I may never be the same. The ArtCliff Diner just blew my mind.
Mixing chickpeas, tomatoes, crumbled bacon, spiced carrots, sweet potatoes, roasted chicken, toasted sunflower seeds, and a fried local egg over-easy with a tad of lettuce never occurred to me before. Now that I’ve had it, I’m sure the ArtCliff’s Vineyard Cobb Salad ($16) should be the only way to eat a salad.
I had to talk to ArtCliff owner Gina Stanley. I had to ask her how she pulled the menu together. Maybe she dreams of menu selections like Hen’s on Deck (grilled chicken, mozzarella, tomato, basil mayo, and arugula on ciabatta), Gilbert Grape Toast (brioche with ricotta, roasted grape honey, and peanut brittle), and Smokin’ in the Shower (toasted bagel, smoked salmon, red onion, tomato, cream cheese, capers, and lemon) and jots them down in the middle of the night. Once I spoke with Gina, who’s cooked and done everything else at the ArtCliff for 17 years, it all made sense.
“There were four girls in the house when I was growing up, and my father used to say, ‘What are you girls doin’? Smokin’ in the shower?’” Gina told me. The Mr. T (chorizo, jalapeño, Pepper Jack cheese) and the Bull’s Eye (codfish cake, two eggs, arugula, spicy hollandaise, and mustard oil) have been on the menu forever, she said. She comes up with the menu and does the cooking, but the rest of the staff puts together the daily specials, Gina explained.
I asked her what she likes best on the menu. “Staff meal, because that means it’s the end of the day,” she laughed. “By this point, I just feel it. I’ve never sat down and had a plate of pancakes off the menu.”
I raved about the Vineyard Cobb Salad, with all its myriad of ingredients. She said she didn’t want to put a traditional Cobb salad on the menu, and she had a pretty good idea that all the ingredients would go together. “The egg on top is more of a European thing,” Gina told me.
The most popular dishes at the ArtCliff are the crepes, omelettes, and the hashes — corned beef, spicy chicken, pork and cheddar, smoked salmon, and southwestern flannel.
My friend was quick to offer to join me at the ArtCliff. She opted for breakfast foods, while my choices came from the lunch menu. Her Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes ($8.50) looked phenomenal, and I’m no pancake lover. What I really liked, and was glad she shared, was the Pork and Cheddar Hash ($9). It was spicy, with bright flavor, and a side of the dish was larger than what you would consider a full-size serving. Anytime I can bring
home leftovers and make another meal or two out of what’s left on my plate, I’m happy. The fact that it was delicious was the icing on the cake.
And for all those who dream of an ArtCliff that’s open for dinner, those dreams are coming true. Beginning Friday, Dec. 1, Gina said she’ll be opening for dinner on Fridays and Saturdays at 5:30 pm, and will likely stay open until 10:30 pm. She said she and Chef Kyle Anderson have a thousand ideas about the menu, but they’d definitely like to highlight foods from around the world — Greece, Southern California, and Italy were a few thoughts she shared. And, Gina said, the ArtCliff will have a BYOB policy.
For those visiting for the holidays or who just want to grab a Vineyard Cob Salad, Gina said, “We’ll be open the day after Christmas.” Merry Christmas to me.
ArtCliff Diner, Beach Road, Vineyard Haven, is open from 7 am to 2 pm, with added dinner weekend hours beginning Friday, Dec. 1, 5:30 pm to 10:30 pm. The ArtCliff is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. For more information, call 508-693-1224.