The Mast-Head: Montauk’s Sure Changed

I felt as if we had been sent on a mission from another planet

It was a missed opportunity. On Sunday night my friends and I spent our time waiting for a table at Salivar’s in Montauk and watching a crowd at an outdoor reggae show. Would that I had had the sense to take a photo with my phone. It might have made the front cover.

The band was at one end of a deck with its members’ backs to Salivar’s dock. Maybe 200 young people were jammed together in front of them, some dancing, others shouting to one another over the music. The lead singer, a wiry guy in a green T-shirt, climbed onto a railing and leaped toward the crowd. When the set ended, a woman in a flouncy black dress made a beeline to talk to him.

Nearer to us, four women in their 20s played corn hole. My dear friend Michael, a man of great decorum, said that he found it difficult to separate the name of the game from another connotation of the phrase. Play consists of two or more people tossing beanbags at a, uh, hole in a piece of plywood. John, the other friend with us that night, explained that the game was popular with millennials. I felt as if we had been sent on a mission from another planet. Then the buzzer we were given went off, and we were seated. I ordered sushi.

Back in the old days, before its current incarnation as the successor to the Westlake Clam and Chowder House, Salivar’s was a more down-home kind of place. Tap water was served in chunky, brown-glass glasses, and there was shrimp, but no sushi. Breakfast used to be served at some crazy-early hour to cater to fishermen headed out for the day; now, by the cut of their jibs, the crowd are renters and hotel guests.

On weekends at the old Salivar’s during the lunch rush, a female clown made rounds of the tables, alternately entertaining or frightening the children. Now there are three bars, including one on the roof, where from time to time yoga classes, of all things, take place.

Yeah, Montauk sure has changed. About a week ago, a photo taken in the hamlet’s 7-Eleven circulated online showing a man from behind browsing in one of the aisles naked but for a pair of boat shoes. No explanation was provided. Speculation was aplenty.

The naked boater was not among the crowd on Sunday, but had he been, I don’t think anyone would have been the least bit surprised.