Justin Finney has been busier than ever, even though the restaurant where he helms the ship, East Hampton’s The Highway Restaurant and Bar, has been pick-up only since late March. Open for dinner until 9 PM six days a week (closed on Wednesdays), the restaurant has adapted its menu to suit the current dining climate. “You gotta try these cookies I am making,” he told me enthusiastically the other day. The Instagram photos told me all I needed to know anyway: triple-chocolate chip sea salt cookies, sold by the half dozen? Consider me a willing test subject.
The Highway has adapted to a changing marketplace with some fun and interesting ideas. It has implemented online ordering, so the telephone-averse can do it all by computer or smart phone. You can place an order in advance if, say, you want to choose your Saturday night meal on a Saturday morning. Some of the restaurant’s greatest hits make an appearance on the menu. You’ll find a traditional Caesar salad, and a kale salad, too, but you’ll also find chef Finney’s wonton soup, an ode to his popular Asian Nights, which used to take place once a month, on Thursdays. This iteration includes chicken- and shrimp-filled wontons, mushrooms, and spinach.
The menu boasts two pastas (penne with tomato and basil, rigatoni with a Bolognese sauce), and six comfort-oriented entrees. Choose from a cheeseburger, a miso-glazed salmon with lo mein and baby bok choy, a spit-roasted chicken with stuffing, prosciutto and fennel sausage meatballs, a chicken pot-pie, and eggplant parm. The chicken and eggplant are also available in large-format preparations (they serve two to four people), as are the Caesar, kale, and farro salads.
Finney has also added three meal kits to his repertoire, for those who want to cook, but not quite. Let The Highway do most of the work for you. Kits include a “Make at Home Spaghetti and Meatballs Kit,” with meatballs, pasta, basil, sauce, cheese, a Caesar salad, biscotti, and instructions included; a “Make at Home Beef Tacos Kit,” with ground beef, pico de gallo, avocado, lettuce, chocolate chip cookies, cheese, taco spice blend, and tortillas; and a “Make at Home Classic Cheeseburgers Kit,” with four cheeseburger patties, two types of cheese, buns, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, ketchup, aioli, coleslaw, and chocolate chip cookies.
Hungry (and thirsty) diners can also order a “Make at Home Cocktail Kit,” choosing between the Hot on the Highway (tequila, mezcal, Lillet, lime juice, agave, and jalapeño), the Shaddock (gin, Aperol, St. Germain, lime juice, and a lime twist), and the Bourbon Storm (bourbon, lemon juice, ginger syrup, and a lemon twist). If those cocktails don’t entirely float your boat, the restaurant’s excellent curated wine list is also available for takeaway.
I was curious if Highway planned to revive Executive Chef Anand Sastry’s ever-popular Asian Nights, a massive undertaking, given the current climate. While a full menu of the popular meals won’t currently be available, Finney did give me some words of assurance. “We are going to do Asian specials on Thursdays,” he said. For the Asian Night devotees out there, who can no longer hit up their favorite once-monthly feast, this news will likely come as a happy bit of encouragement to keep on eating.
A bit more bright news in somewhat dark times: The Highway has established an online system for purchasing meals for first-responders (The Independent has partnered on this initiative). You can purchase one, five, or 10 meals, at the cost of $35 per meal. Vouchers will be delivered to EMT stations and the East Hampton Village Police Station and Southampton Hospital, so that those responding to the crisis can know the weight of our gratitude.