When Will Varney and his partner, Bill Lengyel, decided they wanted to introduce lobster rolls at Varney’s in Brookhaven, they didn’t sneak them onto the menu. Instead, they revised the huge, illuminated sign that greets drivers-by on Montauk Highway whether they are coming from the east or from the west. In capital letters (larger than "Varney’s"), the sign now proclaimed "lobster rolls" accompanied by a painting, by Will’s son Jay, of a dapper lobster wearing a top hat and cutaway coat and sporting an extravagant Dali-esque mustache.
Lengyel had undertaken a study of East End lobster rolls and came up with two simple versions, a cold one whose lobster meat is dressed only in mayonnaise, and a hot one that swaps out the mayo for butter. Both are served in a brioche roll that is split through the top and whose sides are shaved off so the roll can be smartly griddled in butter. Both are $24 and come with homemade coleslaw and crinkle-cut fries.
That was in 2018 and, since then, lobster rolls have become a top seller, right up there with the baked clams and "mussels gone wild" that have sustained Varney’s since it first opened in 1981. "On a Saturday we can sell more than 60," said Lengyel, the junior partner, who only came aboard in 1983.
If neither a hot nor a cold lobster roll floats your boat, Varney’s also offers homemade soups, burgers, salads and sandwiches, a couple of Parms and seafood dishes plus Lengyel’s specialties, roast duck and, here’s a ringer: cod Grenobloise, sauced with capers, mushrooms, clam juice, white wine, lemon and demi glace.
Varney’s is at 2109 Montauk Hwy., Brookhaven, 631-286-9569, varneysrestaurant.com.