You know you're at a diner when you can order a cheeseburger at 8 in the morning. Or bacon and eggs after sundown. Either is available -- to be eaten at counter stool, table or booth -- at the new Highway Diner & Bar.
This being East Hampton, the Highway does meet diner criteria, yet veers from the cliché. The pared-down menu looks nothing like the encyclopedic tomes at so many Long Island diners. Also atypical is an evening bar scene, and the airy, elegant look of the place, washed in pale shades of sea and sand.
Before heading off to the beach, think about ordering the very good, if rather sweet, brioche French toast crowned with caramelized bananas. A more savory choice: the melty bacon, egg and cheese sandwich on a pretzel-shaped croissant.
Rainy afternoons, a cup of artichoke-fennel soup topped with shards of bacon and herbed sour cream warms your core. It has more character than the rather humdrum chicken andouille gumbo. Adroitly spiced crabcakes -- virtually all crab -- are plated with a perky rémoulade. Successful, as is the bright, chopped vegetable salad. But chicken lettuce wraps -- involving dry ground poultry and too-small lettuce leaves -- are harsh in flavor, better avoided.
Instead, focus on the Highway burger -- smoky, crusty, oozy and served with grand hand-cut fries. Another winner is a BLT made with thick bacon, bright tomatoes and romaine on toasted white sourdough.
There's not much excitement in a vegetarian entree combining a small stack of balsamic-glazed grilled vegetables and a mound of white quinoa. A more satisfying choice is the homestyle meatloaf with mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes and sauteed spinach; it's a true diner classic.
And so is the all-important egg cream, in chocolate or vanilla -- cool comfort, whether tied to childhood memory or not. A caramel milkshake tastes clean, pure, lovely. Then, there's the first-rate ice-cream sandwich on two house-made chocolate-chip cookies. And a light, luxurious chocolate-hazelnut mousse.
Of course, you could stop in for just dessert. A diner is, after all, the place to get almost anything you want -- whatever time of day.