Bread Amid the Circuses
What I Was Thinking Napeague Stretch is not so much forgotten as passed by, literally, by the sweaty multitudes heading for Montauk. Pig 'n' Whistle East, sibling to the Manhattan joints, lies between the landmark "LUNCH" sign of the Lobster Roll and the singles meat market of Cyril's Fish House. The young drinking crowd hanging out at the roadside bar at Cyril's stops traffic in both directions. The Lobster Roll is a must for Hamptons virgins and regulars. Another restaurant to handle the overflow from both is not a bad notion.
Casing the Joint There are about 30 tables inside, at the bar and on two patios outside. We sit outside near a full-sized plastic palm tree for a dash of realism. The horseshoe-shaped bar opens out onto a porch overlooking the highway. It's not an Irish restaurant but rather an Irish-themed restaurant with a whistle-playing pig in a green tuxedo on the menu and a double clovered flag hanging amongst the nautical flags on the large mast outside. The only vague reference to any Irish food on the menu is the Black Angus Burger.
At Your Service For years now, the East End has attracted freshly imported Irish lads and lasses to fill the many service jobs that go wanting each summer season. Our waitress is from Sligo. Her name is Eliza. "Not very Irish, is it?" she apologizes. She appears to be working too hard for me to make any Eliza-do-little jokes. So I won't. Homemade Irish soda bread with raisins and raisin rolls from Eli's hit the table.
Hearsay At the next table, four adults are teaching a toddler in a high chair how to toast with her bottle, preparing her for a night of post-millennial partying at Cyril's.
We Drink Desperately trying to look Irish, we order Harp ale on draft. We do not mix it with Guinness, as is sometimes the custom in the old country. But what do they know?
We Eat The menu features: Classic LI Steamers ($9.95); LI Pig Sandwich ($8.95); Peconic Bay Lobster Roll ($10.95) and LI Lobster ($21.95). We take the bait as boosters of native culture. And like real Long Islanders like your cheap Uncle Louie, perhaps we had fried calamari ($5.95) instead of the pricey lobster.
You have to have steamers in the summertime and the two dozen we had were fresh and good sized. I've clammed the waters in nearby Accabonac using my feet to locate the bivalves and then stuffing the pockets of my Speedo unlike anything before or since.
As I dip one clam into warm melted butter I'm hoping someone used a clam rake instead of their feet for this baby. The calamari look to be in a beer-battered overcoat. These are not little morsels, these. These are Giant Killer Calamari. Monster octopi who have undergone a lethal dose of radiation. They lose their overcoats in mid-bite.
I ask Eliza if the LI Pig Sandwich is really from Long Island. Maybe this is a genuine LIE roadhog. "We keep them in the back and kill them every morning. The waitress with the least tips has to kill them," she answers, showing she has lived here just about long enough. The pig sandwich arrives on half a wide loaf of toasted Italian bread. The pulled pork is infused with sweet barbecue sauce and is very tasty once you rescue it from the overpowering heft of the bread.
The Lobster Roll There must be some statute on the books out here that says: "All roadside restaurants in Napeague must offer a lobster roll sandwich on their menu." At this joint, the lobster roll, which is supposed to come on a hot-dog roll, comes on a chunk of baguette that is too hard to chew through. Do yourself a favor: Toss the bread aside to get at the delicious meaty claws and a half of a tail. Use your fork to eat the greens and tomato in a sparse, creamy sauce.
What Vegetarians Can Eat French onion soup; spinach, Caesar or mixed green salads; the pasta of the day; pita pizza from the bar menu; LI blueberry pie. And plenty of Irish soda bread.
The Last Word As usual in the Hamptons, the bar menu is the least-expensive option. East End places have to make their annual nut in just 12 weeks. But why should they make it all off of you? Entrées start at $16.95, but there's enough variety on the appetizer and sandwich menu to keep most of you happy. No matter what you get, they give you way too much bread. So stuff some in your pocket for the birds back home.
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