Fried Puffer Fish at Lobster Roll Restaurant
They make a solid lobster roll, the lobster salad minimally mayonnaise-y and speckled with celery, but we actually prefer the fried puffer fish—a Long Island specialty, not poisonous like the Japanese kind —they're coated in a thin batter and fried, with steaming-hot firm white fish under that initial crunch. They're better than any fish and chips we've had recently, particularly with an appealingly salty anchovy-laced remoulade for dipping.
Lobster Roll at Clam Bar at Napeague
Across the highway from Lobster Roll (Lunch), Clam Bar serves fried clams that we like less than the fried seafood at Lobster Roll, but a lobster roll we like better. (Go figure.) It's a little more lobster-stuffed, slightly better-seasoned, and definitely more buttery on the bun—all of which makes it a pretty optimal lobster roll experience. Outside seating only.
Fish Tacos at La Fondita
Plenty of modern taco joints have a menu that sounds great on paper, but when you take your first bite, things aren't quite right—ingredient ratios totally off, or great toppings on sub-par tortillas. But La Fondita gets it right. We're particular fans of the fish tacos, huge chunks of cod lightly battered and fried crisp, so that you get the satisfying crunch of fried seafood but really get to appreciate the fish within, too.
Pizza at Sam's Bar & Restaurant
I'd say that half the appeal of Sam's is what a stripped-down, no-frills restaurant it is, despite being neighbored by a Coach store, Theory, and brunch spots with $18 egg white omelets. Old-school Italian through and through, its pizza isn't fancy—super thin-crust, a little bit crackery, but satisfyingly cheesy with a bright, not-too-sweet tomato sauce and well-distributed toppings (we liked the fennel-y clumps of sausage). It's not destination pizza, but as a casual, reasonably priced meal in a not-that-casual, never-reasonably-priced town, it's a good bet.
Burger at Rowdy Hall
A totally old-school pizzeria—counter-service, by-the-slice, both square and normal slices. A Sicilian slice was a little too bready and doughy, but the plain cheese slice was a fine example of the form: crisp-chewy crust, slightly sweet tomato sauce, ample bubbly mozzarella blanket. (The sort of traditional slice spot that we wish still existed all over New York, but increasingly doesn't.)
Baked Goods at Mary's Marvelous
This somewhat nondescript-looking shop in Amagansett sells all manner of sandwiches and prepared takeout foods, but we're crazy about the baked goods: their muffins (just-interesting-enough flavors like zucchini-ginger) and sweeter treats (like pecan squares, or a peanut butter cookie sandwich with peanut butter filling) are both excellent.
Fish and Chips (and Onion Rings) at The Seafood Shop
I love fish stores where you can order prepared foods, too. At the Seafood Shop in Wainscott, you can watch crabs and lobsters crawl around in boxes, see the day's catch laid out on ice beds, and then order seafood for lunch. We liked the fish and chips, though swapping those fries for thin, crisp onion rings makes your lunch even better.
Heroes at Villa Italian Specialties
Right across from the East Hampton LIRR station, this no-frills Italian deli makes huge, tasty heroes where every element is just as it should be: precisely layered deli meats and cheese, just crusty enough rolls, summer-fresh lettuce and tomato, and just enough vinaigrette to brighten everything up. Super-cheesy chicken and eggplant parms are worth a try, too.
Nick & Toni's
There are no shortage of pricier restaurants in the area, but Ed Levine's continued favorite is Nick & Toni's, whose menu makes excellent use of local farms' summer vegetables and seafood caught off the Long Island shores. Nothing is that complicated, it's just really well done, with much of the food cooked in a wood-burning oven. And though it's frequented by celebrities, it's not a pretentious place. If Steven Spielberg is eating at the table next to you, you don't feel that he's getting better food. Executive chef Joe Realmuto has run the kitchen for more than 15 years—ensuring the quality of the food.