The Highway Diner and Bar opened in Wainscott on November 11 in the space on Montauk Highway where Rugosa used to be. Classic diner fare with “some twists” like tuna tartare, skate and braised beef tacos, spinning stools at a fountain counter, a new bar, blonde wood floors, white walls, lots of glass and light.
“You just feel like you’re in a real cheerful ... sunny environment,” said David Kuperschmid, who owns the restaurant with Gunnar Myers. They spent about four months renovating the space before opening. “The first thing people say when they walk through the door is, ‘Wow, such a cheerful place!’” Mr. Kuperschmid said.
“That’s the idea we were trying to create, a place that was very welcoming to all,” he said. “We want everyone to feel comfortable. It’s reflected in our prices, in the quality of our food.”
The executive chef is Robert Gurvich, who worked at Alison at the Maidstone Arms in East Hampton and in New York City. “He’s a top-tier chef,” said Mr. Kuperschmid, whose own background is in the children’s video distribution business. Mr. Myers has been in the restaurant business for 30 years as an owner and operator; he used to own Napeague Stretch, among other establishments. Mr. Myers and Mr. Kuperschmid are friends, the latter said, having played softball for many years with the Maidstoners.
The menu, which stays the same all day, lists everything from fairly typical breakfasts to sandwiches such as a warm turkey club with avocado, a three-cheese grilled number, a fried oyster po’ boy and a basic Reuben or BLT. There are six kinds of salads, including shrimp salad remoulade, caesar and roasted beet and goat cheese; soups from clam chowder to chicken andouille gumbo with steamed rice; as well as starters like lettuce chicken wraps; plates of roast chicken, linguine with clams and shrimp, and grilled salmon; sides of spinach, fries, mac-and-cheese and quinoa; and desserts from cheesecake to sweet potato pecan pie and a banana split.
A junior menu includes a chicken and cheese quesadilla, raw veggies with ranch dip, silver dollar pancakes and an organic hot dog served with a choice of fries or vegetables, among other choices.
As befits a place with a soda fountain, there are ice cream floats, milk shakes, egg creams and sundaes, as well as bottled and fountain sodas, juices made to order, teas from chai to Earl Grey, and health-conscious smoothies. The diner serves almond milk as well as cow’s milk and has several varieties of coffee. There’s also a full bar where the cucumber martini was reported by one customer to be “very good.”
The “highway burger” costs $12 and comes with fries, salads and soups start at $6, and plates range from a $16 meatloaf with mashed potatoes and sauteed spinach or veggies with quinoa to a $27 rib eye accompanied by house-cut french fries.
“It’s a restaurant that we’ve developed for locals,” Mr. Kuperschmid said, adding that he’d been gratified to see Long Island Power Authority workers on loan from Oklahoma, who might otherwise feel like “fish out of water” in a Hamptons restaurant, enjoying themselves at the diner. “It made me really feel good that these guys felt comfortable in our joint,” he said.
Mr. Kuperschmid reported about 100 people at the opening on November 11. “We had a nice bar crowd, a nice mix of families and seniors and everyone in between, [including] a couple of people on dates,” he said.
The Highway Diner and Bar is open daily from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., with the kitchen closing down at about 10 p.m.