You know summer has officially arrived in the Hamptons when you feel the actual thrum — a physical vibration — from the Napeague stretch, the spit of land connecting Amagansett with Montauk. It’s there that you’ll find a series of restaurants, staggered like wayward cards in a deck. Back in the old days, Cyril’s, the last of the bunch, was the entrée to Montauk, a loosely regulated party scene where you could get an extremely strong frozen drink and hang out on the side of an actual highway in the middle of summer, across the street from the beach, but, really, worlds away.
Cyril Fitzsimons died just a few weeks ago, and the stretch is changing, just like everything else. But the old Clam Bar still exists, and, like every summer, it is now open for business. Here’s the thing I’ve heard most often about the Clam Bar: cash only, whispered under the breath, an annoyance, even though there was an ATM on premise. Cash is a burden sometimes, but you’ll be glad to know that you won’t have to worry about it this year, in the era of takeout and delivery. The Clam Bar’s new business model permits the use of credit cards, thank you very much. Whether that standard continues when the restaurant returns to its regular, in-person business model remains to be seen, but, for right now, we’ll take what we can get.
The new incarnation of an old favorite opened its doors on Friday, May 15. In normal years, the weekend before Memorial Day weekend is the weekend of the Montauk Music Festival, and, some might offer, the unofficial start to the summer season. But there are no festivals right now, and even the weather feels unseasonable for summer. So, in the spirit of doing things differently, the Clam Bar will facilitate your seafood bonanza by bringing your favorite foods to your car, or, if you’re fortunate enough to live in the town of East Hampton, right to your house. Orders can (and must) be placed online, and curbside pickup patrons will be alerted by text or call when their meals are ready.
Like many restaurants, the Clam Bar has pared down the menu — for now, at least. It includes a New England clam chowder, lobster salad roll, lobster salad over a house salad or kale Caesar, grilled tuna sandwich with fries, fish and chips, grilled tuna over salad, tuna bites, clam strips, shrimp cocktail, steamers, and a lobster BLT for right now, though the menu will likely evolve as the season progresses. Beer and wine are also available. Guests can order wines by the bottle, as well as the Montauk Watermelon Ale, the Montauk Summer Ale, the Montauk Pilsner, and the Montauk Wave Chaser IPA.
In the meantime, the restaurant will operate Friday through Monday, 11:30 AM to 6 PM, with additional hours added in the future. It is not, after all, a true summer in the Hamptons without the Clam Bar experience (to my mind, that includes a plate of steamers, but I’m a native New Englander), so we can all begin the mental shift to warm weather, snowfall in May notwithstanding. If you opt for curbside delivery, there’s no harm, of course, in taking your lobster roll (and steamers, for Pete’s sake!) by car to the nearest dune, where you can create your own case for social distancing. There are few opportunities for a perfect table with a view in the Hamptons, but here’s a chance to snag your own, born of circumstance, I suppose, so not all circumstances yield bad outcomes. A lonely dune, it turns out, can make a most lovely dining table.