Good Taste: Small plates at Vineyard restaurants

Sidecar's The Curd and the Cured is a weekly selection of two cheeses with pairings, housemade charcuterie, and toast points.
Photo by Susan Safford

Sidecar's The Curd and the Cured is a weekly selection of two cheeses with pairings, housemade charcuterie, and toast points.

There is a time and place for all kinds of dining, whether it’s a multi-course affair with a nice bottle of wine and someone special, takeout at home, or pulled-pork and fried dough at the Fair (I hope you all enjoyed some of that last week). Sometimes all a dining occasion calls for is a few small plates, fun cocktails, and good company. Here are a few laid-back, casual places where you can find just that, perfect for just getting off the beach.

Trio

Trio, in Edgartown, is the Black Sheep’s nighttime alter ego, when the cheese and charcuterie shop becomes a chic wine bar (that still serves cheese and charcuterie). Owner Mark Venette’s concept for Trio was, “A place to go pre- and post-dinner,” though some guests are making a main event out of the small bites that Trio has to offer. Choose from paired flights of cheese and charcuterie (Trio’s definition of charcuterie is: French for yummy meat parts cured, smoked, combined for a soiree of flavor). Each flight comes with a clever title like Get Your Goat, which includes three goat cheeses: the Bermuda Triangle, the Cablanca Goat Gouda, and the Goat Feta Chevretine and the Backpacking through Europe with cheeses from Holland, France, and Italy. Charcuterie plates like the EIEIO include Spain’s famed Serrano ham, and air-dried Bresola (aged beef), and smoked duck breast. The Something Seems Fishy flight is for seafood lovers with Gravlax, smoked trout, and ginger whitefish caviar. Each flight corresponds to a suggested wine pairing. To accompany the soft Bries, Trio recommends two Chardonnays, from California and Argentina, and a late harvest Riesling from Washington State.

For the table, try the Olive You Too plate, a medley of Greek olives with a range of flavors and textures, and La Familia Caprese, a salad for two of fresh mozzarella layered with Island grown plum tomatoes and fresh basil, drizzled, with aged balsamic and California olive oil.

The Sweet Sensations menu includes truffles, artisanal chocolates, petit fours, and an ice cream sampler along with suggested dessert wines and champagne.

Cheese flights range from $12 to $16 and charcuteries $12 to $19. Trio opens nightly at 6:30 pm. Black Sheep is open daily 9 am to 6 pm. 508-939-4082.

The Seafood Shanty

If you can get a seat on the upper deck, go ahead and perch there in the late afternoon. The view is unrivaled. Large umbrellas will keep the sun at bay while you watch the yachts cruise in and out of Edgartown Harbor. Fruity cocktails will refresh and relax, like the Cowboy Cosmo and the Ocean Berry Booze with acai-blueberry vodka and pink lemonade. The sushi bar serves standard rolls like spicy tuna, shrimp tempura, and California, as well as sushi platters fit for a crowd. The sushi chef gets imaginative with special rolls like the Martha’s Vineyard Roll with tuna, salmon, yellowtail, spicy mayo, and crispy tempura bits. The raw bar offers shrimp cocktail, clams, and Katama Bay oysters on the half-shell. Get all three in the Seafood Sampler for $21.99.

The Shanty’s Lobster Quesadilla, their most popular appetizer, was featured on the Food Network, stuffed with lobster meat, peppers, and onions, covered with melted cheddar and jack cheeses, grilled between flour tortillas and served with sour cream and a fruit salsa, for $17.99. The Shanty has a kid’s menu with everything for the under-12 palette, from buttered noodles to a cheeseburger and fries. All kid’s dishes are $8.99 and include a drink. The Shanty serves food daily from 11 am to 10 pm.

Henry’s Hotel Bar

Tucked deep inside the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown, Henry’s provides an unlikely refuge from the summer madness. It’s small, carpeted, and dim. People are relaxed and for a while, you’re transported to somewhere else, I’m not sure where, a Spanish Cafe? An almost trendy but not yet “discovered” bar in Brooklyn? Definitely not downtown Edgartown in August.

Chef Levon Wallace created a menu of sampler-sized portions designed for one to “share and explore.” Try the Ploughman’s Plate with house-cured meats and pâté for $14, or the heirloom melon with cured ham, Parmesan, and baby basil for $13. Belgian fries are served with truffle and Parmesan or sea salt and vinegar. An artisan cheese plate is served with raisin baguette and Chef Wallace’s condiments. Enjoy a micro brew, specialty cocktail, or glass of American or Spanish wine while you graze on inventive dishes like the veal cutlet served with heirloom tomatoes, feta, olives, and tzatziki.

Henry’s is open daily from 11:30 am to 9 pm. For more information, visit harbor-view.com or call 508-627-7000.

Chesca’s

Located on North Water Street in Edgartown, Chesca’s is known for their fantastic Italian fare. They have a nice appetizer menu as well, which with a little mixing and matching could create a well-rounded meal. Marinated olives, Marcona almonds, and aged Vermont goat cheese is served with fig jam and crostini for $15.

Then you could move on to the Sea Scallops Casino with wood-smoked bacon, bell pepper, green onion garlic, Romano, and panko crumbs ($14); or Grilled Thai Chili Glazed Shrimp with braised peppers served over creamy polenta ($13). Add a side dish like house-made turkey meatballs or chive mashed potatoes to your feast and you’re on your way to satiation. Chesca’s is open for dinner seven nights at 5:30 pm. For more information, visit chescasmv.com or call 508-627-1234.

Park Corner Bistro

Park Corner, in Oak Bluffs, is all about the shared plates with menu designations for “little bites, little bigger bites, and medium plates” for varying levels of hunger, and willingness to share.

Starting small, Little Bites include fried artichoke hearts with green goddess dipping sauce, and truffle tots: fried potato dumplings with Parmesan and truffle oil. On a recent evening I…ahem…”know” someone who ordered a second serving of these immediately upon finishing the first. Little Bites range from $4.95 to $8.95 for the shrimp and bacon quesadilla.

Little Bigger Bites range from $6.95 for the five-spice chicken strips to $12.95 for tuna Kim Chi, seared sesame tuna with house-made Kim Chi and sushi rice fritter. Orange marinated duck breast is served on a skewer over glazed baby carrots.

Medium Plates can be filling for one or share-worthy for two. Spicy Mexican slow-braised pork is served on flour tortillas with cilantro, onion, and lime in the Carnitas Tacos. Game hen confit is grilled and served with egg noodles, cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and pearl onions. Wash it down with a specialty cocktail like the Holy Water: St. Germaine elderflower liquor, Green Tea vodka, lemon, and sugar, or the Cherry Pop: Italian black cherries, fresh lime, vodka, and soda.

Park Corner is open daily for dinner at 5 pm. Lunch is served Thursday through Saturday from 11 am to 3 pm, and brunch starts at 11 am on Sunday.

Sidecar

Sidecar Café and Bar, with the motto “casual dining with funky flair,” offers outside and lounge dining with a menu of varying portions. A chalkboard boasts wine offerings and locally sourced farms. I recently enjoyed a glass of Francis Coppola’s Sofia Rose. Don’t be fooled by the deep pink hue, the Sofia Rose is elegant and dry, making it easy to pair with Sidecar’s summer fare.

Under Beginnings you’ll find a goat cheese patty, lightly breaded, served atop mixed greens, balsamic glazed onions, local tomatoes, and herb vinaigrette ($11). The hand-rolled Mushroom Cigars, served with a house-made beer-mustard dipping sauce, are like a vegetarian’s steak and cheese, meaty and cheesy and just so good.

Dishes under the Along the Way heading are more substantial and perfect for the table. Black pepper Cavatelli Carbonara is served with garlic cream, English peas, and pancetta lardons ($10 or $20, small or large). Sweet potato fries are served with chipotle aioli while steamed mussels sit in a bath of Offshore Ale’s East Chop Light beer, local tomatoes, fennel, and sausage. Lobster mac & cheese, with chunks of poached lobster, house cheese sauce, and herbed breadcrumbs is decadent, rich, and perfect to dig into with the help of a friend.

Sidecar, in Oak Bluffs, is open for dinner daily at 5:30 pm. Visit sidecarcafeandbar.com or call 508-693-6261.