From the moment you step over the threshold of The Hampton Social’s latest outpost in South Barrington, it feels like you’re walking into an East Coast Pinterest board. It’s clean, beachy, and brand new. From the living plant mural that spells out “The Hampton Social” to the inviting glow of the pink neon “Rosé all day” sign to chandeliers made out of old pallets, ship rope, and Edison bulbs, everything is perfectly designed to transport you to a happy place.
A quick glance at the dinner menu confirms that this restaurant is all about the East Coast seafood experience—from their Raw Bar with oysters and the Royal Atlantic Platter to a Starters menu that’s two-thirds ocean based. From the cocktails to the menu, everything is beautifully considered, exceptionally delicious, and charmingly fun.
Neslted into a spacious booth for our Dinner Date, we started with signature Frosé, a cocktail in slushie form combining Tito’s vodka, rosé, and peach puree with a mint leaf and a sugar rim. It’s tasty, adorable, and totally addictive. We also loved the new Pear of Oars cocktail, currently only avaiable at two of Hampton Social’s locations. With notes of elderflower and a cinnamon sugar peppered ring, this libation is a serious standout.
From the Small Plates, we selected the Jar of King Crab and the Yellowtail Ceviche. The crab is divine, with shreds of crab meat soaked in a jar filled with warm garlic butter and herbs. Everything on the plate wears blackened grill marks, from the slices of warm bread to the half a lemon, adding a little smoke to the citrus. There’s even a tiny bottle of Tabasco sauce for a little added zest. It’s the ultimate seaside comfort food; and it’s tempting to lick the jar clean.
We also sampled the Yellowtail Ceviche, courtesy of the Cold Bar, which combines the light freshness of a salad course with the savory bite of sushi. Since the elements of a good ceviche mirror the elements of good guacamole, The Hampton Social combines the two, a bed of avocado lays just underneath the chopped tuna, onion, tomato, cilantro, and jalapeno. Three options for ceviche delivery are fanned out across the plate: an assortment of tortilla chips, large fresh slices of radish, and cucumber slices.
For our entrees, we perused the rest of the menu. There are more seafood options, such as the handheld lobster roll, which can be ordered Manhattan-style—buttery, and warm—or Maine-style—chilled and creamy, along with inspired innovations such as the Scallop Risotto, replacing the rice with cauliflower coconut risotto and adding an umami glaze to the pan-seared scallops. There is also a wide range of salads, handmade pizzas, soups (New England Clam Chowder, of course), and a section of the menu called Land, dedicated to red meat and chicken offerings.
We opted for the Thai Curry Shrimp. The magic here is in the combination of rice, red quinoa, and a bed of roasted carrots in coconut cream sauce and fresh shrimp in peanut sauce. The roasted carrots add flavor, texture, and sustance to the dish without adding calories. This is smart, mouth-watering, calorie-conscious cooking at its best.
We also had to try one of the pizzas that emerges from the massive white brick oven proudly holding court in one corner of the main dining room. The Sag Harbour Special pizza, with sausage, kale, caramelized onion, mushroom, roasted tomato, and premium cheese, was delicious. The dough is a little heartier than Neapolitan crust, with just enough blackened charm from the brick oven’s intense temperature.
For dessert, we chose the Berries Crisp. Oatmeal crumb at the bottom of the bowl is topped with seasonal berries and crowned with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. Lore has it that the “crumb” (bite size crunchy bits reminiscent of tiny cookies) was discovered when a chef accidently left out the baking soda. Now it’s a cult favorite and we can see, and taste, why.
The massive 9,500-square-foot Hampton Social also features an enormous (3,000-square-foot) outdoor patio with outdoor bar, fie pits, classic Adirondack chairs, and a retractable roof. Private and semi-private dining spaces are available as well. Every aspect of The Hampton Social experience is elaborately curated and totally gorgeous. Make your Dinner Date very soon.
Hampton Social is located at 100 W. Higgins Road in South Barrington, 224-633-5414, thehamptonsocial.com.