Summer in Montauk
Most Fridays between Memorial Day and Labor Day, I take a three-hour journey on the Long Island Rail Road to my weekend paradise--Montauk, the end of the line. My relationship with Montauk began several years ago when my friends and I would pile into overpriced taxis and take a 30-minute drive from Amagansett to Montauk where we would bop between Surf Lodge, Ruschmeyer's, Sloppy Tuna, and Memory Motel into the early hours. But after a couple summers of late-night rendezvous and the occasional Sunday spent sipping rosé on Navy Beach, I realized I was ready for Montauk and me to take our relationship to the next level. The Saturday night hook-ups were fun for a while but I wanted more. I wanted the whole weekend.
Now, halfway through my second summer as a Montauk weekender (which, I realize, makes me even more of a nuisance to true locals than that Saturday night crowd--c'est la vie) I feel like I have found my place. Admittedly, Montauk is in full-on hot spot mode right now: some of my favorite beachy hangouts, which were once low-key and relaxed, now have lines to get in beginning at 5pm. Restaurant reservations book up a month in advance. But I feel like that can't last forever, right? New Yorkers are always looking for the next thing and to settle on one town to invade for the rest of eternity would be extremely out of character.
Even amongst the throngs of people, the booked-solid hotels, the overrun bars and restaurants, the fact remains that Montauk is a special place. Its natural beauty--the stony beaches and seaside cliffs; the peaceful state park and swaths of undisturbed land--still stands amidst (or even in contrast to) the hip hotels and noisy bars. At its core, Montauk is a place with humble roots. It's a fisherman's village, a surfer's breeding ground, and despite the recent influx of summering city-dwellers, Montauk has been shaped by people who understand and respect the sanctity of nature and the power of the sea. And the energy that creates is something that all the Range Rover-driving tourists in New York City couldn’t shake.
Here are my top picks for places to eat, drink, stay, and play in Montauk, plus a few tips for how to enjoy yourself without spending your entire evening standing in line.
Joni's - 34 South Etna Plaza (entrance on South Edison Street) – With its fresh, healthy fare, Joni’s has been a Montauk institution for over a decade. Grab a smoothie or an egg wrap for the perfect post-surf or yoga meal. The “Egg whites Cali-style” is my personal favorite.
Naturally Good Foods & Café - 779 Montauk Highway – Stop into Naturally Good for a quick, healthy bite (they serve vegetarian sandwiches, salads, and breakfast tortillas) or pick up some prepared foods for a beach picnic or no-fuss dinner.
Happy Bowls - 805 Montauk Highway – Last summer was the inaugural season for Happy Bowls, which serves tasty smoothies and acai bowls. Whether you’ve just finished an intense workout or you stayed on the dance floor at Ruschmeyer’s a way past your bedtime, Happy Bowls will fix you up with a nutrient-packed healthy treat. (cash only)
La Brisa - 752 Montauk Highway - The east end outpost of NYC's Tacombi taqueria, this taco joint is prefect for a quick, tasty bite. Before noon, La Brisa offers a menu of breakfast tacos and coffee or fresh juice while the lunch and dinner menu boasts delicious local fish and lobster tacos plus classic meat and veggie favorites.
St. Peter's Catch - 58 South Erie Avenue - This fish market serves made to order seafood classics like lobster rolls and full lobster dinners, clam chowder, fish and chips, and, my favorite, fish tacos. Grab a growler of Driftwood Ale from Montauk Brewing Co. next door and enjoy your meal at one of their outdoor picnic tables.
Dave's Grill - 468 West Lake Drive - Widely revered as "the best restaurant in Montauk," Dave's Grill is home to some of the best seafood in the Hamptons. The dockside establishment has an old-school vibe that's quite the departure from the rest of the Montauk restaurant scene. The price tags might make you sweat a little bit but the portions are massive, the service impeccable, and there is an overall feeling amongst patrons and staff alike that this place is something special.
It must be noted that Dave’s has a very unusual reservation system. Every day, the (single) phone line opens for same-day reservations beginning at 4:15pm. Getting a busy signal for the twentieth time in a row is ridiculously frustrating but, I’m telling you, the food is worth it. Walk-ins are welcome at the bar but there are only six seats and competition is fierce.
The Crow's Nest - 4 Old West Lake Drive – If Dave’s serves the best old school seafood in Montauk, Crow’s Nest is the best place in town for inventive New American fare. Set atop a hill overlooking the sound, Crow’s Nest has a posh African safari camp vibe and a menu of mind-blowingly delicious appetizers and entrées. Just be prepared to YOLO because in my experience, you’ll want to order one of everything on the menu.
Navy Beach - 16 Navy Road – Delicious seafood entrees and distinctive small plates are reason enough to try this beachfront restaurant. Throw in its prime location at the beautiful bayside Navy Beach and you have the recipe for an amazing evening.
The Surf Lodge - 183 Edgemere Street - Think beautiful setting, fashionable clientele, expensive cocktails, and a summer concert series that makes this the place to be on Saturday nights. Arrive early (like three hours early) if you'd like to see a show but you aren't on the guest list (a guest list at the beach, I know).
Montauk Brewing Company - 62 South Erie Avenue - The tasting room of Montauk's first local brewery is a great place to spend a lazy hour or two. For $8 you get a 4 oz. sample of each of MBC's four craft brews in a glass you get to keep.
Ruschmeyer's - 161 Second House Road – Whether you’re in the mood to dance the night away or hang and chat with friends at picnic tables in the garden, Ruschmeyer’s has been the setting for many of my most fun nights in Montauk. Arrive before 10pm to avoid super long lines.
Montauket - 88 Firestone Road – It’s a nightly ritual at our house (and lots of other houses) to head to Montauket before dinner to watch the sunset on the bay. Order a glass of wine, a Driftwood Ale from MBC, or a frozen cocktail and post up outside to watch the sun go down.
Memory Motel - 692 Montauk Highway – Memory Motel is arguably the sloppiest bar on Montauk—reminiscent of a giant frat party (except with a $20 cover). If you’re looking for a rowdy night of taking fireball shots and screaming lyrics to Don’t Stop Believin’ –and we all need a throwback night every once in a while—look no farther.
The Dock - 1 Montauk Harbor – The Dock is a true local bar where fishermen come for a beer (or several) when they come in off the water. The food is always good and the drinks are cheap but there is a no cellphone policy that is not to be taken lightly—so no instagram-ing here.
Martine and Juan - 805 Main Street - This tiny jewel-box of a store sells vintage finds and summery staples from both independent designers and the shop's own men's and women's lines.
Surf Bazaar @ The Surf Lodge - 183 South Edgemere Street – In addition to the shop’s namesake brand, Surf Bazaar sells beach-ready men’s and women’s apparel by dozens of local designers and well-known brands. From Soludos espadrilles to Kiini swimwear, this little shop is packed with essentials for a stylish weekend in Montauk.
Outeast Gallery & Goods - 65 Tuthill Road – Specializing in ocean-inspired art, Outeast gallery exhibits contemporary photography, collage, painting, and sculpture. Outeast hangs a new show every month and it’s fun to check them out on cloudy days.
Whalebone Creative - 65 Tuthill Road - This design studio and shop sells hand screen printed tees, tanks, and hats with designs by founder and Montauk native Jesse James Joeckel.
Gurney's Resort & Spa – Gurney’s offers more traditional seaside luxury for those who prefer a spa and a private beach to the trendier options in town. Rooms and cottages will set you back quite a bit but with amenities like multiple restaurants, a swimming pool, and a full spa, Gurney’s is the place to stay if you’re looking for a luxe and relaxing stay in Montauk.
Ruschmeyer's – 161 Second House Road – Peaceful “adult summer camp” by day and evening hotspot with a wild dance floor by night, Ruschmeyer’s is best suited for guests who like to relax during the day but are ready to party once the sun goes down.
The Crow's Nest – 4 Old West Lake Drive – With the opening of its cottages this summer, the Crow’s Nest now offers nightly and weekly accommodations ranging in size from standard guest rooms to cottages with three bedrooms and a kitchen. During the day, guests can go paddle boarding in the Bay or head over to Ditch Plains, which is less than a five-minute drive from the hotel.
Montauk Yacht Club Resort & Marina – 32 Star Island Road – Another more traditionally ritzy lodging option, MYC has all the elements of a luxury resort and offers a bevvy of activities such as tennis, paddleboarding, fishing charters, sailing lessons, and surf instruction.
Solé East & Solé East Beach – 90 Second House Road & 107 South Emerson Road – This popular pair of hotels—housed in a tudor-style building and a refurbished beach motel, respectively—offer rooms that are both stylish and reasonably priced. Guests of the beach motel are welcome to hang out by the pool or in the gardens at Solé East while the hotel’s weekly live music events are open to anyone.
Get centered. Yoga at Love. A Yoga Space.
Learn to surf. Take a lesson with Mikey DeTemple (Get in touch for contact details).
Work on your technique. Surf and paddle board rentals from Air & Speed Surf Supply.
Sweat it out. Free yoga, bootcamp, and hip hop dance classes at The Surf Lodge. Call 631.483.5037 for weekday/weekend class schedule.
Get bronzed. Spend a day watching the surfers and working on your tan at Ditch Plains. For a seaside lunch, grab a wrap at the Ditch Witch truck--which has been providing beachgoers with delicious sandwiches for decades--or a lobster roll from TURF--an airstream trailer parked in the Dirt Lot at Ditch which serves up gourmet dishes in the most casual way possible.