The Hampton Social brings satisfying East Coast dining to South Barrington
The menu at breezy, whitewashed, ocean-inspired The Hampton Social in South Barrington has a decidedly nautical East Coast flair, offering a selection of mostly seafood-based appetizers, salads and entrees, and a few pizzas as well. Menu names evoke the East Coast as well: Montauk chicken wings, Sag Harbor special, Shelter Island salmon. The bar focuses mostly on wine and beer, with some signature cocktails and spotlights on rosé and frosé.
For appetizers, we had the New England clam chowder, the Montauk chicken wings, the deviled eggs, the yellowtail poke and the social dips. I loved the clam chowder; it was the style you'd expect but taken up a notch with an abundance of large clam chunks. It didn't taste overly fishy, either. The chicken wings came with a chili-ranch spice and cilantro dipping sauce; one order was about six large pieces. They were cooked really well -- we felt they were more baked than fried -- with tender chicken and good crisp to the skin. The seasoning brought a more chipotle flavor to the cilantro sauce, which really didn't seem to have much cilantro in it.
The deviled eggs were an interesting experiment. They're served with toppings of ahi tuna, pickled red onion and quinoa, served on a bed of arugula with pepper pesto. Unfortunately the creativity of the dish was lost in the yolk; we couldn't taste much more than egg and were unable to make out any tuna at all. We got our fish fix with the yellowtail poke, though, served with avocado, watermelon radish, cucumber, jalapeño, a soy lemon dressing and sadly mildly stale tortilla chips. The fish itself was lovely -- very fresh with a kick of pineapple flavor that rounded out the tart citrus from the lemon.
My favorite appetizer, though, was the social dips. It's a gorgeous, colorful platter with mixed rainbow carrots, watermelon radishes, naan and a selection of three dips: tzatziki, roasted red pepper spread and smashed chickpeas. All three dips were bright, fresh and flavorful, and played against the crisp veggies well. I would definitely order this again.
Our entrees were the scallop risotto, the smash burger, the tuna and avocado, the steak frites and the Manhattan-style lobster roll. For the scallop risotto, the scallops were perfectly cooked with a nice sear and the sauce was balanced and not overpowering. But don't expect a traditional risotto -- this one is less creamy and more of a simple rice mix with mushrooms. The smash burger was cooked equally well and a great portion, but pretty standard as far as burgers go. We loved the steak frites. The fries are shoestring potatoes that are seasoned well with salt and pepper. But the soy sauce steak marinade stole the show; it was a unique flavor we weren't used to, but it was absolutely delicious.
We were unfortunately disappointed with the lobster roll and the tuna and avocado. The lobster roll was mostly bread and very little lobster, and what meat was there was dry and bland. The tuna and avocado sounded good on the menu -- tuna served with brown rice, quinoa, avocado, radish, cucumbers, umami sauce, pineapple salsa and aioli -- but we had to send it back. The aioli was way too spicy for the dish to be edible; it made the two of us that tried it cough uncontrollably. But the manager was great about it and came out to talk to us. He was appreciative of the feedback and said he'd bring it up with both the chef and the waitstaff. We were ultimately pleased with the outcome, if not the dish.
We also ordered the jar of king crab, crabcakes and tomato bisque. The tomato bisque was much chunkier than bisque should be, but it still tasted great. We brought it home to use as a pasta sauce later. We enjoyed the crabcakes, which had almost no filler but could have used slightly more seasoning. Out of these three, I liked the jar of king crab the most. It wasn't anything like I expected; I thought I would get a small jar of shredded crab with seasoning and sauce. But instead, the jar was full of big, perfectly cooked crab chunks swimming in garlic butter. It came with a tiny Tabasco bottle as well.
For dessert, we tried the berries crisp, flourless chocolate cake and Key lime pie. All the desserts came with ice cream, which stole the show. It was creamy and almost elastic, the smooth, satisfying ice cream you get when it's made from scratch. Paired with the berries crisp (our favorite choice), it's a seasonal delight that packs a powerful flavor combination and subtle crunch from the granola topping.
The Hampton Social is a good restaurant. But it has the potential to be even better with continued great service and a few tweaks to the food and water (the table water tasted a little strange -- our waitress said it was just South Barrington's water -- and was never refilled). I do recommend the restaurant, though, for a satisfying dinner that seems more like a seaside getaway than something in the Chicago suburbs.
The Hampton Social
100 W. Higgins Road, South Barrington, (224) 633-5414, thehamptonsocial.com/
Cuisine: East Coast-inspired seafood
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday; 10 a.m. to midnight Saturday; 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.