You probably don’t need us to tell you that Montauk has changed quite a bit over the years - that what used to be a sleepy surf town full of artists and fishermen has slowly turned into an extension of the West Village on summer weekends.
However, what you do possibly need us to tell you is where and what to eat when you’re out there. The changing Montauk scene does mean you’ll find plenty of Manhattan-based pop-ups and high-end restaurants, but the mainstay local establishments also still keep this town running (and are where you’ll often find us). Below are all our favorite places in Montauk, which fall into both categories.
For our guide to restaurants in the rest of the Hamptons, click here.
The Marram Hotel For summer 2020, Il Buco is operating an all-day cafe out of the Marram hotel, where you can get a latte and avocado toast at breakfast, salads and lobster rolls at lunch, or pizzas and daiquiris at dinner. The pop-up in the beachside hotel opens every day at 8am, and private dinner parties are available by reservation through their website.
You may know Sel Rrose as that LES spot where you once saw someone from a Glossier ad drinking rose. But this oyster spot has a second location in Montauk, which means you can now get their oyster platters, double cocktails, and lobster rolls by the beach.
Fish tacos are always a good idea, and TT’s Montauk has a takeout window where you can pick a few up, along with Nashville hot chicken sandwiches and a pitcher of frozen margaritas. And if you’re looking to feed a whole group, check out their website, where you can order taco or BBQ kits, and more.
Herb’s is the local, family-owned market in town. It’s a great place to pick up sandwiches and beers to take to the beach, but the real reason to come here is for the fried chicken, which is the best on the East End. We specifically recommend getting as many wings as they have in stock. Congrats, you’re about to become the most popular person at Ditch.
This lively seafood restaurant is two blocks away from the ocean and consistently putting out some of the best restaurant food on the East End. The menu is loaded with exciting seafood, but there are also plenty of other land-dwelling animals to eat too. The great wine list, solid local beer selection, and a Bloody Mary with a crab claw sticking out of it also keep us coming back.
Navy Beach has one of the best setups of any restaurant in all of The Hamptons, let alone Montauk. It’s situated in a little hidden alcove of bayside beach off the backroads, and over the train tracks. In other words, you have to know where you’re going to find it. They have tables on the sand, excellent beers on tap, and the kind of food you want to eat while you’re drinking that beer with your toes in the sand.
Duryea’s was a Montauk classic for years - a place where you ate lobster on paper plates and ordered at the counter. You still order at a counter, but after a takeover and renovation a few years ago, the place has been leveled up and is the place to feel like you’re on a fancy vacation. We’re fans of all the raw bar items, as well as the huge shareable salads. It’s first come first served, so plan accordingly.
Drive all the way around Lake Montauk and pull into a parking lot/shipyard, and you’ll find the best sushi around. Seats are up on the second floor, right across the lake from Gosman’s, giving you a ridiculous view of the Long Island Sound. In addition to the sushi rolls, there’s a solid menu of salads, sandwiches, and fried seafood things. Go for lunch, when you can take in the view. Also, if you ever find yourself on a boat, it’s an excellent destination - there’s plenty of room for docking.
The Gig Shack is a locals spot that gets minimal buzz, but it’s also a spot you should know about. Right smack in the middle of town, The Gig Shack is a low-key bar/restaurant quick hitter with a menu designed to please everyone. The burger is great, as are the ribs, tuna tartare taquitos, and the billy goat salad. Also, best key lime pie in town.
By day and early evening, the Montauk extension of this Manhattan seafood spot acts as a great place to enjoy oysters and rosè. Later on, this place typically turns up, but this summer things stay pretty mellow. It’s not huge, but has enough room and a nice amount of outdoor space that for you to get comfortable with your seafood. Add it to your rotation this summer.
Ice cream is an integral part of the Montauk experience. If you’re not eating ice cream out here, you’re doing it all wrong. And John’s Drive-In is, hands down, our favorite. Not just our favorite in Montauk - this is our favorite ice cream shop that exists in the entire world. They make everything themselves, from the soft serve to the hard shell stuff. We’re obsessed with the double chocolate fudge Oreo, as well as the mint chip. They also have incredible french fries and cheap, simple, snack bar style burgers and dogs.
Montauk’s go-to breakfast spot, Joni’s serves iced coffee, breakfast burritos, egg sandwiches, wraps, and other healthy stuff. Everyone goes to Joni’s, so be prepared for organized chaos during prime time. Plus, you never know who you’ll run into here. Our best sighting ever: Jerry Seinfeld.
Got kids? It doesn’t get much better than Gosman’s. The dock, the boats, the clam bar, the ice cream - it’s a child’s paradise. But big kids like us can appreciate it too. Drinks overlooking the water at Topside (the bar upstairs) are certainly never a bad idea. However, you don’t want to eat up there. Head down for the clam bar on the dock where you can dig into freshly-caught local fish, delicious clam chowder, and other good stuff.
The menu hasn’t changed in forever, and many of us who’ve been coming here for years are kind of over it by now, but there isn’t a better location for patio dining than Fort Pond at Harvest. Just be sure to bring bug spray and some bread to feed the enormous fish by the dock. Our go-to’s here are the mussels, the calamari salad, and the skirt steak.
The small hotel and restaurant are run by the same owner as The Bowery Hotel and The Jane, and is basically the beach version of those. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations, but come early, have a drink under the strings of tea lights, and watch the pretty people eat crab pasta and burrata. Then eat some yourself.
It used to be that if you wanted to party on the East End, you were either battling the lines and awful people at horrible clubs like Pink Elephant (RIP) and Jet East (RIP) in Southampton, reverting to your old college ways at Stephen’s Talkhouse, or getting really messy at The Point and Memory Motel in Montauk (which is absolutely still a good idea). Now, everyone just goes to the Surf Lodge - or tries to. At this point, Saturday nights are completely off limits. It’s an absolute zoo. We get our Surf Lodge in around 6 or 7pm for an early cocktail and live music, or on a rainy Friday when it’s empty. Eating a full meal here isn’t necessary, unless you’re booking with the hopes of eating dinner here to skip the line.
Typically, you come to Ruschmeyers for its summer camp-like set-up, with an adult sand box/beer garden overlooking the lake, a restaurant, a bar, a “dancing parlor,” and all sorts of other activities. But in 2020, you’re really just here to enjoy the solid, straightforward food like pizzas, burrata, grilled octopus, tuna crudo, and so on while taking in the view. We like the food here a bit better than at Surf Lodge.
Montauk now has an açai bowl bar for when you need to detox from your diet of lobster rolls, beer, and fried stuff. Happy Bowls serves bright, colorful smoothie bowls that will definitely keep the Instagramming masses happy.