An indicator of a truly great restaurant is how you feel afterward. In this case, the route back to the car involved a stroll along the marina to look at the fishing boats, breathing in that wonderful salt air and reveling in the magnificent starry night sky above. Over the course of a delicious dinner at Hampton Lady, the mid-week tension brought on by my daily commute along Montauk Highway, had dissolved completely—leaving my fellow diner and I feeling more like we were vacationing in Hampton Bays than living here year-round.
Our company in the back room overlooking Shinnecock Bay was a mix of locals, who said fond hellos to the waiters (so-and-so’s son or daughter), and out-of-towners—adults who distinguished themselves by gleefully feeding seagulls outside over the balcony. The atmosphere was cheerful—groups of families and friends seemed to be enjoying themselves (and their lobsters)—and although it was packed on a Tuesday night, the open sliding glass doors lent a feeling of openness and relaxation.
This was our second time at Hampton Lady—the first being when they had first opened just about a year ago—and having thoroughly enjoyed the Hamptons Sunset drink last time around, this time I opted for The Hampton Lady Margarita. One did the trick for this Hampton lady! The delicious concoction of Patron Silver, Patron Citronage, Cointreau, fresh lime juice and a splash of orange juice was perfectly blended and served in a tall glass with plenty of ice and sea salt around the rim. Our friendly waitress described the specials (a $28 lobster night takes place Sundays through Wednesdays!) and the catch of the day (fluke) as the pink sun began to set behind her over Ponquogue Bridge, casting an indescribably beautiful glow across the water and onto the boats docked outside. One of said boats is of course the Hampton Lady herself, on which captain Jim, who’s also the restaurant owner, takes people out during the day for fishing. You can’t pass up local fluke, so I went with it, and with the options of having your catch-of-the-day grilled, broiled or fried, it had to be fried. The BF went with fish tacos, after spotting them at a neighboring table, which were also prepared with the fresh catch.
We started with fried calamari—which were fresh and soft with each bite (and there were no heads in this batch, only the rings), seasoned and salted so well that the marinara sauce complimented rather than carried the flavor. Take note: The portion is enough to share with four as an appetizer. So delicious, though, it took some restraint to save room for entrees. Good thing we did. My fluke was a big one, served with buttery, crunchy-fresh mixed veggies, a baked potato, a little dish of tangy dill-relish sauce and a lemon. The fish tacos were “yummy yum!”—served in three soft corn tortillas with little bowls of chopped fresh tomato, black beans and guacamole and a lemon to squeeze over the top. “These might just be the best fish tacos I’ve ever had,” said fellow-diner, noting the palette-cleansing carrot-cabbage slaw underneath the fish and the flavorful cilantro and finely chopped red onion atop.
The menu at Hampton Lady allows you to eat like an Islander—enjoying the same, fresh food today that might have been here a century earlier—crabcakes, baked littlenecks, steamed lobster and local, in-season vegetables. The menu also includes salads, pastas and steaks; truly something for every palette. All desserts are house-made so you can share, or indulge on your own, in flan, cannoli, tiramisu or key lime pie.
We have set plans to come back with friends and enjoy the bar area, where waterfront dining meets sports-bar camaraderie, and catch live music on the ocean-side deck at sunset on Friday and Saturday nights.
Hampton Lady is located at 363 Dune Road in Hampton Bays. Call 631-521-3366 for reservations and be sure to check out their charter fishing boat details at thehamptonlady.com.