Madison & Main
(631) 725-6246, Sag Harbor
Townies trump tourists at Madison & Main in Sag Harbor. No doubt this new American seafood tavern will see its share of both groups over the current season, but its focus is local. It’s a neighborhood restaurant that is robust rather than refined. It has appeal for the summer people, yet seeks a long-term relationship with its regulars.
The 1800s building that housed the late, lamented Paradise Café is now an informal, twelve month-a-year operation that nicely blends old and new. The traditional crystal chandeliers alternate with track lighting. One wall in the long, loud, narrow dining room is old brick, the other holds a line of mirrors and an underlit bar, populated by year-rounders who seem to know one another.
The working partners responsible for Madison & Main are two East End old hands. Michael Gluckman, at the front of the house, most recently ran the Beach House in East Hampton. Prior to that, he was involved with the Lodge, Bamboo and the Boathouse. Eric Miller, the chef, owns Food and Co. Catering and The Millers BBQ (both in East Hampton). His culinary skills were honed through service at the Long Wharf and Carol’s in Sag Harbor and a half dozen restaurants in the City . He has been joined for Madison & Main’s inaugural season (it opened April 23) by Keith Rennie, an experienced seafood chef who has worked at many Manhattan eating places, including Marseille and Mad Fish. So it was only appropriate that we targeted the catches of the day on the seafood-heavy menu.
But well before appetizers or entrées came wonderfully crusty bread from the Featherstone Bakery in the Bronx (with hummus, butter and olive oil). Among the starters sampled were three potato roll lobster sliders piled high with shucked lobster meat and greens ($16), mellow boneless braised Angus beef short ribs punctuated with crisp red onions ($14) and two jumbo lump crab cakes that thankfully lacked both lumps and filler. Instead they contained minced crab and rested on a platform of roasted corn, avocado and tomato salad ($15). The appetizer cleanup hitter is a powerful Peconic fisherman’s soup (think bouillabaisse). It’s packed with fish, shrimp, scallops and garlic toast enhanced by aioli and saffron ($12).
A thick, juicy, monster Prime Angus burger was the only non-seafood entrée ordered and this bacon-topped beauty with caramelized onions and Wisconsin cheddar accompanied by a log cabin arrangement of huge steak fries is well worth ordering ($16). So too are the two soft, substantial slabs of fork-tender roasted black sea bass surrounded by summer vegetable couscous and heirloom tomatoes ($28), though listed baby clams never materialized. The fresh Montauk tuna was roasted Sicilian style with eggplant, garlic, pine nuts and a Balsamic glaze ($29). A pricy (compared with menu entrées) special of tender soft shell crab came on a bed of everything from asparagus and radicchio to bits of hard boiled egg ($36).
All desserts go for $10. The flourless chocolate cake is fudgy enough for committed chocoholics, the housemade berry shortcake came with blueberry whipped cream instead of the promised blackberry and when I ordered the chocolate bread pudding I received chocolate pudding from the children’s menu instead.
All of which brings us to service at Madison & Main. It’s always pleasant, willing and concerned but rough around the edges. No one told us about the specials, wine ordered for consumption with our entrées came after they were served and the blueberry substitution and missing baby clams weren’t mentioned.
Photos by Tom Fitzgerlad / T.H.E. Fitzgerald Photography