Barbecue and Mexican food in an oddly appealing fabulous dive. ... More »
In a Montauk rainstorm, I follow a little sign that points to a restaurant. What, at this boatyard shack? Walking round back, I step through a portal and am suddenly surrounded by twinkly colored lights. People at picnic tables are chowing down on barbecue and Mexican food; others, at the bar, are partying. The only air-conditioning comes from the open windows and overhead fans. Then, the storm ends, someone unhinges the windows, which fold outward, opening up the room. I feel as though I'm on a boat, somewhere in the Florida Keys.
A seemingly bottomless pitcher of sangria comes with plastic cups. They go well with the styrofoam plates and plastic utensils. Hey, if you want fancier, try the Montauk Yacht Club. This is a T-shirt and flip-flops kind of place.
A bowl of Manhattan clam chowder is briny and herbal. Four of us devour a plate of sopes, fat homemade tortillas stuffed with chorizo sausage, topped with crema (a thin sour cream) and cheese. Mexican-born co-owner Frieda Reichert devised those as well as the rousing stuffed jalapeños with a shredded-chicken stuffing. Fine fish tacos capped with slaw and a creamy chili-spiked dressing would be even better with a sprinkling of fresh cilantro. And they would have had some, had I been able to get hold of our waitress.
Reichert's husband, Skip, is resident pit-master. From the kitchen smokers come deeply smoky spice-crusted St. Louis ribs. Rotisserie-roasted chicken is burnished, moist and flavorful. Fish and chips star batter-fried grouper that has exterior crunch; the fish is snowy and mild within.
NOT AS BUENO
Fries, however, are merely ordinary. So are Buffalo wings, which I hoped would be better than commonplace. Pulled pork is surprisingly dry, devoid of smokiness. My only gripe with the Mexican-style cheese-topped corn on the cob is the topping of chipotle aioli and cheese; naked is almost always better.
I finish with flan that's firmer than most yet oddly appealing, much like this place. We linger as the crowd swells. If Jimmy Buffett isn't at the bar, he should be. --Reviewed by Joan Reminick, 6/25/08.