Restaurant Review: The Driver’s Seat

It’s no small feat to earn the nickname “Southampton’s Meeting Place.” But if a restaurant in the area deserved it, it’s the Driver’s Seat. Attracting casual Hamptons diners, the well-heeled, sports enthusiasts and those looking for a fun night out, the establishment is housed in a building that dates back to 1888. And, much like the ambiance of the Hamptons in general, its aesthetics pay tribute to the marriage of old and new.

The front of the Driver’s Seat was renovated in 2009, and what used to eschew a certain dark, dive-baresque atmosphere is now light and airy. The chic, minimalist tables by the window add a touch of modernism without letting the Driver’s Seat stray far from its roots. At its heart, it’s a classic American dining establishment, where the menu changes twice daily, offering an ample sampling of appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, seafood and fresh-off-the-grill fare.

On that note, the burgers are a must-try. I brought out-of-town friends back for dinner over our particularly chilly Memorial Day Weekend, and they all raved about the classic, no nonsense burgers, which come with all the fixins’—lettuce, tomato, pickle and golden, crispy fries. No wonder—the eight-ounce burger is made from 100% grade A beef, ground fresh daily. (For the more health-conscious, Driver’s Seat also has a grilled marinated chicken burger, a low carb high protein burger player and a veggie burger.)

Warm and homey, The Driver’s Seat provided the perfect atmosphere for a cold night. And now that the warm weather has arrived to stay, the outside bar and patio, which is one of the largest in the village, are sure to provide additional flair to a summer evening. In addition to its large selection of beers on tap and by the bottle, The Driver’s Seat serves a variety of blender drinks for when you’re craving that Caribbean atmosphere. Back inside, large windows open to the seating on the front porch area, particularly popular with guests hoping to people-watch on Jobs Lane.

I’ve heard Hamptonites rave that the famous Baked Clam Casserole appetizer is a must-try. Though I was more tempted by the Lobster Bisque Soup of the Day, our server surprised us with an order of the sizzling hot dish. Served with lemon wedges and crackers, it’s mouthwatering, buttery and crispy. And, it pairs perfectly with one of the Driver’s Seat’s seasonal brews. We went with the Blue Moon Agave Nectar, a summer release, for the evening.

Luckily, the creamy Lobster Bisque did not disappoint after the baked clam casserole’s showing. I decided to try something on the lighter side for my next course, opting for the walnut & goat cheese salad. Consisting of mixed greens topped with goat cheese, orange wedges and accompanied with a mandarin citrus ginger dressing, it hit the spot. It was filling—even by my Irish dad’s standards—but not overly so. As a bonus, the dressing comes on the side, allowing us ladies to personally douse the greens to perfection.

The Driver’s Seat has a daily specials menu in addition to its regular menu, and my dad opted for the Mediterranean style tilapia for his main course. The fish was baked and served with capers, olives, tomato and basil with a side of rice and vegetables. Needless to say, we did not need a doggie bag for the dish.

The Driver’s Seat has a full café bar, with menu items like espresso and cappuccino, and savory desserts. A perfect night cap after a long meal spent chatting with regulars, who clearly keep coming back to “Southampton’s Meeting Place” for a reason.

The Driver’s Seat, 66 Jobs Lane, Southampton. 631-283-6606, theDriversseatrestaurant.com. Family-friendly, it’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week. Take out available.

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