Every year, we set our Memorial Day clocks by the reopening of the Beacon, David Loewenberg’s now decades-old restaurant that possesses the best sunset view in Sag Harbor. This year is different, but also, it isn’t. Like every other year, Beacon opened right on time, on May 21, just before the holiday weekend, another season’s welcome bell. Unlike every other year, there was no clamoring for the sunset seats.
Sam McCleland’s food is still a fresh reminder of Beacon’s concept: sea, sun, season. Tuna tartare comes with capers, whole grain mustard, cucumber, and red curry paste, a gentle spice ruminating on the back palate. Crispy fish tacos with salsa verde, pepper jack, and a tomato emulsion are cause for celebration, sunset or not. And who wouldn’t be moved by spring peas, nearly as sweet as their accompanying caramelized carrots, over mixed greens and mache, adorned with herb-buttermilk dressing?
The ever-popular sesame-crusted tuna still reigns supreme, served with soba noodles and a Napa cabbage-jicama Asian slaw. I am the type who has never once said no to Milanese, and the Beacon’s pork version is no exception, this one served with frisée, roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, and a truffle vinaigrette. But the most decadent entrée by far is a Loewenberg classic, the lobster rigatoni. Make way for lobster, cheddar, roasted corn, basil, and cream. If you’re feeling bathing suit-conscious, you can opt for the half portion. I am never feeling that way, for the record.
In the netherworld of Suffolk on Pause, orders can currently be placed between 3:30 and 7 PM, by calling the restaurant at 631-725-7088. Orders can subsequently be picked up between 5 and 7:30 PM on Thursday and Monday and from 5 to 8:30 PM Friday through Sunday. The restaurant currently plans to go to seven days and also add a lunch service in June.
One useful reminder worth considering, as you mourn the lost sunset. Sag Harbor is, in some ways, the envy of the Hamptons. With its perch on the bay, it has some of the best sunset views around. Camp out in the parking lot, sure, but if that won’t do, drive across the bridge and over to Long Beach, where the parking lot is open after hours. A picnic can be as easy as sitting on the roof of one’s car with an unobstructed view of the sun slipping into the bay.
In every other year — in every other season — we have had cause to complain about crowds and wait times, but there’s none of that now. It’s only us, the food, and wherever we choose to take it. The whole world is ours. Flip a coin and pick the best place in Sag Harbor, even if that place is your own kitchen table.
There is, too, some hope. Not every seasonal space has chosen to reopen in uncertain times, but the Beacon has embraced the moment, knowing that people are still hungry, for sunset, sure, but also for sesame-crusted tuna, no matter where they happen to be eating it. Another restaurant opening is a gift, a reminder that things will eventually go back to normal, or some relative version of it, and that we can still have our needs and wants met, the large plate of the lobster rigatoni, thank you very much.
And so, season here — for the Beacon tells us so — we soldier on. Consider this an opportunity to find the very best sunsets, sesame tuna in hand, and tell no one of them. It can be the secret of the summer, the one no one but you knows about.