Dopo La Spiaggia
This cozy Italian restaurant, formerly named Tutto Il Giorno and run by Donna Karan's daughter Gabby Karan de Felice, is the perfect spot for an intimate dinner. The 38-seat place with a patio does not take reservations, and dishes like light and crispy fritto misto and indulgent homemade pastas ensure the wait will always be long. There is also a location in East Hampton (31 Race Lane).
Estia’s Little Kitchen
Everything is super fresh at the “Little Kitchen” as much of the produce is grown right outside in the on-site garden. There’s only eight table (and a counter) though fans don’t mind in waiting in line for the apple pancakes, fresh-squeezed juices and huevos rancheros, which you can order every day until 2:30 pm. At dinnertime, the lights go down and the tablecloths come up creating a more intimate and (slightly) less casual atmosphere.
Eight Fresno Place, which used to house the Southwestern joint Santa Fe Junction, got a sleek new makeover in 2004, when it was taken over by David Loewenberg, a co-owner of both the Beacon in Sag Harbor and Southampton’s Red Bar and Michael Nolan, the former owner/manager of New York’s Miracle Bar & Grill. The décor is minimalist with exposed wooden ceiling beams, a long leather banquet on one side (as well as several round, individual tables for diners who want more space) and a chic, zinc-topped bar located in the back of the restaurant. Executive chef Gretchen Menser previously worked at Nick & Toni’s and her New American menu emphasizes fresh, local produce.
Highway Restaurant and Bar
From the same owners as Nick and Toni’s, La Fondita is a casual taco stand off of Montauk Highway in Amagansett. It’s perfect for a quick snack or a casual dinner, and customers order in the main building and then take tacos to the outdoor seating area or picnic tables. Highlights include the fish tacos and house salad.
Lulu Kitchen & Bar
Because beach lovers needed an alternative to the Surf Lodge —and if you arrive by boat, you are given a free bottle of rosé. Navy Beach is the perfect option for a lazy Sunday bunch or sunset cocktails that melt into dinner. Park yourself on one of the large daybeds overlooking Fort Pond Bay and you wont be disappointed. Open for lunch, drinks and dinner; reservations recommended.
Nick & Toni’s
Every chick-lit novel that takes place in the Hamptons mentions Nick & Toni’s, or more precisely, the protagonist’s attempts to score a table at this East Hampton institution. There’s a simplicity here though that you wouldn’t expect at the South Fork’s most celebrity-crammed restaurant. (Billy Joel and Steven Spielberg are regulars.) The Mediterranean menu features lots of organic, local produce most of which is grown on the on-site garden (which even features a compost pile) while the three dining rooms are understated with simple white walls and tablecloths, long windows and a central wood-burning oven. In summertime, the bar and outdoor patio are particularly popular while in winter the restaurant offers its beloved Kids Pizza Nights, where kids ages 6-12 can learn the art of piemaking for $5/session. Not something you normally see at New York City’s most chichi restaurants. Nick, a.ka. Jeff Salaway, who founded the restaurant with his wife Toni Ross, died in a car accident a few summers ago, and is still sorely missed by locals and loyal diners.
North Fork Table & Inn
Judging by the packed dining room at the North Fork Table & Inn, whose Gerry Hayden has been a James Beard nominee for the past three consecutive years, you’d think you were in downtown East Hampton on Labor Day Weekend. But what may be the best restaurant on the East End is actually not in the Hamptons at all; it’s across Shelter Island Sound in the unassuming hamlet of Southold. So compelling is Hayden’s “progressive American” fare, in fact, that off-duty servers are often to be found back at the restaurant, whiling away their free time over multi-course dinners. After my first sip of sparkling wine with rosé-poached rhubarb syrup, I could hardly blame them. By the time a perfect English pea and morel risotto was cleared from the table, I had fallen completely under Hayden’s spring-inspired spell.
Though the restaurant’s seasonal menu changes frequently, its accessibility is a perennial virtue. The standout dessert offerings, overseen by Hayden’s wife, pastry extraordinaire Claudia Fleming (formerly of Gramercy Tavern), include a “To Bring Home” section, from which diners can order just-baked chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin cookies by the half-dozen (as if it weren’t hard enough to choose between honey-ricotta cheesecake and warm sugar-and-spice doughnuts).
Dinner here is always special, but never fussy – or even fancy. Wood-beamed ceilings warm the otherwise simple white interiors, and tables are topped with aromatic herbs in terracotta pots. The entire space is pervaded by a wonderful sense of community. If you aren’t able to get a reservation for dinner – or even if you are – stop by the inn’s beloved Lunch Truck between 11:30 and 3:30 pm for a legendary lobster roll or an artisan hotdog with apple cider vinegar-glazed onions.
The restaurant at Ruschmeyer’s is overseen by chef Melia Marden and her team from the Smile in New York City in collaboration with Executive Chef Brian Loiacono. It emphasizes—naturally—super-fresh seafood, seasonal local ingredients and a wine list heavy on the sustainable and biodynamic. Reviews of the food have been stellar though there has been some grumbling about the hefty price tags, especially for cocktails. But the overall carefree vibe, fueled by a cool mix of boho-chic guests (you don’t see musicians, families, locals, summer people and celebs mingling in the more preppy hot spots of East- and Southampton), is contagious and promises a long life for this Montauk newcomer, opened in 2011.
Indagare Tip: Ruschmeyer’s is notoriously busy at night, so the best option for those seeking a more quiet experience is to go on the early side.
Serving some of the best sushi in the Hamptons, Sen is an extremely popular Japanese restaurant that is equally well-known for its cuisine as for its celebrity patrons (noteworthy regulars include Kelly Ripa, Alec Baldwin and Paul McCartney). Although the famous clientele are an exciting part of the establishment, they’re not what keep diners coming back; the food is undoubtedly the best part of the restaurant. The space has low ceilings, dimmed lights, and incorporates elements of Japanese décor to create a relaxed but refined ambience.
Known as one of the best restaurants in Montauk, South Edison is located in town between the Montauk Highway and the ocean. It serves a great variety of seafood including oysters, fried belly clams, sashimi and fish—all sourced as locally as possible. Happy hour includes $1 oysters and their cocktail list features martinis and a to-die-for crab Bloody Mary.
Stone Creek Inn
The story behind East Quogue’s Stone Creek Inn is a foodie fairytale. The head chef Christin Mir, who hails from southwest France, and his wife Elaine DiGiacomo met while working together at Tavern on the Green in New York City’s Central Park (he apparently helped her when she burned her hand on a saucepan). They married shortly after and, in 1994, purchased what was then the Ambassador Inn and set up their very own restaurant. Today, though the Stone Creek Inn (their chosen denomination) is a little west of the main Hamptons’ action, Mir’s Modern French/Continental cuisine is well-worth the drive. Dishes include oven-roasted local monkfish, goat cheee ravioli with black truffles and a herb-encrusted rack of lamb and the wine “cellar”, housed in a big glass cube in the foyer is predominantly French. The bright and elegant interior, with its simple-chic white and taupe color scheme, belies the fact that the building was purportedly a brothel-cum-speakeasy in the 1920s. Service consistenly gets high marks and maitre-d Ariel Lacayo is considered one of the Hamptons’ finest.
The Restaurant at The Maidstone
Formerly The Living Room, The Restaurant at The Maidstone is now overseen by Chef David Standridge of the West Village’s healthful Café Clover. The summer-inspired menu includes delicious options like fresh peaches, pesto and vegetable pasta and seasonal grilled fish.
Tutto Il Giorno
This cozy Italian restaurant, run by Donna Karan’s daughter Gabby Karan de Felice, is the perfect spot for an intimate dinner. With a picturesque garden, homey interior decór and cushion-lined booths, Tutto il Giorno is a neighborhood favorite. Open daily for lunch and dinner. There is another location in Sag Harbor (6 Bay Street; 631-735-7009).
Vine Street Café
Opened by a married couple of alums from Union Square Café, Vine Street Café has been open since 2002 and remains a bit of a foodie’s secret of the Hamptons. The tables to get are inside not outside (those can be buggy) but the food is the best on Shelter Island so snag a seat where you can. The menu offers French classics with a twist like arugula and tart apple salad with gorgonzola, pan roasted chicken breast with basil smashed potatoes and an entire steak frites section. Don’t miss the lobster with avocado dressing or Lisa’s legendary pineapple tarte tatin with homemade ice cream. Open for dinner only; reservations recommended.
Wölffer Estate Vineyard