By Karen Holly Berliner

The Hamptons in Long Island New York  has entered Phase 3 of reopening and has become a destination ready, willing and excited to have visitors and guests, resplendent with long days and blue skies, crystal clear waters and cultural happenings, albeit all socially distanced – so much to see, do and explore. The warm air has settled in to stay, encouraging guests to stay as well. The Hamptons conjures up images of lunching on local oysters and clams on the beach, splurging on bright red grilled lobsters for dinner, sunning and surfing by day and cocktail sipping in your best little black dress by night, dressed down in flip flops. Casual mingles with formal here and it just plain works – like the Hamptons as a whole. Maybe it’s the unpretentious vibe that attracts surfers and socialites alike. Its lighthouse stands stoically atop a rocky bluff overlooking the coastline of Montauk Point State Park, partnering with all things natural like its beaches (such as Ditch Plains Beach with the best surf on the island) and its blue pristine water loaded with fish. Peppered with a variety of hotels and guest houses along with top-notch restaurants and health-inspired venues, the Hamptons offers you the chance to do absolutely nothing or everything you desire. Do it up fancy or fancy free, it’s your choice.

Completely unpretentious and loaded with natural charm and beauty, the Southampton Village portion of the Hamptons has to its credit, nearly seven miles of pristine oceanfront with eleven separate beaches. The charming influence of its rich history allows a glimpse into this region in years past as it combines with its current renderings.

For lodging, The Southampton Inn is classic, unassuming and utterly charming. Surrounded by magnificent estates, historic homes, museums, galleries, unique shops and some of the finest restaurants, The Inn offers 90 guest rooms stocked with high-end amenities with grounds consisting of several acres of manicured lawns and gardens. A 50-foot heated outdoor pool, an all-weather tennis court, croquet and volleyball allow a diversity of activities. In addition, the Inn has a complimentary, seasonal shuttle that takes guests to Coopers Beach, just one scant mile away. In house Claude’s Restaurant in keeping with our “new normal” standard, has been transformed into The Great American Picnic Place, with menus including popular breakfast choices such as two farm fresh eggs cooked to order, choice of sausage links or smoked bacon, toast and breakfast potatoes, as well as a variety of sandwiches, salads, soups and fresh baked deserts. Take your picnic basket (complete with rosé or champagne to toast and sip, fruit smoothies or home-made iced tea) to your table in the courtyard, on the pool patio, the lawns, to your guest room or nearby Agawam Park. The Inn has been strictly following CDC sanitizing and disinfecting protocols, recently implementing a mobile Ultratech UV/ozone light to sanitize guest rooms and public areas with even greater efficiently. Their signature restaurant has been expanded to the bar area and part of the ballroom, to allow more social distancing.

Finally, pets are welcome in selected rooms and children under 12 stay for free.

For a sublime dining option, Union Burger Bar, is celebrating its one-year anniversary in Southampton. With restaurateur and owner Ian Duke and award-winning Executive Chef Scott Kampf at the helm, this restaurant offers a casual and delicious dining experience. Featuring an assortment of specialty gourmet burgers, fresh hand-cut fries, creamy milkshakes and delicious desserts with a robust selection in craft beer and small batch bourbon, all tastes are satisfied. The Burger Bar menu includes such delectable choices as the Coopers Beach 8 oz black angus beef burger with avocado, bean sprouts, pineapple marmalade, lettuce and tomato on a multi-grain bun or the Black & Bleu 8 oz black angus beef burger with bleu cheese, applewood bacon, lettuce, tomato, caramelized walnut crumble on a brioche bun and many more choices beyond. Complimentary sides and salads such as Scotty’s Award-Winning Truffle Fries topped with parmesan cheese, round out the meal perfectly. Why not treat yourself to a refreshing shake such as the whimsically named Not Sorry shake with Nutella, Reese’s pieces frosted rim, peanut butter milkshake, whipped cream and Reese’s peanut butter cups.

As you sip it, try not to apologize.

Ian Duke and partner David Hilty, the owners of the Southampton Social Club and Union Burger Bar, have unveiled the East End’s hottest new dining destination: Union Sushi and Steak, a modern twist to the steakhouses of yore. The French American inspired menu here, features dry aged steaks as well as a fresh sushi and sashimi menu, bringing a pop of an Asian fusion vibe. Enjoy the meal with a cocktail, the Outside Manhattan Russel’s; mixed with 10-year-old bourbon, Carpano Antica, Dutch’s Spirits colonial bitters topped with a luxardo cherry. Cheers.

T-Bar Southampton of New York City’s Upper Eastside fame is following the strict CDC and Health Department guidelines, with outside patio dining, adequately spaced and takeout options. The menu features a wide range of dishes, such as the Zucchini Carpaccio made with goat cheese, capers, basil, and mint, or the Crispy Sushi, Yellow fin Tuna Tartar and Vietnamese Shrimp Roll. The Steak Bar features a range of certified Black Angus cuts of beef including its Black Angus Porterhouse for two served with a choice of Steak Sauce, Béarnaise Sauce or Poivre Sauce to accompany. The Linguine Cacio Pepe here is rivaled by none and the Crispy Long Island Duck with sweet potatoes and orange glaze is done beautifully.

For a taste of the sea, why not drive further east to Montauk? On the way to Montauk via East Hampton, Bostwick’s Chowder House offers casual seafood in a laid-back setting with indoor and outdoor seating. Chef Chris’ menu offers an array of fresh local seafood specialties. Starters include several chowders such as New England clam chowder, Manhattan clam chowder, corn chowder and lobster bisque. Raw bar items available include clams on the half shell, shrimp cocktail, oysters on the half shell and seared tuna. A selection of additional appetizers includes baked stuffed clams; coconut shrimp spring rolls; calamari; steamed mussels; and calamari with marinara dipping sauce. The rolls and sandwiches portion of the menu features the signature lobster roll; flounder sandwich; oyster po’ boy; grilled chicken sandwich; and clam strip roll. The seafood platters section of the menu focuses on fried seafood favorites with fried clam bellies, clam strips, shrimp, fish and chips, oysters and flounder. Fresh whole lobsters are offered at market price served with corn on the cob, coleslaw and drawn butter. Entrée specialties include fish tacos, broiled sea scallops, shrimp scampi, sautéed crab cakes and seafood pasta. Daily blackboard specials also offer fresh fish entrées such as potato crusted halibut, grilled swordfish, grilled tuna, grilled Mako and more. A guppy menu is available for kid with items such as mozzarella sticks, chicken fingers, hot dog, kid’s pasta and grilled chicken breast. Desserts feature key lime pie, root beer float and fresh soft serve ice cream with an array of toppings, popular from the old days of the location’s original namesake, Snowflake. The space features a casual atmosphere with a beach and seaside theme. Light colors, exposed wood and fun décor like surfboards and beach art on the walls contribute to the laid -back ambiance. The outdoor area features several tables with market umbrellas for patrons to take in the summer air while enjoying their seafood. Bostwick’s Chowder House has a full bar offering several fun and beachy specialty cocktails such as: Bostwick Breeze with Mount Gay rum, Malibu rum, pineapple and orange juice and a float of grenadine; Lily Pond Lemonade with Deep Eddy Sweet Tea vodka with lemonade; or the Blood Orange Margarita with Milagro silver tequila, solerno blood orange liqueur, Napa Valley blood orange puree and lime. A selection of beers is available featuring domestic and imported brews, while wines by the glass and a limited selection of wines by the bottles are also offered. open for curbside takeout and limited outdoor dining. Orders may be placed online Thursday through Tuesday from 12:00pm to 9:00pm and outdoor table service will be from 12:00pm to 8:30pm. Payment will be by credit or debit card only.

In addition, through Amagansett, The Clam Bar with its casual, summery atmosphere is perfect for a quick stop over. It embodies the spirit of summer at the beach where folks gather under the umbrellas here at outdoor tables to relax, drink and eat. Chef/Manager Brian Mooney is happy to chat about his beloved local oysters as well as the abundant catch of the day choice fish. The clams on the half shell, steamers and oysters here are iced fresh and tasty. The lobster roll is signature and popular overstuffed with fresh lobster meat, as is the fried clams, perfectly seasoned in complimenting its natural flavor. There are plenty of good non-seafood options as well, like burgers, hot dogs and fresh salads. A slice of Key Lime Pie finishes your meal nicely. Caramel Sea Salt Cheesecake is a very close second.

Duryea’s Lobster Deck; a historic fish market and lobster deck, features a most stunning ambience; banquette seating, teak tables and chairs dining right on the deck overlooking the rocks and water. Giant plates of seafood are served family-style, with such popular menu items as the grilled or steamed lobster, the classic clam bake, Duryea’s famous lobster roll or the great sharing, the seafood towering raw bar. For a tasty treat, the grilled 3lb. Octopus Romesco with shaved fennel, sweet peppers, pickled onions, chimichurri and a balsamic glaze is a perfect choice. For on the go dining, their fish market features fresh local seafood along with farm to market products such as Fairview Farm homemade jams and preserves and Backyard Brine pickles.

On the return to Southampton, The Bell & Anchor in Sag Harbor, is a seafood restaurant with a New American spirit. With industry veterans David Loewenberg and Sam McCleland at the helm, The Bell & Anchor the dining room features a panoramic waterfront view of the Mill Creek Marina with nautically inspired décor to match,  resplendent with wide planked floors, cream colored walls with navy blue suede booth and banquet style seating, along with wooden tables dressed with white table clothes. Bell & Anchor gleaned its atmosphere, right from the rich history of Sag Harbor, Noyac, Peconic and the region in general, offering local seafood, steak, beer, produce and wine. Appetizers include such specialties as Steamed Mussels “Anchor Style” with coconut milk, lemon grass and Thai chiles while the homemade port chowder with white fish, clams, potato, bacon and cream satisfy the seafood lover. Guava Baby Back Ribs with baby spinach and pine nuts is great for the carnivorous appetite.  Hand crafted cocktails such as the Baya Sarita prepared with Doña Sarita Mezcal, mixed berries, lime and the Ruby Rita refreshes and the wine selection features local and international wines by the glass, with an emphasis on local.