For those who feel that the Hamptons have become “Disneyfied” over the years, Riverhead can provide a welcome antidote to living in a tourist zone like East Hampton or Southampton. Situated in the historic J.J. Sullivan Hotel on Riverhead’s Main Street, Tweed’s Restaurant & Buffalo Bar fits the town’s image, with an old-fashioned, men’s club style that is about as trendy as a game of backgammon. This is not to say that a meal at Tweed’s is not inspired or surprising – it’s just to take note of how comfortable it is to sit down in a place that knows what it is without trying to be anything else. That’s Tweed’s, and that’s Riverhead.
A word about the bison on the menu. A giant stuffed buffalo head, reportedly Teddy Roosevelt’s last buffalo kill, adorns the wall at the front of Tweed’s, and this, along with the 100-year-old bar, goes a long way to generating that men’s club atmosphere. Tweed’s owner Ed Tuccio actually raises bison on his own ranch outside of Riverhead, and bison steaks and burgers have been a big part of Tweed’s repertoire from the start. Whether you opt for the smaller bison kebab appetizer or for a full-sized steak, if you’ve never tried this delicious alternative to beef you should taste it at Tweed’s. They’re the experts. Tweed’s has also been known to offer even more exotic manly fare, such as elk steaks, so if game is your game, ask to see the specials.
It was the first cool night of September when my wife and I visited Tweed’s, so we had our faces set for some comfort food. What could be more comforting than a bowl of French Onion soup? Prepared with a rich beef stock, flavored with red wine and covered with a thick layer of melted Gruyere, the soup had all of the sweet onion-y goodness one could wish for. As a twist, it was garnished with a tossing of fresh scallions, which added a welcomed burst of sharpness to the mellowed, slow-cooked onions in the broth. Well played.
Stationed as it is at the gateway to Long Island Wine Country, Tweed’s has a wine list that features many local vintages, including Lenz’ Tweed’s Label, a house blend, as well as wines from Paumanok and One Woman, to name just a few. To accompany the French Onion soup, our waitress recommended a Beringer Cabernet, and we followed her advice. It was indeed a fine match.
We also followed our waitress’s advice for appetizers and ordered the Crab Cakes, two cakes with a little green salad accompanied by two contrasting sauces – one a citrus sauce and the other a zestier, Thai-inspired condiment. The cakes were crispy and chock full of crab, and both sauces were right on target. High marks on this.
Last time we were at Tweed’s we sampled the bison and we even had some elk. While they are delicious and heartily recommended, this time we decided to explore more standard dishes. I was tempted by the Aquebogue Duck Two Ways, but something about the atmosphere of Tweed’s awakened my appetite for red meat. Accordingly, I chose the Filet Mignon, medium rare. The wife, who is less susceptible to the influence of stuffed buffalo heads, ordered baked salmon. The filet arrived piping hot with a perfect char on the surface and a juicy pink interior. The mashed potatoes and steamed veggies alongside it were all you could want as well. Meanwhile, the wife’s salmon was a fine, delicately seasoned piece of fish, with a green peppercorn glaze and served with a nicely turned out rice pilaf. All around a first class meal.
Dessert and coffee were mentioned and seriously considered, but we were stuffed, and felt that if we stuck around much longer we might wind up like Teddy Roosevelt’s prey, which looked down at us from the wall. Nothing was left but to take a little stroll down Riverhead’s quirky Main Street and savor the un-Hampton-ness of it all. Tweed’s, and Riverhead, were well worth the trip.
Tweeds Restaurant & Buffalo Bar, 17 East Main Street, Riverhead. Call 631-208-3151 or visit www.tweedsrestaurant.com.