Hidden Hamptons Gem: Dunkirk’s Deli

In food on 08/06/2011 at 7:22 pm

Rarely does a place live up to its own billing. But Dunkirk’s Deli has been there for us since the first day we barreled into town with no kitchen to cook in and no fridge to preserve things even if we had a one-pot boiler. Nothing much has changed except we stopped coming every day. Nowadays, usually just Sunday morning, we come to rekindle that special feeling.

Self-proclaimed ‘the Local Favorite,’ Dunkirk’s has the feel of a corner bodega that specializes in breakfast egg sandwiches. It’s not as good as my all-time favorite place across from the Columbia University subway stop at 168th Street, but it stands up. Man, that guy really knew how to make a fluffy scrambled egg and not smash the roll into smithereens.

Dunkirk’s is a big space right on Main Street, simply furnished with the bare essentials: several bar height tables and stools sprinkled around plastic Adirondack chairs. I plop myself down while the other half places the order which for me is always two eggs, sausage, cheese and light hot sauce. The normal amount usually drenches the roll. The counter person always place the sandwich order to the back kitchen before asking for the rest. We also approved of their home-brewed unsweetened ice tea and lemonade, Arnold Palmer-style.

The place encapsulates the essence of Hampton Bays, which is a hamlet of Southampton (originally called Good Ground) but is more blue collar than blue blood. This town is where the real, down-to-earth locals spend and do their time, and buy cheap smokes from the Native American pit stops on the way east, near the reservation. One of the counter guys also works in the afternoon at the Italian deli across the street.

If you’re rich and you want to hide, you hibernate in Sag Harbor. If you want to be seen, go to East Hampton. Montauk is also blue collar, just a classier version. Once, I treated a patient who was of means, and yet had a dream of driving an old Ford pick-up truck on her ‘farm’ in Montauk. You can read all about these strange creatures in the Cockeyed Guide to the Hamptons. It’s other half-approved.

Most of the patrons at Dunkirk’s are construction or trade types who pop in before work, around 7 or 8am. Around 9am come the summer locals, families and old men with only time on their hands. Many take advantage of the newspaper rack by the door and browse the day’s paper while waiting for their order to be fulfilled. I often wonder if they sell any papers at all. The doors close for the day at 3pm.

They serve lunch here too, burgers and such. There’s The Dunkirk, which is two burgers between two grilled cheese sandwiches and the works. All for $9.95. There’s no Hall of Fame for the consumption of this monstrosity yet, but there should be.

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