Although it has recently been overrun by hipsters, Montauk still has the charm of a small surf town, and some of the best food on the East End. The culinary scene runs the gamut from fine dining to food trucks. This week Arts & Living went to sample a beer house and some fried chicken while checking out the surf and enjoying a frosty beverage on the beach.
Most Popular: Sauerbraten; $27
Signature: HAX’N; $34
Chef’s Favorite: Szegediner mit Jakobs Muscheln (small or large); $21 or $32
Last summer the popular East Village indoor beer garden Zum Schneider opened a location in Montauk. Now in its second year, the eatery is holding its ground as the only German game in town.
Chef Goesta Krings trained in Germany in the Black Forest area, where he learned to cook authentic German food, fine-dining style. After cooking in Manhattan for the past 13 years, he jumped at the chance to come to Montauk and make the beach community his home.
“The air!” Mr. Krings said while laughing. “It’s relaxing here, my brain can relax, you slow down here after a while.”
Zum Schneider is not a pop-up, he said, adding that he is looking to develop a clientele and to fill a niche for German foodies and beer lovers who previously didn’t have a beer garden to patronize.
“We are doing all right, can’t complain, we are building up our clientele, both locals and tourists,” the chef said in his German accent.
The menu is straight-up classic German food. And the mostly German beer menu is generous—there are 12 on tap, five are standards and the rest change seasonally. The offerings are similar to the Zum Schneider in the city except there is more seafood at the Montauk location.
The fan favorite is a German classic, sauerbraten—marinated beef is braised in wine sauce and served with serviettenknödel (a traditional Bavarian bread dumpling) and house salad. Germans usually eat sauerbraten only once in a while, but Mr. Krings said Americans are crazy about it. Traditionally, it is braised with just wine, but at Zum Schneider, Mr. Krings adds beer to his broth as well.
“I said ‘let’s try putting beer in this.’ It was good so I said, ‘okay,’” the chef laughed while explaining his simple yet effective experimentation process.
HAX’N is the restaurant’s signature dish. It is run as a special every weekend and almost always sells out. For this dish, pork shank is braised for seven hours, then served with a dark beer gravy, potato dumplings and a side of cabbage.
“We run it all weekend and actually it is my favorite, I eat it in the city too, it’s really nice. I love that dish,” Mr. Krings said.
Officially, the chef’s favorite dish is the Szegediner mit Jakobs Muscheln. For this item, local scallops are sautéed and served over creamy potatoes and sauerkraut. The dish is traditionally made with meat, but this is Mr. Krings’s seafood spin on the dish, and he picks the scallops up daily from the docks. True to the seaside spirit of Montauk, he runs a fish-of-the-day special, which he also picks up from the docks when he makes his scallop run.
Also not to be missed is the Grosse Wurstplatte, a giant plate sampling all of the different sausages and weiners, served with sauerkraut and traditional German potato salad. The sausages and weiners come from the famous Upper East Side-based German butcher, Schaller & Weber.
As for the ambience, the indoor beer garden has huge windows that open up and allow the sea breeze to come in, soccer games are on television, and there is live music Thursday through Sunday.
“What a lot of people say when they come is that it’s totally different than anywhere else. We have such a variety of food and beer, we are family-friendly, people spend time here, they usually come for a beer and stay for a few hours,” Mr. Krings said.
Zum Schneider is located at 4 S. Elmwood Ave. It is open from 5 p.m. to midnight Monday through Friday; from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Saturdays; and from 11 a.m. to midnight on Sundays. For more information, visit zumschneider.com/MTK or call 238-5963.
Lucky J’s Chicken and Waffles
Most Popular: The Brady; $8
Signature: 2×2; $9
Chef’s Favorite: Serpent and the Rainbow; $9
Jason Umlas grew up in Brooklyn and summered in Montauk where his parents have a house. He then moved to Los Angeles where he was first introduced to “real” fried chicken and waffles, he said.
Then he went to Austin, Texas, where he started a Lucky J’s food truck—a business that eventually grew into multiple trucks and a bricks-and-mortar restaurant. His Texas business was successful, but making money wasn’t the reason for expanding to Montauk, he said. Instead, Mr. Umlas describes it as a “quality-of-life move.”
“It’s going well so far, I haven’t had a lot of expectations,” he said. “I love it out here.”
The birds served at Lucky J’s come from different Amish farms, he reported. The chickens are naturally raised, hormone-free and antibiotic-free. All parts of the chicken are used, and they are broken down in-house. The birds are floured in a blend with 17 different herbs and spices and everything is cooked to order.
“If you order a chicken, it takes a while because we cook everything to order. You won’t find a pile of fried chicken sitting under a heat lamp all day,” Mr. Umlas said.
The most popular dish at Lucky J’s is The Brady. It’s like a bacon waffle taco, smothered with melted swiss, honey and hot sauce, with a fried chicken tender on top.
The signature dish at Lucky J’s is the 2×2—two pieces of fried chicken over two waffles.
“The bone-in fried chicken is what we hang our hat on,” Mr. Umlas said. “We serve all pieces of fried chicken. Other places just do the breast and wings. Its not as easy as it looks using the whole chicken.”
Mr. Umlas’s favorite dish is the Serpent and the Rainbow, which is a piece of jerk chicken served with a sweet-and-spicy jerk slaw over a pineapple waffle. The chef reduces rum and fruit juice to a syrup and makes a vinaigrette out of it from scratch to toss the jicama slaw in.
“We make everything from scratch. We aren’t emptying packets into pots—everything is fresh here,” the chef reported.
Lucky J’s is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which also makes it an industry hot-spot late at night.
“I’ve befriended a lot of chefs and industry people out here; this is something with the service industry in mind also,” Mr. Umlas said. “If you get off at 3 a.m. you can come here and get real food.”
Lucky J’s Chicken and Waffles is located at 440 West Lake Drive. For more information, visit luckyjs.com or call 668-8555.