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Eat & Drink

May 29, 2008 1:21 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Indian Wells Tavern opens in Amagansett

May 29, 2008 1:21 PM

The transformation, or resurrection, that created the Indian Wells Tavern on Main Street in Amagansett is so complete it can be almost disorienting. First time passersby must do double takes when they realize the soft wood façade fronts the same spot where the white brick of Estia and McKendry’s Pub formerly framed well-fed diners and a few unsteady tipplers for years.

Other than the split entryway and the two steps leading up to it, there is nary a hint of the original bar and coffee shop that occupied the space for most of the last few decades.

The fractured tiles, dusty corners and stale smoke have been scrubbed from sight, if not from memory, and replaced with a spanking new look, a fresh vibe, and a rejuvenated scene. In the two months Indian Wells has been open for business, it has earned its place in the restaurant and bar scene of the East End, in much the same way as its owners, Kevin Boles and Chris Eggert, have earned their stripes with their other popular spots, Bostwick’s and the former Santa Fe.

Indian Wells is already drawing a substantial crowd of regulars to its bar space during the after-work hours and late into weekend nights. The giant menu, which includes the beloved fajitas from Santa Fe’s glory days, has the tables filled morning, noon and night.

There are no reservations, though, so you’ll have to wait your turn like everyone else.

Through the double doors, visitors to Indian Wells will find only a vague hint of the space’s former layout in the form of a shoulder high wooden wall separating the main dining room from the bar area (a classic tavern design). To the left, thick wood tables that fairly shout “tavern” blend into the equally substantial new walls, stone floors and tin ceiling tiles that give the entire place the appearance of having been there for years (save for the veil of smoke stains that would typically coat actual century-old ceilings). The bar section, anchored by a long wood-topped bar, is peppered with tall tables for diners who want to watch sports on the flat-screen TVs.

Chefs Tony Sales and Bill Mammes, both former club chefs (at South Fork Country Club and the Maidstone Club, respectively) have drafted a sprawling menu that mixes local favorites, classic tavern must-haves, local specialties and some healthy choices.

Lunch begins at 11 a.m. for early risers. For quick bite appetizers there are “Gansett” nachos, golden onion rings, sweet potato fries and traditional onion soup au gratin, priced from $8 to $10.

From the main course selections, choose from a “Pilgrim” sandwich of roast turkey, apple slices, melted cheddar cheese and cranberry mayo on grilled bread; chicken quesadillas; the “Portobello stack” of sliced mushrooms with melted goat cheese and grilled onion piled on a peasant roll; the “gourmet BLT” of crisp applewood bacon, tomatoes and lettuce with a fresh basil sauce on peasant roll; Indian Wells fish and chips made with day boat cod fillets crispy fried in ale batter and served with tavern fries, tartar sauce and malt vinegar; a chicken Florentine sandwich of grilled chicken breast with sautéed baby spinach and melted mozzarella cheese on a grilled peasant roll; or the thick burgers.

The lunch sandwiches run from $10 for the BLT to $18 for the fish and chips. Burgers are $12, with cheese, bacon and other toppings each for $1 extra.

For a slightly lighter lunch, Indian Wells offers a long list of garden salads: “Amagansett Cobb Salad,” which is really just a classic cobb salad; goat cheese fritters, lightly breaded and sautéed in a pan and served over field greens tossed in balsamic; an arugula and Granny Smith salad of baby arugula, endive and radicchio with spiced pecans, Gorgonzola cheese and Granny Smith apples tossed in cider vinaigrette; a classic Caesar salad; and a chicken Milanese salad of baby arugula and ripe tomato and onion with an Italian herb dressing set atop a breast of chicken Milanese. The salads are priced from $7 to $15 and any salad can be enhanced with chicken for $5 extra, grilled skirt steak for $7 extra, or grilled shrimp for $10 more.

As the sun sets, the menu expands greatly.

On the long “First and Foremost” list of appetizers are the Gansett nachos; “Scotty wings,” apparently made by a guy named Scotty who is famous for his chicken wings, which are billed as “slow roasted, sweet and zesty”; fried pickle chips, which are lightly dusted with flour and fried and served with caper aioli; clams casino, top neck clams broiled with green and red peppers, garlic butter and applewood smoked bacon; onion soup au gratin; mussels steamed in white wine and garlic; Asian calamari salad; Granny Smith salad and Caesar. Appetizers at dinner range from $7 (pickle chips) to $14 (calamari salad).

The “Main Course” menu is highlighted by the fajitas that were beloved by regulars of Santa Fe. The menu refers to them as “our speciality” and if they’re anything like their predecessors’, that’s an accurate statement. Chicken, steak or vegetables are served on sizzling platters with onions, pico de gallo, guacamole, sour cream and warm flour tortillas. Fajitas range from $16 to $20.

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