Bob’s Fish Market, Shelter Island

A few weekends ago, I went to Shelter Island, which is an island off the coast of the Hamptons. When I hear Hamptons, I tend to think popped collars, Rolexes, and tennis courts the size of Rhode Island. 
Needless to say, I brought my Target bathing suit, and was prepared to feel inadequate the whole weekend.

What I found, instead, was a delightful island that was more about enjoying life than showing off wealth. Beaches were not to crowded, people were not at all snobby and the food – while it could be expensive and sceney – could also be local and affordable.
Enter: Bob’s Fish Market.
Extremely casual decor, with a BYOB policy and servers who had no problem telling you to “hold yer horses, the food is comin’ as fast as we can make it. Yer gonna love it”? Check. 
 Campy decor featuring fishing nets and paintings of lighthouses that someone’s grandmother probably painted in the 1960’s? Check.
 A list of daily specials that were caught within a few miles of the island? Check.
Pristinely clean fish market attached to the restaurant, so you know you are getting the freshest possible seafood? Check.
Free trashy romance novels that your mom would never let you read?! DOUBLE CHECK!
 Our meal began with bread. Nothing great, nothing awful. A good crust, a pleasant texture, but lacking the tangy punch of sourdough or the fragrance of rye bread that I like with my seafood. And the butter was from a packet. So far…not my fave.
 Then the mussels came. Plump, juicy little mussels steamed simply in white wine and garlic. Every SINGLE mussel was open, and every single one was meaty and fresh, bursting with the salty sweetness that makes shellfish so divine. A squirt of lemon brought a brightness to the dish, and the simple broth was so delicious – sort of like a cream-less chowder – that all of us gals fought over it with hunks of bread for dipping. 
Crab balls. We almost went with the crabcakes, but our authoritative and kind server told us that they don’t make them in house, and to go with the balls instead. And she did not lead us astray. A stiff, but not hard, breadcrumbed outside hid a creamy, unctuous crab filling, with lumps of meat and a slight kick from bell pepper. Complimented by homemade tartar sauce, it was one of the best bites of the night. 
Balls win, every time. 
That’s what she said. 
Fried Calamari. Sure, you have had it a million times. And most of the time, it is probably pretty good. But this…this was GREAT. We are talking crispy, oily tentacles, tender, mild rings and a homemade tomato aioli that was garlicky enough to make your hair stand up on end. These are a must get. 
For my main dish, I got one of the fresh fish of the day – striped bass. Striped bass is one of my favorite fish – thin, flaky, very mild and although it has a soft texture, it is never mushy if cooked properly. It is one of te few fish that I do not like rare in the center, and this was properly flaky all the way through. Seasoned with zesty paprika, it needed only a sprinkle of lemon to be perfect – for someone who loves fish. If you don’t love fish, they I always say get it fried. The best way to get anyone to like ANYTHING is definitely to fry it. The tangy, crunchy coleslaw served as a creamy counterpoint and the sweet potato fries were among the best i have had. Thick and waffle-cut, they were seasoned with onion and garlic powder and wanted only for a bit of that garlicky tomato aioli to complete them. 
This is a gem of a restaurant. Incredibly inexpensive, with good(if somewhat brusque) service and a fresh menu. It was BYOB and packed to the rafters – so make sure you call for reservations!
And it taught me once and for all, that you can’t judge the Hamptons without actually going to the Hamptons.