Even among East Hampton residents, Michaels’ Maidstone Bar & Restaurant, the family-owned eatery that has served the Springs community for over four decades, remains a tightly held secret.
To be clear: This is not a celebrity-rich Hamptons haunt, frequented only by summer hob-nobbers. It’s a year-round, reliable, and somewhat casual destination, designed to offer a respite from an area that can feel, at times, both unaffordable and unwelcoming.
On the expansive menu, diners will find appetizers galore, including “crabby clams” (top neck clams stuffed with blue crab meat, smoked chili, and aioli), Southeast Asia steamed mussels (lemongrass, ginger, cilantro, mint, red curry paste, and coconut milk), and a “symphony” of foie gras and diver scallops (with toasted brioche, red wine-poached plums, and a grape reduction).
Entrées are similarly diverse. Enjoy, for instance, jerk-seasoned pork tenderloin, with mango glaze, turmeric rice, fried plantains, and pineapple salsa; seared Long Island duck breast, served with a leg confit, Chinese barbecue sauce, and an apple-pineapple slaw; or grilled peppercorn-crusted Montauk tuna with garlic-roasted potatoes, spinach, and a brandy-peppercorn sauce.
But one of the true gems of Michaels’ at Maidstone lies on the beverage side of things. The restaurant, small and convivial as it is, boasts an incredibly broad wine-by-the-glass program, with a wide array of selections available. Prices are inoffensive (one can still find a glass for $9), and most major international winemaking regions are represented. While the wine list does not boast, say, the pedigree of some of the more spendy spots in town, one can still find — for somewhere between a fortune and a song — vintages that go back well over a decade. Call it inspirational, or, to use another word, a lodestar.
Michaels’ at Maidstone has not always operated under the same ownership. The most recent turnover involves chef-owner Luis DeLoera, who bought the restaurant a decade ago, in 2008. Prior to the takeover, the restaurant had seen six owners and had been in a bit of a rut. DeLoera acquired the restaurant after a successful career built both in Manhattan and Chicago, where he had worked in a casino restaurant managed by Park Place Entertainment. Seeing the restaurant for sale on a trip out east, he acted, and swiftly.
DeLoera began his culinary career in Naples, Italy, where he worked in a high school cafeteria. With a nod to his own travels — DeLoera has cooked everywhere from Spain to Australia — he changes his menu with frequency, inflecting his food with ethnic details (his menu of late leans heavily toward Asian flavors). And although some menu items are in it for the long haul, including the perennially popular spring salad of greens, avocados, tomatoes, smoked bacon, gorgonzola, hard-boiled eggs, and a mustard dressing — a take on the Cobb — other items are always up for revision.
Now, about that name? DeLoera opted to keep it, in homage to the space’s history. The history of the name is as complex as the history of the restaurant, it seems, and is attributed to an owner, named Michael, of course, who had owned the restaurant sometime around its inception. When DeLoera purchased the restaurant in 2008, however, the name had been changed to The Fat Flounder, in itself a hat-tip to the restaurant’s name from way back in the early 1970s. Still, the space has operated under the name “Michaels’” for the majority of its long East Hampton life.
The restaurant is, in a sense, an updating of history, a space that has grown with time to incorporate new culinary ideas, and ideals. And yet, Michaels’ at Maidstone still captures the essence of the Springs community. It’s a place to live, not a place to be seen, and most of its residents like that just fine.