Pardon me for being obtuse, but I just don’t get the trend in many fine dining establishments to put a hamburger on the menu. (Especially at $18.) If I’m going to a restaurant that boasts a decent wine list and doesn’t offer fries as an optional vegetable (at additional price!), I don’t expect the chef to put something as pedestrian as a burger on the menu. Especially when the point of having it there seems to be just in case you underestimated what $$$ meant in your Zagat’s guide. At a certain level of restaurant, and at a certain price point, a “hamburger” better come with a pedigree. Example: Chris and I once dined at DB Bistro Moderne, Daniel Boulud’s more “casual” restaurant in Midtown Manhattan, where the signature dish is a hamburger made of sirloin filled with braised short ribs, stuffed with foie gras and black truffle, served on a parmesan bun…for $32. (Please note, the French fries–“pommes frites,” of course–were included.) It was a heart attack on a plate, but it WAS wonderful, but it’s an experience I don’t need to repeat.
When we crave a hamburger, we go to a place where hamburgers comprise at least 50% of the menu and you can get just about anything you can imagine on them. Such a place probably doesn’t have stellar service, it definitely doesn’t have Chateau Margaux on the wine list (if there IS a wine list) and I expect to see at least one and usually several televisions hanging in the joint. One of the best places for a really good gooey hamburger, in my opinion, is Fellingham’s in Southampton. There is nothing trendy or elegant about Fellingham’s, nor is that their intent. They are unabashedly a sports bar with a local following, but their burger is probably one of the best values in the Hamptons.
A couple of burger joints have opened in Sag Harbor over the past year or two, one on the Sag Harbor Turnpike, and one in a storefront right on Main Street. This latter one is called LT Burger and it mightily resembles the sort of soda fountain that used to be the norm for a burger and a milkshake, without quite the 1950’s kitsch of a Johnny Rocket’s chain. Oh yes, LT Burgers does the milkshakes too, yum yum yum, including a handful of options you must be over 21 to enjoy. The menu is short on options other than burgers (though they do have veggie, turkey and tuna burgers), with a few salads, half a dozen apps and several choices of fries (extra charge), including the best sweet potato fries I’ve had in years. Burgers ranged from the signature at $11 and went up to about $16 depending on accoutrements. I had one on special called a “farm burger” that came with onions and local Mecox Bay cheese and a fried egg, and Chris opted for the one with grilled onions and applewood smoked bacon. We split a salad made with local heirloom tomatoes, grilled bacon and ricotta cheese that had a wonderful spicy dressing with maybe a hint of curry to it. The place is very casual, perfect for kids, and does take out which we’d probably enjoy if we lived in Sag Harbor. And we happened to score one of the tables in the window so we could watch the always-active foot traffic on Sag Harbor’s Main Street (which, by the way, is the only village in the Hamptons that “gets it” when it comes to being open for late night shopping, but that’s a topic for another day). It’s a pricier burger than you’d find in a soda fountain anywhere else except here in the Hamptons, but the atmosphere was right and it was tasty. We’ll be back.
Speaking of shopping, summer brings the usual batch of new stores to the Hamptons, including a few “pop-up” stores that expect to stay long enough to interest only our summer visitors. I hate this concept because it ignores our year-round population, but that too is a topic for another day. Still, occasionally we get a pop-up that is such a good fit that the store signs a year-round lease and becomes part of our village landscape. One such store that I hope will make the transistion is a fun little shop on the corner of Main Street and Job’s Lane in Southampton called C Wonder. This is a shop that sells all things summertime: bright clothes and summer shoes, bags you’d take to the beach or to a pool party, household supplies and hostess gifts for said party, even beach cruiser bicycles. The prices aren’t outrageous, and the management knows how to generate excitement: Every weekend since Memorial Day when they opened, they’ve held fun store events with lots of excitement for the whole family. Today, for example, among the activities is a village-wide scavenger hunt that offers the chance to win a $500 gift cvertificate to the store. As soon as I drop off our guests at Cooper’s Beach, I’m stopping by to play!
Sunshine, sweet potato fries, a scavenger hunt…ahhhh, summer. Maybe I’ll find a mayonnaise jar and collect some fireflies tonight…
Quote of the Day: A hamburger by any other name, costs twice as much. –Evan Esar