October 18, 2006

Main Course

By Amy Patton

With the Hamptons International Film Festival in town, you could say ground zero — at least when it comes to dining — is unquestionably Rowdy Hall. If you haven't yet visited, the eatery is located down a little alleyway in the heart of East Hampton's shopping district, just steps away from the UA cinema where a majority of the HIFF films will be screened.

It's a casual place, frequented in equal numbers by visitors and locals alike.

Rowdy Hall has a little bit of a British pub's ambience, with Anglo staples like crispy fish and chips and draught brews such as Guinness stout and Boddingtons' ale.

A recent visit to the restaurant proved that it's a must-stop for HIFF attendees and more than a few celebrity sightings are expected (think Heather Graham, Ellen Burstyn and Marcia Gay Harden, for starters). Our group selected a crisp bottle of Chateau St. Jean Chardonnay that came to the table properly on ice. An offbeat appetizer of iceberg lettuce wedge dressed with a tangy blue cheese sauce and sprinkled with smoky bacon bits ($7) was a winner. We also sampled a savory potato leek soup ($9) that was a meal in itself — rich and creamy and tasting of autumn.

Burgers are popular here: most-ordered is the Rowdy Burger ($9.95) that comes sided with the restaurant's signature hand-cut fries. We also enjoyed a dish of mussels that were steamed in a fragrant white wine/herbed cream sauce. Delicious and plump, the mussels disappeared quickly. Another Rowdy signature dish is the Shepherd's Pie, a hearty portion enough for two at $22.50. The pastry was stuffed with a traditional mix of braised lamb, carrots, peas, pearl onions and mashers (that's British-ese for mashed potatoes).

We fell for the yummy main course of seared sea scallops, that, in another nod to fall, sat atop a butternut squash puree and earthy Brussels sprouts.

For moviegoers keeping their eye on the clock, Rowdy Hall offers a menu of "shorts" that can be at the table in around five minutes! Shorts include those famous fish and chips, BLTs, chili, Portobello sandwiches, egg salad and chicken salad sandwiches, and bistro cobb salad.

Have a hankering for single malt scotch? Rowdy's spirit menu boasts 12 year old Glenfiddich along with Highland Park, Macallan and Aberlour, among others. There's also a selection of small batch bourbons and unblended whiskies. Pastry chef Molly Harding whips up delectable comfort desserts like red velvet cake, apple walnut crisp and a decadent peanut butter chocolate tart.

In addition to its creative menu and lively bar crowd, the restaurant maintains the spirit of the somewhat bawdy original Rowdy Hall of the same name dating back centuries. The original, once a boarding house and the scene of much revelry, was located just down the road from where the restaurant is now. It was the center of an artists' colony in the 1890s and later was converted to a private home that was rented by Jack and Janet Bouvier, the parents of future First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. The Bouviers even celebrated Jackie's second birthday party at the house!

Rowdy Hall, 10 Main Street

(Cross Street: Between East Hampton and Fithian Lane), East Hampton, 324-8555

Reservations not accepted

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