While each season in Southampton has its charms, restaurateur Ian Duke prefers the cooler weather, when the social frenzy slows down. “Fall and winter I find to be the most relaxing, as the intensity drops off considerably,” says Duke, who owns a half dozen restaurants and hotspots split between Southampton and New York City. “I also really don’t like extreme heat,” he adds. “Give me leather-jacket-weather any day.”
Duke has lived “out east” since 2010, when he opened Southampton Social Club (256 Elm St., 631.287.1400), and he makes his home in the small village of East Quogue. “I love it here,” he says, though he spends most of his time in Southampton. “When you live your life in hospitality and nightlife, a little sanctuary is quite essential.” —Jeanne O’Brien Coffey
Duke admits that— especially with the staffing shortage wrought by the pandemic—he doesn’t get many free evenings. But he is a fan of the rib eye steak at the newest jewel in his hospitality crown: Union Sushi & Steak (40 Bowden Sq., 631.377.3500), which opened in July 2020. “I eat it far too regularly because it’s that amazing. It’s probably taking a year off my life, but at least I’m smiling,” he says, adding that the restaurant “has a cool vibe, a great staff, and offers a rare spot for year-round outdoor dining.” Its natural air flow—critical since it opened in the midst of the pandemic—and space heaters keep people comfortable even in the dead of winter.
Duke loves the ambience at Argento (15 Main St., 631.488.1300), where his friend Vlad Rozsypal is managing partner and maître d’. “He knows how to make sure people are having fun. [Guests] are energized when they’re in his restaurant.”
For breakfast, you’ll find Duke at Sip & Soda (40 Hampton Rd., 631.283.9752). “[It’s] a true throwback from the old days, run by a great neighborhood family.” When he goes out with his wife and daughter, they usually head to Union Burger Bar (40 Bowden Sq., 631.377.3323 ) because his daughter loves the milkshakes. “I end up being in my restaurant even for the few hours that I don’t have to be,” he says with a laugh. “What can you do? It’s the most family-friendly restaurant in Southampton.”
The Duke family includes a cat and three dogs. One, a Jack Russell mix with a tendency to choke, is named after Scott Norwood, the Buffalo Bills field goal kicker who missed against the NewYork Giants in the Super Bowl. All are from Southampton Animal Shelter (102 Old Riverhead Rd. West, Hampton Bays, 631.728.PETS), which Duke supports ardently. “We’ve done events with them. I love the people who run it. I couldn’t be more emphatic.”
While he finds the quieter beaches of East Quogue better for running his dogs, the Southampton Village Dog Park (Lola Prentice Memorial Park at Windmill Lane) is also terrific for pooches, he says. “We do a lot of beach walks and visits to the great dog run in Southampton.”