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Jack’s Stir Brew in Amagansett has some of the best coffee in the Hamptons.

Seize the Day

by Gael Greene | Beach magazine | July 7, 2014

Sex before breakfast? One can only hope. But once I stand up, I need my coffee. And I’m fussy—I carry my Santo Domingo blend with me when I go visiting in the Hamptons. Typically I have fruit or yogurt early and go somewhere easy with my friends for lunch. But a few weekends ago I asked my usual hosts, Fran and Howard, to take me where they go for breakfast (or early lunch) on the run.

Snob that I am, I’m surprised by the impressive coffee at Jack’s Stir Brew (146 Montauk Highway, Amagansett), south of the highway just west of the Amagansett Mall. It seems to draw a good-looking crowd, aging preppies and health zealots. The coffee is serious— dramatically good. And so is the oatmeal. I buy one slathered with cranberry, honey and bananas for my hostess, and one straight up for me. I’d heard the pastries here are healthy, or healthy-
ish, low fat or low sugar. The clerk I ask plays dumb (maybe she is dumb). There’s no printed menu. I like the prim (and sugared) apple cider doughnut better than the cherry scone. Fran and I sit outdoors at a picnic table in a modest garden while Howard sticks to his diet.

Goldberg’s Famous Deli (100 Pantigo Place, East Hampton) is intense. Mostly brown-bag business. I’m paralyzed by the dizzying possibilities reflected on multiple hanging menus. I’ve never heard of a flagel (it’s a bagel that looks sat-on). Maybe a bialy would be better. A savvy deli crowd presses ahead of me with barely concealed annoyance. I wonder if they think I’m a shiksa in culture shock. Should I choose Nova and a pickle, white fish salad, open-face tuna melt with Muenster or one of a dozen flavored cream cheeses? OK, it’s sun-dried tomato on a toasted sesame flagel. My friend asks for egg salad on toasted white bread. “Are you trying to look gentile?” I ask. A server looks up, stunned. Goldberg’s famous combination sandwiches are named for Hamptons communities. “The Wainscott layers roast beef, bacon, lettuce and tomato,” says my host. “There’s even a healthy Reuben.” We perch at a tiny three-top out front, facing the parking lot. “They’re famous for their 100 percent fresh-squeezed OJ,” she says, pouring all around. Local workmen favor Goldberg’s too. What else is open at 6AM?

Of course, once we’re past breakfast, I have my own local favorites, go-tos and familiars to recommend (or not). Some ideas to mull:

We often head toward Montauk for lunch, into the unfashionable boonies away from the hordes of chic. Once a summer we’ll do fried chicken at Lucky J’s Chicken & Waffles (440 West Lake Drive, On Labor Day weekend last year, when the South Fork was in overdrive, I had a decent lobster roll on the deck at Gosman’s Dock (500 West Lake Drive), with only one other table occupied. Full confession: I asked for extra mayonnaise and got a big plastic bottle of Hellmann’s. The serenity was remarkable. We watched the parade of yachts, each of us choosing one to own when we win the lottery.

If we need to stay close to home, we don’t mind waiting up to 20 minutes for a table at Bostwick’s Chowder House (277 Pantigo Road, East Hampton). Their corn chowder can be remarkable, but I’m happy enough with the New England clam porridge till the corn is in.

If they pick me up at the Montauk Jitney stop and my friends let me choose a lunch destination, we head toward Bay Burger (1742 Bridgehampton/ Sag Harbor Turnpike, Sag Harbor). On the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, it was unexpectedly benign. There was no line at all, except for the one that began to form after us. I gave instructions to the server for my made-to-order fish sandwich: panko-breaded Atlantic cod with tomato and baby spinach on
the house-baked bun—plus bacon, please.

Sometimes I’ll have a burger with Swiss, cheddar or blue and skip the bacon. My host alternates a black bean veggie burger with the flavorful falafel number. I share my tater tots, dipping them into ketchup or flicking on a few drops of malt vinegar. We usually discuss sharing the house’s homemade ice cream, but rarely do, since a berry pie from Round Swamp Farm (184 Three Mile Harbor Road, East Hampton) is our weekend indulgence.

Early last season I was served a textbook-perfect lobster roll by my rules—roll toasted and buttered, big mayo’d chunks, not overcooked. It was at Lunch, Lobster Roll Restaurant on the highway (1980 Montauk Highway, Amagansett), where only a few years earlier I’d asked the owners to remove my rave from the place mat after being served the worst lobster roll ever. I’ll be checking in this summer and hoping for the best.

A more luxurious lunch destination, The Seawater Grill at Gurney’s (290 Old Montauk Highway, Montauk), was just testing its sea legs under its new executive chef, Seth Levine, the day we stopped by and had a meal under an umbrella on the deck. New ambition at this East End landmark got me excited as the new numero uno, owner George Filopoulos, confided how he intended to compete for moneyed weekenders at the rarified level of Topping Rose House. Jennifer LeRoy—chosen at 22 years old to take over her father Warner LeRoy’s restaurant domain (including, until 2009, Central Park’s Tavern on the Green) when he died in 2001 and recruited at Gurney’s to run the food and beverage program—spotted us and sent out a few extras. I won’t say I loved everything I tasted. My idea of a lobster roll doesn’t have avocado, tarragon and dill in an unbuttered hot dog bun.

And the Montauk Cobb needed a little work. But the three-star-worthy presentations are very impressive. I couldn’t stop eating the truffled mac and cheese. And the gleaming burrata LeRoy brandished as she headed toward the next deck looked like it would come with a pedigree.

The grill service will soon extend to the beach—1,000 feet along the tide line, and there will be beach memberships for locals and a Sunday brunch buffet available for outsiders as well as resort guests. The next day, LeRoy was preparing to start training 50 waiters imported from Palm Beach. Snobs tend to dismiss Gurney’s. It will be interesting to see if they’re drawn by this new ambition.

Lastly, come to Bay Kitchen Bar (39 Gann Road, East Hampton), next to a marina on Three Mile Harbor, during the late daylight hours for drinks, and to sample the sea-to-table raw bar. Chef-partner Eric Miller has built up ties with local clammers and baymen in his years running local kitchens. Bay Kitchen is small, with tables pressed close together, but you can stand on the porch, sit on the steps or possibly grab two seats at the bar or a table on the open-air lounge. The sunset happy hour features $1 oysters and $5 muscadet by the glass Thursday through Sunday from 4 to 7PM all summer long. Or sip one of three varieties of juleps— muddled mint and blackberry, pineapple coconut or root beer vanilla—as the blinding late afternoon sun finally starts sinking low, painting streaks of orange and red.