THIS WEEK: MIDDAY MEALS

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Fresh Burrata and basil with red ripe tomatoes; alfresco dining at Silver’s; Garrett Wellins is Silver’s third-generation chef/owner.

silver lining
THE AMERICAN DREAM IS THRIVING AT SILVER’S, A SOUTHAMPTON MAINSTAY SINCE 1923.
BY MATTHEW WEXLER PHOTOGRAPHY BY ERIC STRIFFLER

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here was a time when you could buy an authentic Cuban cigar at Silver’s, now one of Southampton’s most nostalgic and notable restaurants. Years later you might find military fatigues, British woolens, or electronics. Today, you’re more apt to indulge in that East End classic, a lobster roll (with 21st-century prices), and a glass of rosé. Manning the kitchen (and the front of house and everywhere in between) is Garrett Wellins, third-generation owner of the quaint bistro that sits idyllically tucked away on Main Street’s south end. Wellins, a good-humored multitasker who could start a side career as a double for Garry Shandling, has been in the business since he was 8 years old. With a smirk, he says his dad told him, “Come to work or I’ll kill you.” He’s been there ever since. While Wellins started by

“Silver’s was a modest menu, but my dad was eager to survive and looking to create something more unique.”

doing small chores like stocking candy and magazines, his role evolved as Silver’s continued to reinvent itself through the years. The restaurant’s well-polished history dates back to 1923, when Wellins’s great-aunt and her husband established themselves in Southampton as tailors for Bergdorf Goodman. They encouraged his grandparents, who had been operating a not-so-successful cigar store in New Jersey, to move the operation to the East End. Silver’s Cigar Store was incorporated and flourished for the next 40 years as the local smoke shop, at one point carrying more than 500 international newspaper and magazine titles. Upon entering the restaurant, the original humidor still stands proud, but it is also a reminder that the American Dream can continued on page 66 GARRETT WELLINS

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ABOVE:

The lobster roll at Silver's is served with a mound of tail meat atop an Eli Zabar brioche bun. BELOW: The lemon tart is a favorite sweet treat at Silver's.

SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE
You might think that Silver’s vintage 1911 NCR cash register is an heirloom dating back to the store’s original inception. Not so. Wellins bought the antique several years back, thinking it would add a touch of nostalgia to the restaurant. The maximum the till can ring up is $69.95, which should be enough to keep the price of that lobster roll in check.

continued from page 64 sometimes have a rude awakening. The lethal combination of the New York City newspaper strike (1962), the New York City transit strike (1966), and the relocation of the local post office caused what Wellins refers to as a “mercantile vacuum” on Main Street, and his father was forced to rethink the business model or close up shop. He spent his last $5,000 to purchase a secondhand soda fountain and Silver’s was—once again—reborn. “It was a modest menu, my dad had no formal training,” recalls Wellins, “but he was eager to survive and looking to create something unique.” The historic building, which dates back more than 100 years, reveals black and white linoleum floors, a bar made from a thick slab of marble, finely polished brass fixtures, and cream-colored walls that hold not Norman Rockwells, but original paintings by Wellins’s mother, Bess Silver. Trained as a dancer, Wellins’s mom “always had some kind of art thing going,” he says. “She was a draftsman during World War II and eventually studied at the Corcoran College of Art & Design in Washington, DC.” The paintings of dancers and nearby estates (which can be purchased for the right price) add another layer of local flavor to the restaurant, but it is the fresh, European-inspired menu that keeps customers coming back. “I did most of the grunt work when we went into the food business,” says Wellins of his culinary training. “I worked with a

lot of good chefs and did some catering. I got interested in French pâtisserie. The menu evolved simply, but we put a European spin on it. My family is of Russian heritage, so we have borscht on the menu. When we arrived in Southampton we were some of the few ‘Red Sea’ pedestrians” (a reference from Monty Python’s Life of Brian). The menu relies on fresh, simply prepared ingredients, and the price point doesn’t shy away from the fact that Silver’s uses only the best. Carb-free diners beware: an irresistible chunk of warm, toasty bread will arrive, drenched in fruity olive oil and spiked with garlic and fresh parsley. You will not be able to resist it and with good cause. It’s the perfect accompaniment to creamy Burrata, basil, and tomato. This alone could be lunch, but then you’d be missing out on the restaurant’s signature seafood dishes. The lobster roll may carry a hefty price tag, but the heaping mound of tail meat on an Eli Zabar brioche bun ($40), lightly dressed with mayonnaise and chopped continued on page 68
Silver's menu has evolved from modest beginnings to more sophisticated lunch offerings.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY TK; ILLUSTRATION BY TK

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continued from page 66 celery, is worth its weight. The crabmeat cakes are baked instead of fried and served with a Thai chili aioli and organic greens. Wellins sources his seafood from The Braun Seafood Company, which has been purveying fresh catches since 1928. The rest of the menu pays homage to European influences with dishes such as a “French Picnic” of savory country pâté, Brie, and accoutrements; roasted duck leg confit; and salade d’ anjou, served with English Stilton and French walnut oil. Open only for lunch (Wellins says he served dinner for 13 years and that was enough), Silver’s can be a tough table to land during high season. Weather permitting, head straight through the main dining room for the back patio, where you can dine alfresco under the shade of an enormous canopied umbrella. “We’ve had the same customers for more than 40 years—some famous and some not so famous,” says Wellins, who is tight-lipped when it comes to naming names. “They were young adults who now have grandchildren. I take things seriously, and they trust me to do the right thing.” While you may see his own children—Ryan, Patrick, and Mollie—working a lunch shift, Wellins isn’t convinced that Silver’s will remain a family legacy. “I hope it doesn’t come to the point where somebody comes in and [finds me] face down in a bowl of borscht.” 15 Main St., Southampton, 283-6443; silversrestaurant.com H

CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE:

Loews Chairman Jonathan Tisch weighs in on his favorite lunch bites like pizza from Sam's Bar & Restaurant, lobster roll at Bostwick's Chowder House, and the burger at Rowdy Hall.

The artwork in the restaurant is by owner Garrett Wellins's mother, Bess Silver.

power lunch at the beach
LOEWS HOTELS & RESORTS’ CHAIRMAN AND ULTIMATE AUTHORITY ON LUXURY HOSPITALITY JONATHAN TISCH TELLS US THE TOP TABLES HE BOOKS FOR A MIDDAY MEAL.

Bostwick’s Chowder House
If you are in the mood for fresh, local seafood, but don’t want to head further east than Amagansett, Bostwick’s has all of your favorites, including lobster, steamers, and many types of local fish. The lobster roll is outstanding, and for lighter fare, try the Caesar salad with grilled shrimp. 277 Pantigo Road, East Hampton, 3241111; bostwickschowderhouse.com

the restaurant's salads, sandwiches, and pizzas are just as good. 281 Abraham’s Path, East Hampton, 324-7007; ehgc.com

Fairway Restaurant at Poxabogue Golf Center
Danny, the owner, is always there with a smile and a menu—not that you need it. The chicken salad in pita is outstanding, or if you can handle the calories, go for the tuna melt. This place is a Hamptons classic. 3556 Montauk Hwy., Wainscott, 521-7100 continued on page 70

East Hampton Golf Club
Find a friend who is a member to take you. The clubhouse is magnificent, and

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY ERIC STRIFFLER (BOSTWICK'S CHOWDER HOUSE, ROWDY HALL)