Candy Kitchen: Hamptons icon
The beloved diner—where Logan Roy allegedly promised Kendall the succession—has been serving modest grub to its elite clientele for close to a century.
Bridgehampton, New York was originally settled in 1656 and remained an agrarian society for the next few hundred years. It has since evolved into a high society enclave of the super wealthy and well-connected, with a median home price of $3.4 million and a cost-of-living index four times the national average.
Yet, anchoring the corner of the hamlet’s 1,000-feet long village since 1925 sits a highly visible neon sign announcing a legendary luncheonette named the Candy Kitchen. Iconic. Renowned. Mainstay.
Whichever description you prefer, this beloved 1950s throwback diner seems an anomaly in a town whose denizens—especially the “summer people”—are often tycoons, impresarios, fat cats, and assorted bold name bros and celebrities.
The landmark itself doesn’t appear to have changed much in the last 97 years. This is no retro-modern re-do. It’s legit old. No profits have been poured back into remodeling, no art adorns the walls; it’s simply swivel stools, Formica countertops, a tile floor and cellulose ceiling that all scream last century. And therein lies its charm.
Self-described as “ice cream parlor and eatery,” the candy in the restaurant’s name is misleading. Candy offerings are sparse and generic, although the ice cream and pies are homemade.
As for the food, it too remains unfussy. It’s where the affluent locals eschew their eggs Benedict and Bellinis in exchange for eggs scrambled and chocolate shakes. The chicken salad contains neither tarragon nor curry. Unseasoned, unadorned, unremarkable and blended to a paste, it is essentially chicken-flavored mayonnaise. And yet with a hefty hit of salt, it’s oddly satisfying, as comfort food should be. In fact, that’s why I’m here.
Unmissable along the single lane Route 27 heading eastbound towards Montauk, how do you not stop here? The Candy Kitchen is arguably the most famous institution in the world-famous Hamptons. So much so that it was recently referenced in the final episode of Succession, in which Logan Roy supposedly promised first-born son Kendall that, “One day, this will all be yours.” (Spoiler alert: He might have actually been referring to the diner.)
Roy Scheider was a regular here. Colin Powell often ate in the first booth. Alec Baldwin, Jerry Seinfeld, and the occasional local reprobates, disgraced by a “me-too” firing or SEC violation, have all broken bread in this corner classic.
Jerry Della Femina, “the last of the Madison Avenue mavericks of Mad Men”, enjoying a nosh and a newspaper, recounted that the back room was a lively gathering place for the many illustrious writers from around these parts. A father speaking too loudly into his phone kibitzed with the owner he called “the one and only famous Gus.” In fact, the side street on which the Candy Kitchen resides is home to the Bridgehampton Community House, the firehouse, and the Little League baseball field, a veritable slice of Americana on School Street, also named George Stavropoulos Way in honor of the Candy Kitchen’s founding father.
Gus Stavropoulos is a modest man. Asked what made his place so special, he replied, “I don’t want to brag. The food’s good. The ice cream is good. I don’t ask anyone’s name or what they do.” But not only does he know his many regulars by name, he makes a point of greeting everyone and ensuring their satisfaction. Although he mentioned that it’s more difficult to find help these days, there are a few young waitresses working, together with a couple who’ve been here for 20 or 25 years.
Twenty-nine-year old Justin Friedman has been a regular here since he was five. The first thing that comes to mind upon hearing Candy Kitchen is “a grilled cheese sandwich made with American cheese on white bread, French fries extra well-done, and a pickle. Plus, they still serve Vassilaros coffee.” In an ever-changing world of craft restaurants and health food aesthetics, Friedman appreciates the constant, never-changing tradition that’s not only authentic, it’s the “heartbeat of the Hamptons.”
Ladies wearing delicate hats nibble on excellent Greek salad in the next booth. Noisy youngsters delightedly scarf down strawberry ice cream cones. And Sunday mornings are prime time for families and oligarchs who promise their scions the keys to the kingdom over tasty pancakes and bacon.
Maybe they come to experience what small town America is like in a community that is decidedly unlike most of America. Or to pretend for a moment to be like everyone else. Perhaps it could be to reminisce about a simpler time, or just an eternal hope that le plus ça change . . .
Or maybe still it’s the ice cream.
Whatever the case, try the mint chocolate chip and bring cash. The Candy Kitchen doesn’t accept credit cards.
Hero photo by Christine A. Valentin Ying