The Harbor Grill, East Hampton

Okay, let me first start off by saying this isn’t the easiest blog to write. It’s about a restaurant I used to frequent in the summer that was pretty good, save the dull atmosphere. But last night I had dinner there with some friends and it was basically disappointing. The restaurant is the Harbor Grill on Three Mile Harbor Road in East Hampton.

I walked in to a full bar. Good, I thought. A little liveliness. I asked for our table and had my choice of any table in the empty restaurant, and it was 7:30pm. I chose a window seat which looks out onto the parking lot. It looked nice enough with a candle lighting the table. The waitress, not introducing herself as such, came over with the menus. I asked if she was my waitress so I could order a drink. She then identified herself and I received my drink.

When my friends arrived, they were nicely greeted and shortly after they sat down they were able to place their drink order. There was slight confusion with one of the drinks. Even though they offer an array of flavored vodkas and such, it didn’t seem the waitress was all that familiar with, dare I say, old fashioned drinks not listed on the mixology menu. One mojito came to the table not very cold. I was wondering if we were in for a bumpy ride. But soon the specials board was brought over and we were feeling optimistic.

The specials included a mushroom soup as the soup of the day, and, oddly, some items very similar to the items on the menu. For instance, Mongolian chicken wings were offered as an appetizer and Mongolian ribs were a special entrée. Another special was steak and shrimp scampi, perhaps the most appealing on the specials menu. The menu special was a 1-1/2 lb. lobster with sides for $29. Not a bad deal, I thought. But, I wasn’t in the mood for lobster and, honestly, 1-1/2 lbs. seems like more shell than lobster to me. But, still a good deal.

The menu was basically American fare, offering buffalo wings, nachos, french onion soup, shrimp cocktail, mussels, a large variety of burgers, and an assortment of poultry, fish and meat. I’ve had the Mongolian wings in the past and they were decent, but I was looking for something lighter, so I ordered the mussels to start. The white wine and garlic sauce was watery and lacking flavor. The mussels themselves weren’t that flavorful, but would have benefitted from a good sauce. The garlic bread that came with it was delicious, it was just too bad the sauce wasn’t dip-worthy. My friends ordered salads to start which I can imagine being prepared ahead of time. I could be wrong. But, they weren’t impressed. We also ordered baked stuffed clams for the table. The clam stuffing came in individual aluminum, clam shaped serving “things”, for lack of a better word. It was an immediate turn off. I like when I get a real clam shell, not this aluminum thing. Surprisingly, the baked clams weren’t bad. You could taste the clams and it wasn’t overly breaded. Feeling hopeful, we went onto the entrées.

One of my friends had the broiled salmon. It was slightly over cooked for my taste as I prefer it medium rare, but flaky nonetheless. The seasoning was simple but good and didn’t overpower the taste of the fish. We put that in the winners category. I had the Gorgonzola crusted flank steak. It was cooked the way I liked it, it wasn’t tough, and the Gorgonzola crust was delicious. Another winner. We tried the black bean burger for my vegetarian friend. Not bad. We decided this would be considered a winner as well. But let me explain why I’m not giving it thumbs up. Having been a patron at this restaurant many times, I felt I could pick anything from the menu and it wild be up to par, if not better. Now, I feel like I have to make my choices carefully or I’ll be disappointed, which turned out to be the case. Stick with what’s good and familiar and you’ll be okay. Go outside the box of sure bets and you’ll likely be disappointed.

I wouldn’t recommend the Harbor Grill because the food isn’t consistently good, the atmosphere has a lot to be desired, the staff isn’t well trained, and it’s a bit pricey for the quality of food you get. I’d rather spend a little more and go to a much better restaurant. I can’t say I won’t revisit the Harbor Grill again, but I may wait for next summer to see if things have improved.

There’s my first not so flattering review. It feels uncomfortable, but it’s part of being a good food blogger and telling my unbiased opinion to the public. There will be more along the way, I’m sure. I’m a virgin critic. Well, not anymore I suppose. 😉

Their website has been down or you could take a look for yourself. yelp.com reviews have been mostly positive. But, there has definitely been a shift in the restaurant’s food, and not for the better. If you find yourself there, a sure bet is a burger and brew at the bar.

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