I have always loved a good steak. With red meat practically enemy number one to the health-conscious younger generation, I am proud to say I am a meat eater. I can easily recall my best steak adventures in the Hamptons. After all, a well-prepared fine quality steak is not just a meal, it is an experience. Many times, it can be a costly experience, but in life some of the best things we experience are things we may have thought were very pricey at the time. My credo has always been I don’t mind paying good money for a great meal, I just deplore paying lots of money for a really bad one. Luckily out east there are plenty of great choices for great meals.
When I worked in Manhattan the big deal was going out to Brooklyn and having a Peter Luger porterhouse for two. Luger’s has always been a Wall Street boys club place. The waiters are all business and reservations were tough to get but the steak is always awesome.
Closer to my then (2000-2003) NYC 83rd Street and 2nd Ave. apartment was Smith & Wollensky Grill on 49th and 3rd Ave. I used to sit at the bar and eat their famed “Grill Sirloin,” and watch Giants football on Sundays. It was like family at that bar for the Sunday football games. For my first decade living full-time in the Hamptons (pre-my wife Cindi), Bobby Van’s was where I watched the World Series, Super Bowls, and all the triple crown horse races. When solo I would be sipping a quality red wine and sampling their 14 oz. filet mignon. By the way, their string-like onion rings are the best I have ever had.
Years ago, the Blue Parrot used have a Rico Martinez special “Cowboy Steak.” Sadly, it’s been off their menu for over a decade. There will always be a debate on where to get the best porterhouse in the Hamptons. I would say it comes down to Bobby Van’s in Bridgehampton, The Palm in East Hampton, Harvest in Montauk or Shippy’s in Southampton. The truth is you can’t go wrong at any of those venues.
So, you can’t have a porterhouse without excellent sides, whether it be creamed spinach, hash browns, or waffle fries. Usually, each steakhouse has its own sauce. To this day I keep a fresh bottle of chilled Peter Luger sauce in my refrigerator. Although more often than not I like to really just put on freshly ground black peppercorns from a grinder. I have a fine grinder at home and use it especially when I grill a steak in the backyard.
But to be at a place like Shippy’s and have the steak still sizzling as they prop up the plate on napkins and then cut the steak for you was living large. The story of Shippy’s is part of east end folklore. In 1956 William “Shippy” Casgrain, a bartender at the famous Toots Shor Saloon in New York City, came to Southampton to purchase the “Hill Restaurant” and make a go of it on his own. The nickname Shippy was due to Mr. Casgrain’s service in the Merchant Marines. Shippy’s is currently temporarily closed, so call ahead before you go.
Bobby Van’s also has a nice story. In 1969, Bobby Van, then a Broadway actor and noted cabaret piano player, came out east to Bridgehampton with his wife from New York City and founded Bobby Van’s. It originally was located in the space that was World Pie and is now home to Dopo il Ponte. I was told on summer nights noted writers and artists like Truman Capote sipped beverages while Bobby played the piano until no one was left standing. The restaurant was moved in 1979 when the landlord renovated the building across the street where it is still to this day.
For a handful of years, I did restaurant reviews for the now defunct “Montauk Pioneer.” A favorite place to review in Montauk was “The Harvest.” It is still perhaps my favorite restaurant on the whole east end because of their generous servings of most of my favorite entrées. Sampling a porterhouse for two there presented by owner, Jon Erb, was a highlight of my time with the Pioneer. Reviewing Harvest bi-annually was one of the better assignments.
Afterward Mr. Erb had his staff actually prepare about five entrées and pizza so I could write about them all from personal experience. I left with five large white paper bags filled entrées! For a few days afterwards it was quality leftovers being enjoyed at the Ditch Plains trailer I was then living in.
Hopefully I have conjured up some pleasant memories of some wonderful steak dinners you have enjoyed somewhere on the east end.