Amid a Lemony Year, Sag Harbor Makes Lemonade

Patrons dining outside Sen Japanese restaurant in Sag Harbor.

When 2020 is but a distant memory, we may one day tell our grandchildren how we were inundated with a new vernacular. I’ll be the first to tell my much younger relatives about how I never need to hear the term “social distancing” again, and oh, one other word, which I never used much in daily parlance: Pivot, which once reminded me of basketball, will now forever remind me of a strategic reimagining of one’s business. 

But the truth is, it was pivot or sink—and in Sag Harbor, where restaurant life once kept a village afloat, a pivot (say it, shout it, love it) has allowed a town to turn a humid season filled with energy-filled visitors into a lively opportunity to stay safe while still enjoying the passage of time. Local business owners have been careful, and here, on the other side of the summer that no one was sure would ever happen, the lemons are gone, but the lemonade persists. 

It may come as no surprise that the American Hotel has prevailed in times of trouble. The spectacular historic fixture opened in 1846, even before the Spanish flu; pandemics, they have survived. With a slight patio overlooking the street, you can still enjoy a distanced look at Main Street’s bustle, a reminder of less lemony days. 

Day and night, the joined Sylvester and Sag Pizza parking lot is frequented by hungry Main Street.

Superlative pies are available up the street at Sag Pizza for both dinner and lunch, with smaller 12-inch pies supplemented by family-style 18-inch pies (including one dedicated to the space’s former iteration: Conca d’Oro, a pie made with sausage, bell pepper, onion, oregano, and caciocavallo). In the cavernous space, where precautions are the name of the game, one might feel a minute’s reprieve from the past six months. Pizza helps. 

K Pasa takes full advantage of Sag Harbor’s prime location—and of its position on the bay. From this windowed paradise, you can eat tacos, enjoy margaritas, and watch the slip of blue water from nearly every corner of the restaurant. The restaurant has added an online ordering platform for pickup, in order to provide tacos (and queso and cheeseburger empanadas and rice bowls and more) to those who feel the need for wide-open spaces. Reservations are also available online, in order to help with strict adherence to social distancing.  

Lulu in Sag Harbor draws a nightly crowd.

You can also get the fried pickles, at LT Burger, to go, but I prefer to eat them from a bistro table outside, in the fresh fall air, overlooking the passersby. Sag Harbor is still Sag Harbor, and these pickles have not changed, nor will they ever, I hope. Should you forgo the pickles in favor of a burger—or even one of Laurent Tourondel’s “Rated R Shakes,” never fear: you won’t be making a bad choice, either. 

Fried pickles are an excellent anytime snack—or an appetizer, leading into an entrée of rigatoni, with veal, beef, spicy sausage, peas, and just a touch of cream, the way they serve it just a few doors down at Tutto il Giorno. Take yours anywhere you like: the online platform is open for business. 

At KPASA, a customer enjoys his margarita while waiting for his to-go tacos.

But if, at the end of the day, you prefer to cook at home, Sag Harbor has that option, too. Provisions, a natural food market and café that has been operational for over three decades, now offers both curbside pickup and home delivery (with a $100 minimum). Click. Shop. Cook. In some ways, it feels too good to be true. The store offers everything from butcher items to grains to coffee to prepared foods to personal care items and will deliver as far to the east as Amagansett.