East End Eats: The Gig Is to Relax

Aug. 6, 2009
Morgan McGivern

668 the Gig Shack
782 Main Street
Montauk
631-668-2727
Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week .

Some people like to relax here in the summertime and some people like to “frantically relax. ” Frantically relaxing is sports galore, parties galore, benefits, shopping sprees, and making sure you can get into the newest, coolest restaurant of the season. I am exhausted already.

Some people just like to relax.

This might entail not washing the seawater out of your hair before you fall into bed, reading a whole book, and enjoying a cocktail that does not require exotic fruits, vegetables, herbal extracts, flowers, and $14.

668 the Gig Shack is a fun, funky restaurant for people who know how to relax. Right on Main Street in Montauk, it has an outdoor bar to the right, an indoor dining room, and some outdoor tables for watching the passing sidewalk show.

The wall on one side is covered in tin roofing material, the ceiling is white with blue Pollock-esque paint spatters, and the bar top is five billion bottle caps encased in resin. Surf movies play on a large screen and a black-and-white photograph of Lee Radziwell and Bianca and Mick Jagger greets you over the toilet in one of the restrooms. They all look frightfully thin and pleased with themselves, frantically relaxing in Montauk, circa 1972.

On the night we went it was raining but we were able to sit outside anyway.

A young couple nearby was playing backgammon waiting for their brokendown convertible rental car to be replaced.

A girl behind us piped up to recommend the crispy fish tacos. Three little munchkins were happily wrapping themselves in colorful Guatemalan shawls provided by the restaurant, and posing for pictures by the window.

We started with the spicy Thai mussels, the chef’s special soup of the day, corn chowder, and the Cuban salad with avocado, black beans, and pineapple and lime vinaigrette. The spicy Thai mussels were great — a big bowl full of small but tender mussels in rich coconut-milk broth with flecks of scallion, red pepper, lemongrass, and the occasional bite of diced, fresh jalapeno peppers. It was served with big slices of grilled bread for dipping.

The corn chowder was also good. It was a creamy purée of corn with a hint of cheese for added richness. The Cuban salad could have been a meal in itself. It was a huge portion of romaine and mixed lettuces, big chunks of perfectly ripe avocado, and a very good homemade zesty lime vinaigrette.

For entrees we got the “Montacos,” crispy fish tacos with mango salsa and creamy slaw, the fish special of the night, a spicy whole fried porgy with a citrusy aioli sauce on the side, and “Lamburginis,” lamb sliders on cheddar cheese buns with aioli. The Montacos were good but not what we expected. Instead of flour tortillas, these were served in crisp corn tortilla shells with a sweet mango salsa and a purple cabbage slaw.

The chunks of fish were generous and cooked just right. They were even better with a dash of the hot sauce provided on the table.

The Lamburginis were cute and delicious.

Three little lamb patties on three tender brioche-like cheddar buns and a gutsy, garlicky aioli. Our only complaint was that the lamb patties were a little dry from overcooking. The whole fried porgy was the star of the meal.

Considered by some to be fun to catch but a trash fish to eat, it is a tender, mild white fish, as long as you don’t mind picking around the multitude of bones.

This one reminded me of the great whole fried fish dishes you can get in Thai restaurants. It was crisp on the outside, and the flesh was still moist inside without getting greasy. With a splash of lemon juice and the accompanying tart sauce, it was delicious.

The food at 668 the Gig Shack is served on paper and plastic plates lined with mock Honolulu Times newspaper.

They serve only beer and wine but the choices are varied and affordable. The beer selection is especially creative with obscure India pale ales and microbrewery selections like Dead Guy Ale, Steam Engine, and Hoptical Illusion.

Prices for tapas and “small stuff” are $6. 50 to $16. “Global Gourmet” entrees and “Bohemian Barbecue” items are $11 to $24. On Wednesdays and Fridays, sushi and sake are available.

Our waiter was charming and knowledgeable.

Well, as we found out toward the end of our meal, he is the son of the owners and all three sons play a part in the running of the Gig Shack.

For desserts we were offered the red velvet cake and a chocolate cupcake with caramel butter-cream icing and a dash of sea salt on top. Both were excellent.

Having had a scary red velvet cake experience at another restaurant a few weeks ago, I was a bit gun-shy about trying it again. This one was a slice of tender, fresh cake with light vanilla cream cheese frosting, and best of all, a sprinkling of toasted pecans around the edges.

The chocolate cupcake was also very good. The owners of Gig Shack were about to sit down nearby for their own late supper but Tracey, the wife-mom, popped up from her chair to come over and insist that we wait until our butter cream had come to room temperature before we try it. She then personally grated the sea salt onto our cupcake. Yes, she is a pastry chef. And she cares.

The rainy skies cleared, the broken down convertible Sebring was replaced, and the three adorable munchkins wandered off with their parents for some ice cream. We had just had some fresh local fish, simply and well prepared, served with a smile.

This is what relaxing in the summertime is all about.