Laura Donnelly has spent a lifetime of summers in the Hamptons—her family has enjoyed a presence there for well over a century, and she has lived there full time for more than 20 years. As a pastry chef and a food writer for the East Hampton Star, she knows nearly all the chefs and has eaten practically everywhere.
With more than 200 restaurants on the South (mostly) and North forks, not to mention Shelter Island, she can recommend something for every taste—from burger joints and seafood shacks to high-end restaurants founded by star chefs. Every summer, about a dozen new restaurants open, although many are open only during high season. And an increasing number of them are focusing their menus around locally-sourced ingredients.
A thriving farm-to-table scene has been created thanks to a multitude of farms in the Hamptons. One farm grows hops for a local brewery, while others grow soybeans for edamame, berries and staple crops like corn, tomatoes, asparagus and cauliflower. There’s also an organization called Dock to Dish, which helps ensure that fresh catches make their way to restaurants as fast as possible.
Sag Harbor Restaurants
Based in Sag Harbor, which she lauds for its walkable downtown, Donnelly loves to hang out at the American Hotel, a Victorian-era establishment with a celebrated wine list. The hotel’s restaurant serves a range of Continental, as well as its signature American fare, from foie gras to pheasant consommé, with a large shellfish menu and a diverse choices of fish and meat (including, of course, Long Island duck in a classic cherry sauce).
Perhaps one of the best attributes of Sag Harbor is its water views. The Beacon, which is open only in the summer, offers beautiful sunset vistas over the bay from its dining room. The Beacon, which focuses on locally-caught seafood, is owned by David Loewenberg, who also runs another Sag Harbor favorite, The Bell and Anchor.A newer spot, Lulu Kitchen and Bar, has made a name for itself for its authentic, wood-fired style of cooking, including a personal favorite of Donnelly’s — the whole roasted cauliflower, served with a steak knife planted in the middle and big enough to feed a table of four. Wolffer Kitchen, which has locations in Sag Harbor and Amagansett, is owned by a family also known for its local vineyard. Each restaurant offers a different menu with brunch or dinner, including expansive raw offerings, tapas and local fish and seafood.
East Hampton and Bridgehampton Restaurants
As a local, she appreciates restaurants that are open year-round—many close from September until May. Nick and Toni‘s in East Hampton is a long-time Italian favorite. Another is Almond Restaurant in Bridgehampton, which was started by chefs Jason Weiner and Jeremy Blutstein. The French bistro is known for its seasonal and locally-sourced menu, which includes such dishes as macaroni and cheese with summer truffles. “The two chefs are so focused on supporting the local farms, and they just do it in a creative way,” Donnelly says.
Montauk and Amagansett Restaurants
For more basic beach fare, head to Montauk and Amagansett, the South Fork’s most eastern points, where you will find two seafood shacks that are worth a stop. The Lobster Roll offers great fried clam strips, as well as its signature sandwich, and The Clam Bar, a 30-year-old establishment where you can watch them prepare your mollusk from a counter stool.
Another old stand-by here is Duryea’s Lobster Deck, which is now owned by local restaurant operator Marc Rowan. Duryea’s was once a simple restaurant where you could order a boiled lobster and bring your own beer. Today, it has a much broader menu, but is still delicious, according to Donnelly. Rowan also owns Arbor, located near the Montauk train station, where dining options run from an eight-ounce cheeseburger to tuna tartare with avocado and eel sauce.
Tacombi Las Brisas, located on Montauk’s main street, covers the basics of Yucatan-style Mexican food using locally procured ingredients. It’s a great spot to chow down on fish tacos and fresh watermelon juice at an outdoor picnic table.
4 Hot New Hamptons Restaurants
A newly arrived celebrity chef is New York City-based chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who recently opened Topping Rose House, a hotel and restaurant with French-Vietnamese cooking, in Bridgehampton. Then there’s the Bridgehampton Inn, a historical hotel that dates back to 1795. The restaurant’s menu changes twice a month. The inn is associated with the gourmet Loaves and Fishes Foodstore, located in nearby Sagaponack. It offers dozens of dishes to take away, including a celebrated lobster salad, as well as fresh fruit pies.
Another new eatery for 2017 is EMP Summer House from the staff of Eleven Madison Park in New York City. With the latter restaurant closed for renovations, the owners rented an empty space in East Hampton and brought staff out for the summer. The pop-up restaurant has a highly curated menu filled with locally-sourced ingredients, including bouillabaisse, several types of tartare and lobster tempura. Reservations are hard to come by—try 10 p.m. on a weeknight—and require a non-refundable deposit. The patio, which offers drinks, sandwiches and snacks, is walk-up only and in theory more accessible.
Where to Eat in the North Fork
You don’t have to stay south to eat well. Greenport, on the North Fork, is booming with tiny, owner-operated establishments. One is Brix and Rye, a basement speakeasy that sells a wide range of classic cocktails, including a Sazerac, a New York sour (circa 1880) and a gin gimlet. You can get pizzas delivered from the 1943 Pizza Bar next door.
The Hottest Table in the Hamptons
Perhaps the hottest table this summer is Le Bilboquet in Sag Harbor, which is so exclusive it has neither a sign or a its own phone number. An outpost of the bistro of the same name in New York City, you can reach the Hamptons version only through its city sibling. The beach version keeps its front door locked—you have to go around the back, and be admitted (or not) by a bouncer. While not a fan of the restaurant’s procedures, Donnelly did manage to score a table. “I don’t know if they’ll last,” she says, adding that the food, however, was excellent.