“It is a beautiful ocean today, isn’t it? What would you say that is, sort of sapphire? I’ve never seen anything like that ocean!” The Late Edie Beale, the former mistress of Grey Gardens and cousin to Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.
Ah, Long Island beaches. In East Hampton lots of dough gets you a house south-of-the-highway (that is Montauk Highway, a.k.a. Route 27) and, if you’re lucky, access to the beaches.
About those beaches, bicycle down beautiful lanes to the seashore but don’t even think about bringing your car because without a parking permit your beach blanket is not a consideration.
It doesn’t take much to keep the noise down at Town Pond – even with the traffic piling into East Hampton from Montauk Highway the residents of South End Cemetery have been at peace for the past couple of hundred years. Swans glide by and nest around the weathered gravestones and tombstones making for a charmed if noir welcome to this seaside town.
Pay your respects and then take the stroll down Main Street to Newtown Lane. From the masculine stone behemoth of ST. LUKES CHURCH architectural history hits you big time with many buildings dating back to the early 1700s. The English colonial MULFORD FARM and clad period furnished HOME SWEET HOME MUSEUM with the GARDINER MILL in the background make for quite the picturesque view. Have an arts moment at GUILD HALL and then continue past charmed homes and inns – it’s all very very Americana. Once the retail starts, buckle your seat belts – you’re in for a dose of super charged shopping on summer weekend days with Escalades and Denalis emptying out hordes of shoppers and tourists on congested Village streets.
While buff bodies hit the surf in Montauk, here in East Hampton, the overly taught skinned middle-aged peeps with children in tow vie to buy – it’s a shopping abbondanza for the haute brand-minded shopper. Yes, you’re by the beach – just a half mile or so – but just in case you forgot a bathing suit or a wrap, lucky you there’s Hermes, Ralph Lauren and J. Crew. The list of heavy hitting retailers goes on and on – think Madison Avenue meets Bleecker Street with the clientele to match on a Disney stage-set circa colonial period small town U.S.A.
Summer crowds may make a wait inevitable or making a reservation impossible, especially on a weekend day, but heck, you’re in East Hampton and you’ve got to eat.
The days of Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa are long gone. Boo f#&*ing hoo. Anyone lucky enough to have been around in the 1990s remembers the slam of its screen doors and the brilliance of that shop – the prepared foods, the bakes, the
produce and groceries; it was a gem. Ina may be seen around town (her home and studio
kitchen are nearby) but sadly for the hungry, that storefront is now a clothing shop. Ces’t la vie – you’ll have to make do with a stop at the EAST HAMPTON GOURMET where tasty salads and comfort mains to-go come your way at a hefty price.
This eats shop too once shined with its great bakes but its cookies and a best-in-bakeoff Gateau Basque are now just a memory. Talking about bakes, you’ve got a taste of old East Hampton from DRESSEN’S donut fryer – the only remnant remaining of the onetime butcher and grocer and the lone star player among the otherwise unappetizing offerings of mediocre cupcakes and ice cream at SCOOP DU JOUR. If you’ve got wheels, venture to the outskirts of town and ROUND SWAMP FARM where a generations old East Hampton family have rolled out a Mildred Pierce like operation of prepared foods, produce, fish and bakes. Not cheap but the ladies running this stand have the best food-to-go ride in the East Hampton theme park.
In a hunger pinch you’re safe at THE GOLDEN PEAR CAFE, a luncheonette-like basic eats house but better to make it to the more endearing and tastier BABETTE’S which ups the ante with table service and a splash of outdoor seating. For a hefty sandwich to tow to the beach or grab for the trip back to NYC you safe at VILLA SPECIALTIES by the LIRR train station. Better yet, satisfy your inner Italian American at SAM’S where great old school retro resto cool comes with yeasty pizza pies and classic comfort plates. By comparison, the polished CITTANUOVA may be a bit glitterati but they get the Milanese thing right. If a burger and a club sandwich will calm those hunger pangs then slip off Main Street into the courtyard that hosts ROWDY HALL.
The 1770 HOUSE has all the makings of a great restaurant the problem is that even with the fine plates this New American feels stiff, more special occasion than country inn dine. Not so at the MAIDSTONE where the LIVING ROOM RESTAURANT has a great menu with quirky posh relaxed style. Ditto at THE PALM where you’re guaranteed a satisfying grill room surf and turf moment in the centuries old HUNTTING INN. Head to North Main Street past the Pantiago windmill and you’re in for a great take on up-to-date American plates at the EAST HAMPTON GRILL. Even if it’s a bit formula (from the folks who’ve brought us a slew of popular restaurants that includes the Houstons chain) you’re talking great eatery style with locally sourced fish and produce in their menu mix. On the edge of town there’s the celebrity encrusted NICK & TONI’S where East Hampton’s celebrity class holds court and getting a reservation can be as difficult as getting a village beach pass.