“What about Flagship?” Kevin offers.
“I’m pretty sure I saw something about that place on social media,” I reply. “It’s new, right?”
“What time should we make the reservation for? 8:00? 7:45?” Frank makes the call. I’m hungry, and Kevin has a movie to catch so, 7:45.
We enter the sleek revamp of the location formerly home to Dave’s Grill. Summer vibes reverberate from white walls and chairs, bouncing off the tropical themed wallpaper. It is airy and light.
I excuse myself to find the bathroom, first locating the kitchen, then redirected around the bar. “Morgan?” my voice caries excitement and surprise to run into an old co-worker, though Montauk is a tight-knit community so I really shouldn’t be surprised. She turns to hug me and a glass shatters. The tiki cocktail and apologies are all over the bar as a collective effort is made to clean the spill. A replacement is ordered without hesitation.
“And whatever this lady would like to drink,” she offers to me. “Are you ready to have the best cocktail of your life?” I politely decline as my drink is on the way to our table. But yes, I am always ready for the best cocktail of my life. The glimpse of hers before the break was bright and playfully adorned. My hopes are high.
Flagship is piloted by father-son Eric and Adam Miller, the same entrepreneurs that birthed Bar Kitchen and Bar in Springs. Suddenly, it all makes sense. Both locations evoke the vibrancy of salt-water air indoors. The water is in sight from Flagship’s patio. The sun sets and it grows dim.
“Have you met Jay?” Morgan says. No, I haven’t, though his ruddy features remind me of someone I once new. He seems instantly familiar with a handshake. His bar prowess is impressive, especially in a high-volume beach town.
The Booze Cleanse has practically been ordered for me by our table, knowing my preferences (carrot, ginger, coconut, lemon, tequila). Kevin opts for Open Arms (tequila, mezcal, passion fruit, hibiscus, habenero, lime). It would have been my other choice. Sips are swapped. Both are fruity without the syrupy sweetness that can be a cocktail’s downfall.
Frank returns to the table with a Garden Party (gin, cucumber, green pepper, lemon, lime). “Morgan bought this for me,” he explains why he now has a cocktail in addition to the bottle of Syrah he and Fill have ordered.
“It tastes like the Ronjo,” I allude to a cocktail on one of our menus, circa 2015.
“I’m sorry,” the waitress interrupts, “the light switch for out here is located over there,” she points to a booth inhabited by four older diners. “We are waiting for them to finish. They are on desert,” she implies our lighting will change soon. Perhaps due to a design flaw, or perhaps a flaw in the art of courteous intrusion, we continue to dine in very dim light. We really don’t mind as the first wave of food courses the table. Shrimp on a sugarcane skewer is sweet and plump. The smoked pork ribs are cooked perfectly – one for each of us.
Kevin and I order another round of cocktails. “I’ll have the Basic Beach,” he chuckles. “I’ll take the Camp Hero,” I add. Both are well balanced, but the Camp Hero commands all the attention – it is served with a light underneath, illuminating the pisco sour variation. “The lemon juice reacts with the other ingredients and it changes color,” the waitress explains as she pours the juice table-side. I sort of miss the color change, but am amused by the presentation of a camping light under my drink. It helps with the otherwise dim light, though every time I lift the drink for a sip I feel a little obnoxious.
We all fall silent as the first bites of the entrees hit our lips, a few mutters of satisfaction preface each of us praising how good our dish is. “These scallops are cooked perfectly,” Kevin says, “they are so sweet.” Tastes are swapped, plates passed to each other. Frank’s burger is juicy, Fill’s steak is temped masterfully.
The chef approaches our table with a dish of crisp soft shell crab, served with plums, cucumber, and scallion on bao buns. The buns soak up the juices of the crab as the flash-fried shell cracks with each bite. (I wager this is the best preparation of soft shell I’ve had, and oddly, the least messy to consume.) He praises Frank’s food at South Edison and we all return the accolades.
Our dinner closes with amaro, most of which is passed to me after Frank wrinkles his nose, “It’s like medicine.” The best medicine, I counter. Perhaps the entire experience is the medicine; we leave full, relaxed, and enormously happy.