By Kevin Koenig
This is The End
For food, surf, fishing, and a dash of glamour, you (literally) can’t look any farther than Montauk, Long Island.
Hold out your left arm and make a peace sign with your fingers. Imagine your elbow is Manhattan. Now look all the way down the length of your forearm—or for our purposes, Long Island—to the tip of your middle finger. That’s Montauk, aptly nicknamed The End. It can be rough coming from the south, or take Long Island Sound and come through Plum Gut and Gardiner’s Bay, but it’s got such a unique combination of offshore adventure and onshore culture that it’s definitely worth the effort.
If you’re headed there by boat snag a slip at Star Island Yacht Club and Marina, where rates start at $5/foot and go up. Star Island is a fishing port made famous by the late Capt. Frank Mundus, a legendary old salt who is alleged to have been the inspiration for the character Quint in a low-budget, indie film you may have heard of: Jaws. Indeed, a life-size replica of Mundus’s most famous catch, a 3,427-pound great white, hangs above the docks. You’re not allowed to catch great whites anymore, but pretty much everything else, from cod to stripers to mako to giant bluefin are fair game and in some cases abundant in the surrounding waters.
If your interests lie more on dry ground, you’re in luck. Particularly if you’re hungry. One of the best meals I’ve ever eaten was at a local restaurant called South Edison, which is near the town center. Two words: octopus tacos. Sounds gross, tastes great. The after-dinner doughnuts were pretty incredible too, and I don’t even like sweets. The vibe is casually elegant, or perhaps more accurately, elegantly casual, and entrees will run you about $30 a pop.
Another restaurant that’s a must is Ruschmeyer’s, an unapologetically hip—but still welcoming—restaurant that feels like it was lifted from a Wes Anderson flick. The ambiance there is unbeatable, particularly at the picnic tables out back. The first time I went there I was sitting at the bar with my wife and the drummer from the Red Hot Chili Peppers sidled up shoulder to shoulder with me and ordered a drink. Being the drummer for a big-time rock band has always seemed like the perfect amount of famous to me. The right people know about you, but you’re not going to be mauled by paparazzi every time you step outside. That’s actually an apt metaphor for Montauk itself, which, while far from a secret, is nowhere near as over-the-top as its ball-till-you-fall neighbor, the Hamptons.
As for other activities, they are myriad. You could bike to the lighthouse or check out the shops on Main Street. Heck, you could even go horseback riding on the beach. But if it’s up to me, before we head for the next port, I’m hitting up Ditch Plains, arguably the most famous surfing beach on the East Coast. The waves can jack up to double overhead and larger during a storm swell, but the break is usually slow, gentle, and good for novices. Another plus, a bunch of outfits offer surfing lessons during the high season. It’s the perfect spot to paddle out and float. Just try not to think too much about that giant shark hanging back at the marina.