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Hamptons Life

Aug 21, 2018 12:47 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Dining Out At L&W Market In Bridgehampton

Executive Chef Jason Weiner and Almond co-founder Eric Lemonides at the newly opened L&W Market in Bridgehampton.
Aug 23, 2018 7:28 AM

With nearly two decades on the local scene, Almond Restaurant in Bridgehampton has become a staple dining experience for the summer Hamptons crowd as well as full-timers, offering farm-to-table and family-friendly cuisine. And in June, the Almond team opened a sister marketplace next door called L&W Market, which brings the same principles to those on the go.

The market’s initials stand for the surnames of its owners, Eric Lemonides and Jason Weiner, the executive chef.

Mr. Lemonides, a restaurateur who has run top restaurants in San Francisco and New York City, said the “old school general store meets modern day market” was an effort to simplify the Hamptons dining scene.

“It seems like everything in the Hamptons is hard nowadays,” Mr. Lemonides said. “You get to where it goes into one lane and you sit in that one lane of traffic all the way to Montauk. And what should take 15 minutes takes an hour. You get to the beach and you are waiting again for a parking spot for 45 minutes because there are all of those people there. You go to a restaurant for dinner and there is a 15-minute wait on your reservation you planned three days ago. We want to get rid of all of those layers because I don’t want to wait on line anymore. What we are trying to do is give people an easy option.”

The South Fork was a weekend destination for the two childhood friends who grew up in Brooklyn. And just like when they opened Almond 17 years ago in its original

location down the highway, the duo wanted the market to have a home-style feel.

“We wanted this to be an un-Hamptons kind of spot: we’re welcoming, we don’t have an attitude, wear whatever you want, come with the kids or not, and have some serious food that has some whimsy to it,” Mr. Weiner said. “That is the niche we have created for ourselves.”

The restaurant moved to its current location on the corner of Ocean Road and Montauk Highway seven years ago. Many of its patrons often request to-go bags of their favorite sauces and condiments that are featured on the menu. After all, the oils, sauces and spices that make up Almond’s “stomach-lining street food” is what makes it so flavor packed, Mr. Weiner said.

For instance, every evening the restaurant has a large family crowd that chows down on the restaurant’s well-known burgers and cheese-smothered French fries served five different ways. The Fries Mansour—which are named after Almond’s former chef Andrew Mansour—is made with an apuave sauce and gruyere cheese. The Fries Maracz—which are named after Almond general manager Nick Maracz who “has a crazy propensity for hot foods”—is a classic take on cheese fries bombed out with pickled jalapeños. The Korean Fries have sesame seeds, radishes, kimchi and soy sauce. And all of these condiments are now sold in the market next door.

“It grew out of a demand that we didn’t feel like we were meeting in the restaurant and that we couldn’t meet without a market format,” he said.

And voila, L&W Market was born.

The aromas coming from the market are enough to pull passersby inside. On the left side are the packaged goods, including some pickled tomatillos and jalapeños and other fermentations, kimchi, hot sauces and fire cider, to name a few. Refrigerated units hold drinks and juices, as well as salads and bento boxes.“Sticky rice, mushrooms, chicken, pickled vegetables, avocado and sometimes a little bit of kimchi—it’s a meal stacked in a jar to go,” Mr. Weiner said.

A prepared foods section in the back features many of Almond’s roasted meats, whole chickens and vegetables.

“There is a lot of overlap in flavor profiles and ingredients that we use at the restaurant that we use here in the market,” Mr. Weiner added.

On the right side behind the counter there are coffees and pastries for the caffeine addict and sweet tooth, but a few other options, including kimchi egg and rice or crab cake with a poached egg, can offer a heartier breakfast. While Almond doesn’t serve lunch, sandwiches are served in the market—a few favorites of Mr. Lemonides are the bahn mi (ham, chicken liver pâté and pickled vegetables) and the salumi (prosciutto, soppressata, calabrian, pepper pureé, provolone, Alex’s arugula and balsamic).

The China Grill 1987 chicken salad—a throwback to the China Grill in Manhattan that opened in the mid-1980s and was one of Mr. Weiner’s first jobs as a cook—is the market’s hot item. It’s got six ingredients: grilled chicken, napa, sesame seeds, crunchy veggies, scallions, and secret marination. The “secret” is a fermented carrot dressing that’s also stocked on the shelves.

To fuel this farm-to-table experience at least half of the produce comes from just a mile away at several local farms: MariLee Foster’s Farm Stand and Pike Farms in Sagaponack, Open Minded Organics in Bridgehampton, Good Water Farms in East Hampton and Amber Waves Farm, Quail Hill Farms and Balsam Farms in Amagansett.

“There is a lot that is lost in translation when there is a middleman in the restaurant environment before it ends up on the customer’s plate. At this busy time of year, 90 percent of what we use comes from a max 10 miles away,” Mr. Weiner said.

Learning to run a market, while simultaneously running a restaurant, has had its challenges.

“There is a lot here you don’t think about in a restaurant,” Mr. Lemonides said.

Namely, keeping the shelves well stocked and having enough fresh food ready to go.

“In the beginning, it was like every half hour we ran out of chicken salad,” Mr. Lemonides added, “and Jason’s running back downstairs to whip up more while getting ready for the dinner service next door.”

While the aesthetic of the market is similar to Almond—with subway tile and warm reclaimed wood giving off a bonhomie vibe—there are stark differences in the way it’s run.

“The cool thing about a restaurant is it’s all compressed. You get to go to work at noon but you don’t open the doors till 5, serving dinner until 9:30. But owning a store, it’s five people, then six people, 10 people, five people, two people, six people—you don’t even realize how many people you are serving in a day and by the end of it the shelves are empty and you’re left wondering where everything went,” Mr. Lemonides said. “It’s a different vibe.”

At the end of the day, L&W Market is a stop for anyone in a pair of shorts, T-shirt and flip-flops who’s looking for a snack or a sandwich before going down to the beach.

“We are a neighborhood place,” Mr. Weiner said. “We do some serious food, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously.”

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