Surf Lodge


183 Edgemere Street
Montauk, New York

5 Second Summary:
Price Range- Brunch dishes $13-26 (at time of posting)
Ambiance- Surfer chic; breezy, beachy, laid back elegant
Cuisine- Local, seasonal, contemporary American
Hits- Location (a great spot for watching the Montauk sunset)
Misses- Promising dishes and cocktails disappointingly executed

Rich and I barely dropped our bags -and the dogs- at our hotel and raced to the Surf Lodge for brunch.  (If we didn’t have the dogs with us, we would’ve gone straight there).  Our expectations were high after watching Executive Chef Sam Talbot mercilessly ride Top Chef runner-up Marcel Vigneron in season 2. (Remember him the warehouse fight on the “Thanksgiving with a twist” episode with guest judge Anthony Bourdain?)
Our plan was to arrive on a Sunday and stay during the week to avoid the crowds and the traffic.  When we walked into Surf Lodge, we thought our plan had worked a little too well. It was practically empty! A few straggling hotel guests sat in the breezy “lobby” on cozy couches in their top-button-undone Brooks Brothers shirts and crisp khaki shorts.  Painted turquoise and decorated in wicker, weathered woods, white accents, and sleek lines, the Surf Lodge has a beach chic atmosphere that almost transports you to the Caribbean.

We made our way to the back porch, which overlooks Fort Pond Bay, the original area off the Long Island Sound where Montauk was formed and site of its first port.  It was one of those dismal gray days in a never-before-seen month-long spell of June rain, but we were excited.
The tables were picnic-style or plank wood, with informal directors’ chairs in white and yellow.  A faux “roof” of intertwined wicker baskets made for visually interesting sun cover.  The main house, essentially, looked like someone’s home, and you almost got the sense that you were a guest in a friend’s lakefront summer house.
The Hamptons-pretentious vibe from the few people eating was palpable; most folks in their couture best, Aviator sunglasses, and generally just too fashionable for words.  The cars parked along the street were generally the variety that require a luxury tax.  Enter the fireman and the teacher in the small, black Honda.  🙂
At our table, we ordered cocktails.  I had a bloody mary that was waaaaay too spicy (little more than horseradish, really) served with a cruddy, pockmarked lime and a stick of impaled olives.
Rich tried the Endless Summer: Belvedere vodka with muddled red grapes, fresh lemon, and Chardonnay.  It had a beautiful color, and while I love the muddled grape trend, we didn’t find it as crisp and refreshing as we expected.
DSC03330I barely touched my bloody maryand ordered another drink instead.  The Island Breeze was Moet with guava nectar and rhubarb bitters.  This had to be good, right? Bubbly, sweet, tart… How could I go wrong? Right? Wrong.  The balance was off, lots of sweet, minimal tartness, bubbles without the crisp, dry finish I’d been hoping for.  I sighed and hoped the food would be better.  Meanwhile, the waiter never noticed my full bloody mary glass sitting untouched, sweating until it grew waterlogged with melt.  Although Surf Lodge wasn’t really pricey, it was no dive either.  Good service would have been noticing a full drink untouched while another had been ordered.  Another review I read said that servers were “oblivious,” and I tend to agree.
The brunch menu looked good, although limited.  We debated over the hot lobster roll with drawn butter, fresh squeezed lemon, and griddled bun (which seemed popular but wasn’t an option for this shellfish-allergic writer) and the picked watermelon salad with feta and basil.  Rich went with the shrimp chorizo scramble with cheddar and cilantro.  How did Rich like it? “It was good… scrambled eggs.”  The chorizo seemed to be the star of the dish.
DSC03316My apple pancakes with spiced pecan and hot maple syrup seemed promising.  When it came out, though, it was heaped with a pink goo that hadn’t been on the menu.  I call this the “Chef’s Surprise.”  Sometimes something good is added to the plate that wasn’t included in the menu description.  Sometimes something not so good is added.  In the case of the pink goo (what the waiter explained as “probably yogurt with raspberries… or blackberries” after ten minutes elapsed from my inquiry), it was a not-so-good surprise.  The pink goo was warm and slightly sour-tasting, like a yogurt.  I didn’t feel it added much to the dish, and since I wasn’t expecting it (and wouldn’t have ordered this dish if I knew about it), I wasn’t too pleased. The pancakes were crisp on the edges and thick, a nice texture, but greasy and drowned in butter.  The apples on top were wine-poached, a nice touch, although not quite what was on the menu.  The syrup was not hot and not very maple-y.  In fact, the glass syrup server placed alongside the dish seemed to contain regular, nondescript supermarket-style syrup. Since the pink goo was on top of and in between the two pancakes, I basically ate the crusted edges where the goo wasn’t, wiped off the apples, and picked at the pecans.  Although the pancakes were generally pretty light, they had a heavy, greasy film that coated the tongue.  I left most of the meal on the plate untouched.  Of course, the waiter didn’t notice.
DSC03317When the check came, although not terribly expensive for a Montauk meal, I didn’t feel like I’d gotten my money’s worth at all. There wasn’t really any highlight to the meal.  A former-chef friend begged my indulgence with the following comment on my Facebook status, “Brunch out is always tough. The cooks are hung over and working on a Sunday. Was Sam even there?”  In fairness, I don’t know if Sam was there, and I want to acknowledge this insider view on Sundays in the restaurant biz.  That said, I think people paying $100-$200 for a meal deserve better than an insipid, hangover-induced plate of scrambled eggs and greasy pancakes.  We would’ve fared better at a cheap diner, and I was totally underwhelmed.  I can pretty much always find something to like, and there was nothing about this meal (not service, not food, not drinks) that appealed to me.
When we drove by later, on our way to dinner, the place was mobbed.  Not for dinner, though… Rather, an enormous crowd congregated for sunset drinks, which seems to be the claim to fame at this little beach-style hotel.
To make it onto Top Chef, I’m sure Sam Talbot had to have better “stuff” than I saw today.  I’d only go back to give it another chance because I’m sure there has to be something there I didn’t get to experience.

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