Inlet Road, Southampton, NY
Review by Diana, MaceVindaloo
It's a ramshackle structure, and it truely did start as a house which got added-onto as business increased. They now have their own lobster pound behind the kitchen, which is behind the bar, toward the pebble-paved parking lot. It's the only business on this stretch of road in the tony "Hamptons," but the homes here are more the weekend getaways of families who want a reprieve from the "city" rather than the ultra wealthy celebrity chasers that can plague this area of Long Island in the summer.
It's totally charming in its eccentric way, complete with flower boxes and beds all around the building. (These are apparently professionally landscaped, which actually made me feel better knowing that the hard-working folks inside did not have to toil in the sand to plant flora, too!) There is what used to be a dock platform connected to the house, that has been made part of the main dining room, and the floor there is lower than that of the rest of the dining room, so it's clear where the lines of the original house were. It gives this place the aura of a mom and pop place, in the New England tradition. There, when a daughter married, another room was added to the house, resulting in rambling structures, rooms with windows looking into other rooms, etc. It's totally charming and nostalgic and packed to the gills with happy people (beneath the open-gilled mounted half of a shark over a doorway!).
This place actually started life as a marina and boat shop; the very tidy marina still exists. The inlet makes for excellent good docking for small boats. If you get a seat by the window, you can watch the sailboats come in and out, and the fish jumping as they chase each other around in the enclosed space. There are also ducks and seagulls swimming around, accompanied by a solitary swan (bringing to mind Andersen's The Ugly Duckling). Also as belies its provenance as a marina, the restaurant is closed from December to February, traditional downtime when the waters are frozen. Diners seated by the outside walls look right over the water, since the "porch" area is built on pilings set in the water, and the uninsulated floor would make for a VERY cold dining experience in the winter!
The decor is downright nautical, with stair railings made of thick cords of twisted rope, booth seats and tables bolted to the walls. Everything is polyurethane-lacquered to at least a half and inch thick. The bar has "stools for two" made of the same "reclaimed boat planks and flat iron bars" style of timber used for the tables. The light fixtures are covered by cut down magnum-sized liquor bottles, looking like wind-and-wave-buffeted seaglass. Or the inside of a wooden boat!
The food offerings are very simple. You can get any manner of fish and seafood (and chicken or sirloin if you must ... why anyone comes to a seafood place for steaks??), cooked however you wish. You can build a meal by adding one of five sauces: teriyaki, mango rum, horseradish, cucumber dill, and creole, or you can have it "blackened" Cajun style. You can get steaks as well, with simple accompaniments like mashed potatoes or salad bar or corn on the cob. But in truth, I have never tasted any of those things, since I only come here for one thing: a dish called a "splat for two."
It does sound awful, doesn't it? It brings to mind roadkill or perhaps an auto accident. It's kind of like a New England clambake minus the non-sea viands, and if you can't eat one of the shellfish types, they'll just add more of another. It's served with a mug of clam broth, so you can rinse the softshells of their inevitable grit before downing them, bellies, necks, and all! It's all splatted onto a tray not a platter , and it's brutal and primitive and totally delicious.
Because it's for two, and you have to use your fingers and get messy, a splat makes it a perfect sort of date meal. In fact, in another life, it would have been called the perfect make-up or break-up meal: luxurious, sensual, sexy, elbows on the table, a lot of licking and slurping! It's probably a bit too bold and suggestive for a first date ... And it's not cheap, but it's not as pricy as you'd be billed for an equivalent meal anywhere else it's $60 for two whole split lobsters, a mountain of softshell clams, hand-fulls of hard cherrystone and littleneck clams, and a bucket of mussels. It comes with a very fresh, very tasty salad bar offering which includes fresh-out-of-the-oven rolls, as well as a choice of baked potato, mashed potato, french fries, the sweetest corn on the cob ever, rice pilaf, or linguini. Since potato and corn are de rigeur for clambakes, that's what I always get. We also got a great New England clam chowder, which is NOT made with a roux! It's very authentic and delicious, thickened only slightly thanks to the cubed potatoes in the brew (though the real down-easterners would only accept pilot crackers, but we like potatoes!). It was full of chewy chopped quahogs the biggest of the hard shelled clam sizings.
Eating a "splat" for one is kind of pathetic; what if your dining partner orders a well-done steak?? That has to signal the end of any potential snuggling, that's for sure. And a splat for two actually is a wonderful way to end a relationship leave with good memories, at the very least. And if you come to blows, the shells provide adequate ammunition, though tearing into the shellfish will likely abate your aggression. A server comes by to take your bowl of shells away and to replace it with a fresh one, so if you do feel like pelting each other, the amount of harm you'll do is limited. And though it's $30 per person, that's a really reasonable price for a superlative meal with all the trimmings. You can afford to go Dutch, but at least you won't feel guilty about making him foot the bill as you lick your fingers, kiss him on the cheek, and leave him framed by the sun setting over the inlet ...
Or just go for dinner or lunch. Dinner is served all day, or lunch features sandwiches, salad platters, and pasta. Don't sully the holiness of this seafood place, but if you must, the steaks and chicken other diners ordered did look good. (The waitress bussed back the plates from that table absolutely empty.) And if you're hanging around for dessert, nothing beats Haagen-Daaz ice cream in what else? A choice of vanilla or chocolate, or a bit of both!
This is the seafood shack of my dreams, and it's even right on the water and is supported by a marina! It smells right, looks right, is very right. And I won't tell you how many dates got dumped deliciously here ... and how much I looked forward to the end of many relationships because of this place!
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