For me, a good dining experience doesn’t have to be at a restaurant with a Michelin star. It’s about how you are greeted at the door, the ambiance, the company you are with, the service (which is huge!), and of course, the food.
Throughout my travels in Europe, one of my favorite meals to this day was at a shack on the beach in Positano, Italy. The cook was an older man with bare feet (probably breaking many health codes), but he served us the freshest, simplest meal of mozzarella baked in lemon leaves; grilled whole fish that was swimming hours before; poached seafood salad with lemon, olive oil, and salt; platters of fresh fruit; and jugs of wine. It was one of those meals that are remembered forever.
This summer, one of my favorite meals on Island was at The Port Hunter in Edgartown. I love the lively feel of the warehouse-like space and the casualness of it. I ate the fluke ceviche with pine nuts and green apple that complemented each other and washed it down by a Walk in the Weeds: a gin, lime, and celery bitters cocktail. But the real show stopper was dessert. The key lime pie is one of the best that I’ve tasted, and I’ve tasted a lot. The create-your-own ice cream sandwiches are also a lot of fun, served with pop rocks to dip them in.
Breakfast at the Right Fork Diner in Edgartown for Father’s Day was also a standout. My two nephews loved running around outside and pointing at the planes soaring in the sky. I couldn’t help but sneak multiple bites of my father’s hash, and actually stole one of my nephew’s blueberry pancakes while thoroughly enjoying my omelet.
I also love the Oak Bluffs Harbor on Sundays after the beach, when I don’t feel like shopping and cooking dinner. The chicken kebab plate at Nancy’s Snack Bar is a new favorite of mine. This huge dinner comes with grilled chicken, rice pilaf, tabbouleh, humus and pita bread. Grab beers, oysters, clams, and shrimp cocktail from the raw bar and sit on the picnic tables for reasonable waterfront dining.
The constant question I get asked by visitors and locals is where to go out for dinner on the Vineyard? Then comes the laundry list: not too loud, not too expensive, not too casual, not only seafood, etc. There are so many great restaurants on this Island, many that that I have visited and others that have come highly recommended. This week, I asked locals what their favorite meals have been this summer. Here is what they said:
The most memorable meal that Emily Dunker of Vineyard Haven has had this summer was lunch and dinner at State Road Restaurant in West Tisbury, in which she and her boyfriend, Taz Armstrong, cashed out their piggy bank. “Mary is awesome,” says Ms. Dunker, referring to owner Mary Kenworth. “I love going there, even though it’s summer and it’s crazy with lots of people, there still feels like there is a sense of community.”
For an appetizer, Ms. Dunker had seafood sausage that was stuffed with lobster and leeks and served over risotto with a pea shoot pesto. “We had the most amazing meal,” she says. Next up was the bluefish with a carrot purée and for dessert, an “out of this world” shortcake with orange zest and strawberries from the restaurant’s garden. And recently for lunch, Ms. Dunker ordered the oyster po’ boy, which “was a religious experience, it was so good.”
The best meal of the summer for Tony Moniz of Los Angeles and Oak Bluffs was eating outside in Menemsha. “We went to Menemsha Fish Market and got some lobsters, oysters, and stuffies, some lemonade from Texaco, and sat out on the jetty and ate,” he says. With his wife, Jenny, and friends Jeff and Monique Raposa, the group enjoyed their late afternoon “pre-sunset crowd” meal and then took a dip in the ocean. “Best meal of the summer,” echoes Mr. Moniz.
A favorite of Kelly Sullivan of West Tisbury were the scallops and split pea risotto from Lambert’s Cove Inn in West Tisbury. “It was so good: the portion was huge, I only ate maybe a third of it and was stuffed,” she says. “The scallops were perfect. I’m not a huge seafood person. I just started to eat it when I moved here, but they were so good.”
Nic Korba recently moved back to the Vineyard with his wife, Mary. Their two favorite dishes that they have enjoyed in their short time back are the lobster mac and cheese at Sidecar and the ribs at Coop de Ville, both in Oak Bluffs.
“We loved sitting outside at Sidecar and getting big chunks of lobster in a huge bowl of my favorite food: melted cheese, with pasta,” says Mr. Korba. Disappointed with the ribs that he had eaten at various locations, he was wary about ordering BBQ at the Coop. But these ribs did not disappoint. “The extra large chunks of meat fell right off the bone and melted in my mouth. I was so happy,” he says.
Jeff Lynch of Chilmark, a fisherman, can’t get enough of Ben DeForest’s cooking at The Red Cat Kitchen at Ken’ n’ Beck in Oak Bluffs. He usually orders the $10 imagination tasting plates, never knowing what he will get, but always knowing that it will be delicious. Some of his favorites include the Island fresca: a steaming bowl of corn and tomato soup topped with basil and parmesan cheese — and the local vegetable risotto.
“He supports the local fisherman, that’s why I eat there so much,” says Mr. Lynch. “He doesn’t mess around. When he says fluke from Menemsha, or tuna from today, I know he’s telling the truth because I brought it there.” He recalls the time last summer when he walked through the front door in the middle of service with his catch and it went right on the menu. “How much fresher can it get? That’s unheard of. Ben keeps it local and fresh and does a great job,” he says. And to end the night, Mr. DeForest usually makes him a chocolate malted milk crème brulée. “That seals the deal; I’m ready to go home after that one.”
Hara Dretaki of Vineyard Haven likes to get lunch at Little House Café in Vineyard Haven. “The fare is consistently satisfying. Fresh, good food with a smile. They do it right,” she says. Her favorite dishes include the fish tacos and the Cod dinner entrée served with sautéed green beans, chive mashed potatoes, topped with a tomato vinaigrette and baby arugula. “I’ve never had a meal I didn’t like,” she says.
Shamus Kelly, who grew up in Oak Bluffs, recently went to the Beach Plum Inn Restaurant in Chilmark for dinner. “We went for a sunset reservation, which was ruined by the rain, but the meal took back our attention and saved the evening,” he says. He was joined by his girlfriend, Meghan, and fellow Islander Jack McGroarty to celebrate the engagement of Jack and his fiancée, Andrea.
“The place itself was awesome, with the whole farm to table atmosphere and open kitchen.” The meal started off with a Twig Farm cheese and fig plate and then braised pork with lentils. “I wish I got the special, which was a pork chop, but I had no complaints with my entrée. Jack got the pork chop and it was huge, and he couldn’t stop raving about it,” he says. They finished the meal with a grasshopper pie dessert that, according to Mr. Kelly, was unbelievable. Accompanied by good friends, champagne, wine, and scotch, it was a night to remember.