If you can’t hop the Hampton Jitney or put the fire out on the eponymous island, you can still garner a bit of salt air and a hint of New England with a swipe of a MetroCard. On City Island, New York’s in-town resort, the lobsters are steaming and the seagulls circling. While looking for a place that was formal enough to please Aunt Minnie and Mom (whose culinary persnicketiness is the stuff of legend), I discovered the Lobster Box. I could almost pretend I was in cooler climes: perched high on a bluff with large windows overlooking the water, the parking lot, and the fried-clam joint on the pier, its white shingles weathered enough to signal longevity.
Inside, diners ran the gamut from large families widening their assets to the bossy
flygirl at the next table who did everything
but cut her beau’s surf and turf. We perused the lengthy menu of shore favorites and sampled the complimentary bruschetta. Aunt Minnie led the caloric charge with a cup of lobster bisque ($1.95) and an order of a crab cakes ($6.95), finding the soup to be densely flavored and filled with chunks of meat, and the Maryland specialty a single toothsome puck with tangy corn relish. Uncle Herbie, taciturn as ever, sipped a cup of Manhattan red ($1.95)— a delicious conjoining of minestrone and clams. Meanwhile, Mom and I nibbled on a perfectly cooked order of fried calamari ($6.95).
After ensuring that her oyster crackers were safely stowed away in her purse, Aunt Minnie attacked the lobster ravioli ($14.95). It must have been good, for we saw only a mouthful of the basil-flecked sauce remaining on her plate. Mom pronounced her roe-filled one-and-a-half pounder ($22.95) a fine, but slightly overdone, crustacean. Uncle Herbie said little, but kept forking down his seven butterflied fried shrimp ($19.95). My fish and chips ($16.95) proved crisply battered, but, alas, I was having too much fun watching the elders eat and reminisce about past jaunts to City Island to overindulge in the massive heap of fries.
If age tempered my first visit, the second was defined by my cousin’s three weenie wonders, who arrived dressed in their Sunday best and proceeded to charm the restaurant with their antics, ordering Shirley Temples like seasoned alcoholics. Sharing was the watchword, so appetizers included a replay of the excellent calamari, shrimp cocktails ($9.95), and a seafood sampler ($9.95) that came complete with raw clams, which my cousin slurped up. The kids came for their first lobsters, so it was children’s platters all around ($12.95). The adults ordered king crab legs ($30.95) that rapidly disappeared down to detritus, and steak and broiled lobster tail ($29.95). The surf and turf only garnered an OK, but vanished with equal speed. I was a lightweight with fried sea scallops ($18.95), which were fine, but not good enough to diminish my fascination with the kids. Their lobsters arrived with much fanfare and it was bibs for all, except for one little wookie who opined that it was “too humiliating”— until she began to eat. They were poking, prodding, even sucking down the green stuff until only empty red shells remained. My cousin fared less well: the raw clams caused serious gastric distress. The next time she heads to City Island, she’ll be having hers fried.