If you have accidentally missed dinner out at Old Stove Pub — the Sagaponack farmhouse holding the secrets to some of the Hamptons’ greatest steaks —you aren’t alone. Although the restaurant has been open since 1967 (it has had some shifts in ownership since), the tucked away space is part of the landscape for many, as opposed to a singular destination.
A red neon sign points to a seen-better-days driveway and, finally, a slightly sagging farmhouse. The uninitiated may feel they’ve accidentally hit upon someone’s charming seasonal home. But, the surprises that await!
The restaurant originally opened 51 years ago and was, at the time, an Irish pub. Two years later, it was purchased by the Johnides, a Greek family who would go on to run the space for another 35 years, through what some may regard as its finest hours. It was a celebrity haunt, drawing artists and musicians and famous denizens from around the East End. After a number of breaks in ownership, a new family took over the property in 2012, hiring George Gounelas, a Farmingville native, to run the floor.
In its earlier incarnations, Old Stove Pub was purely Greek, boasting an entirely Greek wine list, curated by then-owner Coula Johnides. There was no corkage fee, no nod to Bordeaux or Burgundy. You came for Greek wine, or you opted for spirits instead. The restaurant is rich with lore. In 2015, a car of people allegedly dropped off unwanted hens in the restaurant’s backyard, and the employees of Old Stove, feeling sorry for the lonely chickens, adopted them. The restaurant’s aesthetic — old, creaky, comfortable — seems well suited for such antics, it turns out.
All these years later, Old Stove Pub is known largely for its steaks. The restaurant largely keeps mum about its provisioning, which comes from a “top secret” butcher, but, no matter. A now-discontinued brand of broiler produces enviable crusts on gargantuan cuts of meat: a 32-ounce aged strip loin for two, a 36-ounce Porterhouse for two, and a 16-ounce “Sagaponack Steak” (sirloin for one) are among the steakhouse offerings. Steaks begin at $35 apiece, a la carte.
But what of the Greek influence, you ask? Well, there’s plenty of that to enjoy, too. Spanakopita finds its noble home at Old Stove, a delicate pastry filled with feta cheese, spinach, leeks, and scallions. Greek appetizers are plenty, and include taramosalata (a traditional Greek spread made with red caviar), saganaki (baked Greek cheese), melitzanosalata (roasted eggplant with goat cheese, red pepper, and garlic), tzatziki (a Greek yogurt-based dip with cucumber and garlic), and shrimp tourkolimano (casserole-baked shrimp adorned with tomato sauce and Feta). There is, of course, a Greek salad, but you may find it overshadowed by an entrée of moussaka, a Greek take on lasagna: layered eggplant, ground meat, and béchamel.
The wine list is more expansive now, including selections from the Americas and Europe, although there remain some stellar finds in the Greek category, for those on the hunt.
As far as the celebrity clientele is concerned, that hasn’t entirely faded, either. The restaurant is a known host to comedian and late-night television star Jimmy Fallon (who has been known to make the rounds at some of the less glitzy Hamptons restaurants). On Thursdays, the restaurant stays open late — often until 1 AM —for karaoke night.
In the off-season, one is likely to find more than a few locals belting out whatever happens to be fun and familiar. In deference to Billy Joel, who once frequented the restaurant, you can definitely expect to hear a rendition of the iconic “Piano Man,” should you stay late enough into the night.