Growing up I remember getting ready for the beach was like packing for a week-long vacation: the car was stuffed with beach umbrellas, coolers, beach bags, towels, sandcastle equipment, and boogie boards. We packed for any type of weather; unless there was a hurricane warning or a torrential downpour, we were staying at the beach all day.
Food preparation started the night before, stocking up at the store, cleaning the cooler, and making sure we had enough ice/ice packs in the freezer. The next morning the cooler was packed to the brim, with enough food to feed the whole neighborhood. Grapes, potato chips, and jugs of homemade lemonade always made the cut. These days, some of my friends will pack for 12-hour days, towing grills, charcoal, and makeshift kitchens to the beach.
If you are rushing to get a parking spot and don’t have time to pack a cooler or you are at the beach and didn’t pack quite enough food, here are just a selection of places within walking distance or a short drive to Island beaches to pick up a last-minute lunch or some snacks for your day at the beach.
No need to travel far for food when going to State Beach. Coming from Edgartown stop by The Square Rigger Restaurant’s take out window for a quick meal to bring to the beach.
On State Beach you have three mobile dining destinations. At the Big Bridge on the Oak Bluffs side, visit the Shark Shack for lobster rolls, hot dogs, chili dogs; or its sister shack the Grape Leaf located at the Little Bridge in Oak Bluffs for Middle Eastern classics such as spinach and meat pies. Both locations offer sweet treats including homemade ice cream sandwiches, chocolate-covered frozen bananas, and homemade fruit popsicles.
Also, at the Little Bridge, check out The Spirit Shack, specializing in shaved ice. Flavor combinations include the Shark Attack: a blue raspberry and cherry shaved ice with gummy fish and great white shark, and the Seaweed: a lemon lime and red bull flavored shaved ice. In addition to the cool treats, The Spirit Shack serves Nathan’s hot dogs. The lunch special — a hot dog, chips, and shaved ice — is $5.
In Oak Bluffs, walk from the Town Beach to just about every spot near Circuit Avenue, including the Big Dipper Ice Cream & Café. Try the Perfect Panini with turkey, bacon, Swiss, roasted red peppers, onions, pickles, and honey mustard; or the Reuben with corned beef, Swiss, sauerkraut, and mustard on marble rye. If you want to bypass town traffic, order sandwiches ahead or see what they have in the cooler at Tony’s Market.
On your way to South Beach in Edgartown stop by Right Fork Diner’s to go window or pick up all your beach necessities at Katama General Store. Stock up on cut up fruit, drinks, baked goods, and chips as well as a variety of pre-made sides such as citrus beet salad, sweet potato salad, sesame noodles, corn and black bean salad, and pesto orzo. Grab one of the pre-made salads or sandwiches ranging from curry chicken and tuna wraps to ham and Muenster, and Italian sandwiches.
Headed up Island, do your one-stop shopping at Alley’s General Store, Alley’s Farm Stand, and 7a Foods in West Tisbury. These three establishments have almost everything that you would need for a day at the beach. At 7a choose from a list of sandwiches, with gluten-free bread available. Try the house-smoked pulled pork with shaved market vegetables, the roast beef sub with wasabi, sour cream, pea shoots, red onion on a sub roll, or the Liz Lemon: a hot housemade pastrami, turkey, and Swiss sandwich with coleslaw, Russian dressing, and potato chips on rye. Pre-made sides range from spelt salad with Kalamata olives, tomato and feta, to Morning Glory bean and potato salad. Don’t forget to check out the selection of baked goods for dessert.
Or stop by Fella’s on State Road in West Tisbury. In a rush, buy one of the pre-packaged sandwiches, wraps, or salads, such as mixed greens, cranberries, toasted almonds, and onion. Or order from the extensive menu of paninis, sandwiches, smoothies, and pizza. Try the tarragon chicken salad or the roasted turkey with bacon, avocado, romaine, tomato, and chipotle mayo. Create your own sandwich choosing from a list of toppings and various types of bread.
Headed to Menemsha Beach, you’re in luck. There are plenty of quick grab and go spots in this small fishing village. Stop by Beetlebung for grilled paninis, wraps, and salads. Try one of their seafood-inspired sandwiches such as curry lobster sliders; the Quitsa crab melt with wild-caught, hand-picked New England crab meat, Vermont Cabot cheddar on sourdough; or the bluefish wrap with crumbled Island smoked bluefish with light mayo, lemon, tomato, purple onion, and Island greens. Or visit their neighbor The Back Door at The Home Port for a grilled swordfish sandwich, lobster roll, chowder, or cheeseburger.
In Aquinnah make the trip up to the take-out window at the Aquinnah Shop for a quick lunch to eat at the cliffs or take to the beach. Choose from a variety of options including hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, BLTs, and fish burgers or try the fried clams, scallops, oysters, or shrimp. Right next door check out Faith’s Seafood Shack serving up BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, fish tacos, meatball subs, and pan-fried bluefish sandwiches.
Walk up the hill from Owen Park in Vineyard Haven to Waterside Market on Main Street. Try the French Quarter sandwich made with house-roasted beef, brie, horseradish aioli, lettuce, tomato, and onion on ciabatta; or the Strawberry Creek salad: organic greens, fresh strawberries, mandarin oranges, goat cheese, and sweetened almonds topped with balsamic vinaigrette.
No matter where you go for food, while on the beach remember to slather yourself with sunscreen, pack plenty of water, and carry out what you carry in.