Like any The Real Housewives of New York City fan worth the salt on her Skinnygirl Margarita, I have a bit of an obsession with the Hamptons. I live for Ramona’s volcanic dinner parties (and questionable design choices), Luann’s out-of-touch pizza order (“Mrs. de Lesseps… The Countess!”), Sonja’s kooky jitney bathroom rituals, Bethenny’s avoidance of guests at her own home, high-stakes brunch battles and, of course, Barbara’s clambake, complete with doggie bags full of lobsters.
Alas, I am but a desert girl in an average tax bracket, so I figured my Hamptons enjoyment would remain vicarious unless I somehow befriended a celeb – or got invited on a press trip (hint, hint, luxury travel PR pros). This week, though, I got a little taste of the Hamptons right here in the Valley.
My PR pals Robyn and Erica invited me for a media happy hour at The Montauk, named for the tony village at the east end of Long Island. “Transport yourself to the Hamptons and kick back to live music with a lobster roll in one hand and glass of rosé in the other,” promises the website. Um, yes, please. That is the exact summer vibe I am trying to cultivate – even as excessive heat warnings blow up my phone, and even though the closest I’ve been to a lobster lately is burning my hands red on my steering wheel.
All that fell away as I approached The Montauk, a bright, white and airy space at the corner of Scottsdale Road and Stetson Drive in Old Town Scottsdale. White and navy striped umbrellas shade seats on a wrap-around patio, which also boasts an indoor-outdoor bar and a covered area with wicker chairs and wooden tables. Inside, white shiplap walls provide a clean canvas for nautical and Southwestern bric-a-brac, black-and-white photos and an installation of colorful oars. An elevated lounge area has velvety green couches, leather armchairs, wooden slingback chairs and shelves lined with books, curios and college ephemera.
We sat in a comfy booth close to the bar with a great view of my favorite feature in the restaurant: a bright aqua cabinet stocked with extra glassware and bottles of booze. That color is so striking, so energizing and so evocative of the sea that it immediately put me in a Hamptons mindset. I half-expected Ramona to saunter in and order a vodka soda – in a wineglass with lime, heavy ice and a straw, natch.
House-made potato chips | Photo courtesy The Montauk
I was pretty game for trying out just about anything on the happy hour menu, so I encouraged Robyn to channel Bethenny and order for us. Like Ms. Frankel, she ordered perfectly.
House-made potato chips ($5) were delightfully crisp, shattering with each bite and then melting in sweet symphony with finely shaved Parmesan and deeply savory truffle oil. The French onion dip served alongside was light but still rich with allium flavor. The burrata ($8) was cooling and creamy, served with figs, pistachio, arugula and prosciutto and drizzled with truffle oil. Grilled bread was a nice touch, lending the feeling of a backyard cookout (or clambake, in these imaginary parts).
I’m not big on eggs, so Robyn and Erica took one for the team and indulged in The Montauk’s decadent deviled eggs ($5). These petite orbs were garnished with bacon, truffle oil, arugula and crispy potato sticks. They looked so good I was almost tempted to face my oeuf aversion.
Crispy rock shrimp ($9) packed a surprising punch of heat thanks to a sweet and sticky aji amarillo chile sauce. I am a well-documented spice pansy, and yet I couldn’t resist popping these sweet little crustaceans into my mouth like popcorn. That’s what water’s for, right? The spice was lighter but still detectable in the fried chicken sliders ($9), a trio of juicy, crispy slabs of white-meat bird topped with pickles, kale-peanut slaw and sriracha aioli and encased in pillowy, butter-toasted rolls. I could eat these for lunch every day and be very happy. I especially loved the texture and chew of the kale in the slaw – much better than your average soggy, gloppy slaw.
Deviled Eggs | Photo courtesy The Montauk
But my favorite dish, the one I will be coming back for again and again, was the mac and cheese ($7; add chicken for $4, shrimp/ribeye/salmon for $6 or lobster for $12). It’s pretty easy to love mac and cheese, right? Noodles: good. Cheese: good. But The Montauk took everything up a few notches by jettisoning basic cheddar and welcoming aboard smoked Gouda, Havarti and Parmesan. It’s smoky in a way that is captivating, not overwhelming, and encourages you to keep eating to get a handle on the flavor. A sprinkling of chives provided a little herbal lift, and corkscrew pasta kept things texturally interesting – more on the al dente side instead of a plate of cheesy mush. I couldn’t believe how generous the portion was. It could easily be an entrée, with a respectable amount of leftovers. I also can’t believe that more restaurants don’t offer pasta on their happy hour menus! I suppose it’s not very Hamptons of me, but sometimes (OK, most times), I just want a plate of delicious carbs.
We didn’t have table or stomach space to try the clam chowder ($4); the avocado-kale hummus with celery, carrots and grilled bread ($7); or the tuna tartare guacamole with cava orange, cilantro, jalapeño and wonton chips ($12). I know Bethenny would dig the guac, and Lisa Vanderpump would love the “tyooona tartarrr” on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills crossover episode. If it’s good enough for LVP, it’s good enough for me.
Fried chicken sliders | Photo courtesy The Montauk
Draft beers cost just $4, well cocktails are $5 and house wines are $6. I went with the Kenwood Chardonnay (regularly $8), but you know Ramona would’ve gone with the Pinot Grigio. After a few of those, it would definitely be turtle time.
Happy hour runs all day Monday and from 3-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, only for dining in.