Tacos or burritos? Lobster roll and lemonade?
Of three new eateries in Montauk this summer, two—La Brisa de Tacombi and Red Hook Lobster Pound—first got rolling with food trucks in other parts. The third, Gringos Burrito Grill, is owned by a local couple who earned their chops working for years in Montauk restaurants.
Gringos opened at the end of April on Main Street in the space formerly occupied by East End Ice Cafe. At the helm are Nicole Meehan, who waitresssed and hostessed at the Harvest and her husband, Matthew Meehan, who bartends at The Point. Ms. Meehan said she and her husband “talked about doing this type of place” for several years and were lucky to find the space, which has tables on an upper level as well as in a garden area in the back.
The main attraction is the take-out counter, behind and above which hangs a huge sign explaining the deal: you create your own dish, starting with a base of burrito, burrito bowl, soft tacos, crispy tacos or salad. Customers then pick their “protein,” which could be chicken, steak, pork or vegetarian ingredients. “Add-ins” include brown and yellow rice, black beans and queso. There are four varieties of salsa as well as extras like guacamole or queso dip and chips, and a taco-based kid’s meal.
Everything is cooked fresh daily, Ms. Meehan said. There’s no table service, although you can serve yourself. Gringos is open for lunch and dinner, with meals in the range of $8 to $9.
La Brisa de Tacombi opened May 23 on Main Street and the Plaza where La Bodega was last year. The idea here is authentic Mexican food, according to Dario Wolos, who founded Tacombi in 2006 in his native Mexico, starting out with Volkswagen buses that sold tacos at the beaches in Playa del Carmen. One bus was placed inside a SoHo warehouse-turned-restaurant, Tacombi, that opened in 2010. La Brisa de Tacombi in Montauk has its own menu based more on what fish is available.
“Our goal is really to share what we think is beautiful in Mexico,” Mr. Wolos said. “The culinary tradition of Mexico, I think, is widely misunderstood.” Burritos and Margaritas, for example, are not really part of the culture, but tacos most certainly are. Mr. Wolos said they’re served streetside to everyone from laborers to the wealthiest bankers “like a hot dog at a baseball stand, even though it’s humble.”
Tacos start at about $5 to $6 at La Brisa, which recommends three per person, ideally in a mix-and-match for the group, who can sit indoors or outdoors and be waited on, although take-out is also available. Ceviche, marisco especial, seared or crispy fish tacos and breakfast tacos with eggs and home-made chorizo are some offerings. The restaurant has watermelon-mint juice, hibiscus cold tea and horchata, a rice and cinnamon drink. There are piña coladas and mezcal, a tequila-related spirit shared at the table that’s traditionally sipped before and after a meal, Mr. Wolos said. There’s no bar: “It just doesn’t go with a traditional taqueria in Mexico,” he said.
The restaurant sells Lupita fruit-flavored sodas and its own Vista Hermosa salsas and tortilla chips. The tortillas, which are gluten-free, are made from scratch using a real-deal machine tended by the chef, Louis Aguilar. “It’s like keeping a classic car running,” said Mr. Wolos, who hopes to keep the business open—he’s signed a 15-year lease—during the winter selling tortillas to supermarkets and connecting local fish suppliers to restaurants in New York City. Red Hook Lobster Pound opened shortly before Memorial Day on South Etna Avenue in a space shared with Sweet ‘Tauk Lemonade. Shortly after that weekend, Keri Seidel, the manager at the Lobster Pound, explained that its owners, Susan Povich and Ralph Gorham, had several friends in common with Deborah Aiza, the owner of Sweet ‘Tauk, and that that’s how they came to hook up. Fittingly, the Montauk store’s logo is a lobster brandishing a lemon in its claw.
“It’s going great,” Ms. Seidel said. “People have been really receptive and responsive.”
The Lobster Pound makes three different styles of lobster rolls, which sell for $18 and come on a toasted bun: Maine (chilled with homemade mayonnaise), Connecticut (warm with lemon and butter) and Tuscan (tossed in a basil vinaigrette). It also serves a shrimp roll and a Berkshire pork and bacon hot dog “that everyone seems to love,” Ms. Seidel said. They come with a bag of North Fork potato chips and a Brooklyn Brine pickle. Red Hook Lobster Pound also serves soup, and Sweet ‘Tauk sells about eight flavors of lemonades and ice pops, as well as Joe and Liza’s ice cream from Sag Harbor.
Red Hook Lobster Pound has a store in Red Hook, Brooklyn, that sells live lobsters from Maine. Its mobile food trucks, or “lobster shacks on wheels” cruise New York City and Washington, D.C., also serving hungry people at the Brooklyn Flea Market and the Smorgasburg in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
In Montauk, Red Hook Lobster Pound and Sweet ‘Tauk, although take-out affairs, do have a few picnic tables out front. Inside, a mural by the Montauk artist Peter Spacek adorns the Sweet ‘Tauk side of the store.