When I go out for dinner with a friend I prefer to sit at the bar. There is something appealing about the casual nature of eating at a bar — making friends with your neighbors and chatting with the bartender, as well as the convenience of not having to make reservation. The same goes for solo dining. In the city, I occasionally get a table for one and bring my book to keep me company, but you can usually find some sort of camaraderie at the bar.
The Vineyard is full of restaurants with bar seating. Here is a selection of restaurant bars steps away from main streets and waterfronts, or a drive up-Island:
Bar seating often offers a more casual atmosphere at fine dining establishments. Bypass the white linen table cloths and cozy up to the polished bar at l’etoile in Edgartown to sample the bar menu, an abridged version of the dining room menu. Try their taleggio cheese, black truffle, and tomato grilled sandwich with a cup of crabmeat and asparagus soup, or their grilled prime beef burger with oyster mushrooms and taleggio, served with white truffled fries.
Specialty cocktails include the Startini: a combination of vodka, citrus, pomegranate, and cava; and Springtime in Paris, a concoction of Cremant sparkling rose, St. Germain, and lemon juice. Or stop by the bar après dinner for a coffee, tea, cappuccino, dessert, or a nightcap. Sweet treats include a macadamia nut Napoleon filled with salted caramel and chocolate mousse, and the farm strawberry shortcake with sweet vanilla-bean mascarpone and berry coulis.
Around the corner tucked back in Nevin Square is Détente Wine Bar and Restaurant. This elegant seven-seat bar showcases cheeses under glass domes alongside bottles of liquor and wine. Enjoy a glass of wine from the extensive wine list and an appetizer such as lump crab cakes with watermelon and heirloom tomato salad, or the Albacore tuna tartar with ginger, pine nuts, and togarashi.
Swing by the The Sweet Life Café in Oak Bluffs to dine alfresco under twinkling lights at their square-shaped outdoor bar. Along with bar stools, there is a new bench seating area this year. Start with the roasted heirloom carrots with burrata, spiced Marcona almonds, and curry, and then try the local fluke. Ask Nadia, a bartender, to make you a Ginger Margarita with ginger infused tequila and a crystallized ginger and salt rim; or a Grape Smash, made with Bacardi, fresh grapes, fresh basil, grapefruit juice, and ginger beer.
Bring a friend to The Grill on Main in Edgartown for two-for-one entrées every night. With ample parking, this hidden bar serves the full dining room menu featuring house specialties such as baked lobster turnovers with shrimp and lemon cream sauce, and a grilled one-pound rib eye steak with crispy sweet Vidalia onions. Enjoy an espresso, hot or in martini form, and try the warm bittersweet chocolate bread pudding with soft vanilla whipped cream for dessert.
Along the Oak Bluffs harbor there are plenty of eating establishments to choose from with outdoor seating with a view. Look up and you will see people perched on the second floor of Lobsterville Bar and Grille. Along with a downstairs bar, Lobsterville offers a second bar upstairs where you can watch the game while catching the sunset. True to its name, the restaurant’s menu is packed with dishes made from New England’s favorite crustacean: Find lobster in the macaroni and cheese, on a BLT and grilled cheese, or on a roll. Pair your dinner with Big Claw wine from California, a blend made especially for lobster, or sample from an assortment of beers on tap such Belfast Bay Lobster Ale or Loose Cannon IPA.
BYOB to the bar at The Chilmark Tavern. Although there is no beer, wine, or liquor behind the bar, the folks at Chilmark Tavern can make almost any cocktail, if you provide the booze. On their Elixers and Mixers menu, try the Basil Lime Martini with fresh local basil and lime (for vodka); or the Painkiller, a mix of tropical juices, coconut, and shaved nutmeg (great with rum). Grab a bottle of white wine to enjoy with the Caesar salad made with romaine hearts, pecorino Romano, crispy capers, croutons, and white anchovies; or the wild Menemsha mussels with house cured and smoked bacon, herbs, chickpeas, and sake. Bring a beer and feast on the burger made with Northeast Family Farm beef, or if you are a vegan, try the shitake soup with sliced shitakes, watermelon radish, and buckwheat soba noodles.
Snag a seat at the zinc bar at State Road Restaurant in West Tisbury. Start off with the charcuterie or regional artisanal cheese platter while enjoying a glass of wine or beer and finish your meal with the blueberry caramel upside down cake, homemade ice cream sandwich, or one of State Road’s signature chocolate bars. Entrees range from local chicken to bluefish caught off the Vineyard.
Start off your dinner at the bar at Saltwater in Vineyard Haven with local oysters, local littlenecks, and shrimp from the raw bar or the tempura soft-shell crab with Japanese slaw. Next, try the wood-fired New York strip, swordfish, or pan-seared scallops. Sip on beer or wine while enjoying the ambiance and view of lagoon pond.
Sport fans, pull up a seat at the bar at the Ocean View in Oak Bluffs to watch a game. Located walking distance from the harbor, the Ocean View has a sit-down restaurant as well as tavern style dining with a long bar and free popcorn. Snack on the Ocean View Hodge Podge, a combo of favorite fried bar snacks; or try the Seafood Sampler with fried oysters, scallops, and clams, served with cocktail and tartar sauce. The tavern menu is packed with burgers, sandwiches, and fried seafood as well as pizza starting at 5 pm. The dining room menu is also available at the tavern and includes offerings from the land and sea as well as a salad bar.
When you walk into the The Newes from America in Edgartown, you may feel as though you have uncovered a secret spot. This Colonial pub has a front as well as a back bar, where patrons can sit and enjoy a game as well as a slew of New England brews. Munch on the Roquefort stilettos: toasted French bread topped with Roquefort cheese and bacon; or bite into Kelley’s Steak Bomb: shaved roast beef, caramelized onions, mushrooms, roasted red peppers, topped with provolone and American cheeses. After 4 pm, try a U.K. favorite such as bangers and mash or steak and spuds.