After a late night swordfishing, Rob Devlin, the owner of the Clam & Chowder House at West Lake Marina in Montauk, crunched some numbers and pored over receipts in his cramped, harborfront office on Friday afternoon.
It was business as usual—but with a dash more excitement.
His popular seafood restaurant, which has occupied its spot right on the docks since 1998—and whose origins in the area date back 30 years, when his wife, Eileen, started it up with a business partner—is preparing to move to a bigger space, the building that formerly housed the landmark Salivar’s restaurant, also on the docks, less than a mile up West Lake Drive.
Mr. Devlin’s friend, Brian Obergfell, bought the old Salivar’s spot with his wife, Jo-Ann, two years ago, and now construction is under way to shape it into what Mr. Devlin said will be called the Clam & Chowder House at Salivar’s Dock.
The iconic (and grandfathered-in) red neon Salivar’s signs will light up the new restaurant inside and out, while the well-known head of a great white shark—caught by sport fisherman Frank Mundus, who was said to be the inspiration for the charter captain in “Jaws”—and other familiar fish heads will resurface, too. The marine mounts are in storage while construction is going on.
Mr. Devlin, on a brief tour through his restaurant now and his restaurant-to-be, said he hopes to have construction complete by Thanksgiving, move in by the beginning of 2014 and open in April. He had originally aimed to open in time for the St. Patrick’s Day parade, when the hamlet begins to wake from its winter slumber, but that proved a bit early, he said.
The last meal to be served at the current spot will be on Saturday, October 26. The new tenant of the current Chowder House has not yet been finalized, he said.
Seating will jump to approximately 135 in the new spot, from 42 now, Mr. Devlin said. The Clam & Chowder House at Salivar’s Docks will keep its 28 full- and part-time employees, and the menu may see some new items, as a result of having a bigger kitchen.
The main reason for the move is the extra space, and, sure enough, the white-haired restaurateur lights up like the neon Salivar’s sign when he talks about the benefits of more kitchen space.
“A lot more stoves, fryers. Everything here. Open concept. You can actually see. You’re not boxed in,” he beamed as he stepped into his future kitchen, pointing out where the prep tables, dishwashing areas, salad area, pick-up windows, sushi bar and bar taps will be. “It’s a big, big difference here.”
If all goes as planned, the upstairs of the new restaurant will feature a bed-and-breakfast, he explained happily as he strode through the bare wooden framing on his way to the rooftop viewing deck.
No railings were in place yet. “They were supposed to be here yesterday,” Mr. Devlin observed. Nevertheless, the freshly laid roof deck offered a panoramic view of the harbor, with the U.S. Coast Guard Station Montauk across the way.
Once open, the restaurant will serve cocktails up there, Mr. Devlin said.
Down below, meanwhile, a 20-foot bar is in the works. A boccie court may be set up out front. An outdoor fish-cutting station will be in full view, as restaurant-goers love to see swordfish and yellowfin and albacore tuna and fluke being prepped, he said.
“They love watching me cut fish,” he said. “People say, ‘Oh my God, we won’t be able to watch you cut fish anymore.’” He assures them, however, that his fillet station will be there and that they will be able to continue posing for photos with the fish.
“It’s just gorgeous,” Mr. Devlin said of the new space, joking that his commute will now be upped from about 1.3 miles to 1.8, post-move. “We’re just trying to keep it as simple as possible. We’re not doing what everyone else is doing in town. We’re just going to stay who we are.”