Good Taste: Dining out west on Martha’s Vineyard

You can't beat the view when dining at The Aquinnah Shop, located near the Aquinnah Cliffs.
Photo by Lisa Vanderhoop

You can't beat the view when dining at The Aquinnah Shop, located near the Aquinnah Cliffs.

I got some doubtful looks when I told friends that I was writing about eating in Aquinnah for this week’s column, in a “how-can-you-possibly-write-an-entire-article-about-that?” kind of way.

And while the world-class beaches tend to be the area’s biggest draw, there is plenty to eat in Aquinnah, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in an array of settings from Juli Vanderhoop’s front yard to white linen-fancy at the Outermost Inn.

If you’re driving to the Cliffs on State Road, you’ll drive by Juli Vanderhoop’s roadside Orange Peel Bakery where she sells breads, pastries, scones, and recently, apple turnover snails. But on Wednesday nights the wood-burning stove is reserved strictly for pizza.

“Bring a friend, bring a topping” is the unofficial motto of pizza night and Ms. Vanderhoop provides the rest: dough, cheese, and sauce. Enjoy your creation at a picnic table with friends, and plan on sharing. Pizza night is every Wednesday from 5 to 8 pm. Donations are accepted and appreciated. Call 508-645-2025 for more information.

After Orange Peel, once you get to the Cliffs, you’ll have to decide between the Dreamcatcher and Faith’s Seafood Shack for on-the-go-eats.

If you’re truly in a rush (but who is in Aquinnah in July?), Dreamcatcher offers three sandwiches: egg, chicken, or tuna salad, which are guaranteed to be ready in five minutes or less, for $4.59 to $6.29 served with a bag of chips. If time is not an issue, check out the Dreamcatcher’s selection of burgers, sandwiches, fried seafood plates, and Dona’s Lobster Roll: sweet, tender lobster meat on a grilled hot dog bun served with Cape Cod Chips, no frills, just delicious, for $15.49. For something sweet, Dreamcatcher has soft serve ice cream (in a cup or cone) or in your soda (root beer float, dreamsicle float). There are picnic tables overlooking Philbin Beach where you can enjoy your meal, but don’t share with the seagulls because Dreamcatcher will not be held responsible for stolen food by greedy aviators. Stop by Dreamcatcher when you visit the Cliffs — seven days a week, weather permitting.

Faith’s Seafood Shack has it all. You’d be hard pressed to find something that didn’t suit your taste buds here. There is pulled pork, local bluefish sandwich, local oysters, homemade meatballs, steamed mussels, and more. The fish tacos are made with the catch-of-the-day on corn tortillas with cilantro slaw and Baja sauce ($12.95). If you just need to cool off, Faith offers shaved ice in watermelon, lime, coconut, blue raspberry, cherry, and lemon. If you still have room, there is warm strawberry shortcake for dessert or the chef’s favorite, peanut butter pie: creamy peanut butter with a graham cracker crust and whipped cream.

For something completely different, check out Faith’s sushi and sashimi menu and watch the sushi chef prepare it before your eyes. Diners are invited to bring their own beer or wine and enjoy a meal on the picnic tables or ask at the counter to have your food packed up to take to the beach with you. Faith’s Seafood Shack is open daily from 11 am to sunset. Visit them at faithsseafoodshack.com and on Facebook for information and to see their webcams at the Gay Head Lighthouse and Philbin Beach.

The next generation of Vanderhoops is in the kitchen at the Aquinnah Shop. Jacob Vanderhoop, son of one of the owners, Cully, graduated from Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Boston this spring and now he’s putting his skills to use at the family restaurant. The Aquinnah Shop serves breakfast, lunch, and now dinner every day. Dining on the deck, overlooking the ocean and the Cliffs is something that every Vineyarder and visitor should experience in a season. The view is nothing short of spectacular. If you get there before 11 am don’t miss the Tomahawk Special: (local) fish cakes with poached eggs, cheese, and salsa, the Aquinnah Shop’s signature breakfast dish.

The lunch menu includes sandwiches, salads, and more fish cakes like the “Codzolez,” two fish cakes with guacamole, salsa, and cheese. Some of the lunch menu is available at dinner in addition to Mr. Vanderhoop’s creations. Not surprisingly (because of the location), the menu is heavy with the freshest fish the local seas have to offer. To start, there are delicious steamers, little necks, and oysters on the half shell, which can be accompanied by a cold beer or glass of wine. For your fry fix there are platters of fried clams, shrimp, oysters, scallops, fish, and calamari served with French fries and cole slaw ($22–$28.99). Bluefish, fluke, salmon, tuna, and swordfish can be grilled, blackened, or pan-seared and served with two sides such as mashed potatoes, asparagus, red potatoes, corn, or broccoli ($26.99). For the land-lover, strip loin steak is served with mashed potatoes and asparagus and chicken pesto pasta is served over linguini.

For fine dining at its finest, visit The Outermost Inn. Plan on being there for sunset, whether you arrive early and enjoy a drink at the bar or watch the sun go down while you enjoy your meal.

Chef Scott Cummings has put together a thorough three-course menu. It changes with the season and on the chef’s whim, but look for things such as local oysters with hibiscus and melon ice and house made gravlax with garlic, capers, and rye.

For the main course, diver scallops are served with asparagus, leeks, and gnocchi. Elysian Fields lamb is accompanied by truffled faro, summer vegetables, and lamb jus.

Because dinner at the Outermost is a prix fixe ($85) three-course affair, dessert is part of the deal. It’s ordered with the rest of the meal so there is no backing out at the last minute. Choose from a deconstructed carrot cake with goat cheese bavarois, golden raisins, and crispy carrot; milk chocolate pate with mint sorbet, feuilletine, and butter crème; or for the non-sweet tooth, a cheese plate with rotating cheeses. The Outermost Inn does dinner by reservation and is closed on Monday nights. Call 508-645 3511-for reservations.

Noteworthy:

Those crafty chocolatiers at Not Your Sugar Mama’s have gone a little Willy Wonka. Bennett Coffey and Kyleen Keenan tucked a piece of gold foil inside some of their chocolate bars (and only ones that are staying local, here on the Vineyard or Woods Hole bound). If you find a gold wrapper, bring it to their new factory and store in the Tisbury Marketplace in Vineyard Haven to collect your prize.

Not Your Sugar Mama’s chocolate is available at the Tisbury Farm Market, Fiddlehead Farm, Morning Glory, Black Sheep, Alley’s, Eden, Scottish Bakehouse, 7a Foods, Edgartown Meat and Fish, Cronig’s, Healthy Additions, Soigne, and at Quicks Hole in Woods Hole.