Every summer for more than 30 years, folks have elbowed up to the outdoor counter at The Shack in Centerport to order clam rolls, burgers and dogs before hunkering down at picnic tables. Now, in Huntington, a year-round offshoot has sprung up, offering table service and a more expansive -- and expensive -- menu. Yet the vibe remains casual: checkered vinyl tablecloths, strings of colored lights and, on the awning, the motto "clams & chaos."
All too true, in the case of the Long Island clam chowder, wherein both Manhattan and New England chowders -- unmixed -- share a single bowl. Both soups taste mostly of dried herbs, as does the lobster bisque. But a soup special of crab and corn chowder is pleasingly creamy, colorful, full of bright flavor.
Briny whole baked clams oreganata are topped with -- but not overwhelmed by -- bread crumbs. They're a hit. So, too, is a bowlful of lovely steamed littlenecks revved up by pieces of andouille sausage. You'll want to sop up the broth with the accompanying garlic bread.
A blackened tuna salad turns out to be a knockout, thanks to a hefty slab of spice-rimmed tuna steak, cooked perfectly rare. Too bad such an ordinary mix of greens and vegetables is underneath. A rather pallid grilled seafood salad features calamari and shrimp, neither component evincing any sign of having been on a grill.
A savory crabcake may be ordered as an appetizer or in a sandwich. Good, as well, is a spicy and very smoky grilled chicken sandwich with melted pepper jack cheese, and chipotle mayo on a brioche roll. The lobster roll here is delicious; just ask the kitchen to hold the inexplicable topping of shredded carrots.
Mushy linguine is the undoing of seafood fra diavolo, with its crown of shrimp, clams and mussels in a chili-fired marinara. As for fish and chips, it's a mixed blessing: fine, filigree-battered cod is plated with humdrum, previously frozen fries. Although sweet potato fries also were previously frozen, they're a cut above.
Conclude with a house- made dessert, such as an apple crisp or chocolate ganache cheesecake.
In the end, if you order judiciously, you can eat well without spending a bundle. And, depending upon your dinner companions, perhaps get a little chaos going, as well.