As a teenager I spent my summers scheming about ways to get off of one island (Long Island) and onto another island (Manhattan) - the sweltering humidity and subway fumes of the city, merely a gritty initiation into the only club I wanted to be a part of. It’s ironic that now as an adult who lives and works in New York City, all I can think about in the dead of summer is how to get back out to those same south shore beaches I grew up next to.
And I’m not the only one apparently. The NY Times just published one of their infamous trend pieces on how Long Islanders are fed up with the influx of extravagant city folk in the summer - particularly out at the very end in Montauk. While the locals may have a right to feel frustrated, this is nothing new - it’s been decades since East Hampton was an affordable artist colony, as a good friend pointed out.
So what’s the draw? For some parts of the Hamptons, it may be a case of money attracting money; but I think for many city dwellers, Montauk - an old fishing village like many Long Island towns - represents a seemingly simpler life. Yet, it’s one that doesn’t require sacrificing all of the fabulous food and restaurants of the city, with many NYC outposts popping up in recent years. Perhaps, even, the ”fisherman” is the summertime version of a “lumbersexual” - someone who wants to bypass the corporate Whole Foods market and go straight to the farmers and fishmongers directly, in between waves of course.
With Labor Day upon us - which for many means fewer three-day weekends and more layers of clothing - let’s remember that it’s still technically summer for a couple of more weeks. So if you’re looking for that Montauk vibe without having to trek all the way out east, check out these NYC spots and grab hold of the last days of the season, like it’s a fisherman’s beard.
Seamore’s - for light, fresh fare and soft serve ice cream
Probably the most direct homage to Montauk in the city, this carefully fashioned establishment offers fresh, simple and healthy seafood dishes - with so much serenity and chicness of the Hamptons beaches that you’d never know you’re just steps away from the bustle of Chinatown and Little Italy. The two times I’ve been, I’ve ordered the “Reel” Deal (get it?), which comes with the fish of the day, a sauce like coconut cumin or red curry, and three sides, which usually include NYC staples like kale, quinoa and soba noodles. Notoriously indecisive when it comes to ordering food, I love the simplicity of the menu, especially the dessert. You’ve got one option and it’s delicious: Odd Fellows soft serve ice cream in a cone with a sprinkling of coconut flakes. A self-described “passionate fisherman,” Seamore’s owner Michael Chernow (of Meatball Shop fame) may be the epitome of a summertime lumbersexual. Who knows how his instant hit will transition into winter, but for the time being, get out your Amelie beach cruiser and go find the line (they don’t take reservations and it’s always a wait!).
Address: 390 Broome Street, Nolita, NY
City Island’s Johnny’s Reef Restaurant - for a seaside spot with serious cred
Now, Seamore’s may offer up the glam version of Montauk with its vegan soft serve ice cream from Williamsburg, but Johnny’s Reef Restaurant of City Island succeeds in dishing out the authentic fishing village experience - with what I'm going to assume is non-vegan jello for dessert and all. With just over 4,000 inhabitants, this one-and-a-half-mile long Bronx island, boasts four yacht clubs and 30 restaurants - mostly specializing in seafood and open year round. Although City Island is accessible by subway, I decided to zipcar it up there from downtown Manhattan and chose Johnny’s restaurant, which has been around for 60 years and has a huge outdoor picnic area right on the water that overlooks its very own lighthouse (move over Montauk!). Check the pretension at the door and be prepared for a lively experience. They only take cash and you pay separately at each station as you edge your way from the desserts to the clam section to the friend section to the steamed section, finally landing at the bar (frozen pina coladas with little American flags seemed to be the drink of choice). I was very curious about the fried frog legs, but in the end I went with steamed garlic shrimp and corn on the cob, which I washed down with a three-dollar Corona and one seriously legit seaside view.
Address: 2 City Island Ave, Bronx, NY
Lazy Point - for chic beachy cocktails
Lazy Point, which describes itself as an “urban beach house,” opened up around the corner from my Hudson Square office just when New Yorkers needed the promise of surf and sand most...February. Ever since, I’ve been determined to check it out, especially after visiting my friend’s summer house near the actual Lazy Point - a small community out east near Gardiner’s Bay, nestled between Amagansett and Montauk. And I’m glad I persisted. Bright, airy, chic yet chill, this bar is a refreshing addition to the neighborhood. A few work friends and I showed up just as it was opening around 5pm, commandeered a white picnic table in the front of the bar and enjoyed the many happy hour specials - cans of Abita Purple Haze and crushed ice cocktails with gin and rose jam, as well as Montauk Pearl oysters. This spot lives up to its cool and carefree name and hopefully makes next February and the looming New York winter a little more bearable.
Address: 310 Spring Street, Soho, NY
Of course, part of the appeal of staying local is not having to actually leave home. If you can manage to get your hands on some Wolffer rose, Long Island’s finest, find a friend with a rooftop terrace and gently sip your way into fall.
What have I missed? Do you know a great beachy spot in the city? Let me know and I’ll add it to the list!