Dining out at the Y Café, Oak Bluffs

The Times staff enjoyed a lobster roll, turkey burgers, a Southwest wrap, and iced coffee. — Photo by Steve Myrick

About 1440, Johannes Gutenberg invented the movable printing press that revolutionized information technology and put a lot of scribes out of work. My guess is that each morning after Johannes printed a stack of books and wiped the sweat from his brow he looked at his co-workers and faced a question that continues to bedevil those of us in the publishing business: “Where do you want to go to lunch?”

A few weeks ago I invited my fellow editors and reporters to join me for one of the informal editorial lunch outings The Times underwrites at which we discuss various aspects of community journalism. I answered the question of where to go for lunch with the suggestion that we head to the Y Café located in the YMCA on Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road adjacent to the MV Ice Arena.

I had not previously been to the café or the Y. It was an opportunity to see both places.

My dictionary defines café as “a room for coffee and light refreshments.” Cafés around the world also provide a comfortable spot to enjoy conversation with friends, read a book, or simply watch the world go by.

In my view, a good café, indoor or out, provides a vantage point to people-watch. It is entertaining to sip on a cup of coffee with the caffeine boost of a Saturn rocket in a café along the Avenue Champs Elysees in Paris, or closer to home, Newbury Street in Boston and watch the young Euro-trash fashion-parade.

There are not many cafés to choose from in the winter on Martha’s Vineyard. There are not even many people to watch. But Islanders learn to adapt, and they appreciate the feel of living in a small community that pervades off-season Island life.

The Y Café in winter is a good place to hang out. The prices are reasonable, the menu is more interesting than one might expect on first glance of the food counter, and it is a good place to people-watch.

The café is located to the right of the main entrance. It consists of nine round tables and chairs set up in a row next to a glass wall that provides a full view of the Y’s spacious pool and swimmers taking laps.

The café is open seven days a week. Most days it opens at 6:30 am and closes at 6:30 pm. Breakfast is served until 11 am.

The food counter fronts a small kitchen where a variety of hot food items are prepared. A refrigerated case contains a selection of prepared foods for those on the go — and between the swimmers in the pool and a steady stream of people coming and going from the second floor fitness center there is a lot of go at the Y.

The best part is that a person can arrive early, eat hundreds of calories of pancakes, sausage, and eggs, and then burn off the same amount of calories on one of the many treadmills or in the pool.

The breakfast menu selection includes a breakfast burrito (eggs, potatoes, cheese, salsa and choice of sausage or turkey bacon) for $3.50; a half ($3.25) or full stack ($6.50) of buckwheat pancakes; and Greek yogurt for $2.25. A cup of coffee, this is a café after all, costs (depending on size) $1.50 and $2.50.

For the health conscious there is a juice menu that makes a simple glass of orange juice seem old-fashioned. The “Energy” juice contains carrot, apple, broccoli, parsley, and ginger. A small costs $4 and a large $6. You can also belly up to the bar and order a wheatgrass shot, “one of the most nourishing and energizing foods,” the menu advises, for $3.50.

There is a Smoothies menu that includes the “Tropical Blend,” that consists of banana, pineapple, mango, orange yoghurt and soymilk, for $4 or $6.

The day The Times crew went to lunch our menu order was fairly conventional. It consisted of two turkey burgers, a turkey club, a lobster roll, and a Southwest wrap (rice, black beans, roasted corn, guacamole, tomato, chicken, cheese, cilantro, and chipotle mayo). The total bill with drinks was $39.55.

Traditionally, newspaper reporters have always appreciated a free lunch. In our case, they also appreciated a good lunch. “This is really good,” news reporter Janet Hefler said of her lobster roll. “It has capers and celery.”

Community editor Whit Griswold enjoyed the spacious architecture of the building’s interior and his turkey club. “It’s a fabulous room,” Whit said. “The light comes in from the huge windows on the back wall.”

Other lunch menu selections include a Caesar salad ($3.99), a curry chicken salad ($7.25), a veggie Panini ($6.99), and an Angus burger ($6.50). Every Wednesday the special is a lobster roll, currently priced at $6.25.

I spoke with Emily Wash, Y director of marketing and public relations. She said Bryan Garrison, director of food service, is responsible for the operation of the kitchen and menu selections. Bryan knows his way around a kitchen. His resume includes the Culinary Institute of America and l’etoile Restaurant in Edgartown. His selections reflect a focus on fresh and health selections.

Emily said the café has become a gathering spot for members and the public. In that way it provides a service and a convenience, which is the intent, she said.

The full Y Café menu and hours of operation may be found on the Y website at ymca.org.