Remember summer vacations? You know, the ones where from June through September you slept in, maybe went to summer camp and ate ice cream every day. This whole two weeks vacation reality of the real world just doesn’t have the same appeal. Though not every day can be a vacation, every meal at sister restaurants CowFish and Rumba feels like a getaway. Rumba’s Caribbean decor, CowFish’s Adirondack chairs made for sipping a Homewrecker by the water and the RumBarge boat that shuttles guests back and forth between the two have turned dinner in Hampton Bays into a welcome respite from everyday life. Pulse caught up with Dave Hersh, who started Rumba with wife Rachel in 2009, to talk favorite dishes, bringing the Caribbean to the Hamptons and the duo’s latest venture, Rhum.
Long Island Pulse: What makes a night at CowFish and Rumba so special?
Dave Hersh: When people come to us it’s not just for a meal or dinner, it’s for a true restaurant experience. Rumba has a feeling of a tropical vacation and CowFish is a relaxed seafood and steakhouse. We strive for perfection in our product and people at both places. We only use great ingredients and only serve something that we feel is the best version in town. We also have great views being on the water.
Pulse: You’ve lived in New Orleans and Florida and traveled to the Caribbean. How did all of those experiences inspire CowFish + Rumba?
Hersh: Both restaurants have influences from all our world travels. Whenever we find an amazing ingredient or dish we go to the drawing board. After several dinner parties and recreations we end up with the best version of what inspired us. This is how Rumba’s key lime pie, crab cake salad, jerk chicken tacos and soy and sugar cane salmon and Cowfish’s NOLA shrimp and North Fork salad came about. We also have several chefs that also add their influence on the menu, which allows our restaurants to tap into their culinary life experiences and creativity as well.
Pulse: What’s your favorite dish on your menu and why should we love it too? How about cocktail?
Hersh: At Rumba. I love our mampie mahi. This Cajun grilled mahi topped with fried shrimp and a creole rum reduction sauce is sure to ignite your taste buds. NOLA shrimp is my go-to at CowFish. The sauce for this dish takes around eight hours to make and it’s truly a one-of-a-kind signature.
Pulse: You’re opening a new restaurant in Patchogue, Rhum. What can people expect?
Hersh: People can expect the same great food, service and vibes from Rumba in Hampton Bays. There will be high quality food served by friendly people in a relaxed environment. Some of our food choices will be Ahi Tuna Poke, grilled artichokes, duck empanadas, a variety of tacos and Rumba’s signature Dominican Ribs. We will also have a variety of Rum libations made with fresh squeezed juices.
Pulse: Speaking of service, your employees seem to love working there. You’ve been known as one of the “Best Restaurant to Work” at on Eastern Long Island. What makes being a CowFish and Rumba employee so special?
Hersh: We feel that if the employee experience is great, then it will have a direct positive impact on the guest experience. We offer paid health insurance to all full-time employees. We offer vacation reimbursement expense for our managers because we want them to travel to new places every year and get renewal. We do weekly fitness, yoga and paddle boarding where all employees are welcome to participate and get in great physical shape. We have an extensive training program for all positions, including a 90-page employee handbook that gives our employees the tools to be successful at their job.
Pulse: On a rare day off, what’s your perfect day out East look like?
Hersh: In the summer I love spending the day at the beach with my beautiful wife and kids or traveling the North Fork farms and vineyards. Come winter, I like to go snowboarding with the family and then retire in front of a fire with a noble Cabernet.