Diner purists may disapprove, but I intend to refute the premise that all diners are greasy-spoon hash houses in prefabricated aluminum buildings. Lucky for us, diners have evolved and moved beyond mill towns. With counter-service in place, the Vineyard’s modern day diners provide basic American fare at reasonable prices without sacrificing a bit of charm or nostalgia.
Owner Glen Ward refers to the Main Street Diner, in Edgartown, as a 50s-themed restaurant and he’s certainly hit the mark. If the music alone doesn’t take you back to the sock hop, the extravaganza of vintage signs, photos, barber shop poles, lunch boxes, paint cans — you name it — will have you wondering if Beaver Cleaver is at the counter having a slice of pie. Breakfast includes traditional American favorites as well as three international-inspired omelets and fresh baked muffins. For lunch, don’t miss the slow roasted turkey served with homemade mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and gravy. Or try their unique lobster roll featuring grilled chunks of lobster on a foot long roll with drawn butter on the side. Dinner is available until 10 pm.
The Right Fork Diner is a local landmark right on the Katama Airfield, open daily from 7 am until sunset. Sit inside and admire the “shirt tails” of first time solo pilots, sit outside and watch the biplanes take off, or order from the take-out window and maximize your beach time. Managers Jamie and Merrill Langley use top quality ingredients. All of their breads are locally crafted at Rickard’s Bakery and most of their produce comes from Morning Glory Farm. The brioche French toast soaks up the perfect amount of real maple syrup and butter. The superb sandwiches and malted frappes are well worth a stop. Daily dinner specials like grilled pesto shrimp with organic quinoa salad will make you think twice about going home to cook, especially when kids are encouraged to play on the enormous lawn.
If you Google the ArtCliff Diner you won’t find a website or a menu, but you will find a profusion of reviews from gushing fans who can’t get enough of this place. Although the ArtCliff has been an Island institution since 1943, Gina Stanley is the dedicated chef who put it on the map 10 years ago. She’s given comfort food new confidence with dishes like Drunken Sailor Pancakes drenched in real rum raisins and sprinkled with pecans, or the Pig Out (pulled pork) Sandwich on ciabatta bread with homemade coleslaw. The restaurant, located in Vineyard Haven, is open from 7 am until 2 pm, but the latest buzz is about its food truck. Stop by between 5:30 pm and 2 am Thursday through Sunday and you will find something of a hot dog truck de luxe. Besides hotdogs they have hamburgers, lamb burgers, falafel, and more including daily specials.
If anyone is feeling cranky about equating creative cuisine with diners, hang on. The Dock Street Coffee Shop has been in business for 35 years and not much has changed since then. The menu is posted on the wall with nary a shred of arugula or a slice of sourdough in sight. You might be surprised to find this genuine article amidst the swanky establishments of Edgartown, but once you’re inside there are no surprises. The entire diner is one long counter, stools on one side, cook and waitstaff on the other. Order one, two, or three eggs any style with white, wheat, or rye toast; bacon, ham or sausage; French toast or hash and eggs. Ten breakfast combos, at bargain prices, are handwritten on 10 sheets of paper overhead. Two eggs with homefries, toast, orange juice, and coffee or tea will set you back a mere $6.50. From 6 am to 1:30 pm, Dock Street doesn’t disappoint.