By Joan Reminick STAFF WRITER As summer approaches, restaurant-watching on the East End becomes a spectator sport. This year much of the anticipating has revolved around the question of what would replace Peconic Coast in East Hampton, the perennially popular eatery that closed for good at the end of last season. Last week, the new occupant's identity was revealed when Ed "Jean-Luc" Kreefield, owner of Jean-Luc in Manhattan, took over the spot with plans to open Jean-Luc East (103 Montauk Hwy., 631-324-1100) around the Fourth of July.
Given the current economy, did Kreefield entertain second thoughts about opening another restaurant? "There is never a perfect time to open a new restaurant," said Kreefield, but he calls this new place "a jewel of a property," and said it will have a "St. Tropez bistro feel."
Here are some more of the new restaurants that have opened since last season or are scheduled to do so this summer (A roundup of established restaurants is contained in the latest Zagat Hamptons guide, $4.95, released Monday.):
In Westhampton Beach, Seven Bar & Grill (142 Mill Rd., 631-288-7727), which operated only as a bar last season, now offers food from a pub-style menu. The Restaurant at the Inn at Quogue (47 Quogue St., Quogue, 631-653-6800) is under new ownership and has a new chef, Matthew Guiffrida. And in Hampton Bays, Tide Runners offers seafood with a water view in the old home of Whitewater Grill (7 North Rd., 631-728-7373).
Costa Rican cuisine arrived in Southampton with the opening of Witch's Rock at 450 County Road 39, 631-259-8999). And the owners of Belle's Cafe of Westhampton Beach have teamed up with new partners to open the more upscale Belle's East (256 Elm St., Southampton, 631-204-0300). Chef Linda "Didi" Jones will work with consulting chef Tom Rutyna.
You can enjoy bacon and eggs in an old railroad car now that the former Station Road is home to the casual Fairway Restaurant (50 Station Rd., Water Mill, 631-726-5322); the Fairway was once situated at the Poxabogue Golf Center in Sagaponack.
The Manhattan restaurant Butter will soon have a new branch in Wainscott (378 Montauk Hwy., 631-537-3332), at the site of the former Star Room. The restaurant will serve regional, seasonal cuisine.
In Sag Harbor, Robert Durkin, who also owns Robert's in Water Mill, has transformed his Paradise Cafe into the more affordable New Paradise Cafe (126 Main St., 631-725-6080), serving an eclectic menu. Down the street, owner Jeff Resnick transformed Phao into a combination seafood market and dining spot, Jeff & Eddie's Seafood (62 Main St., 631-725-0055).
Another transformation occurred at Ocean's Grillfish (2095 Montauk Hwy., Amagansett, 631-267-6980), which is now called Napeague Stretch and offers an American seafood menu.
In Montauk, chef-owner John Yashinowski has transformed Caswell's into the moderately priced Italian Gianni's Bar & Grill (17 S. Edison St., 631-668-0303). Also in Montauk, the yet-to-open Blue Water Cafe will serve contemporary American food at 32 S. Elwood Ave. (631-668-3959), and Atlantic Seafood Restaurant & Steaks will open at 126 Emerson Ave. (631-668-3985). Both are owned by chefs Craig Lieder and Christopher Kozlowski.
If you hop on a ferry to Shelter Island Heights, you can enjoy Italian fare at Sweet Tomato's Restaurant (15 Grand Ave., 631-749-4114). Or else you can visit Vine Street Cafe (41 S. Ferry Rd., 631-749-3210), which showcases the cooking of husband and wife chef-owners Terry and Lisa Harwood.