Hamptons Dining at Its All-American Finest
How do you define American food? It’s hard to pin down what this country’s cuisine exactly is, given the fact that Asian chicken salads and nachos appear on the menus of many self-proclaimed American restaurants. But when faced with an ice cream sundae or a red plastic basket of fries, no one can deny that, yes, some types of restaurants are undeniably a part of the American experience. In the Hamptons, here are six.
LT Burger (62 Main St., Sag Harbor)
Of the some dozen restaurants in celebrity chef Laurent Tourandel’s portfolio, LT Burger is his modern homage to the old-school American burger bar. No smoke and mirrors in this joint—subway-tiled walls, a big centerpiece bar with at-screen TVs, a kid’s menu, and a fireplace for chillier seasons make it bright and charming. The dining options reads so much like a drive-in restaurant menu that you half expect the waitresses to come around on roller skates.
There are chili-topped nachos, fried pickles, and burger combos with fries and a choice of drink, though given the chef, it nevertheless all still feels a bit luxe with touches like Nieman Ranch bacon, smoked gouda, and Kobe beef hot dogs. A lavish milkshake menu offers 10 options that can be turned “R-rated” by adding a shot of booze for a perfect end to a day, while an adjoining coffee shop with espresso drinks and big stacks of pancakes and cheesy egg dishes is the perfect place to start one.
Cupsogue Beach Hut (Cupsogue County Park, Westhampton)
Scattered around various Long Island beaches, the local Beach Hut chain of oceanfront snack bars are exactly what you want to replenish your fuel after riding the waves or napping in the sun. Cupsogue Beach Hut, on its namesake beach in Westhampton, is one of the most popular locations— picture-perfect with sand pails hanging from the ceiling, menus scrawled on chalkboards, and the friendliest wait staff around.
The food, however, far surpasses the no-shirt, no-shoes, no-problem vibe. In addition to greasy necessities like mozzarella sticks and fried clams, there’s steamed lobster, clams on the half shell, and fresh salads and wraps. Further brightening even the sunniest of days, a fully stocked bar pours out appropriately strong and sugary mudslides, piña coladas, and rum punch, and often live music begins in the afternoons.
Smokin’ Wolf BBQ (199 Pantigo Rd., East Hampton)
Memphis, Nashville, and Kansas City may have a rolling competition on which city is the ultimate king of barbecue, but in terms of Long Island, Smokin’ Wolf BBQ just may take the crown. The freshest meats are slow-smoked, sauce is homemade and available in a gluten-free option, and the corn bread and collard greens have a following in their own rights. Platters and sandwiches of ribs, pork, chicken, turkey, and—as a pleasant surprise— duck share a menu with burgers, fish tacos, wraps (the Thai chicken is a standout), and a salad menu far more impressive than one expects for such an animal-focused establishment.
The restaurant’s most popular items are quesadillas stuffed with the shredded barbecued meats, perhaps because they’re easy to grab on-the- go. Otherwise, for larger orders, consider calling ahead. This is barbecue done right, which means everything is cooked to order.
Clam Bar (2025 Montauk Highway, Amagansett)
If you’re driving down the highway between Amagansett and Montauk and pass a red shack with a big sign reading “Clam Bar,” it’s time to pull over and have some of the freshest seafood you’re bound to eat in this part of the States. Pearl Oysters and clams served icy cold and lobster served whole or diced up on a delicious lobster roll are plucked from local waters and delivered to the kitchen just before noon, when the shack opens.
It’s the type of place where even the wait for your food is a pleasant experience, what with the umbrella-shaded tables, rock n’ roll tunes, and cold cans of Montauk Brewing Company beer. When the fishing season is right, dishes such as grilled mahi- mahi and crab salad are winners, though the classic fried clam strips or a fish‘wich with fries can never do you wrong. (Photo Credit: Lindsey Metselaar)
John’s Drive-In (677 Montauk Hwy., Montauk)
If the fact that it’s cash-only and website-less is any indication, John’s Drive-In is a throwback to the salad days of yesteryear—the type of place where Marsha Brady might skip into for a night bite after a school dance. Juicy bacon-topped burgers, fish sandwiches, buckets of fried clams, and cheese fries are cheap, filling, and served hot from the griddle tops to candy-colored booths.
A self-serve soda machine was a big step in a modern direction for the retro joint last year, but the real draw here is the cold dairy treats. John’s scoops up big waffle cones stuffed with strawberry-Oreo ice cream, luscious brownie sundaes, thick malts, and chocolate-dipped soft serve, all of which are made on site. A true mom-and-pop establishment, it’s the type of place that believes that all of life’s problems can be washed away with a sip of a good milkshake or a basket of salty fries. Can’t they? (Photo Credit: @hamptonsfoodie)