By Kitty Merrill
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The white ceiling fans whir as diners gaze out open windows, across the blue waters of a sparkling pool and through the swaying (potted) palm trees to a view of sunset over the harbor. Lovely and low-key, the ambiance at the Star Island Grill, located at Star Island Yacht Club in Montauk, is decidedly casual resort.
Unlike the array of flash in the pan clubs and eateries that have made their home, if temporarily, in the Lighthouse District, SIG is marked by a distinct absence of pretension – there wasn't a fedora in sight when we arrived for dinner Wednesday night and were greeted by manager Patty Collins Sales. With a quick wit and even quicker smile, she made us feel right at home immediately and set to mixing up our drinks.
It was post-pre-holiday rush, so Patty (we'll call her Foody Patty to avoid confusion), Kim, Romaine, Joanna and I were primed for relaxation. Foody Patty and Kim ordered beers, amused by the kitchzy aluminum bottles they were served in. I had been craving a mudslide for days and Sales makes the best. Joanna tried the MTeaK, a mixture of sweet tea vodka and lemonade, and Romaine went for Patty's Pirate Punch, a thirst quenching concoction of fruit juice and rum – Hawaiian Punch for adults.
In keeping with the marina theme, our table was adorned with a nautical map. Self-serve condiments and utensils were arranged in a wire basket any Pinterest follower would share. A big roll of paper towels was there for family-style dispensing. Dishes are served in quaint paper baskets lined with red- checkered napkins, but make no mistake -- what Chef Tony Sales fills them with is anything but standard snack bar fare.
We ordered a variety of starters – crispy corn fritters with a sweet and salty dipping sauce, barbecue sliders with house-smoked pulled pork, pickles and slaw on potato buns that Foody Patty deemed "perfectly sauced," "Bang Bang Squid" that was tender on the inside and crunchy on the outside, with a sweet chili dip I want Tony to bottle and sell, and the pièce de résistance – lobster salad sliders. Plump lobster meat, and lots of it, is tossed with a delicate sauce and served on the potato rolls. That menu selection is a meal in itself, if you're not bent on chowing down.
But we were, so it was on to the entrees.
We tried the Molly salad, an oyster po'boy (a special that night), shrimp tacos, calamari salad, fried chicken, and ribs.
The fried chicken already has a reputation among savvy visitors. It definitely lived up to its legendary status. Kim explained: it's crispy and moist without a hint of grease. The fat fried oysters on Joanna's Po'Boy could claim the same. Sweet potato fries were cooked to perfection --crunchy and moist, as was the calamari tossed with fresh baby arugula and sesame-soy-ginger dressing.
Tony's grilled Cajun-spiced shrimp were topped with Tijuana slaw, cilantro and chipotle sauce, then wrapped – Baja style – in soft flour tortillas. And the Molly salad, named for the second generation Sales on staff – was a perfect mix of shrimp, goat cheese, dried cranberries and toasted pecans tossed with garden greens and raspberry vinaigrette. The shrimp still popped when I bit into them the next day while scarfing the contents of my doggie bag.
With one taste, Foody Patty called dibs on the ribs, praised as smoky and tender. "If this was my dying meal, I'd be fine with that," she joked, proclaiming them "the best ribs I've ever had."
Off season, Sales is a baker whose desserts can bring tears to your eyes. So, with discerning tastebuds, she chose to offer cupcakes by the popular Junior's brand on the dessert menu. We sampled, okay, more than sampled, four kinds – confetti, red velvet, peanut butter and chocolate, and chocolate ganache. The platter looked like a war zone when we were finished.
Star Island Grill is open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They have live music at sunset on Thursdays and we're headed back there for poolside lunch and karaoke on Saturday.
Visit starislandyc.com to learn more.