All Your Favorite Hand-Held Cuisines, Gussied Up and Dressed Down
Doesn’t it say something that some of our favorite food items – pizza, burgers, tacos – require no utensils for consumption? Maybe it’s because, deep down, we want to connect with the nourishment we give our bodies. But on the surface, it’s a lot simpler than that: eating with our hands takes the edge off. It’s laid back, it’s fun – it’s exactly how we like to dine at the sweet end of summer. Here are some of our favorite fork-and-knife-free meals in the Hamptons, in both casual and sophisticated forms.
Get surfers talking about food, and, right up there with the breakfast burrito, there’s rarely stiffer competition than when it comes to the all-hailed fish taco. The latest spot that cuts the mustard is Hooked in Montauk, where you can walk up sandy-feet and sun-drenched to place an order for two soft shells stuffed with fried fish, broccoli slaw, spicy mango salsa, and sriracha-mayo drizzled on top. Run by two veterans of the Hamptons restaurant business, the establishment is well aware that portion size is important, as are beers served fresh and cold to sunny picnic tables to keep appetites satiated until the food comes out. It’s little wonder why this spot has risen quickly to be a crowd favorite in the few months it’s been open. (34 South Etna Ave., Montauk)
A little saltier in the pink-Himalayan direction is Saltbox, a nearby Montauk eatery co-run by a yoga teacher and entrepreneur that’s easily called “surf-chic”. Akin to many a café near the surf beaches of Bali, Saltbox is the type of place that sees fresh-fruit cocktails with avocado toast as a perfectly reasonable breakfast, lunch or dinner. Here, $22 gets you three “Baja” tacos filled with a choice of grilled shrimp, blackened local fish, or tofu. Pay an extra $5 for a fourth, and you’ll have a platter to share. (99 Carl Fisher Plaza, Montauk)
If Montuak is where to find the best tacos and lobster rolls, Sag Harbor is home to the all-American meal at its most quintessential: ice cream and a burger. Laurent Tourondel’s subway-tiled LT Burger is a slicked-up spot for burgers and shakes in Sag Harbor, with all different types of fish, meat and veggie burger options alongside sundaes and shakes that will cure a sugar tooth for days. Waffle fries and their brethren may not have the most upscale reputation, but the perfect petals of whipped cream swirled atop alcoholic milkshakes and sesame buns sandwiching golden ribbons of onion rings and rosy patties are a reminder that this is a celebrity chef establishment that takes pride in appearances. (62 Main St., Sag Harbor)
But for a true American home-cooked burger meal, head to Bay Burger, where everything from patties to buns to tater tots are whipped up fresh daily in the kitchen just behind the order counter in this charming teal-walled eatery. Once its husband-and wife owners got the burger menu down to a science, they branched out into homemade ice cream as well, which now sells in markets and restaurants around the Hamptons. But the burgers – ranked among the best on the island – are served only here, in sandwich paper and plastic baskets with tomato, lettuce and fries. (1742 Sag Harbor Turnpike, Sag Harbor)
Fear not. Whether it’s an oil-drenched, paper-plate slice you’re after or a wood- fired Italian extravagance, New York’s pizza culture is alive and well in all of its forms in the Hamptons. Open for more than 45 years in Amagansett, Astro Pizza is the time- tested frontrunner for the former category, with hot cases of slices, rolls, and calzones, and full pizza pies and heroes made to order. You’ll find all of the usual topping suspects here – Hawaiian, meat lovers, margherita – along with a build-your-own. True to form, service takes a strictly-businesses approach, so don’t expect any warm smiles along with your order – but do expect higher than average quality for a slice joint. (237 Main St., Amagansett)
In Sag Harbor, the newly opened Sag Pizza has taken over the space of former pizza spot Conca D’Oro with vim and vigor, serving a luxe Italian menu showcasing wood-fired pizzas until midnight. There’s local tuna crudo, burrata, and octopus to start; raw zucchini or tomato and watermelon salad; and 12-inch personal pizzas sporting truffles, fine meats, infused oils and butters, and fresh cheeses, baked to perfect crispy bottoms and bubbling tops. Pair your meal with wine, and top it off with gelato in exotic flavors such as cassis, local corn and honey, and black cherry amaretto. Consider the latter a digestif. (103 Main St., Sag Harbor)
The ubiquitous lobster roll, which supposedly originated in Connecticut at the end of the 1920s, is now a global phenomenon, the stuffed bun elevated to a luxury food item in places as far afield as Austria and Indonesia alike. But the best are still found in its native territory of the northeast, served on buttery buns overflowing with lobster plucked from nearby waters that morning. Two of the unarguable best are found at highway-side The Lobster Roll (also known as LUNCH, for its landmark sign piped up above the building), and Duryea’s, set on the waters of Fort Pond Bay.
Like a trip back in time, the former hasn’t changed the recipe for its classic lobster salad rolls since it opened in the 1960s, served at market price with a quarter- pound side of slaw. The red, white and blue décor is like a nostalgic ode to WASP culture of yore, while new additions like the Hot Lobster Roll of warm meat in drawn
butter and lobster sliders keep the establishment up with the times. Meanwhile, Duryea’s may have
you paying a steeper price ($35), but the sunset views from the outdoor dining deck, BYOB policy, and unsurpassable freshness of ingredients make the tag well worth it. Furthermore, attached to a wholesale fish market, Duryea’s is the perfect place to come and double-up on shopping when you’re on your way in or out of the Hamptons, as the train station is right nearby. (1980 Montauk Hwy.; 65 Tuthill Rd., Montauk)