100 Montauk Hwy, East Hampton
(631) 267-5400 | winstonsds.com
Hamptons restaurants usually compete with one another to be different, to be exotic and adventurous. The new Winston’s Bar and Grill on Montauk Highway in East Hampton does no such thing. It’s a modest, casual place that serves three meals a day with a basic seafood, steak, chicken, no surprise menu. The chef, affable Winston Lyons from Jamaica has sprinkled just a few Caribbean dishes into the mix. Lyons, who has seen previous service at Bostwick’s, East Hampton Point, The East Hampton Grille and Turtle Crossing turns out solid no-nonsense dishes in a venue that housed Nichol’s for many years and the Quiet Clam before that.
Winston’s rustic décor lends itself to the menu’s basic fare. Little beside the wide, rough-hewed floorboards has changed from the Nichol’s days. It’s unabashedly old-fashioned, with a potbelly stove, slanted ceiling and walls of repurposed wine crates. There are pictures of the East End, many of them nautical-themed, throughout its dining room and equally large bar room.
The Caribbean influence on the menu is minimal: a scorching Caribbean octopus salad ($15), jerk chicken with fried plantains ($27) and a citrus Caribbean salad ($12). That’s about it. The last, the Caribbean salad of desireable greens, avocado, grapefruit and orange, would pass muster at any restaurant. It’s as American as it is Caribbean and was refreshing. The Caribbean octopus salad’s jerked sauce was absolutely incendiary. It is a challenge even for those who relish spicy dishes. The other two starters were eight jumbo breaded fried oysters ($18), sufficient to provide a meal by themselves, and a respectable Manhattan clam chowder ($12) served in a shallow bowl that made it look like more than it was.
The main events were a delicious rotisserie chicken ($26) running with juices and full of flavor and a 16oz New York strip steak ($36) that boasted mineral flavor but was marred by too much gristle and fat. Rich, rewarding sautéed crabmeat stuffed into small crab shells was a bit skimpy for its $26.50 tab. The standard grilled salmon available on almost every Island menu comes on a bed of mashed potatoes and vegetables with a caper and lentil vinaigrette ($27) and is moist and better than most.
All desserts, and there are only three of them, cost $7. We passed on the mundane fruit cocktail. Instead we opted for the warm, fruit-flecked bread pudding and a simple ice cream sundae with a chocolate syrup base.
Diners interested in sampling Winston’s should get there this summer. Its future is uncertain because there are plans afoot to tear down the old building in the next year or two and it’s unsure whether Winston’s will reemerge in the new structure.