The bumper sticker reads “Montauk The End.” But now, the easternmost village on Long Island is more like The Beginning.
Montauk once meant lobster and lighthouse, Gosman’s Dock and Gurney’s Inn. It was a destination for Baby Boom family vacations and for serious fishing.
But in the last decade, there have been changes big and bold.
Yes, historic spots remain, Gosman’s, Montauk Manor, Ruschmeyers, Shagwong and, thanks to the Rolling Stones, Memory Motel, among them.
Old favorites keep going: John’s Drive-In for burgers and ice cream; Bird on the Roof for breakfast; Mr. John’s and Anthony’s for pancakes; Harvest on Fort Pond for Italian and American dishes, and Primavera Pizza, Pizza Village and Sausages for Italian-American specialties, which also defines Montauk Manor’s La Fine.
Muse @ The End, Swallow East, Grey Lady, Tauk at Trail’s End, Westlake Fish House, and the expertly caffeinated Left Hand Coffee are comparatively new, but feel like they’ve lived here a while, too
The Montauk Point Lighthouse was completed in 1796, less than two years after it was authorized by George Washington. Visit today and you’ll also discover George’s Lighthouse Café, a fresh and relaxed eatery with a great view of the beacon.
It’s the most easterly outpost of the lobster roll and doubtless the last seafood restaurant before Portugal.
Start from there eating your way west.
Here are some essentials for food and drink in Montauk.
Navy Beach (16 Navy Rd.): Sit at a picnic table, put your feet in the sand, daydream while viewing Fort Pond Bay from Navy Beach. And eat and drink very well. The lively, sunny restaurant does offer 200 feet of private beach to go with the travelogue sunsets. You can eat indoors too, spend some time at the antique bar, revel in general. While you’re at it: ceviches of hamachi and shrimp; salmon tartare; tuna tostada; charred octopus; Yunnan-style ribs with chiles; watermelon-and-feta salad; clam-and-corn chowder; buttermilk-fried chicken with Cheddar-jalapeno cornbread; soy-glazed tilefish with sushi rice, black sesame, and red curry coconut; swordfish with tatsoi-edamame salad, peanut dressing, and soy-lemon brown butter; roasted sea scallops with warm pancetta vinaigrette. Not enough? Then, dry-aged strip steak chimichurri and roasted garlic butter; and the Navy burger, with bacon-onion marmalade, Cheddar, house pickles. More info: 631-668-6868, navybeach.com
Duryea’s (65 Tuthill Rd.): Duryea’s bridges the past and present, and gives you an idea of the future, too. The bayside perch and former family-run business has been nearly synonymous with Montauk for seven decades. Sold in 2014, Duryea’s Lobster Deck now is much more upscale, with cushy seating, a very 2019 menu, and high prices that reflect it all. Still, the lobster salad roll is grand, as is the two-pound steamed lobster. Add the shareable lobster Cobb salad and local oysters. The major splurges: seafood plateaus; three-pound, line-caught whole fluke; grilled three-pound octopus; grilled swordfish; and grilled skirt steak. Visit the fish market, too. Perry B. Duryea Jr., who died in 2004, was speaker of the New York State Assembly and the 1978 Republican gubernatorial nominee. More info: 631-668-2410, duryealobsters.com
Naturally Good Sushi
Naturally Good Sushi (38 S. Etna Ave.): Naturally Good Sushi, no bigger than a tuna roll, is an offspring of Naturally Good Foods on Main Street. Here, there’s a garden setting for eat-in and plenty of reasons for takeout. Definitely try the sushi or sashimi: tuna, fluke, yellowtail, local scallop, wild shrimp, salmon; as well as seared pepper tuna, spicy tuna wrapped with sashimi and spiked with wasabi-yuzu sauce. The sushi rolls are colorful, and the compact eatery also offers organic vegan rolls. More info: 631-238-5791, naturallygoodsushi.com
Joni’s Kitchen (28 S. Etna Ave.): Since 2000, Joni’s Kitchen has been an obligatory stop for informal dining, eat-in and takeout, and an easygoing stop for the beach-bound. Build-your-own breakfast wraps, acai bowls, organic oatmeal, smoothies, fresh-squeezed juices, coffees and teas, ginger shots, fresh coconuts, salad, and sandwiches are the lures, along with reverie. “Thai Me Up” includes gingered tofu; “curry up,” curried chicken salad with pineapple and mango chutney; and “Sorry Charlie,” fresh yellowfin tuna salad. Grilled shrimp tacos and grilled fish-of-the-day burritos, too. Enter via South Edison Street. More info: 631-668-3663, jonismontauk.com
Hooked (34 S. Etna Ave.): Hooked is the counter-serve eatery that succeeded Red Hook Lobster Pound last year. Brian and Gillian Mooney are locals. He elevated Clam Bar in Amagansett for more than two decades; she used to be an owner of Herb’s Market. Here, they excel with the casual, addictive seafood that makes you want to eat, and maybe live, in Montauk. Order and sit at one of the picnic tables. Standouts include chowders, lobster bisque, Montauk Pearl oysters, the lobster-salad roll, whole steamed lobster, grilled tuna or swordfish, tuna poke, fish tacos, fish and chips, fried clams and the fried soft-shell crab sandwich. For those averse to seafood: bacon cheeseburger, baby back ribs, grilled chicken sandwich. More info: 631-668-2111, hookedmtk.com
Scarpetta Beach (290 Old Montauk Hwy.): Remaking the nautically themed Montauk Yacht Club seems a less daunting project when compared with the transfiguration of time-capsule Gurney’s Inn into Gurney’s Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa, by the same owners in 2015. Scarpetta Beach is the centerpiece restaurant. The airy, oceanfront dining room serves an incomparable view, with tables alfresco and indoors. The refined fare does the rest. That starts with glistening crudi, including yellowtail, fluke, and Arctic char; lardo-wrapped prawns; and superb pastas, such as tagliatelle with king crab meat and preserved lemon, fusilli with seafood ragout, short rib-and-bone marrow agnolotti, and, yes, perfect spaghetti with tomato and basil. Next: black cod with caramelized fennel; seared scallops with sweet corn. tomatoes and morels; and lavender-glazed duck with caramelized peaches. Limoncello semifreddo and crème fraîche cheesecake lead the desserts. More info: 631-668-1771, gurneysresorts.com
Montauk Bake Shoppe
Montauk Bake Shoppe (29 The Plaza): The Montauk Bake Shoppe has been feeding the community for more than a half century. It has undergone numerous changes. And, today, the bakery-breakfast-lunch union is more diverse and more appealing than it has been in decades. For old time’s sake, you should sample the jelly-filled croissant. Or veer toward the pancakes and French toast, wraps and panini. Definitely order the curried chicken empanada and the beef-and-cheese version, too. Irresistible: lobster-shaped sugar cookies with red sprinkles and fish-shaped ones, multicolored. The crumb cake and the sunflower seed-strewn bread get your attention, too. Likewise, cupcakes, crullers, turnovers, pies, and pastries. More info: 631-668-2439, montaukbakeshoppe.com
Showfish (32 Star Island Rd.): Jeremy Blutstein, ex-chef de cuisine at Almond in Bridgehampton, has transformed dining out at the former Montauk Yacht Club. The Amagansett native’s intensely local menu makeover rivals the overhaul of the entire address, which now is Gurney’s Star Island Resort & Marina. Showfish is his showcase, a handsomely remade space with warm, modern style, neutral hues, and striking semicircular seating to enjoy the marina view and exceptional seafood. You’ll see the day’s catch on ice, headlined recently by a major tilefish; and lobsters up to five pounds in the aquarium of the doomed. Blutstein’s instant classics include a lush, dry-aged, bone-in tuna “rib eye”; “slightly cured” Montauk fluke crudo with cucumber, almond, and horseradish; a rich lobster velouté with pickled salsify; superior smoked bluefish rillettes with pickled ramps and dill pollen; and roasted tilefish with vinegar-braised leeks and crab toast. Unquestionably, the grandest East End opening of the year. More info: 631-668-3100, ext. 4, gurneysresorts.com
St. Peter's Catch
St. Peter's Catch (58 S. Erie Ave.): St. Peter’s Catch nets a steady stream of takeout and eat-in customers. There’s a retail seafood market, and there are picnic benches just outside. Devotees come in for a fine selection of fresh fish, complete cooked dinners, and clam bakes to go. The choices to stay or to take out include local oysters and clams, whole lobsters up to two pounds, a lobster roll, fried or broiled scallops and chips, fish and chips, shrimp and fish tacos, coconut shrimp, fried calamari, steamed clams and baked stuffed clams, chicken strips and chips, and the “Montauk monster” fish sandwich. The catch may include local tilefish and swordfish. More info: 631-668-7100
Inlet Seafood (541 E. Lake Dr.): The motto is “respect the ocean, harvest the bounty, feed the people.” And since 2006, Inlet Seafood, owned by fishermen, has done all three, preparing some of the best seafood, cooked and not, on Long Island. The water view puts it all in perspective. So do dishes as vibrant as fluke piccata, sliced yellowtail-jalapeno and tuna sashimi. Also twirl linguine with clam sauce and cut into roast duck sauced with sweet chiles and hoisin. The steamed lobster is as reliable as the raw bar combo; and the Cajun-fried flounder taco as dependable as the lobster-salad roll. The kaleidoscopic sushi rolls vie with each other. For the dissenters: sirloin steak, roast chicken, grilled hamburger. The double-fudge brownie brings everyone together. More info: 631-668-4272, inletseafood.com
South Edison (17 S. Edison St.): South Edison opened in 2009 and stays as bright as a sunny July weekend. The look: country meets contemporary, streamlined but warm in its own way. The artful presentations of the food matches the flavors. Be sure to sample the raw bar via a trio of oysters or full platters adding littlenecks and shrimp. Continue the theme with pearly sashimi of fluke and the spirited “tuna tostada ceviche” with spicy ponzu sauce. Their competition comes from the braised octopus tacos. And the lightly fried rock shrimp with spicy aioli and pickled ginger adds another satisfying starter. From here, move on to the lobster roll or the seared yellowfin tuna, the vinegar-braised crisp chicken or the Wagyu burger with bacon jam, blue cheese, and garlic aioli. Somewhere either before, during, or after, treat yourself to street corn with lime aioli, Aleppo pepper, and cotija cheese; and the fried Castelvetrano olives. More info: 631-668-4200, southedison.com
Tacombi (752 Montauk Hwy.): Tacombi serves Mexican dishes and drinks with fervor and friendliness. There are branches in Manhattan and Brooklyn, but this busy one is especially good, whether you’re headed to the beach or waking up to breakfast tacos. The taco-go-round speeds up with corn tortillas packed with seared Montauk tilefish and housemade dried chile salsa; and beer-battered tilefish with poblano pepper mayo. The barbacoa of roasted beef and avocado-tomatillo salsa joins the party. That salsa also accents the local fluke ceviche. Fill in the menu for the entire table. The tropical fruit aguas frescas are the right drinks. But Tacombi does prepare margaritas and palomas to start happy hour early. More info: 631-668-8338, tacombi.com
Montauk Brewing Co.
Montauk Brewing Co. (62 S. Erie Ave.): Montauk Brewing Co. started in 2012. Three lifelong friends, and ex-East Hampton lifeguards established the brewery, which began in a basement. It’s now a fixture in downtown Montauk, for tastings and good times, indoors and out. Hoist a crisp and refreshing pilsner, channel England’s pale ales with the house’s Driftwood Ale, find the fruity notes in Watermelon Session Ale, and just settle into the warm weather with the light Summer Ale. The tasting room gets busy in a hurry. More info: 631-668-8471, montaukbrewingco.com
The Crow’s Nest
The Crow’s Nest (4 Old West Lake Dr.): The Crow’s Nest used to be the absolute end of the line, remembered only for a sad, saltwater shark tank and an only slightly better steamed lobster. That’s not just history, it seems prehistoric compared with the current, white-hot spot for creative cocktails and stylish cuisine, traffic jams and long waits. Hang out at the fire pit, sip a mezcal Negroni or a “Salt Beach Spritz,” and wonder whether the crowd is old enough to recall what preceded this scene-and-a-half. When you’re eventually seated, share the meze platter, local fluke and yellowfin tuna crudi. Slather freshly whipped ricotta, treated with local honey, bee pollen and pink peppercorns, onto grilled ciabatta. Pick blue crab claw tagliatelle, fired up with Calabrian chiles and given crunch by basil bread crumbs. Spend on local striped bass with black quinoa salad and roasted sesame carrots, accented with harissa and honey. Order the grilled naan with goat butter and the grilled asparagus with shishito pepper and za’atar. And end with either olive oil cake backed by orange and pomegranate salad; or fig kataifi with goat cheese. Maybe gelato or sorbet. More info: 631-668-2077, crowsnestmtk.com
The Surf Lodge
The Surf Lodge (183 Edgemere St.): No discussion about changes in Montauk can be complete without mentioning The Surf Lodge, which gathers publicity and controversy the way cloth does lint. It has made news for the nightlife, celebrity sightings, overcrowding, noise, parking impact, permits, and, early on, for the cooking of now-departed Sam Talbot, from Bravo’s “Top Chef.” Talbot now is the chef at the soon-to-open Morty’s Oyster Stand, on the former Cyril’s Fish House site in Amagansett, about four miles west of downtown Montauk. Shaun Hergatt, who earned two Michelin stars at the now-closed SHO Shaun Hergatt in Manhattan, is “culinary director” for the summer. Hergatt is a Manhattan-based chef from Australia. The Surf Lodge, meantime, checks all the boxes: meze, crudo, oysters, tuna poke, lobster roll, strip steak, cheeseburger, fried chicken, avocado toast, shareable platters, tropical cocktails. It’s a litmus test. Your call. More info: 631-483-5037, thesurflodge.com