Long Island has had a flourishing seafood industry from precolonial times. Whether it’s shellfish or finfish, chances are what you eat for dinner in your home or while dining at local restaurants comes from local waters, caught by local fishermen. But is it fresh? Who can you trust to deliver the freshest local seafood? One local market that has been in business for over 30 years is Brewster’s Seafood Market, located at 252 East Montauk Highway in Hampton Bays.
Open since 1981, Brewster’s was originally called Indian Cove Seafood Market and was founded by Roger Tollefsen. Tollefsen has served as the president of the New York Seafood Council since 1991. After owning the Indian Cove Seafood Market for 20 years Tollefsen sold the store to Brewster Minton, who moved out to Long Island after 9/11. Minton previously owned other establishments including a gym in Hoboken, New Jersey. Minton sold to Russ Moran of Russ Moran Custom Catering, who now owns the business.
Brewster’s is open seven days a week for both lunch and dinner. You can order anything from clam strips and fries to a whopping five-pound lobster. They also offer salads (both seafood and vegetarian), burgers and more. Brewster’s has served such celebrities as rapper Jay-Z and songstress Beyoncé, Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban and even, former member of rap group Public Enemy, Flava Flav.
If you have never seen the lower level of Brewster’s Seafood Market you’d be amazed at what’s down there. They have a steamer from a battleship that is used to cook up lobster bakes for parties. They can cook up to 100 lobsters an hour and they frequently cater parties (especially in the summer) that can include up to 250 lobster bakes. A lobster bake consists of one lobster (from one pound and up), an ear of corn with fresh butter and a shellfish bag which includes steamers, mussels, little neck clams and shrimp that is sprinkled with garlic before being steamed. Yum.
There is also a huge smoker, which has made Brewster’s a famous spot to get delicious smoked fish. They have smoked sea scallops, salmon, white fish including sea bass, swordfish and more. Around the winter holidays they sell hundreds of pounds of smoked eel for local parties.
Brewster’s process of smoking fish is quite elaborate. First the fish are cut and then they soak in brine for hours and hours. After the soaking, the fish are put on racks that are first sprayed with non-stick spray. Once on the racks, ice is used to fill the bottom of the smoker and the woodchips under the smoker are lit. This is only the beginning of the process. The product is then smoked overnight for 12 hours or so. Once the fish has cooled down, some fish are put on trays for the upstairs market area while others are made into salmon or whitefish pâté.
And then there’s the shrimp machine. There are only three of these machines in the United States. This device is made of metal and it stands at about five feet tall. It has a conveyor belt inside. The shrimp are spread across the belt and are split open with a blade and the shell and vein are removed. This saves both time and labor. A person peeling and de-veining shrimp by hand can’t compete with this monster. The shrimp machine is an essential tool around the winter holidays when thousands of pounds of shrimp are sold.
Next time you’re in Hampton Bays you should stop in at Brewster’s Seafood Market. They love to give tours of both the upstairs and downstairs. You’ll be able to see the things I’ve described in delicious action. Seeing—and eating—is believing.
Sit back, relax and have a fresh tuna sandwich (it sure beats that stuff in the can), or a shrimp cocktail, and a cold drink.