“We like to go out to eat,” says Barona Bay managing partner Dana McCall, “but in the summer, it’s hard to get in at so many restaurants, especially the ones on the water. We wanted to create a place with the same great food you can get on, say, Dune Road, but where locals could have a great place to always go.”
This is the heart of Barona Bay, a brand new modern American eatery in Hampton Bays created by McCall and chef/owner Romeo Auer. And since they opened on March 10th, it looks like they’ve got a winning recipe.
It’s no surprise that the food and the vibe are a hit. For nearly a decade, Vienna-native Auer was the executive chef for the renowned Hamptons and Manhattan catering outfit, Elegant Affairs. But after all that time creating singular special events, owning a brick-and-mortar spot started to sound like a nice idea.
McCall’s dear friends, Sal and Nina Biundo, wanted to sell their restaurant, Salvatore’s in order to concentrate on their other nearby spot, Centro Trattoria. Auer jumped at the opportunity, but after all his years in catering, running a singular restaurant was a new challenge. The Biundos recommended McCall, a Jane-of-many-trades, who can whip financials into shape as well as she can whip a meringue. A partnership and a restaurant were born.
The name itself is riff on the town in the Dominican Republic where Auer’s wife is from, Barahona. “We were sitting around one day trying to come up with a name,” says McCall. “This was both a name that meant something to Romeo and also was a play on the word ‘bar’. It also doesn’t necessarily sound like a name you can pinpoint to a certain cuisine.”
Indeed, the eclectic menu is a delicious amalgam of global flavors and textures. “We didn’t want to pigeon hole ourselves to certain food,” she says. “We wanted it to be any dish we want to make!” That shows up in starters like the tapas board with Manchego, chorizo and red pepper hummus; skillet Thai wings with crushed peanuts, scallions and Thai sesame sauce; and McCall’s fave, the truffle chips with blue cheese fondue (“I think about them all the time!” she laughs).
Entrees move into waves of surf, turf and pasta options, like seared, caramelized sea scallops over a bacon-leek risotto with a creamy white wine beurre blanc sauce, a generous heritage bone-in pork chop lacquered in rosemary dijon, or for more casual nights, a bevy of personal-size pizzas (think everything from classic margherita to brisket and crispy onion drizzled in barbecue sauce) and burgers.
She and Auer are also trying to make Barona Bay an easy night out for local moms and dads. “We do live music from 5 p.m. to 7 or 8 p.m. for the parents who want to go out but want to be in bed by 10 p.m.!” she says.
Barona Bay is located at 149 West Montauk Hwy., Hampton Bays, 631-856-4054, and is open Wednesday and Thursday 4 to 9 p.m., Friday 4 to 10 p.m., Saturday brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner until 10 p.m., and Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner until 9 p.m..