Café Moxie is back in action, as I’m sure many have noticed. Since it was destroyed in a fire on the fourth of July 2008, Moxie has been empty while Mike Ryan chipped away at rebuilding, refurbishing, and re-establishing the iconic Vineyard restaurant, with the help of architect Peter Breese who did the design work.
Mr. Ryan is a builder by trade, and he owns Island Woodworks. After Café Moxie burned down, he approached then-owner Paul Currier about helping with the reconstruction. After a few conversations, Mr. Ryan decided to become a partner in the business and later, when Mr. Currier decided that he wanted out, Mr. Ryan bought his share to become to sole owner of the yet-to-be-rebuilt Café Moxie.
Mr. Ryan’s business partner, Mariola Ryan, did all the interior design. She was going for a funky bistro look, which was effortlessly accomplished with the help of a few bold paintings and the unique vantage point one gets from inside Moxie, located on Main Street in VIneyard Haven. The side windows are at an angle, allowing for great people watching as they come and go up and down Main and Center streets. Directly across from Moxie is the Capawock Theatre, which looks especially old-fashioned (in a fashionable kind of way) in the light of day, with no long lines in front of it.
Before they opened their doors, Mr. Ryan’s restaurant experience was limited to dining in them, but he always knew that the location at 48 Main Street, Vineyard Haven would remain a restaurant, particularly one named Café Moxie. “The name has meaning to people,” general manager Emily Kavanagh said.
“I was apprehensive about opening this time of year,” Mr. Ryan said, “but now I’m glad that we did. I’ve learned masses in the last few weeks — it’s been a huge, sharp learning curve. I don’t know how I would have done that in August.”
Executive chef Willy Wannamaker got on board with the Moxie team about a year and a half ago. “I’ve been sleeping better at night ever since then,” Mr. Ryan said.
Chef Wannamaker was trained in France and has cooked in New York and at the Blueberry Inn in West Tisbury. Most recently, he worked as a private chef and now he is “really glad to be back here, at home,” he said. His vision for the restaurant is an American-style bistro, where as much cooking, curing, baking, and preparing as possible is done in-house with a focus on fresh ingredients. He regularly uses local eggs and sources produce from Island farms such as Whippoorwill and Blackwater.
Leslie Hewson, who once owned the Mediterranean, is doing all of the baking for Café Moxie and well-known Island chef Josh Aronie is doing breakfast and Sunday brunch.
Mr. Aronie is best known for the Menemsha Café, which closed last December, much to the dismay of many Islanders. Since May, he has served his signature simple and delicious breakfast and lunch at Saltwater in the Tisbury Marketplace. “If you are familiar with my food you’ll recognize it on this menu,” Mr. Aronie said, “but it will be in Café Moxie’s style.”
For breakfast on the go, grab a pastry and a cup of freshly brewed Boston Brewers Coffee or check out the breakfast sandwich on house-baked brioche with two eggs, spinach, tomato, red onion, and cheddar (with the option to add bacon or avocado).
If you have more time to spare, sit at one of Moxie’s tables and enjoy a full breakfast with offerings like Mermaid Farm yogurt with granola, brioche French toast with walnut butter and Vermont maple syrup, or the Moxie omelet with local eggs, wilted spinach, shiitake mushrooms, shallots, gruyere, home fries, and choice of toast.
The kitchen goes all out for Sunday brunch, with eggs Benedict; fish cakes served with spicy red pepper crème fraiche; cured-in-house gravlax with cream cheese, red onion and tomato on homemade pumpernickel; salad Nicoise, etc.
Both chef Wannamaker and Mr. Ryan can’t sing the praises of their kitchen team loud enough. “We’re so excited to have Josh here,” the chef said. He also credits Emily Kavanagh with pulling it all together. “She’s working so hard, she’s been amazing,” he said. And as for Ms. Hewson, they can barely keep her baked goods in stock. I can vouch that her strawberry cream cheese Danish is wickedly difficult to resist.
For dinner, Mr. Wannamaker has combined Island favorites with typical bistro fare that is at the same time swanky and simple like the warm and crispy duck confit, served with coco tarbais bean purée and sweet and sour jus. Bouillabaisse is made entirely with local fish, and steak is served with homemade pommes frites. No bistro menu would be complete without a country-style paté: at Moxie it’s served with a salad of frisee, cornichons, Dijon, and crostini.
Keep an eye out for daily specials and more vegetarian options, which the kitchen team is currently working on.
Café Moxie serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner year-round. Breakfast ranges from $7 to $11; dinner entrées from $28 to $36. Current hours are breakfast daily 8 to 11 am; lunch daily 11:30 am to 3 pm; from 3 to 5:30 pm the café will be open but the kitchen will be closed and guests can enjoy coffee and pastries until dinner starts at 5:30; Sunday brunch is 9 am to 2 pm.
The restuarant is still awaiting the final green light on a beer and wine license. Call 508-687-9140 or visit them at cafemoxiemv.com for more information.