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April 1st, 2004

Restaurant Review: Olde Speonk Inn

by Thom McVann

On Saturday, December 19th 2003, Carlos climbed down from the west chimney top at our Westhampton beach home and announced that the last of the one hundred thousand or so white Christmas lights was in place and I could throw the switch and light up the night. Kathleen Miggins McVann also known as Kristmas Kate had once again knocked herself out making the holiday season a little brighter for the entire neighborhood and me. The white Georgian house which had stood proudly on the corner of South Road and Lovers Lane since 1917 once again became a holiday beacon celebrating Christmas past, present and future.

As I stood admiring the lights and fearfully estimating the coming electric bill, Kristmas Kate appeared beside me and said, “All these lights make me hungry, lets go somewhere nice for dinner.” “How about The Olde Speonk Inn?” I suggested. “Owners Eric Roe and Brian Romano do a great job, and the chef, Frank Lucas, worked with Star Boggs for years. We can’t go wrong there besides it might be fun. Do you know that in the 1920’s the place was a notorious local speakeasy?”

The night, which had been clear when we left our well lit home, suddenly became foggy as we drove west along South road toward Speonk. As I peered into the fog we were passed on the right by what looked to me like a big old-fashioned gangster car, maybe from the 1920’s. It was black and tan and may have been a Packard sedan. Suddenly the old car lost control and smacked into a big oak tree standing on the side of the road. Kathy asked me why were we stopping and I told her that I thought I saw a wreck. She was looking at me like I was crazy as I got out of our car. “Well?”, she asked when I got back in shaking my head. “There is no car,” I replied, “only a big oak tree with an old gash in its massive trunk.” I drove on to the Olde Speonk Inn in wonderment. Eric Roe greeted us at the door and took us to the warm and homey dining room. The menu featured fresh dishes made daily. Eric told us that they only have one very small freezer, which is only used for ice cream. Tonite’s appetizers consisted of a list of ten including Guinness Soup with Gruyere Crouton, Roasted Beets with Walnuts, Steamed Littlenecks with Chorizo Peppers and Onion, Roasted Calamari with Oregano and Chipolte Mayonnaise, Maryland Crab cake with Remoulade Sauce, and five others of equal interest and quality. The average price is about eight dollars.

We ordered drinks and moved on to a study of the Entrees which also numbered ten-including New England Cod Cakes with Mustard Sauce, Herb Crusted Sword Fish with Lemon Butter, Pumpkin Seed Crusted Sea Scallops, Roasted Duck Breast with Roasted Pears and Pear Balsamic Vinegar, Braised Veal with Apples and Crimini Mushrooms, and Flat Iron Steak with Herb Butter. There were five more first-rate items and we chose with care to pick the best. We both ordered appetizers and entrees from the menu and waited with anticipation for what was to come. The Guinness Soup was hot and nicely spiced and the Calamari was disappearing between my dinner companion’s pearly whites faster than a speeding bullet. So far the excellent reputation enjoyed by this year round local establishment seemed well deserved.

The main dining room was now full and we were glad that we had called ahead. On weekends and holidays reservations are a must but Eric will find a way to accommodate you as long as you bring a pretty girl for him to flirt with. Our dinners arrived and were served by our experienced waitress with a flourish. As Kate dug into her Braised Veal, which was tender and sweet, I savored the best swordfish east of Le Bernardin. Dinners get an A+ at this sure to become a classic restaurant and nite spot. We decided that we were going to skip dessert and have coffee in the separate bar room and maybe shoot a game of pool in the adjoining lounge.

We found the bar well decorated and filled with customers who seemed to be having a good time. The drinks were properly made, generous and well priced. The bartender was friendly and on the ball. We moved on to the lounge for our game of pool. The large room contains a pool table, several comfy couches, some chairs, a small bar and the remains of one of the two bowling alleys that once existed there. This eclectic scene is set off with a glowing fireplace. There is live music and dancing here on Saturday nights. As Kathy was racking up the pool balls I noticed that the walls were decorated with old pictures and newspaper clippings showing the history of the Inn. The following yellowed clipping caught my eye:

The Hampton Chronicle, December 22,1929
DRIVER KILLED IN POLICE CHASE ON SOUTH ROAD
The driver of a black and tan 1929 Packard sedan was killed on Saturday night when his speeding car struck an oak tree head on. The Southampton Town police reported that the Packard ran when they attempted to stop and search the vehicle because of a tip that the driver was making a delivery of bootleg booze to The Speonk Inn, a reputed local speakeasy. The heavy fog along South Road at the time may have been a factor. A subsequent search of the wreck disclosed some 12 cases of illegal hooch in the trunk and backseat.

-Thom McVann

Filed Under: Articles | Arts & Leisure | the Hamptons

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