For more than 50 years, Herb McCarthy’s Bowden Square served as a hub in Southampton Village for good food, good drinks and good times.Founded by Mr. McCarthy and first opened on Memorial Day in 1936, the restaurant hosted many different patrons over the years, including famous faces like Babe Ruth, Hedy Lamarr, Ginger Rogers, Gary Cooper, Henry Ford, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. As described in the book “The Lost Hamptons,” Mr. McCarthy’s establishment was “Southampton’s ‘liveliest bodega’” and “the ‘in’ spot for many generations.”
Now, about 20 years after the restaurant closed its doors, patrons and friends of Mr. McCarthy still remember the lively, one-of-a-kind restaurateur, who died of a stroke in 1990 at the age of 79.
“He had a great sense of humor, and he certainly knew how to draw a crowd,” said Southampton resident Ann Frankenbach, who was a family friend of Mr. McCarthy. “He was quite the character.”
Bill Hattrick, a member of the Southampton Village Board, recalled with laughter one particular moment that he said exemplifies Mr. McCarthy’s impact on the community, as well as his sarcastic relationships with friends.
During a special retirement ceremony for Mr. McCarthy in 1986—which was held at the restaurant on Bowden Square, now home to the Southampton Publick House—one person stood up and, jokingly, stated, “Herb McCarthy will never die. In order for you to die, you have to have a heart.”
“Herb was kind of an outrageous person,” Mr. Hattrick said with a laugh. “He loved to say outrageous things, which was part of his charm. He was always telling you about some horse that he bet on that he would win.”
He also was known for his impeccable memory. Mike Ferran, who once owned Barrister’s Restaurant just down the road from McCarthy’s, said it took only one interaction for the longtime restaurant owner to remember him the next time they crossed paths. “Two years later, I bumped into him, and he said, ‘Hey, Mike, how’re you doing?’ He was famous for that.”
Even though they were competitors for about 10 years, Mr. Ferran commended Mr. McCarthy for a long, successful and noteworthy run with a restaurant that was—and still is, albeit in a different incarnation—a local favorite. “He had all the rich and famous back in the day in the Southampton. He was well-liked and very respected,” he said.