Something for everyone.
Many people thought the site of the new Highway Diner and Bar on Route 27 in Wainscott was a jinxed location, but not Gunnar Myers, David Kuperschmid and Seth Grossman.
“There is no such thing as a jinxed location,” said Kuperschmid, “We laughed at that.”
The locals must be laughing, too, because they’ve packed the upscale diner since the day it opened, several months ago, and that makes the new partners very happy.
Myers has been in the restaurant and nightclub business for over 20 years in New York City (Tenth Street Lounge, Automatic Slims) and East Hampton (Napeague Stretch), where he grew up. Myers and Kuperschmid, a producer of children’s videos from Bellmore, played softball together at Maidstone Park in Springs for years.
One day, at the playground with their kids, the two got to talking about restaurants and lamented the fact that there was no reasonably priced, fun place to bring their kids and still get a great steak.
“I always thought a diner was the perfect type of restaurant for out here because it caters to everyone, regardless of their circumstances, from laborers to billionaires,” said Kuperschmid. “That’s my favorite sight,” he said, pointing to a kid with a vanilla milkshake.
Perhaps part of the past problems had to do with the light. Previously, the space had been dark and somewhat gloomy, but now the sun streams into large windows, making the space bright and cheerful.
While in the construction phase, Seth Grossman liked what he saw when he peered through the big front windows. Grossman was looking to get involved in a food-oriented business on the East End. He had worked for a company that owned Wendy’s franchises but made the move out East from the city to grow his own organic heirloom tomatoes. He became the third partner.
Rounding out the team, chef Robert Gurvich, formerly of Alison by the Beach in Wainscott and Bridgehampton and Alison Eighteen in New York City, is happy to be back East and working closer to his son.
The family-friendly interior is filled with larger-than-average, custom-made tables. The original floors were sanded down to a lighter color, and there are two distinct dining areas. White booths run along the wall, and a soda fountain is modernized using powder-coated steel and a Caesarstone countertop with periwinkle-blue swivel stools. The fountain serves egg creams, smoothies, floats and shakes, with green drinks coming this summer.
Around the corner, a bar made of quarter-sawn oak uses the original top from the 1940s, uncovered during renovations. Grown-up cocktails include Route 27 Lemonade, the Highway Manhattan and Georgica Sunset. Long Island Vodka is served alongside beer from Fire Island and Narragansett and Hudson Valley whiskey. The Hudson glass bottles are recycled as table vases, adorned with greens from Grossman’s mother’s garden.
If you’ve spent too much time tasting the libations and wake up at two o’clock the next afternoon, no worries. Highway Diner and Bar serves breakfast all day. “We elevated the egg sandwich to something more creative,” said Kuperschmid, “instead of a kaiser roll, we serve it on a pretzel croissant.”
Diner food revolves around comfort food, so it’s no surprise that the Reuben sandwich (house corned beef on griddled rye with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing) and the roast chicken in its own jus and mushroom-gravy meatloaf, both served with mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach, are best sellers.
Crab cakes with remoulade sauce, chicken andouille gumbo and fried oyster po’ boys reflect chef Gurvich’s hometown of New Orleans. Specials are where the chef can express his background in fine dining, such as local sea bass, clams, mussels and shrimp in broth.
True to the broad appeal concept, three braised beef tacos with avocado, sweet onion, sour cream lime sauce and cilantro are offered for $11 while a prime New York strip tops out the menu at $34.
“We’re in this for the long haul,” said Kuperschmid, eyeing a carrot muffin with buttercream frosting. “We look at this place as an asset to the community, where everyone is welcome.”
“I’d love to have my kids work here,” he said, “There’s no better place for a kid to learn about the world than in a restaurant.”
One of the best experiences so far for the new owner was when workers from Oklahoma came in every night to eat dinner after a long day repairing damage from Superstorm Sandy.
“They said it was the best steak they ever had,” said Kuperschmid. “It made me feel very proud.”
Kelly Ann Smith lives in Springs between Gardiner’s Bay and Accabonac Harbor and has been writing about Bonac culture for 17 years.