It’s the little things. But at Mavericks, the much-anticipated and thoroughly stunning new restaurant in Montauk, it’s all the little things. Everywhere. All at once.
There is painstaking detail in every element of this brand-new “steak place but not steak place,” as managing partner Vanessa Price dubs it with a mischievous half-smile. Some you notice straight away, like the original (really—it’s not a print) Andy Warhol “Cow” from 1966 that greets you after walking through the tall, modern glass front doors. Others may take a little time to find, like the round rice wafer perched atop the foamy head of their Sourpuss cocktail, embossed with the Mavericks logo — an “M” that resembles a bird in flight — amidst the colors of a summer sunset.
Some details are like Easter eggs, hidden in plain sight, like the grand and golden central light fixture, hanging like a constellation in the recessed ceiling. Its triple layered, angular sections and points of light purposely form the astrological configuration of Taurus the bull, demurely nodding to the protein at the solar-system center of partner and executive chef Jeremy Blutstein’s hyper-locally sourced menu.
When you talk to Price about Mavericks, her excitement is infectious; you want to go along for the ride all the way down the Napeague Stretch. And she deserves to have that giddy moment of new-restaurant joy. If you can pack a life’s work into five tumultuous years-in-the-making, Price’s path to restaurateur seems to have been lived in dog time. She and Blutstein like to joke, gallows humor-style, that when something goes wrong, they’ve been Mav’d, which seems to have gone on from the start: a pandemic, an overturned truck delivering the broad, storm-safe Marvin windows that now afford time-stopping views of the daily sunset on Fort Pond, the general, overall process and many surprises of revamping a hundred-plus year-old building and all the delays that came along with it.
None of it stopped them. It’s a testament not just to the tenacity of Price, Blutstein and their capable crew, but the unshakable, intense focus they had for the vision of Mavericks. From the building’s re-envisioned design to the dialed-in sourcing of South Fork ingredients; from the hand-hewn knives guests get to select when ordering special servings of Waygu beef to the gorgeous cocktails, curated by Blutstein’s mixologist wife, Jarhn, and put into action by head bartender, Demetri Sopkiw. It all adds up to the most ambitious eatery to come along out here in a long time. And for both Price and Blutstein, a bit of a homecoming, too.
Where it began
About seven years ago, Blutstein—then, already a big culinary draw for his well-earned 2012 James Beard nomination as executive chef for the West Village’s Tremont, and the stacks of accolades that would come to define his young career in restaurants from Manhattan to the East End — was working at Mavericks’ prior incarnation, the popular pan-Asian spot East by Northeast, or the E.N.E. as it was known by its regulars. He and Jarhn were living in the apartment upstairs from the restaurant, starting their life together and working way too much.
And Price? The stellar sommelier’s job in sales had her covering eastern Long Island for the wine importer-distributor Maison Marques and Domaine, who not only handled some of the most exciting bubbles around, but also the portfolio of Domaine Ott, the popular Provençal pink, especially ubiquitous in the Hamptons. The E.N.E. was one of her accounts—she even helped write their wine list. “That was my introduction to this space,” she says. “It was such an incredible location, but such an unfortunate building.”
When it went for sale in 2018, Price was ready to make a big career move, from restaurant adjacency to full-on conceptualizing and running one, and with the help of silent partners, the purchase was made. Price’s search for the right chef was serendipitously guided when, while dining at Gramercy Tavern one day, mutual friend and executive chef Michael Anthony told her unequivocally: Blutstein is your guy. It all began clicking.
But then came the hurdles: the process of getting permits; personal highs and lows — a marriage and a birth (Blutstein), a painful family death (Price), a global pandemic and the labor and supply shortages that came with it. And the sheer amount of work in getting the building where it needed to be.
The spot at 48 South Edgemere was not its original address. When it was built in the early part of the last century, the structure was over on Navy Road before being moved to its current spot in the 1920s. “I actually have a picture of this building being driven down Edgemere with a man on the roof, riding the building to its current location,” Price says.
Once there, it went through a multitude of incarnations over the years. When Price’s crew began to open up walls and ceilings, they found two sets of roof joints, revealing extensions and add-ons over the years. “We were opening up walls and finding windows inside them!” she laughs. “Jeremy likes to say you can’t put lipstick on a pig. We knew if were doing to do this, that we really had to do this. But as my architect put it, it was a dog of a building.”
But do it, they did. Nearly five years in the making, every square inch of Mavericks has been carefully considered and created or re-created. To get rid of the multitude of old posts that once dotted the dining room, a 30-by-four-by-four foot set of steel beams were dropped into the ceiling to bolster the structure and allow the room to gain the open airiness it now seems to so effortlessly provide. Damon List Design’s Liz Slutzky was enlisted to curate decisions like the humanely sourced leather of the steel-framed bar stools and divider slats, made to patina just-so over time and dining chairs with just the right degree of back-tilt with seat cushions that feel both sturdy and hang-out-all-night comfortable. The hand-stained floors, in a night-swim blue, were created using a Japanese technique that took nine months to get just right. The old, dwarfed windows were ditched to create an entire back wall water-view of Fort Pond, lined with massive custom-designed booths that beg for giant parties and magnums and a table packed with Blutstein’s re-imagined steakhouse fare.
Farm and sea, full circle
Price, a native of Louisville, KY, found her love of eastern Long Island’s beauty through wine, from the worldly cuvees and bottlings she grew to appreciate from her job and through studying for the Wine and Spirit Education Trust’s Diploma (“It’s like getting your masters in wine,” she says), as well as through the regional winemaking right here on Long Island, where she’s also managing partner for Ev&Em Vineyards, owned by the ABC News and SiriusXM correspondent, Dan Abrams.
For Blutstein, though, who was born in Manhattan but moved to the East End as a little kid, Mavericks is the full-circle culmination of a lifetime as part of the community that formed him and the friendships that grew from it.
“I’ve been heavily involved in the restaurant industry since I was 14 years old, out here on the East End and in New York City. I think the younger version of me really kind of pushed myself into [Manhattan], because that’s where I felt like I needed to cut my teeth,” he says. And he did, getting glowing reviews in the Wall Street Journal, Vogue and Travel & Leisure among many inky accolades. But the grind and the distance from the treasures he knew growing up in Amagansett and East Hampton tugged at his apron strings.
“Growing up out here, my best friend is Alex Balsam. He’s a farmer and I’m a chef, and we both kind of started just as kids playing catch in a field,” he says. “Now our lives are intertwined in so many different ways.”
There are also the relationships he built from working out here, like with his executive sous chef and pâtissier, Rémy Ertaud, who spearheaded the pastry program at the three-Michelin starred Le Pré Catelan in Paris, and also worked alongside Blutstein at Almond seven years ago when he was beginning his own career.
The culmination of his past and present is nothing short of a dream. It’s the trust and respect built upon years-long relationships; high school friends who now run their own commercial boats and bring Blutstein seafood in a rigor mortis state, straight from the sea. Farmer friends bringing him carrots that were in the ground just a half day prior.
“And, you know, that’s how it should be. The product coming to us is perfect,” he says. “To be frank, it’s our job not to fuck it up. Manipulation really isn’t needed.”
Which is the other thing, going back to that steak-but-also-not-steak concept.
“Everything we do is in service to that dichotomy. Ask yourself what is a steakhouse? It’s large format protein, a la carte sides, over-the-top raw bar, grand martinis, elegant wine. It’s the indulgence, right?” says Price. “That doesn’t mean that all of those large format proteins have to be Porterhouse. It could be a mushroom steak. It could be a bone-in tuna ribeye or swordfish sirloin. Those a la carte sides don’t have to be creamed spinach that’s more cream than spinach. You could also be super vegetable-forward.”
For Blutstein, that’s the real joy of helming and co-creating Mavericks. From the honey he gets from his neighbor in Springs to the knives he buys from Dereyk Patterson in East Hampton, to Marilee Foster’s sublime purple asparagus — with very, very little exception, the ingredients here are all being sourced from a drive-able distance, including the beef, which hails from four farm sources across New York State.
“It’s the level to which he knows his humans,” says Price. “These people are part of the food.”
Blutstein smiles at his partner in East End culinary rabelrousing. “The reality is, we’re trying to do something that requires a very large human element,” says Blutstein. “Restaurants, we’re organic, you know? Without people, we’re just a pretty space with food sitting in a cold box. It’s the people that bring it to life.”