90’s Vegan-style on Long Island’s East End
Like its name implies, Long Island is looong. Heading east from my starting point in Freeport, it’s almost 100 miles to Montauk Point (a.k.a. The End). With a year-round Hamptons local as my guide, I spent the day on this long stretch of road, searching for vegan eats but finding a stroll down memory lane… intersecting with an onslaught of beachside development homogenizing a once charming escape from the concrete jungle.
With weekend warriors still crawling slowly back west, most spots were crowded with undesirables… you know, affluent snobs, bad drivers and the like. It takes a charming farm stand to remember why you’re out there in the first place: the smell of local strawberries; the uneven, bulbous parts of an organic Heirloom tomato; fruit and vegetables without little stickers on a waxed coating.
An internet search for vegan eats on the East End was unfruitful. The few listings I had found had closed. One menu I did manage to peruse beforehand was Provisions in Sag Harbor, which seemed to have a bit for two vegans to work with. We stopped at the busy market and cafe hybrid for lunch and left a bit uninspired.
Despite the collection of seasonings and fixings available in the inefficient lay-out of the cafe, my food was quite bland. My tofu scramble wrap was seasoned with turmeric for color and nothing for taste. It was very 90’s vegan to me: healthful and animal-free, sure, but not exactly delicious. The sausage links, which counterperson claimed were vegan, were surely of the packaged variety. Lightlife sausage contain egg and profit ConAgra. Morningstar, which the sausage resemble the most, contain egg. My presumption: the sausage is likely not vegan. Ew.
My $17 wrap, sausage and packaged pie seemed to be a tremendous waste of money, like the $9 smoothie my friend purchased, until I tasted said packaged pie. The Hail Merry Miracle Tart in Persian Lime was ridiculously good! It was like a soft, smooth Larabar with a delicate texture and tongue-tingling taste. This raw treat’s ingredient list read like erotic literature to my ears.
Our next stop was Joni’s in Montauk, a charming sandwich, salad and smoothie stop for hungry surfer locals and newbie resort goers. Again, the menu was 90’s style vegetarian: bared bones basics and very reliant on dairy. But these menu holes were filled with personality and the unique energy of founder Joni.
We split the Thai Me Up!–marinated tofu with shredded veggies wrapped in rice paper with a side of peanut dipping sauce. They were cool and crisp, hitting the spot. I can do without all this plastic packaging however.
Naturally Good Foods and Cafe has been open in Montauk since 1985 and it is likely that their menu of food hasn’t changed since. The cafe offers more early vegetarian-ish options: rice and beans, vegetable wraps, cheese and tuna filled sandwiches. They do offer bagels with soy butter and jelly as well as the tofu scramble wrap that seems to be the veg-menu staple out East.
What is forefront on these Eastern Long Island menus is a focus on fresh vegetables, which surrounding farms supply them with, and not necessarily food craft (how pretentious that sounds!) or attention to taste. There is something to be said for a simple menu but not so much when other elements aren’t aligned (packaged foods added, fresh foods wrapped in packaged wraps, etc.)