Sometimes good things really are worth the wait. Recently announced, Eleven Madison Park’s Summer House is making an unlikely return to the Hamptons May 25. Born out of necessity, last year’s EMP Summer House sprung up after Guidara and chef Daniel Humm’s Manhattan restaurant was forced to close temporarily for renovations. The staff instead shipped out to the Hamptons to work at the pop-up, doling wood-fired baby corn, fluke ceviche, and bucatini with clams—to much acclaim. “I said, ‘No, we’re not doing it again.’ A thousand times, I was like no, no, no,” restaurateur Will Guidara said of the idea of reprising his seasonal, more casual restaurant concept. But last year’s response and the groundswell of support and enthusiasm for a reboot led to countless requests to bring back the beloved indoor-outdoor eatery—and its lawn games—to East Hampton.
This year’s EMP Summer House will have an entirely new menu but will be similar in style to last summer’s, where upscale yet simple renditions of classic summer beach foods, like poached lobster with corn and tomatoes, stole the show. “We know the space better, and the clientele,” Humm said of the upcoming changes. The large oven used to bake flatbreads in 2017 will now be utilized to create new breads, served with shareable spreads, inspired by last summer’s popular family-style “chicken dinner and lobster boil,” which will also make an encore this season.
Sharing will be a major theme of the pop-up, since it’s the people Humm, Guidara, and their team connected with that truly inspired them to bring back EMP Summer House. “We made a lot of meaningful connections out there with New Yorkers, people who live in NYC but don’t have a connection to EMP,” Humm said. “We made a lot of new friends and so did our restaurant.”
He explained that one of the best parts about the summer house was the extent to which regulars would dine there—much more than he’d seen in NYC. “We developed close relationships with people [who] genuinely became our friends,” Guidara added.
In celebration of community the menu will focus on large-format dishes like a “taco-style” spread that includes whole roasted fish (culled from that morning’s local market), condiments, and wraps, Humm explained. A similar, large format feast with short ribs will be on the menu as well. “It’s so fun to eat like that,” Humm continued. “When we do a restaurant, we think ‘what would we actually want to eat.’ And in the Hamptons, that’s high-quality, uncomplicated finger food. It comes from our hearts and we really want to give [the] experience we would want.”
Summer dining also offers more freedom. An entire party dallying on the beach may not show up at the same time, and shareable, more casual courses (or lack thereof) lend themselves to the coveted summer freedom of being off-the-clock. (Still, reservations are recommended, except for the walk-in only backyard seating.)
On the cocktail front, the drinks program will be organized by time of day, sunrise to sunset. “It’s inspired by cocktails we want to drink when the sun is up and out, and when you’re outside and it’s setting,” said bar director Leo Robitschek. Cocktails will be crafted from seasonal produce, like fresh berries, strawberries, and watermelon, and celery and bell pepper will make an appearance in savory cocktails along with corn and herbs. Large format cocktail pitchers will be served, as will “goblets of mai tais,” Guidara explained excitedly. The signature backyard games, like cornhole, will also reappear, but in true EMP style, an exciting change will be made (the leading contender is tetherball).
Running a seasonal restaurant comes with plenty of challenges, including how to logistically transition and maintain staffers, many of whom enjoyed the beach atmosphere so much last summer they too were pushing for a second season. Enter: EMP Winter House, the Aspen-equivalent of the Hamptons pop-up, that will launch for the first time later this year.
“For us, this made sense because we could think of it as a [full-time] restaurant,” Guidara said. “With a seasonal staff, it just wasn’t possible to do something in the way that we do it. But what if it didn’t need to be seasonal? What if it was a restaurant that just moved?” EMP’s team in the Hamptons, which includes previous returning staffers, will move out west for the winter, allowing the entire project to be much more feasible.
While plans for EMP Winter House are still in the works, Humm says that the menu will be “traditional mountain food” reminiscent of his hometown in the Swiss Alps. Traditions from France, Austria, and Germany will all be tied in to create a menu rich with fondue and other warming apres ski treats, which the team previewed at The NoMad Bar earlier this year.
American Express is EMP Summer House’s exclusive reservations and payment partner. American Express Card Members can make a reservation by visiting empsummerhouse.com starting May 1st.
As part of its ongoing partnership with Chef Daniel Humm through the Global Dining Collection, American Express is collaborating with the Eleven Madison Park team to bring EMP Summer House and Winter House to life and offer benefits for its Card Members including exclusive access to reservations and experiences. For more details about our chef partners and your Platinum Card® dining benefits, visit globaldiningcollection.americanexpress.com