It’s a rare occasion when I trade out my preferred wardrobe of gym shorts and Dumptique-procured flannels for fancier garb. Usually it takes a funeral. Needless to say, the idea of putting on “real people clothes” just to eat has never much appealed to me, and the day my boyfriend puts on a suit coat it will probably be funny enough to go viral on YouTube.
But on jaunts into Edgartown, land of boat shoes and high heels, party dresses and pink shorts, I start to question my own poor fashion sense. Not because I care to hop on a yacht, but because I really want to eat at some of the delicious upper-scale establishments. My unwillingness to put on a dress often means I miss out on some key dining news. So when I walked into the Charlotte Inn this week on an entirely unrelated assignment, I was excited to learn that The Terrace has been serving lunch all summer long, and will continue to do so through Labor Day weekend.
The Terrace is one of the most aptly named restaurants on the Island. Situated just off Main Street in Edgartown, the Charlotte Inn is basically one big English garden. Actually, owner Gery Conover has been back and forth to England about 28 times, and in addition to furnishing the entire inn with an art gallery, he has engineered the grounds with beautiful private gardens worthy of cucumber sandwiches and high tea.
The restaurant itself is situated on a pleasant, brick-paved veranda, with indoor and outdoor seating. The glow of the afternoon sun through lush greenery mingles with the trickle of a fountain — it’s like eating in the world’s classiest greenhouse. The sheer aesthetics of it were enough to encourage the staff to start serving lunch. “It’s such a beautiful setting in the afternoon to be sitting outside and having a nice lunch,” executive chef Justin Melnick said.
The return of lunch with Chef Melnick is actually a nod to the Inn’s past. “Lunch used to be a big thing at the Charlotte Inn,” Chef Melnick said. “We decided to try it out again with a soft opening this summer.”
The menu is short and sweet, featuring classic American fare with a twist of creativity. “I try to work with as many local ingredients as possible,” Chef Melnick said. The lunch menu features lots of eggs — such as deviled eggs and egg salad — all from local chickens at The FARM Institute in Edgartown. Salads are founded on a bed of Morning Glory greens. “The main focus is finding the best ingredients and manipulating the food as little as possible,” he continued. “It’s about just letting the food speak for itself.”
One item that’s definitely making a splash is the lamb burger, with meat from Northeast Family Farms, caramelized onions, blue cheese, garlic and dill pickle, on a grilled brioche bun, with house-made chips. Chef Melnick also enjoys serving chilled soups on a hot summer afternoon, but he puts so much care into each dish, it’s hard to pick favorites. “People ask me all the time what’s the best thing on the menu, and now that I have two children, it’s sort of like choosing between them,” he said.
But here’s the best part (in my humble opinion): according to Chef Melnick, “lunch is certainly more casual than dinner.” That means no suit coats required, but do respect your location (you’re going to look damn silly in gym shorts). With quick service, only one course, and extremely reasonable prices ranging from $8 to $26, lunch at The Terrace is an all-around treat. It’s like buying a fancy dress half off, looking fantastic in it, and finding out that “real people clothes” are pretty comfy and breathable after all.
The Terrace: serving lunch Friday through Sunday through Labor Day; dinner nightly. For reservations and more information, call 508-627-4751 or visit thecharlotteinn.com. Also check out the new book, “The Charlotte Inn: Behind The Times on Purpose,” available now from Vineyard Stories.