The Cuddy, which replaces Phao on Main Street in Sag Harbor, aspires to be a gastropub with an East End spin. The "pub" part of this goal is reached with a menu of inventive specialty cocktails, two microbrews, and boutique wines from Long Island and beyond. All can be ordered at a lively bar sporting an antique map of London, or in the renovated dining room, now decorated in a minimalist barn style, with rustic wood beams, whitewashed brick and vintage pendant lamps.
As for the "gastro," there were hits and misses. An order of fried green tomatoes, greasy in a good way, went well with drinks. We might have ordered another round if there had been more of the bar snacks (warmed almonds, marinated olives, deviled eggs) that are regularly served at gastropubs in London and New York City.
Of the appetizers, two salads stood out. Baby arugula sprinkled with tiny bits of almond, apple and goat cheese was delicate and flavorful. A salad of frisee, roasted beets, house-cured bacon and Mecox Bay Cheddar was heartier and had a nice balance of sweet and salty. The soft-shell crabs were tasty but overwhelmed by a rather thick tempura batter. The black sea bass seviche is a lighter option, but it lacked the expected zing from a dish that featured shaved fennel, avocado and grapefruit.
The best main dishes at The Cuddy are earthy and comforting with a dash of sophistication. The burger was excellent, served on a brioche bun and topped with a fried egg if you'd like. Accompanying fries are aromatic from some truffle salt sprinkled on just after they're pulled from the fryer. Also recommended are the seared sea scallops on a bed of creamy curried grits with tomato jam and a little bit of bacon, a dish that was exotic and homey at the same time. A few dishes disappoint. The tagliatelle with clams featured unacceptably rubbery pasta. I had high hopes for the chicken confit and waffles, but was disappointed by the toughness of both components of The Cuddy's take on this classic Southern dish.
Desserts aim to be both refined and nostalgic and mostly hit the gastropub mark. A favorite was a not-too-sweet orange and olive oil cupcake topped with an airy cream cheese frosting. Also good were the tender and light panna cotta with strawberries and rhubarb, and the pain perdu with caramelized bananas. The warm flourless chocolate cake was a bit dry.
Service at The Cuddy is well coordinated, a quality often lacking at Hamptons restaurants. Also unusual and much appreciated: The Cuddy takes reservations, unlike so many other places on the East End, where patrons have to stand on the sidewalk on busy nights until a table opens up.
With its casual, flexible and not-too-expensive (by Hamptons standards) menu, The Cuddy already has attracted substantial summer crowds. It remains to be seen whether this combination has the same appeal when the season ends.