Good Taste: Harbor dining in Oak Bluffs offers a great variety of...

Good Taste: Harbor dining in Oak Bluffs offers a great variety of eateries

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Coop de Ville draws a crowd with weekly specials such as Sunday Funday and Lobster Fest Tuesdays. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

For casual eats, summer-fun cocktails, and unparalleled views, the Oak Bluffs harbor is the place to be.

The Lookout Tavern

No matter how packed The Lookout is, there always seems to be a nook to cozy into for a drink, sushi, something from the raw bar, or pub fare. And despite the throngs of people, from day-trippers to locals, diners are greeted promptly and offered a drink.

“We have a great following,” says bartender Shawn Clapp, who also notes the shift in clientele, depending on the season and sometimes the time of day. “We get an ebb and flow according to the boat schedule,” he says with a nod across the street to the ferry dock. “And we see a lot of locals in the shoulder season and out-of-towners during the peak.”

Sushi Chef Steve Loo is back for his eighth season, serving Japanese-style appetizers like shumai (steamed shrimp dumplings) and gyoza (pork dumplings) both for $8, and miso soup, laced with seaweed, chives, and tofu for the perfect starter to any style meal ($4).

The sushi selection ranges from favorites like the California Roll and spicy tuna to the more complex Steve’s Special Roll, spicy tuna and tempura crunch wrapped in sushi rice and covered with avocado, salmon, tuna, albacore, and yellowtail ($19.95).

If you’re not in the mood for sushi, The Lookout also offers a great pub menu. The raw bar includes shrimp cocktail, littlenecks on the half shell, and Edgartown oysters. The Hearts of Palm salad is mixed with greens, beets, tomatoes, and cucumbers tossed in lime vinaigrette for a summertime light lunch ($13.95). Add chicken salad, lobster, blackened Mahi, or grilled tuna, salmon, or chicken to any salad for a dish sufficient for dinner.

Server Dena Ventura calls the Lookout “A casual and fun place to be,” both for patrons and staff many of whom are returning for their 10th and 11th seasons.

The Lookout Tavern is open seven days for lunch and dinner starting at 11 am.

Fishbones

Sarah Henry has been bartending at Fishbones Grille for five years and she has no qualms about it. “I love this bar,” she says. “It’s got a good view but it’s small and you can actually have a conversation at it, plus, people are always happier outside.” She also appreciates the sense of community between businesses on the harbor. “If we run out of something we can just run over to the Coop to borrow it.”

Ms. Henry will gladly concoct any one of Fishbones’s specialty cocktails like the Dark and Stormy: Gosling’s rum with ginger beer, or Mary and the Boys: a spicy bloody Mary with two jumbo shrimp.

The menu offers salads, sandwiches, and appetizers like the lobster mac and cheese: classic elbow macaroni with a four-cheese béchamel, chunks of lobster meat, topped with buttery bread crumbs for $15.95.

For something different try the Shark Bites: chunks of Mako coated in Cajun spices, breaded, and deep-fried, served with cocktail sauce, $10.95.

Dinner plates include The Clambake: a 1-1/4 lb. boiled lobster with mussels, linguica, fries, cole slaw, and chowder, and the Fisherman’s Platter with scallops, shrimp and cod, deep-fried served with fries, slaw, and tartar sauce, for $24.95.

The view of the harbor is spectacular and the comings and goings of the boats makes for great people-watching. Ms. Henry suggests everyone experience a sunset on the harbor: “Late afternoon, early evening, that’s the best.”

Fishbones is open seven days a week from Memorial Day till Columbus Day from 11 am to 11 pm.

Coop de Ville

The Coop is celebrating its 25th season all summer long with specials like Sunday Funday, when mimosas are served until 4 pm for $3, or the celebrated Lobster Fest on Tuesdays when a steamed lobster and corn on the cob is $14.99.

You are sure to find a flavor that suits you with the Coop’s 12 varieties of chicken wings, like the New Orleans Voodoo, a tangy sweet Creole sauce.

In addition to burgers, sandwiches, and raw bar, The Coop offers fried clam plates, scallop, and shrimp baskets, and a Recession Buster: a 12 to 14 oz. New York strip steak for $14.99.

The Coop is the Island’s go-to for all things soccer where the bar is sure to have a game on. While you watch check out this year’s new beer selection with an emphasis on microbrews.

The Coop is open seven days a week from 11 am to 10 pm.

Dinghy Dogs

Brian Langhammer, owner of Dinghy Dogs, is confident in his product. “I’m the hot dog king of Martha’s Vineyard,” he proclaims. “We sell the best hot dogs on-Island…ever!”

Dinghy Dogs needs to sell 41 more dogs before Mr. Langhammer can splurge on a menu sign, for now he feels the customer out to determine the perfect hot dog for every individual. Upon learning that I grew up in Boston he decided that I must try the sweet red pepper relish, which was admittedly very good. All of Dinghy Dog’s relishes are made in-house along with the chili and fresh-squeezed lemonade.

For breakfast traditionalists, Mr. Langhammer serves egg sandwiches on a bulkie roll. Hot dog enthusiasts should try the French Toast Hot Dog drizzled in maple syrup tucked into a French toast bun.

For $10 hungry vacationers looking for a quick fix can get two hot dogs, two cokes and two bags of Cape Cod potato chips. Be sure to visit Dinghy Dogs in July as they celebrate National Hot Dog Month by donating all tips to WVVY, Martha’s Vineyard Community Radio

The hours of operation are hazy. “We open shortly after we get here, until 9 or 10 pm,” though by late morning you are sure to find Mr. Langhammer practicing his ukulele, advising tourists to “Save money, buy hot dogs.”

Sandbar and Grille

Kevin Thibault is thrilled to be back bartending for another season at the Sandbar but he misses the live music, which has been banned on the harbor. “We do our best with the iPod,” he says, “but it was a different atmosphere with live music.”

Still, the Sandbar, with its sandy ground and wooden, umbrella-shaded tables, has a pretty good vibe and is the closest thing to a beach bar on the Vineyard.

If Mr. Thibault is behind the bar, be sure to order his specialty, the Red Lily, or his take on a mojito with muddled strawberries, lime puree, simple syrup, vodka, and a splash of soda water.

The Sandbar, like their neighbor The Lookout, has a menu comprising pub fare and sushi. If you are dining with a sushi-loving crowd, check out the party trays with mixed sushi rolls ranging from $59.99 to $120.

For a smaller crowd, perhaps a friend or two, check out the Out of Control Maki packed with spicy yellowtail, lobster tempura, avocado, white tuna, mint, tobiko, and special sauce.

The clam chowder asserts that it is made “the right way” with local quahogs, streaky bacon, onions, celery, potatoes, cream, and oyster crackers.

The Sandbar offers a Late Nite menu featuring six items for $6 a piece from 9 pm to 12 midnight including the Sandbar burger with fried onions and pepper jack, an avocado quesadilla with pepper jack, guacamole, and jalapenos and the Green and Bleu salad with mixed greens, Maytag bleu cheese, bacon, and ranch dressing.

The Sandbar is open for lunch and dinner daily.

Lobsterville

Lobsterville Grille specializes in fresh, local seafood to be enjoyed overlooking the harbor. Check out the Ship Wreck bar at Lobsterville for a specialty cocktail, wine and beer.

Enjoy a meal on the first floor in the breezy bar area or on the porch, or upstairs for the most dramatic views, both inside and out. Lobsterville offers homemade New England Clam Chowder and Menemsha Lobster Bisque. For something light try any one of their salads from mixed green to iceberg wedge with the option to add seared tuna or grilled chicken. Appetizers include steamed Island mussels with white wine, tomato filets, basil, and artichoke hearts for $13, and panko crusted chicken tenders served with a smoked bacon BBQ sauce.

The Island Raw Bar features Katama Bay oysters and Tashmoo littlenecks.

Menemsha lobsters are served, with corn on the cob and mashed potatoes or French fries, either boiled or grilled at market price.

You can also have your lobster baked and stuffed with seafood stuffing, or if you are truly in vacation mode go for the Lazyman’s Lobster, which is butter poached, served out of the shell.

An interesting dining option at Lobsterville is the Fresh Fish Your Way portion of the menu. You pick your fish based on the day’s catch, which could be halibut, striped bass, flounder, and sea bass to name a few, and then you choose your preparation, such as baked with garlic, basil and lemon, or sesame seared with teriyaki-shitake beurre blanc, or maybe Dijon crusted with Pinot Grigio oyster mushroom sauce.

Fish dishes are served with mashed potatoes and sautéed vegetables at dinner, fries and side salad for lunch.

Lobsterville Grille is open for lunch and dinner daily.

Nancy’s

Nancy’s has been a staple on the Oak Bluffs harbor since 1960. A lot has changed though the family business still prides itself for serving the “Vineyard’s Best Lobster Roll” with fried clams and hand-cut skinny onion rings for the last 50-plus years.

Nancy’s is actually two restaurants in one. The Snack Bar, at the ground level, offers quick, to-go bites like the chicken kebab sandwich with marinated chicken, humus, lettuce, and tomato as well as fried seafood staples: shrimp, scallops, clams etc. The Middle Eastern menu includes falafel, stuffed grape leaves, tabouleh, and humus. Downstairs you’ll also find Donovan at his bar serving frozen cocktails such as his famous Dirty Banana, a decadent adults-only drink doubling as dessert in a cup with a real banana and chocolate sauce.

Unlike the Snack Bar, the upstairs dining room requires shirt and shoes though atmosphere remains summertime casual. If you can’t stand the heat, the inside dining room is comfortably air-conditioned while the outside patio offers sweeping views of the harbor and warm salty breezes.

Dinner choices include Seafood Cioppino ($32.95), a medley of cod, scallops, clams, and mussels, shrimp, and linguica in a tomato white wine herb broth with crostini. And for those who’ve had their fill of seafood, Filet Mignon medallions finished with wild mushroom port wine demi-glaze for 29.95.

Nancy’s opens at 11 am Monday through Friday, 11:30 am on Saturday and Sunday. The kitchen is open into the evening depending on business while the bar serves until last call at 12:30 am.

In other news

Chesca’s is now serving their goods, sandwiches, salads, and more at the Artisans Festivals at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury on Thursdays and Sundays. Be sure to visit them for a root-beer float or raspberry lime rickey for a mid-day cool down.

Chesca’s also continues to sell their sauces, grilled shrimp “pops”, and Thai chili sesame noodles at the Farmers’ Markets, also at the Grange Hall on Wednesdays and Saturdays.