There are any number of venues where bowling or arcade games or mini golf or whatever other activities fall under the guise of “entertainment” own the spotlight and give visitors plenty to do…until what they want to do is eat. It’s in these moments we notice how many palaces of play routinely push the notion of food just past the line of afterthought. Now, there is something to be said for doing one thing and doing it well. If you can do many things and excel, however, you take that ball and run with it. Or, if you’re the Clubhouse in East Hampton, throw it down the alley and watch the pins explode in an exultant strike.
“Game Set Match” has been the Clubhouse tagline since it opened this past July, a nod to the portion of the East Hampton Indoor Tennis facility that was reimagined into a massive fun zone that is now home to 10 bowling lanes, indoor bocce and cornhole courts, an arcade boasting more than three dozen games, an outdoor 18-hole mini golf course and a restaurant that is in no way playing games. The self-described “American Pub with Bistro Style Fare” was created with both date nights and group outings in mind, playing to a sports-loving crowd as much as a fun night out with the kids or just a few adult friends who, one recent late-fall evening, clinked glasses when their potent Moscow Mules arrived, then toasted again to the first bites of a memorable meal.
Forks flew to share the Goat Cheese Salad of mesclun greens, sundried cranberries, red onions, sliced almonds and crumbled goat cheese dressed lightly in a raspberry vinaigrette, and were put down only long enough to break off a piece of the giant soft pretzel (with mustard and cheese sauce for dipping), which surely hopped a plane from some German Oktoberfest celebration to make a name for itself in the Hamptons. Chicken wings can be ordered with dry rub, Thai chili or honey BBQ, but the standout is the traditionalist’s take. The Buffalo style is rightfully saucy with just enough fire to warrant a quick blue-cheese dip, heroically going against a hot-wing trend that seems predicated on foregoing flavor and simply trying to induce watering eyes and an outbreak of sweats that under other circumstances would send one to a walk-in clinic.
Make sure you set aside a chilly night for dinner for two at the Clubhouse, especially with after-dinner drinks cozied up on one of the leather couches nestled in front of a toasty fire. But also come with a crowd to enjoy this menu en masse, sharing and sampling and, since we’re all friends here, maybe even reaching across the table to snag that last slice of Pulled Pork Quesadilla—a subtle smoke balanced by a sweet-heat caramelized pineapple salsa—or another piece of the perfectly battered Fried Calamari Tubes and Tentacles.
Entrées sparked a game of pass-the-plates, and trying to pick a favorite ended in a three-way tie. The Surf & Turf special did land and sea equally proud, the lobster tail and steak both cut-it-with-a-butter-knife tender. Penne Alla Vodka was a zingy rendition with just the right creaminess to carry the tomato and onions, even winning over the “never order Italian outside an Italian restaurant” member of the group. A ground sirloin burger, ordered rare, hits the old-school mark with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle, but top it with bacon and egg and a slice of avocado and you have a game changer.
When a big game is on, a gaggle of 28 giant-screen TVs fill the space with the aura of an arena or high-end sports book, without the trip to Las Vegas or having to sit next to that guy regaling you with the details of his five-team parlay that almost hit. The beauty of the Clubhouse is, you can be immersed in every touchdown or three-pointer one minute and dive into festive, flavorful cuisine the next. Game. Set. Match.
The Clubhouse is open for dinner 7 nights a week, lunch on Saturdays and Sundays and late-night bites on Fridays and Saturdays. 174 Daniels Hole Road, East Hampton. 631-537-2695, ehitclubhouse.com