By Emily J. Weitz
There was no urgency about David Loewenberg’s decision to open up a new restaurant, his fifth, in Noyac. It kind of just happened organically. But given his knack for successful restaurant endeavors — including The Beacon in Sag Harbor, redbar and Little Red in Southampton, and Fresno in East Hampton — when Loewenberg opens a new spot, foodies across the region pay attention.
When he and longtime business partner Sam McLelland saw the old Oasis location was open, they worked out a deal with the landlords that worked for everyone. Now the plans for Anchor are underway and the opening date is loosely set for the end of May.
“We have been looking for more of a year round space,” Loewenberg says. “Being a seasonal restaurant, The Beacon has some difficulty sometimes… We wanted to have a year round space that the The Beacon can lean on.”
The “difficulty” with The Beacon has never been about the popularity, the reviews, or the quality of the food or service. If you’ve ever gone to The Beacon during the high season, you know that it’s quite the contrary. But maintaining the level of familiarity among employees and the commitment among chefs is more difficult when you can’t offer them something to get through the winter.
“A lot of our cooks who have been with us repeatedly, year after year, are starting to want to settle down,” says Loewenberg. “We pride ourselves on the fact that we work with the same people year after year, and now we can offer a couple of key year round positions to help with continuity.”
Of course, Anchor isn’t expected to be anybody’s side show. Nestled in a marina at a bend in Noyac Road, it can be a destination all its own.
“If we’re successful,” says Loewenberg, “it will feel like an old seafood house without being rickety. It will feel clean but not sharp. It will be convenient and comfortable for intimate groups and larger parties.”
He points out that some of his other restaurants don’t cater to larger groups quite so much, as The Beacon doesn’t accept reservations, and the size of the kitchen limits the number of people the restaurant can accommodate. But this place will be ideal for large groups.
“When people think of lobster, they think of tables for ten,” says Loewenberg. “The size of the kitchen will allow for that.” The dining room, which overlooks the boats, “Will be stunning,” says Loewenberg. “My wife Sarah is a designer, and she’s done all the restaurants. This will feel like an old European oyster house.”
Loewenberg met McLelland, executive chef at The Beacon and now at Anchor, when he first moved to the East End 20 years ago.
“We both worked at Nick and Toni’s,” says Loewenberg, “and then when I had 95 School Street [his first restaurant] he was the sous chef… I was the best man at his wedding. We were looking for the right project.”
The project at Anchor is full scale, as they refurbish the dining room and completely renovate the kitchen. But Loewenberg believes these will allow McLelland to shine.
“This kitchen will be one of the largest that Sam has ever worked in,” he says. “As delicious as The Beacon is, we have a lot of limitations because of the size of the space. It’s exciting to know we can grow this way and I think The Beacon will benefit in many ways.”
Loewenberg is quick to note his unfailing affection for the Sag Harbor hotspot.
“I will still, after 14 years, walk up the stairs of The Beacon, and there is nothing like it. To be right on the water like that. I don’t think they will compete with each other. There’s a different energy.”
Some of the favorite dishes from The Beacon will be available out of McLelland’s new kitchen as well.
“You can still count on a great chicken, steak, or pork belly,” Loewenberg says. “The idea is to open serving dinner, and to create a great feel at the bar. Come in and grab something as simple as a dozen oysters or a lobster roll. We’ll have a tap system featuring local beers and vineyards like Channing Daughters and Paumanok.”
After reopening his seasonal restaurants year after year, there’s a familiarity in starting something new, and Loewenberg exudes confidence.
“As happens out here, you can’t always dictate when things happen,” he said. “We have the great support of our family and our staff. This was a very organic move for us.”