Low-Key in High Summer at Crow’s Nest Restaurant

Crow's Nest Restaurant doesn't have a website, but it does still exist.

Until well into June when you dialed 631-668-2077, there wasn’t a hint whether the Crow’s Nest Restaurant, taken over last year by Sean MacPherson, was even open for dinner, let alone at what hour or when.  It was a low-key entry in the Hampton’s high-season restaurant sweepstakes, a near under-cover treatment that is the MO of one of the highest-profile creators of hot hotels, bars and restaurants in Manhattan and Los Angeles.

Yet those in the know understand it’s now a contender for must-try-Montauk-foodie-haunt in an increasingly crowded field that includes restaurants like Navy Beach, Sole East,  South Edison and The Surf Lodge. The Lodge’s owners, including Rob McKinley, also bought Second House Tavern, and the adjacent 19-room motel, and restored its name to Ruschmeyers, one of the restaurants making weekly headlines in local papers about the overflow crowds  it is reeling in from the city.

The Crow’s Nest, serving a menu that keeps the place packed through word of mouth, may not be launched under a new name by MacPherson until next year. His attention seemingly has been diverted.  In late Spring, MacPherson opened Il Covo, formerly the popular Orso Restaurant, in Los Angeles to a rhapsodic review over its decor, food and MacPherson’s talent by David Dixon in the Huffington Post.  Il Covo opened quietly. “My guess is that he’s confident that the tortoise beats the hare when creating what has the potential to become an institution in a town where so many flame out after thunderous openings,” wrote Dixon.

On Memorial Day weekend MacPherson wed Rachelle Hruska, co-founder and editor-in-chief of GuestofaGuest.com.  The rehearsal dinner was at Jennifer Meadow’s Fishbar on the Lake, up Lake Montauk from the Crow’s Nest. (Hruska’s business partner is Cameron Winklevoss of social media’s Facebook dispute.) GuestofaGuest has been called a “social blueprint” to alert the young to who is showing up where and why. For example, a GuestofaGuest review of Montauk’s South Edison’s opening last summer  said, “we enthusiastically give this one five stars, two thumbs up, a ten out of ten…well, you get the point, this place is good……we left no plate unlicked.”

The Crow’s Nest is tucked above a sloping lawn at the south end of Lake Montauk, where from the covered dining porch on a recent evening a dramatic thunderstorm sent whitecaps racing down the lake.  There’s hardly a remain of the “tired old fish shack” that the Huffington Post’s Dixon called it, since the place has already been extensively renovated.  Diners waiting for tables can sit outside for drinks in chairs circling a fire pit. There are hints of the tone to come, such as a rack of all white bicycles for inn guests to pedal to the ocean beach ten minutes away by two-wheels.

Against a backdrop of lighting bolts striking the lake, a series of local and dayboat seafood, and veggies picked that morning, arrived along with local wines setting one table to uttering superlatives.  There was a crispy, local skate over a bed of oranges and black olives, a chiffonade of kale tossed with slivers of baby fennel, roasted baby beets, scallops, organic chicken kabobs spiced with harissa and mint. But the dreamy homemade pappardella in a lemon sauce won every fork that tasted it, as did Chef Jeff Schwartz’s signature olive oil cake.

The Crow’s Nest is open 5:30 to 11:30: 7 days a week in August. It does not take reservations. Many East Enders are rooting that the Crow’s Nest will stay open longer than last year when it closed the day before Labor Day. On the other hand, you can’t get more low key than that.

4 Old West Lake Drive, Montauk, 631-668-2077, crowsnestmtk.com