If you’ve been hanging around Montauk for long enough (or even for a decent season or two), you’ve probably run into George Watson, the curmudgeon-in-chief of one of The End’s preferred eateries/drinkeries: The Dock. Situated on the backside of the Gosman’s fish market, the wooden tavern is adorned with all sorts of ephemera, from flippant photographs to old political paraphernalia to all manner of taxidermy.
In 1973, Watson, a former New York City firefighter, was presented the rare opportunity to buy the then-Fitzgerald’s Bar & Grill. Over four decades later, Watson still mans the place himself, and has made The Dock reputable not for the food (although that’s also noteworthy) but, rather, for a certain temperament it exudes. Guests are greeted by a “list,” reemphasized on the restaurant’s website in bold and all caps, 11 faux pas that will deem you, dear diner, Dock-sona non grata: No checks, no yapping mutts, no sensitive drunks, no screaming kids, no cell phones, no strollers, no public restrooms, no requests, no dirt bags, no whining, no wimps or chickenhawks.
If you’re wondering how these rules are enforced, Watson himself is the in-house taskmaster, wielding a louder-than-life bullhorn, which he happily blasts at any offending diner. Rest assured, this is not the restaurant for the easily offended. George Watson’s motto, emblazoned in his website’s biography, proclaims, “At The Dock, we feel that, in order for a joke to be funny, it must be told at someone’s expense. We tell ethnic, sexist and racial jokes — everyone gets their turn in the barrel.”
Food is fresh and reliable and rotating daily specials almost always feature fish caught from the water out the window. A “tuna melt” is really an entire fresh tuna steak, locally caught, crosshatched with the necessary grill marks and served atop an English muffin. You’ll find clams, soft shell crab and mussels on the menu, too, along with landlubbers’ hot dogs, burgers and nachos.
Truth be told, The Dock, which lies outside of Montauk’s tourist-centric downtown, is a not-so-secret, dearly held local’s secret. Open from mid-March through mid-November, the restaurant commands a steady clientele of year-rounders in search of the Montauk That Time Forgot. You’ll go for the kitsch and old Montauk feel, stay for the tavern coziness, and no doubt return for the classic comfort food, served right, bullhorn notwithstanding.