It is common knowledge that The Sloppy Tuna is by far the best place in Montauk to catch that Spring Break meets “Jersey Shore” vibe or go trolling for trouble on Ladies’ Night. By now they are well known for their branding and marketing genius – The Tuna has hosted pop-up shops, various musical acts, and a variety of weekly events including summertime goldfish races (???) with a lineup of sports-themed specials positioned around a large scale projection screen set for fall.
There is even a house midget, Randy Montuna, who is ready and willing to entertain the sort of Montauk visitor that is “into” midget inspired drinking spectacles – of which, hipsters be damned, there are apparently many. We are talking about a bar that has had no trouble getting more than one person to permanently ink themselves with a tattoo of their logo. Surely, they must be doing something right.
In its second season, the Tuna rolled out an eye-pleasing renovation job that spruced the place up considerably, and with local chef Reed Lucas at the helm, they seem to have mastered a menu that is appropriate to the venue. It is simple, sparse, and well executed, with a smattering of traditional grub and a slight Tex-Mex flair that leaves you thirsting for another Corona.
Our visit to the Tuna was a lunchtime affair, as the dinner and lunch menu are one in the same, and with a striking ocean view from the second floor roof deck, Miss Stephanie and I were craving some sun. To put it kindly, Stephanie is hard to please – she will put Meg Ryan’s character in When Harry Met Sally to shame if you allow her to order. Needless to say, I was surprised to hear that of all the food reviews I have dragged her to this season, the Sloppy Tuna was my high maintenance friend’s absolute favorite. Go figure.
We began our trek into tuna town with a couple of cocktails – I forayed onto the drink list with the “Sloppy Poppy,” an Absolute Peppar Bloody Mary that did not disappoint. Steph resisted the urge to order a fruity rum drink called “the chum bucket” and instead opted for an infusion of her own creation, which our bartender Katie, the chef’s longtime girlfriend, served up happily.
There is a small raw bar selection including shrimp, clams, and oysters, all of which might have paired nicely with my Sloppy Poppy, A couple of simple salads including an arugula concoction with beach plum vinaigrette and an iceberg wedge grace the menu. We opted for a side of guacamole, which was ample, chunky, and only slightly lacking in salt. Stephanie was delighted with the house-made tortilla chips.
There are several varieties of soft tacos on the menu, and for our next course, we enjoyed a plate of the skirt steak variety. Seared, juicy bits of marinated steak were paired with a salsa verde bursting with cilantro, which also garnished the dish along with some colorful red onions. At $15, they were a hit, as Stephanie said, “flavorful, but not overpowering.”
For the main event, I went with the tuna steak sandwich – how could you not? I am super picky when it comes to tuna and this dish was among the better tuna sandwiches I have encountered in my lifetime. Grilled to medium rare and served on a bun, it was topped with a helping of cheddar cheese and crispy onion fritters. Tomato, spicy mayonnaise, and arugula, apparently the chef’s lettuce of choice, added a nice balance and bite. Stephanie described it as “like a perfect hamburger without the beef.”
Stephanie’s lobster roll ($20) was served on a toasted bun and also presented with arugula. With crispy bits of celery, onion, and not too much mayonnaise, there was an ample amount of real lobster meat that sealed the deal for Steph. “I am in love with this place,” she declared, noting that the roll “totally blows away” the offerings at another restaurant where the presentation left much to be desired.
As our lunch hour drew to a close, we left the tuna thirsting for more. Stephanie nearly grabbed what she described as a “delicious looking” hand cut French fry off of someone else’s plate on the way out the door. Needless to say we will be back. I will have the skirt steak tacos, and she wants a lobster roll, with fries.
Sloppy Tuna, 148 South Emerson Avenue, Montauk. 631-647-8000, www.thesloppytuna.com.