Montauk - The end Jun 13, 2006 by “Mako Mike” Plaia
No matter where you live in the northeast, no matter how good the fishing is in your backyard, sooner or later you’re going to get the urge to visit Montauk. Whether it’s merely a stop off on your way to the distant canyons or the destination for a weeklong fishing trip, you’ll be in for a treat. The waters around Montauk offer a plethora of fishing opportunities, everything from offshore monsters to the more pedestrian bottom fish to the inshore game fish like striped bass, little tunny, and the ubiquitous bluefish.
I kept my boat in Montauk from 1982 until 2003, when I moved to Rhode Island. During that twenty plus years I spent virtually every weekend from mid-March to Thanksgiving weekend fishing, eating, and generally living in town. Even today, when I go over to visit, I feel like I’m coming home when I pull the throttles back and ease into the channel between the jetties. The questions I’m most frequently asked on the Noreast.com website concern the details of visiting Montauk. So here are my answers. This isn’t a chamber of commerce type of discussion, where every little establishment is covered and everything is always perfect. My mother always said “if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all.” So if I don’t mention a particular place it either means that I know nothing about it, or it’s not one of my favorite places.
Where to keep
Let’s start with the basics, what do you do with the boat. (You surf rats can skip this part.) If you are coming to Montauk by boat you have several choices as to where to stay. If you want a full service marina you can choose Diamond Cove Marina, Gone Fishing Marina, Offshore Sports Marina, Star Island Marina, or Montauk Marine Basin. All of them, except for Gone Fishing, are located off the channel that splits off to starboard in front of the Coat Guard Station. Gone Fishing is straight down the main channel on your port. If service isn’t high on your list of priorities you should consider the Montauk Yacht Club, Snug Harbor Motel & Marina, Uihlein’s Marina, and Westlake Fishing Lodge. Except for the Yacht club, most of these places cater to smaller boats.
If you’re trailering your boat to Montauk, any of the above can accommodate you if you want to keep the boat in the water during your stay. If you opt to keep the boat on the trailer, there are really only two choices, unless you are a resident of the Town of East Hampton. The only launch ramps open to non-residents are located at Gone Fishing Marina and Westlake Fishing Lodge. Both can also supply parking space for your trailer. There is a ramp off of West Lake Drive that is available to residents of the Town of East Hampton.
If you run into boat trouble, Gone Fishing, Star Island, and the Montauk Marine Basin are full service marinas. Gone Fishing usually has a mechanic on duty seven days a week during the season.
Where to Stay
If you elect to stay on your boat, this part is easy. Otherwise, especially if you are traveling with kids or a spouse that doesn’t fish, the first question you have to answer is whether you want to stay in town or at the harbor. The harbor area is located about five miles from the town itself. So if the ocean beach (the town beach is gorgeous) and shopping is important, you’ll either have to stay in town and take the car to the boat, or stay on the harbor and leave the keys with your spouse when you go fishing. I always opted to stay in town and drive to the boat. There is a wider selection of places to stay in town and my wife always viewed staying away from the steering wheel as an added bonus.
If you want to stay on the harbor, the Snug Harbor hotel and Westlake Fishing Lodge offer reasonable rates and you can have the added advantage of having your boat right at your door. The Montauk Yacht Club also offers both room and dockage, but at much higher prices in much more lavish surroundings. The Sail Inn also offers reasonable rooms a short walk from the docks. Note that all of these places to stay are on the west side of the harbor, so if you are going to keep the boat at Gone Fishing Marina, which is located on the east side of the harbor, you’re going to have to drive to the boat anyway.
In town there are lots of choices. Over the years I have found that the beachfront resorts have been long on price and scenery but short on service. I recommend several places which are just off the beach, yet provide easy access to the beach and the town. One of our favorites is Daunt’s Albatross Motel. The hotel is split into two separate locations, one to the east and the other to the west. Both of them offer nice clean rooms at reasonable rates with amenities such as a swimming pool and complimentary barbeque grills. Born Free Hotel, located right around the corner from Daunt’s West, also offers nice, reasonably priced rooms without the amenities. They also have several rooms where they will accommodate pets.
Two other places, neither in town nor on the harbor, are worth mentioning. Gurney’s Inn, to the west of town, is somewhat pricey but offers fisherman’s specials and has spa facilities if that kind of thing appeals to someone in your family. The East Deck Hotel, located right on the beach in Ditch Plains, is a nice place and a kind of a throwback to the fifties. They have basic non-air-conditioned rooms at reasonable rates and they are next to some surf fishing spots that often produce.
Where to eat
Like most of the Hamptons, Montauk is loaded with eateries. Everything from hamburger joints to five star cuisine is available; it just depends on your taste and budget. Each restaurant’s policy regarding reservations varies from year to year, but it would be wise to call ahead and see if you can reserve a table. Here in alphabetical order are my favorites:
After Fishing Bar & Grill - This isn’t your normal marina snack bar. Sure the tables and chairs are cheap plastic and the roof leaks in a heavy rain, but that’s where any similarity ends. The view from sitting on the deck, overlooking the Marina and a large part of Lake Montauk is superb. The food is also first class, but not cheap. Menu choices range from fresh fish & filet mignon to the classic burger.
Crow’s Nest Restaurant - Good place for steak and lobster. If you have kids the aquariums will keep them entertained for a while. The rest of their menu is a little overly ambitious, and probably pre cooked and frozen, but I do like their duck.
The Dock - Good, reasonably priced food, right in the harbor area. Menu includes burgers, steaks and fresh fish.
The Harvest Restaurant - Pretty views overlooking Fort Pond and terrific food. The appetizers and entrees are pricey but the portions are huge. One order will usually feed two people unless you are really big eaters. If I’m alone I’ll usually make a meal out of one appetizer. Try the fusili with scallops, or if you like beef, try their huge porterhouse steak, and don’t overlook the calamari salad for a starter.
O’Murphy’s Pub - Good food reasonably priced right in the middle of town. The menu consists of steaks, burgers and other pub fare. If you’re in town on a Monday night, they have a two- for-one special.
Pizza Village - Located right in the heart of town. Reasonably priced Italian food, including really good pizza, take out or eat in.
Port Royal Resort - They seem to change the name of the restaurant in the Port Royal Resort every other year or so. The last time I looked it was called the Kahuna Café. This is a great setting, right on the southern end of Fort Pond Bay. They have seating on the deck as well as the in the dining room, but keep in mind that it gets cold and damp in Montauk at night. The food is very good, a little on the pricey side, but the place is worth it. It’s hard to find, you have to go down Industrial Road and across the RR tracks and then make a hard right along the beach.
Rick’s Crabby Cowboy Café - If you haven’t guessed by the name, this is a place that caters to families with young kids. The menu ranges from burgers and hotdogs for the kids, to some great barbeque chicken and ribs, to fresh tuna and rib eye steaks for the adults. Reasonable priced, by Montauk standards.
Sail Inn - Good food at reasonable prices. The dining room is small so get there early. Menu ranges from steaks to burgers to daily specials.
Shagwong Bar & Grill - This Montauk institution has been in the same location right on the main drag forever. Again, the dining room is small, and there are a couple of tables in the bar, but it’s best to get there early. They have early bird specials for those seated before seven o’clock. Steaks, fresh fish, and chicken dishes are on the menu.
Wok ‘n Roll - This place is a must for the visiting angler. Their “you hook ‘em we cook ‘em” menu is an angler’s dream. Bring in your catch (it must be cleaned) and watch Chef Frank work his magic and turn it into a Chinese dinner to die for. If you have a striper, keep the head and bring it in at least an hour before you’ll be ready to eat and have Frank make it into fish head soup. If you have fluke, sea bass or porgies, gut and scale them and have them deep-fried or steamed with black bean or garlic sauce. Try fluke filets in fermented rice sauce. Trust me, if you like Chinese style food you won’t be disappointed.
Gaviola’s Deli - If you’re not in the mood for a sit down meal, try this deli in the harbor area across from the Viking Dock. They have a variety of hot meals they’ll package for take-out as well as a large selection of overstuffed deli style sandwiches.
Tackle & Bait Shops
There are two tackle shops in town. Freddie’s Bait and Tackle and, another Montauk institution, Johnny’s, right on the main drag. Both of them mainly cater to the surf anglers, but they both also have a small selection for those fishing off a boat.
The largest bait & tackle shops are located at Gone Fishing Marina, Montauk Marine Basin, and Star Island Marina. These three places, while a little short on the surf gear, have everything a boating angler could want, from flounder rigs to blue marlin lures.
If you have a car with you one of your first stops should be the Chamber of Commerce office right on the circle in the middle of town. There you can pick up a map of the town, which will prove invaluable for your stay.
If you come by boat and don’t have a car, there are several taxi services available. But be forewarned, they aren’t cheap. Prices compare to taxi rides in New York City and there are no meters. All prices are by negotiation, between you and the dispatcher. The driver will simply relay your messages to the dispatcher, and there is not a lot of room for negotiation.
There are several spectacular beaches in Montauk for your enjoyment, when you’re not out fishing. The beach on the ocean side of town is one of the best on Long Island, if not the entire east coast. Gin Beach, located at the end of East Lake Drive, is perfect if you have little ones that can’t handle the surf on the ocean side. Ditch Plains is the surfer’s beach, though no surfing is allowed on a large part of it to accommodate the swimmers. Keep in mind that the entire seashore on both sides of the island is open to the public. So if you want solitude put on your hiking shoes and set off toward the east.
Well, after all is said and done, the fishing is the main reason most of us come to Montauk. If you have your own boat, your best bet is to check with the bait & tackle shop you select to find out what is biting and where. If you want to charter a boat, check out the boats that advertise in this magazine. The party boats Marlin IV, Sea Otter, and the Viking Fleet make regularly scheduled trips, and the open boat Lazybones makes half-day trips on a more relaxed schedule.
After Fishing Bar & Grill, Inc. 467 East Lake Drive, Montauk. (631) 668-6535
Crow’s Nest Restaurant - Montauk Highway, east of Town, (631) 668-2077
The Dock - Town Dock, Montauk. (631) 668-9778
Harvest on Fort Pond - 11 South Emery, (631) 668-5574
O’Murphy’s Pub Ltd. - on the Green, opposite the Tower, (631) 668-5005
Pizza Village - Corner of Embassy St. and Montauk Hwy, (631) 668-2232
Port Royal Restaurant - Navy Road, (631) 668-1064
Rick’s Crabby Cowboy Café - East Lake Drive, 668-3200
Sail Inn Restaurant - Westlake Dr. (631) 668-2800
Shagwong Restaurant - 774 Main St., (631) 668-3050
Wok N’ Roll - 716 Main St. (631) 668-6688
Gaviola’s Montauk Market - At Montauk Harbor. (631) 668-1031
Diamond Cove Marina - 364 West Lake Drive. (631) 668-2406
Gone Fishing Marina - 467 East Lake Drive, (631) 668-3232
Montauk Marine Basin - 426 West Lake Dr. (631) 668-5900
Montauk Yacht Club - 32 Star Island Rd., Montauk. 1-888-MYC-8668
Offshore Sports Marina - West Lake Drive, (631) 668-2406
Snug Harbor Marina - 3 Star Island Road, (631) 668-2860
Star Island Marina - Star Island Rd. (631) 668-5052