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What: Montauk’s strategic eastern position in the Atlantic, at the crossroads of several currents and close to diverse offshore fishing grounds, makes it first and foremost a fishing town—commercially and for sport, with a number of world records in effect. Summer and fall are the prime fishing seasons for many species: Inshore, common catches include striped bass, fluke (summer flounder), porgies, and bluefish; offshore, there’s tuna (yellowfin, albacore, bluefin, big eye), shark (mako, thresher), mahi-mahi, cod, tilefish, and more.
Note: We encourage you to check the Connecticut-based Blue Ocean Institute seafood guide for current information about regional fish species, including population level and health warnings. As of summer 2011, Atlantic bluefin tuna and mako shark should be avoided due to overfishing.
Where: At The Clam & Chowder House at Salivar's Dock (formerly known as the West Lake Clam & Chowder House) (631-668-6252; 470 Westlake Dr., map), you’re likely to see a tuna gutted or a fluke filleted on the docks right outside. On the menu, Montauk-caught striped bass, fluke, and yellowfin tuna often join the local shellfish that’s also on offer.
When: Wed-Mon for breakfast, 5:30am-10:30am; daily for lunch & dinner, noon-4pm, 5pm-10pm
Order: During our visit, we enjoyed the generously portioned broiled fish sandwich ($13), fresh fluke sautéed with garlic and scallion and served on a toasted roll with lettuce, tomato, and onion alongside homemade fries. Since moving locations, the restaurant’s menu has shifted a bit; you will still find the delicious soft-shell crab sandwich and fried fish, but there is more of a focus now on sushi and sashimi preparations. It’s a great opportunity to try the local catch raw (and in fancy rolls, too)—tuna, fluke, striped bass, and more.
Good to know: The restaurant doesn’t take reservations; on summer weekends your best bet for avoiding a wait is to come at an off-peak hour. Also, on busy nights they often stop taking names by 8:30pm, so plan ahead.
Alternatively: On the northeast shores of Lake Montauk, Fishbar on the Lake (467 East Lake Dr., map), run by the son of a commercial fisherman and a chef with a Chopped appearance under her belt, places a high premium on serving fresh local fish and seafood straight off the docks. Look for fresh tilefish, monkfish, bluefish, scallops, clams, lobster, and more to be given the gourmet treatment. In addition, Inlet Seafood (541 East Lake Dr., map) right down the road, owned by six local commercial fishermen, prepares fresh fish (and sushi) straight off the boats. A more recent visit to Montauk took us to the pretty, poolside Backyard Restaurant at Solé East (90 Second House Rd., map); despite the swanky hotel surrounds, we were impressed by the sheer amount of locally sourced foods, including lots of fish, that were on offer, deliciously prepared. Also, the cocktails are great.
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