Renovations begin at The Lookout Tavern

"It's really going to have the same rustic look that it always had to it," said The Lookout co-owner Mike Santoro of the renovations. — Photo courtesy of Mike Santoro

Expect a new look next year for The Lookout Tavern in Oak Bluffs, as renovations have begun that include expanding its kitchen and dining facilities.

“Right now, the building is being lifted, as we speak,” said Mike Santoro, co-owner of The Lookout. “It’s up on pillars. We’ve excavated, and we’re putting in a basement to take care of our storage issues. We used to have a huge 10-by-20-foot storage trailer in the back, which I was very happy to see go. Basically, with the basement we’re going to be able to put all of our storage and walk-in coolers downstairs, and we’ll be adding 600 to 700 feet in the back of the building that will have full bathroom facilities, for men and women, and we’re building a brand new kitchen in the back.

“The former bathroom will be torn down, and that will open up the inside dining area. The most exciting part of the project to me is, at the wall that separates the inside from the porch, we’re putting up collapsible doors, so the wall will open up, and the people inside will feel like they’re sitting on the porch and the people on the porch will feel that they are in an extension of the inside. We were hoping to expand the porch, but we didn’t have enough room to expand both the porch and the kitchen. Also, the sushi area is going to be moved to where the old take-out area was so that the chefs will have their own area with floor seats, and there will now be a raw-bar section where the sushi was prepared.”

The contractor for the project is Brian Lane, a local contractor. Mr. Lane built the original Lookout Tavern, which had previously been a five-bedroom cottage. Though the physical work on the property started when The Lookout’s season ended on November 1, the plans for the renovations go back much further.

“When we first opened The Lookout, we were going to renovate and make a two-story building,” Mr. Santoro said. “We had the architectural drawings done, and we got to the part of the process where our plans were being reviewed by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, and they decided that they wanted to hear it as a DRI (Development Regional Impact), and at that point we weren’t ready to go through that whole process. That was back when there was a lot of controversy over the ‘Garage Mahal’ (an illegal three-story garage located near The Lookout that was built without a permit), and people were afraid of expansion. So we just thought it best to pull it back, because people were very worried that we were going to change the complexity of The Lookout and that it would be too modern.”

Utilizing its expanded kitchen facilities, The Lookout Tavern will feature new menu items as well.

“We used to carry two different types of oysters, but next year we’re hoping to carry six different types,” Mr. Santoro said. “On top of that, we are going to add more raw bar items, such as lobster tails and cocktails. We’re going to have a beautiful display case there too. With the sushi, we’re hoping to add a little more fusion to the menu with more of a cross between Japanese and other types of foods. Another thing that we’re excited about is that we’re going to start doing stuffed quahogs and crab cakes, and we’re going to get into more grilled seafoods. We will still be doing our fried foods, but we’ll be adding more items to the menu as well.”

Due to the favorable weather this month, construction has been running ahead of schedule, and The Lookout Tavern is set to re-open on its regular date of April 15.

“The biggest question I get is if we’re going to change the character of the place,” Mr. Santoro said. “But it’s really going to have the same rustic look that it always had to it. Also, I’ve had the same staff there for 9 or 10 years, and to me, that and the water-view are what make The Lookout Tavern such a huge draw.”