Winning Grub: Clam and Chowder House at Salivar’s Dock

clam and chowder house deckThe view from the deck at the Clam and Chowder House in Montauk.

Two beloved Montauk institutions have reopened as one and Montaukers in the know are again picking up their forks and digging into some of the best grub on the East End. The West Lake Clam and Chowder House has moved into the old Salivar’s overlooking the Montauk Harbor entrance and docks. Word is spreading that the food is definitely worth what may be a wait. But owners Rob and Eileen Devlin have created a new roof-top upper deck filled with couches and chairs where you can watch the activity of the harbor below and boats passing by while sipping wine or a drink and ordering from the raw bar.

Downstairs beyond the bar, you still can watch Rob Devlin filet some of the catch, perhaps a yellow tail tuna or wahoo, just trundled in from one of the nine fishing vessels that supply C & C. You can also dig into excellent sushi with some hot sake, or for breakfast grab a two by two by two (eggs, pancakes and bacon) and serious coffee.

The new Salivar’s has been sleeked, not tarted, up, an important distinction for old customers,. Gone is the former fishermen-boots, rain-slicker, laid-back lazy ambience of both eateries and 3 a.m. gatherings of chefs and drinkers. The head of the 4,500-pound great white shark still dominates the ceiling in the still noisy bar. It was caught by the late Montauk sports fisherman Frank Mundus, who claimed he was the model for Quint in the movie Jaws.

Keep an eye out for specials that are long-time favorites of regulars. Lunch menu items include blackened tuna or blackened swordfish bits, tuna pizza, ceviche, panko-crusted scallops and an outstanding corn and lobster chowder. Almost all items on the regular menu are simple and notable including the fried fish and chips, usually fluke and flounder, and soft-shell crab sandwiches.

The crunchy home-made chips are outstanding. Sliced from big baking potatoes, then brined before frying, the chips have been a restaurant staple for the 17 years since it opened; the kitchen currently is going through 150 to 200 pounds of potatoes a day. Fish is the ticket for most customers, but Devlin confessed the other day that after working day after day with a non-stop stream of fish arriving from the boats, he absolutely craves the restaurant’s char-broiled cheeseburgers. There’s usually key lime pie and a brownie sundae among the made-in-house desserts.

Kicking off its first year by the docks the Clam and Chowder House is trying out a revolving series of special offerings. They just launched “pajama brunches” from noon to 3: 30 p.m. on Sundays which include a free mimosa or bloody mary if you show up in p.j.s. Almost anything counts. There’s one $20 bottle of decent wine offered every evening, drawing praise from Laura Donnelly of The East Hampton Star who wrote that the rare place can no longer be anyone’s little secret.  “It’s too good.”

On Monday evenings the upper deck offers sunsets and, from 6 to 9 p.m., the music of the local high school group Supply Side, which plays at the water’s edge below. Other nights music drifts in from Swallow East next door.

The Clam and Chowder House at Salivar’s Dock,  470 West Lake Drive, Montauk, 11954. Phone 631.668.6252. Breakfast is served from 5:30 to 10:30 a.m every morning except Wednesdays;,  lunch daily from 12:30 to 4 p.m. and dinner every evening from 5 to 10 p.m.  It’s worth phoning ahead to check out specials.