As you can see, the black-and-white photo is dated 1940, and what was then called “Bill’s Restaurant” seems to be situated, still, in Montauk’s old fishing village on Fort Pond Bay.
We can probably assume then that the restaurant was moved around 1943, when the U.S. Navy took over the fishing village to test torpedoes in the bay. Residents had been leasing the land on which their homes stood with the understanding that they could be evicted with 30 days’ notice. Thus it was that when the Navy took over the property, which was owned by the railroad, many simply moved their homes — and Bill’s Inn, like the Trail’s End restaurant, was rolled away to Edgemere Road, where it landed a spectacular view of Fort Pond.
William Belber was Bill’s Inn’s proprietor. The restaurant was reputed to be a hit with tourists, who could choose their own lobsters from an open tank, and also attracted local businessmen, as it had a cocktail lounge and was open year round.
An advertisement in 1960, the year the color photo was taken, notes that Long Island duck and steaks were also on the menu; the ad appears alongside ones for Giordano’s Lakeside Inn (now the Surf Lodge, also on Edgemere Road) and Ruschmeyer’s (also on Fort Pond). Clifford and Rita Stanley were by now the proprietors of Bill’s Inn (having run the Montauket in the 1950s, when it had a private beach and swimming dock).
Bill’s Inn became the Windjammer sometime around the 1970s, operated by Socrates and Tricia Hiotakis and continuing to be popular. Another relatively long, Pan-Asian stint followed as East by Northeast, followed by a very brief one, in 2019, as Pulcinella East. The property, which also includes a hotel, was sold to a limited liability company for $7.1 million in 2018 and it is being renovated now. It should be interesting to see the next incarnation of what used to be a humble little eatery on Fort Pond Bay.