With all the chatter around the “New Montauk” and the “Old Montauk,” many restaurants and pop-ups have come and gone each season. A Montauk mainstay for over a decade, is it any wonder that The Backyard Restaurant at Solé East remains one of the few to strike the balance of both?
Is there a magic formula to the tranquil atmosphere in the middle of buzzing Montauk? An intuitive cultivation of a space that blends both lounge seating set to a St. Bart’s-esque soundtrack with families and flip-flops (or bare feet if you take a dip in the tiki touch lit pool)?
On our Sunday night visit we would say absolutely. The atmosphere of Backyard is crafted like French fashion, meticulous and put together while looking casual and effortless. This is the dream backyard of summer, clusters of chaise lounge chairs, white lights, candles, friends, families, children and couples, enjoying seasonal cuisine outdoors under the stars. Few other venues can pull off the easy, sophisticated vibe we felt at The Backyard.
Antonio, the manager that evening and José our server were pros on hosting us, guiding us through the menu, tasting wine and warmly enhancing our overall experience. Our neighbors were couples on dates, families grilling marshmallows in fire pits and friends enjoying an early Sunday evening meal before heading back into Manhattan.
The cuisine competes with the atmosphere for The Backyard’s finest feature. The menu is a treasure chest of light yet decadent small plates, with a handful of robust main courses that remain summery yet hearty. Baby artichokes, a crisp tapenade crostini, and perfectly blistered heirloom tomatoes cushion the homemade Burrata imported from Italy. The classic Fritto Misto di Mare of battered fried scallops, squid, shrimp and zucchini was an authentic as it was indulgent. The small plates are so plentiful and varied we delighted in the difficult task of deliberating over the menu. We will return for the Beet Salad of candied walnuts, pumpernickel croutons and goat cheese crumbles, along with the Mediterranean Plate of Spicy Eggplant, Fava Bean Hummus and Grilled Pita Bread.
And of the main courses to linger over? The grilled Wahoo served over couscous, corn and a vibrant saffron sauce brought visions of the Caribbean, and the Cavatelli Pasta for the Italian cuisine delegates at the table was pampered with lobster meat, plump oyster mushrooms, tarragon and shrimp. Simply grilled main courses included the Wild Tuna, Bone-in New York Strip Steak and Diver Scallops. Any of the creamy polenta, summer squash and Broccoli Rabe with Garlic Confit sides would be an ideal accoutrement to an already polished meal.
We were drawn to the Tiramisu with Espresso cream, but the Flourless Chocolate Cake along with the Berries and Lemon Cream with Vanilla Tuille and Blueberry Compote were in the sweet-tooth running. The Backyard’s wine list is concise and diverse, featuring Sparkling Wine and Champagne, French and Local Rosé’s and Reds and Whites from Italy, France, New Zealand, California and Long Island. The cocktails are breezy and sophisticated, like the Roses are Red with Hibiscus infused with Rosé Sangria, Limoncello, Chambord, Cointreau and a splash of soda, and the Montauk Mule of Finlandia Vodka, Ginger Beer, Lemon and Mint.
Having dined at The Backyard over ten years prior, the consistency, attentiveness to detail and passion for cuisine has not waivered. For a few hours that evening, we were transported away from the hustle of downtown Montauk, into the tranquil Backyard oasis sipping wine and nibbling on treats in an enchanted setting. Marshmallows may be included.