East End Eats: The Clam Bar
East Hampton Star
Clam Bar at Napeague
Open daily, noon to 8 p.m., unless the weather's really bad.
For some reason, the news that the American Hotel now has valet parking threw me into a sort of ou-sont-les-neiges-d'antan existential depression.
"For God's sake, can't you eat anywhere out here these days without tripping over a humidor?"
So off we went to the Napeague stretch, in search of paper plates and piped music and ketchup bottles on the table.
Outdoor eating, with a cold bottle of Dos Equis, also seemed in order, so we headed for the Clam Bar, an institution whose profit and loss depends entirely on the weather. On this occasion the evening turned dank and chilly and the radio tower disappeared in heavy mist, but it was nothing a warm jacket couldn't alleviate.
Good Fresh Food
The music, wafting out across the dunes from a sophisticated Bose speaker, is unavoidable. But on Sunday evening the mix of Beatles, Beach Boys, and Willie Nelson seemed specifically aimed at our pre-Baby Boomer table, and, after exchanging a couple of guilty looks, we sat back and enjoyed it.
The Clam Bar is a quintessential summer experience, the kind of place that makes you feel as if you're on vacation. Since you don't really expect, or mind, if the food isn't wonderful, it's a major bonus when you discover that the Clam Bar's food is fresh, simple, and very good.
The New England clam chowder is excellent, creamy and full of fresh clams, and when it only costs $4 some, who cares about the polystyrene container?
The Lobster Roll!
And how about two crab cakes for $7.00? There are better and more elegant ones around, maybe, for $15 or $20, but these are not bad at all - crisp and brown, good flavor, lots of crabmeat, and not too much filler.
Then we tried something called Cajun-fried popcorn shrimp. The little brown nuggets that arrived didn't look promising but turned out to be light and delicious, as were the fried clams, whose batter was very airy and whose flavor was, well, let's just say that you don't get fried clams like these unless you're within spitting distance of the clam's home.
But the lobster roll! Now I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I doubt if there are many lobster rolls around that could beat this one. There's that compulsory, dull, soft bun, of course, but the generous lobster filling, seasoning, and just the right amount of vegetable crunch was exemplary.
Topping It All
The coleslaw was freshly made. A side order of salad, specially ordered, wasn't iceberg lettuce and a slice of hard cucumber, but a selection of different salad greens, including frisee, and a quarter of good ripe tomato.
The dressing, although it arrived in one of those little plastic cups, was made with care and balsamic vinegar.
And then, to top it all, the dessert we tried - a chocolate mousse cake with shavings of chocolate and a thin, crisp crust - was excellent. It obviously wasn't made in-house, but it came from some good source.
The daily special board had a good selection of fresh fish, from tuna bits at $9.00 to salmon or tuna steaks for $15 or $17. What else can be said? The service was lively and friendly - college or high school students, probably - and the price is certainly right.
And, hey - while they won't park your car for you at the Clam Bar, you can park it right next to your table if you want.
New York Times
July 8, 2007
By SUSAN M. NOVICK
The steamed clams brought to the counter of the Clam Bar at Napeague on a recent afternoon were harvested from Shelter Island by a clam digger that morning; they were as briny and fresh as the salt air.
Steamers are served simply here ($17.50 for a portion weighing more than two pounds), with a cup of drawn butter and an optional fork. The owner, Dick Ehrlich, who also owns the Seafood Barge in Southold, would rather you dig in with your hands. “We want the Clam Bar to be down and dirty in the best sense of the word,” he said.
Mr. Ehrlich has been serving seafood without fuss or formality since 1981 in the old-fashioned red and white clam shack on a breezy stretch of dunes on Montauk Highway, just east of Amagansett.
Customers gather on this thin finger of land between the Atlantic Ocean and Napeague Harbor on sunny days, drinking beer ($5 a bottle) and snacking on tasty batter-fried tuna bits ($9) at the long, weathered counter. Service is also available at the 20 umbrella-topped tables on the gravel patio overlooking a swath of beach grass across the highway. A blackboard menu features grilled swordfish over greens ($16.50), a vine-ripened tomato stuffed with lobster salad ($18.50) and whole steamed lobsters (market price). Though the tables empty in stormy weather, hardy customers may duck under the eaves at the counter for a bowl of clam chowder ($5) or a fried clam roll to go ($5.50).
The Clam Bar is a postcard of the East End as it once was, rustic and beach-casual. It’s a fine place to catch a breeze off the ocean, listen to reggae and oldies on the sound system, and sample the local catch.
July 5, 1998
A LA CARTE; East End Dining Spots When Going al Fresco
By RICHARD JAY SCHOLEM
EATING out of doors is a treat. Eating lunch rather than dinner at a restaurant is a bargain. The combination is a delight, and it can be found in al-fresco dining on the East End of Long Island can be a delight and at midday it is often possible to order almost the same quantity of food available at dinner for half the price. But ambiance, not cost, is what eating in the great outdoors is all about.
Fortunately, the true spirit of summer at the tip of Long Island is found not in the trendy, tourist palace restaurants of the Hamptons, but in places like the Clam Bar in Napeague (267-6348) on the Montauk Highway. There, under yellow and white umbrellas, with a gentle ocean breeze blowing and soft rock music playing, relaxed diners sit in captain's chairs soaking up the sun and eating the dishes most people associate with Atlantic seaside living: lobster, clam chowder, scallops, fried clams, oysters and clams on the half shell. Prices are moderate, service is swift and best of all the food and atmosphere are the real thing.