Each year, certain restaurants shine and attract buzz. EMP Summer House was one of those spots, and when it closed, diners were afraid it would create a void, but such is the East End magic that Paola’s, the restaurant that replaced it, is wonderful in its own right. New chefs bring fresh flavors to existing kitchens and other spots give perennial pleasure. Here are a few of my favorites.
Tutto Il Giorno
Whether you are seated in the garden or the main room impeccably designed by Gabby Karan de Felice, the surroundings are chic and comfortable at this restaurant, with some of the area’s best food. Start with the impossibly thin and crisp pane carasau drizzled with luxurious olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and rosemary sprigs, then move on to one of the authentic pastas or a mix of braised local tomatoes with warm goat cheese.
Entrees include fish of the day prepared in parchment paper with local vegetables and T-bone pork chop with grilled peach, arugula, and fennel salad. 56 Nugent Street, Southampton; www.tuttoilgiorno.com.
Tony Fortuna brought his well-loved Upper East Side steakhouse and lounge to Southampton this summer, and his following flocked to it. The famous TBar chopped salad traveled east with him, as did the meats and fish, and the Hamptons locale has an expansive garden. 268 Elm Street, Southampton; www.tbarnyc.com
The space that housed Greenwich and Red Stixs, among other short-lived establishments, has finally found a winner with this Mediterranean spot run by James Mallios. The outdoor patio is vibrant, and offerings like dock-to-dish crudo with Montauk catch, fennel, orange and red onions; summer farro salad with charred corn, red pepper and chermoula yogurt; or salt-crusted whole fish, set it apart. 1020 Montauk Highway, Water Mill; www.calissahamptons.com
When chef Jay Lippin departed in early July, Luke Andrews stepped into his shoes. You can watch the sunset from balcony seats as you enjoy his grilled oysters, sautéed sea scallops with pea tendrils, fennel, hearts of palm, and blood orange salad; and espresso-crusted tuna with pickled watermelon salad and ginger.
It’s also worth a visit for breakfast when you can have a healthy start with egg whites, grilled country bread, goat cheese, and steamed spinach, or indulge in a lobster omelet. 31 West Water Street, Sag Harbor; www.baronscove.com
Dopo La Spiaggia
The East Hampton location of this über popular Italian spot has blossomed this summer, and the outdoor garden transformed into a buzzing scene. The fettucine with Bolognese, grana, and mint is legendary, but this year there is also a gluten-free option of purple potato gnocchi with vegetable ragu.
Chicken Milanese and poached bass are also favorites, and the caramelized and charred Brussels sprouts shouldn’t be missed. 31 Race Lane, East Hampton; www.dopolaspiaggia.com
The outpost of this clubby French New York social hub has become hotter this year, if that’s possible, with waterfront seats in high demand. Diners can’t live without the much-lauded Cajun chicken and crab and avocado salad, but other dishes like locally caught swordfish with chanterelles, summer squash, and red wine sauce are worth checking out. 1 Long Wharf, Sag Harbor; 631-803-3767
There is a reason lines form outside this Sag Harbor spot — it’s one of the few places for top-quality sushi in the Hamptons. Raw fish offerings are a mix of local catch and seasonal treats as diverse as uni from Maine or snapper from Japan. It’s also worth sampling cooked dishes, such as steamed smoked duck buns or angus teriyaki.
23 Main Street, Sag Harbor; www.senrestaurant.com
The arrival of chef Peter Tsaglis elevated the food at this classic Greek spot to new heights. A simple Greek salad has small heirloom tomatoes so sweet you would think you are eating dessert, and peppers so crisp they must have been picked that morning. Whole imported branzino or local fish are cooked to perfection. 95 School Street, Bridgehampton. www.elaiaestiatorio.com
Highway Restaurant and Bar
One of the city’s most beloved sushi spots, Shuko, returned to the popular American restaurant this summer, offering omakase and rolls on weekends, but weekdays were just as packed, thanks to dishes like the show stopping spit-roasted organic chicken and lobster avocado toast. 290 Montauk Highway, East Hampton; www.highwayrestaurant.com
Barbara Layton was offering up organic healthy fare full of veggie options long before it was trendy, from stir-fry tofu, egg white and avocado omelets, or thick French toast in the morning, to grass-fed turkey meatballs with fire roasted tomato sauce, shishito peppers, crisp chickpeas and feta, or a ramen dragon bowl topped with Montauk scallops in the evening, it’s no wonder everyone from Tony Blair to Hugh Jackman can be spotted there. 66 Newtown Lane, East Hampton; www.babettesrestaurant.com
Alec Baldwin and Katie Couric are among those who are flocking to the eastern branch of the popular Carnegie Hill spot that serves up perfectly prepared Roman dishes including bucatini with Applewood-smoked bacon and plum tomatoes; and seared duck breast with whole grain red risotto, mushrooms, house-made apricot mustard, and black truffle vinaigrette. 341 Pantigo Road, East Hampton. www.paolasrestaurant.com.
The onetime Honest Diner has risen like a phoenix this summer, reinvented as a serious Mexican restaurant, with standout dishes like chicken tamale; apricot-tamarind glazed duck, hot off the rotisserie; and pork ribs from the wood grill, served with charred baby onions. There is generally a wait for tables, but take that as an excuse to order one of the standout margaritas. 74A Montauk Highway, Amagansett; www.cochecomedor.com
Duryea’s Lobster Deck
The magnificent vista is almost rivaled by the view of jaw-dropping family-style platters of huge lobsters and super-fresh fish. Don’t miss the lobster cod salad, chocked with crustacean meat. If you want to avoid the long wait, picnic tables are now available for take-out. 5460 65 Tuthill Road, Montauk; www.duryealobsters.com
When Gurney’s took over the former Montauk Yacht club, it upped the ante on everything from rooms to the signature restaurant, hiring Hamptons chef Jeremy Blutstein to oversee the kitchen. He has come up with an adventurous and well-executed menu that’s far from the average meal.
Warm carrot salad is presented with harissa tahini, pomegranate molasses, saffron pickled aliums, and sumac; scallop carpaccio swims in huckleberry agro dolce, studded with spiced cashew and enlivened by Meyer lemon; and tuna is dry aged and served bone-in, rib eye style. All this against the backdrop of a beautifully designed waterfront dining room. www.showfishmtk.com. 32 Star Island Road, Montauk.
Sybille van Kempen runs this 18th-Century inn with the same care and attention to detail that has made her family business, Loaves and Fishes, a Hamptons icon. It’s a place where you can still have the calm, relaxing dining experience so many seek. Chef Brian Szostak has just released a cookbook containing recipes from his ever-changing menu.
Try the roasted fruit and vegetable bowl, mushroom toast, Thai lobster salad, and pan roasted local fish with lychee salad. 2266 Montauk Highway; www.bridgehamptoninn.com
James Beard award-winning chef Mark Militello runs the kitchen at this expansive restaurant like a seamless ship, offering 12 daily specials, from perfectly seared local catch with seasonal vegetables and green bamboo rice to porcini-stuffed quail. 75 Main Street, Southampton; www.75main.com
One of the area’s most luxurious hotels has a restaurant to match. Overseen by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, it has Drew Hiatt at the range, and he has hit his stride this year, using produce grown on the grounds along with ingredients from local farmers and fishermen to create a clean and creative menu. 1 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike; www.toppingrosehouse.com
Lulu Kitchen & Bar
Happy hour is a scene and there are few places for better people watching than at a table here on Sag Harbor’s Main Street. Lovers of wood-fired cooking will be in heaven, sampling flavorful dishes from Instagram-worthy heirloom cauliflower or leeks with almond harissa mustard and fig balsamic reduction, to lamb chops and lobster. 126 Main Street; www.lulusagharbor.com
A foodie fantasy of expertly charred meats and oversized lobsters, this classic spot has never waned in popularity. The porch and proximity to East Hampton’s pond give it charm beyond the sawdust strewn city locations, and when Andrew Tobin took the reins as maître d’, it reached new heights. 94 Main Street; www.thepalm.com