu with an unusual invention: the waffle taco. Dreamed up by chef-owner Jason Umlas, it resembles a burrito made with a waffle instead of a tortilla. Filling possibilities range from strips of fried boneless chicken to a mélange of peanut butter, bananas and Nutella. Umlas, who owns a home in Montauk, has two other Lucky J's eateries in Austin, Texas, where he resides. Come July, he plans to stay open 24 hours to feed the late-night partying crowd.
440 W. Lake Dr., 631-668-8555, luckyjs.com
RED HOOK LOBSTER POUND & SWEET 'TAUK LEMONADE: This spinoff of a casual Brooklyn seafood joint features lobster, shrimp and tuna rolls, along with Berkshire pork hot dogs. Locally made Sweet 'Tauk lemonade, organic and agave-sweetened, is on the menu, as is Joe & Liza's ice cream. The format is strictly takeout with a few picnic tables outside.
34 S. Etna Ave., 631-668-5683