Former East Hampton Town Councilwoman Julia Prince is now in the restaurant business, and running a restaurant is a breeze compared to helping run East Hampton Town, she said.
“In comparison to the workload on the town board, this is nothing. That job prepared me for anything. You still have problems but they’re manageable,” she said on Monday, sitting in a booth at La Bodega in Montauk while eating a plate of scrambled eggs and toast.
With her business partner, Paulette Davis, who was busy behind the counter, Ms. Prince opened the restaurant that was the Plaza on Memorial Day weekend and the patrons have been streaming in ever since. The two women stripped the tint from the windows of the curved-front building on Montauk Highway and brightened up the dated wood-paneled interior with shiny corrugated tin on the walls, globe lights, a new bar countertop, reupholstered booths, and bright white tables and chairs.
Ms. Prince wanted to open her own version of a bodega ever since she spent time some years ago in Uruguay. She was eyeing a location on the Napeague stretch, thinking it would be cool to serve people on their way to East Hampton. “They could stop and get coffee in the morning and chips and beer on their way home,” she said.
La Bodega serves breakfast and lunch, and since it got its liquor license, now dinner. On weekends the restaurant is open from 8 a.m. to 5 a.m., with a security guard standing by. “We want to feed people. We don’t want to get them drunk. If you’ve been over-served you’re not welcome,” she said.
The two women hardly knew each other when they went into business. They had been talking one day and realized they both had the same dream. “We didn’t know each other that well. We sat and talked one day and it all just fell into place,” said Ms. Prince.
Ms. Davis owns a bakery with her boyfriend, Jose Rodriquez, in Rincon, Puerto Rico; he is La Bodega’s chef. Many of the bakery staff came to Montauk to help run the new joint. “They were coming here anyway,” said Ms. Prince.
Ms. Davis, who was too busy behind the counter to talk, said she worked at the Plaza in college. “They remembered me,” she said of the former owners. She, too, said that the beauty of the business is that small problems quickly become fixed problems.
Were they expecting to become so busy so fast? “Yeah, a little bit because of the location and the quality of the food,” Ms. Prince said.
In addition to the usual breakfast food, the menu includes such items as empanadas, fish bites with chipotle sauce, rice and beans, spicy chicken quesadillas, Cuban spring rolls, and other healthy items named after popular surf spots in Rincon such as Dogman’s bowl and Tres Palmas.
The drink menu has a tropical feel too, with such drinks as mojitos, a dark and stormy, and one called a pain killer, made of black rum, Coco Lopez, pineapple, and orange juice. The Lost Gringo is mix of Jameson Irish Whiskey, raspberry ice tea, and lemonade.
Ms. Prince and Ms. Davis have not yet decided whether the restaurant will be open year round. A lot will depend on what it costs to heat the place, Ms. Prince said. “With the glass windows, we’re not sure yet.” said Ms. Prince. As of right now, they open at 8 a.m. and keep running until the people stop walking in the door.