Travelogue: Montauk a.k.a. Are you sure we’re still in New York?
Aron planned a wonderful weekend getaway for us in Montauk, which sits at the very tip of the South Fork of Long Island–a way for me to extend my birthday further yet! I’ve been wanting to go, we both have, ever since moving out here. A colleague at work recently got her first summer-share there and made me completely envious with her tales of classic clam shacks; long, clean beaches; and an unpretentious, low-key vibe. Like the Hamptons, however, the price to visit Montauk can be quite high between Memorial day and Labor day. Luckily, my birthday is in September!
We spent a few too many hours in the car getting through the city’s entanglements, but–eventually–we made it to The Lobster Roll (or Lunch, as it may be more commonly called). If you recall, Aron took me to Newport, RI, for my birthday a couple of years ago. I’m loving this lobster theme… I think I actually prefer a good roll to the straight style.This one was good–and I loved the atmosphere–but definitely a true lobster salad roll (very finely diced vs large chunks of sweet lobster). On a side note (I can’t help but mention): on the way into town, we stopped at the grocery store and I nearly knocked Julianne Moore down as I ran in.
We stayed at the Albatross–a fine, but unremarkable motel. Still, it had a great location, and Aron did a fantastic job getting us this spot at a last-minute’s notice. Ask him about the curmudgeon-old-lady who gave his reservation away at the first place he had picked and watch my normally unflappable husband get angry!
Breakfast Saturday took us to Mr. John’s Pancake House. No doubt Anthony’s pancake house across the street has virtually the same menu, but we were very happy to split orders of banana pancakes and corned beef hash with eggs at Mr. John’s.
When we first began walking down the beach, we had intended to just check out the water and then come back later. But once we started we couldn’t stop! It was two or so hours before we returned to more solid land. Our imaginations swirled with thoughts of our summer home in Montauk, with mornings spent sipping coffee overlooking the water, strolling down the coast. Playing house, so to speak, became a recurrent theme of the weekend as we drove by the many shingled homes–particularly the smaller, quainter looking ones–that we would love to call ours.
There were plenty of people in the water–mostly in wetsuits, on surfboards–and it was quite warm in the sun, out of the breeze. We walked toward the area where the majority of surfers could be found: Ditch Plains beach. We were impressed–and inspired–by how many surfers were in the 40-60 age range. Longboards prevailed. Everyone was so fit and beautiful! And there were so many women surfing; more than I used to see on the waves in Southern California (though numbers have likely changed there since I was spending summer days on Huntington Beach). We overheard the lady who operates the Ditch Witch–a take-away spot operating out of an RV–say that she was headed to Costa Rica after Sunday. You could feel how happy everyone was to have such beautiful weather for what seemed to be the end of the season.
Alongside the surfers were anglers. We were amazed at how many anglers we saw perched on rocks around the coastline. We happened upon one just in time to see him catch (and release) a very large fish!
Hard to say for sure–walking on the beach was pretty awesome–but the high point of the weekend, for me, just may have been eating sweet, perfect lobster rolls (the best of the weekend and, save the buns, maybe maybe best ever) at the B.Y.O. Lobster Deck, surrounded by water. The setting at Duryea’s, particularly on such a lovely, sunny, September afternoon… no words, just cheese.
We had heard differing reviews of Gosman’s Dock. One the one hand, the food was rumored to be inferior to many other options and was popular only with tourists. On the other, some sources felt like it was the quintessential Montauk of their youth. We figured that the second opinion probably meant that the first was true–and that both suggested it would be worth a brief visit. Having so thoroughly enjoyed lunch at Duryea’s, we had no regrets about skipping to fare and, indeed, it did seem like a bit of a tourist complex–but it was great to see the fishing boats coming in for day, to wander by the hard-working ships with huge spools of nets (well… nets, mixed feeling about seeing so many of those), and to stop in at the seafood market.
That afternoon (just late enough, it turned out, for free parking) we drove out to Montauk point to see the lighthouse. The oldest lighthouse in New York–commissioned by congress under Washington in 1792–is certainly the icon of the East End village. We climbed the very narrow, 137-winding-step stairway to the top (although they were quite concerned that Aron’s height could put him in danger of a headache–lots of low clearances), and toured the small museum set up inside the base station. I think we were lucky to be there without any crowds. It’s quite difficult to pass on those stairs! Actually, we made it in just before closing as we had taken our time first walking around the rocks at the base of the tower–jumping over cracks and skirting the many fisherman.
Rumor was that the best view of the sunset could be had from the Montauket. The gathering of crowds around the seven o’clock hour seemed to validate that–as did the unobstructed view of the sun setting into Fort Pond Bay.
Once the sun set, we drove to the sign with the chili pepper on it, in Diamond Cove marina, for dinner at The Hideaway. The chowhound message boards assured us that the Mexican food and margaritas were impressive. Agreed. My fish tacos were great–and I loved the bottles of sour cream and hot sauce that came with each meal. Also on order: fish burrito for Aron, chips and guacamole to share, and freshly-made churros for dessert. We determined that Montauk has perfected that blend of casual restaurant that feels like the corner diner but serves fare–at a higher price, of course–that would right in with the best of the city.
On Sunday, we went for (somewhat) lighter breakfast fare–and outdoor tables–at Joni’s. We spotted this place the previous day; it has a very granola menu, with lots of non-dairy, organic options, and it smells like fresh-squeezed juice. I had a cup of watermelon juice (and a big cup of coffee) and we split a waffle and a mushroom-cheese-avocado-and-egg wrap. I knew I’d like it when I saw that I had the option of avocado or guacamole. An important distinction. Aron was equally sold on the waffle when he saw that they had real maple syrup. The imposter syrup is a deal-breaker for him and I still feel a twinge of blush when I think of the time he brought his own to breakfast at the home of someone we barely knew! At least he left it for her when we went? This stuff was the real-deal. But I think he would have been fine regardless–the waffle was great alone. It was made with whole wheat flour and was filled with things like flax seeds and bits of coconut.
After breakfast, we walked down the beach again, stopping at the Ditch Witch for iced tea and a good view of the surfers. It was even walmer than the previous day.
Eventually we had to part ways with Montauk. Without the second home on the beach that we so clearly need. Sigh.
On the way back to New York–we left around one to give ourselves some time to explore–we stopped at one of the other popular roadside clamshacks: the clam bar. It fit in perfectly with all of the other charmingly low-key restaurants we visited (low-key while still serving lobster and other semi-fancy fare). I think we were both especially partial to the classic look of the place. The white and yellow umbrellas against the red and white roadside stop–so perfectly beachy.
Down the road, we stopped at a beach outside of Amagansett. Just to see how other beaches compared. It was more wind-swept, but it was also later in the day. Still, the appeal of the Long Island shore in the Hamptons s clear.
Sag Harbor is across the South Fork, facing Shelter Island–on our way back we detoured, stopping to buy tomatoes from “The Tomato Lady” and to gawk at the very, very large boats in the bay. (Can they still be called that?) They actually looked average in size next to the homes along the edges of the water. That is, until we saw them in the harbor.
The village of Sag Harbour is perhaps the cutest along the Hamptons route. I love the tiny main street, forked at one end with a statue and leading to the water and an old icon of New Amsterdam at the other.
We finished the day–the weekend–with farm stands and one last sunset on the beach.