WE HAVE A KEEPER!
The Highway Restaurant and Bar
by Colin Ambrose
Executive Chef, Estia’s Little Kitchen for Beachouse Media
There’s a new team in the old room at the VFW hall on 27 East in Georgica. Just beyond the Tank in the parking lot at 290 Montauk Highway sits a restaurant that seems to have had a hot potato lease for twenty years. I’ve stopped in for a bite at all of them – from the Italian red sauce joint to the Mexican fiesta and the temple of American contemporary cuisine. Each had a solid idea; some had good execution. But, today’s tenant has found the right combination of solid comfort food, appropriate decor and warm, inviting hospitality that has turned me into a regular. At last, we have a keeper!
The basics are solid at Highway Restaurant and Bar. The space is large with many seating options for both large and small parties. The service is consistent and highly attentive. Best of all, there’s a meet-your-needs satisfaction in all of the dishes that emerge from the kitchen. Don’t choose this “Diner” if you’re interested in fancy food plated with tweezers. But run there as fast as you can if you crave a solid meal featuring well prepared comfort food sourced from the highest quality growers and suppliers. You will leave very satisfied…and you’ll come back for more.
On one visit, I chose the Chicken Zucchini Burger and was pleased by its presentation on a seeded bun with hand cut fries and a spicy dipping sauce. A few weeks later the chef responded to my gluten-free/no-carb request with a perfectly cooked burger on a lightly dressed salad of crisp, spicy locally sourced greens. My wife loves the steamed pork buns – an appetizer sized portion of juicy, flavorful braised pork belly on two lightly steamed buns. The side of homemade coleslaw adds a welcome crunch.
Right around the holidays we made our way down to the restaurant with a group of friends visiting from out-of-town. They chose the “definitely-about-to-be-famous” chicken pot pie! Each is presented in its own ceramic pie plate and is as savory and satisfying as you could ever want. The chicken, both tender and juicy, is at least 80% white meat. Carrots, potatoes, celery and just the right amount of [roux enhanced] chicken broth are baked in a flaky homemade crust. It’s a well-portioned dish, perfect on a cold December evening, even better following the crisp kale and radish salad.
One evening, sitting at the bar, our favorite barman, Tim, suggested the Hot Wings served with a spicy dipping sauce. I liked them so much I ordered a second plate and made them my dinner. Tim’s approach at the bar is spot-on. He’s worked this stretch of 27 for many years. You might know him from The Old Stove Pub or Nichols. He seems very much at home behind his new bar. And in the kitchen, just around the corner from the bar, chef Justin Finney has settled-in following a few of his own stops on the East End trail including Nick & Toni’s, Rowdy Hall and five years at the The Meetinghouse. Justin brings a rolodex full of local food contacts and a recipe file loaded with original ideas into a kitchen that’s been financed by an investor with solid ties to the Manhattan restaurant world. Justin tells me that over the last four months his boss has sent several highly regarded NY chefs into the kitchen to share a variety of ideas and help him ‘move-in’ for the long haul. Unlike several of the previous operations in this space, this crew has a solid backer with the long term view, prepared to work in harmony with the inevitable ebb and flow of a seasonal resort destination that also maintains a sophisticated year round population with their own sets of tastes and demands.
I like the team here. They know the business because they know the neighborhood along this stretch of the 27 East corridor. The concept says relax; ask for something new, we have it; or if you want that same old thing you can be confident it will taste great.
The Highway Restaurant and Bar is located at 290 Montauk Highway in East Hampton. Visit their website here or call 631.527.5372 for reservations.