Owners, chefs, recap 2012 season on Martha’s Vineyard

Josh Aronie successfully relocated from Menemsha to Vineyard Haven this summer and now runs Saltwater Cafe. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

Phew. Just like that, the hard part is over. The arrival of September has got me singing “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” as I pull easily into a parking spot. It’s the best of both worlds: you can have your cake and eat it too in September. It’s still a busy month, especially on the weekends, but it’s the favorite of many year-rounders thanks to its sunny days, warm water, parking possibilities, familiar faces, and general cheerfulness. It’s the hap-happiest season of all.

I checked in with some new restaurants and new chefs to see how their maiden seasons went and to hear about what’s next.

Edgartown is still waiting for 11 North to open its doors. Its Facebook page shows that they’ve got tables, linens, and even soap for the bathroom, but so far no word on opening.

The Port Hunter, also in Edgartown, has been a great addition to town with live music from Island favorites such as Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish, Brad Tucker, Mike Martin, and more. The raw bar, with an excellent selection of oysters, is offered every night and dinner served Tuesday through Saturday keeps getting better with creative specials popping up on the menu more frequently. Last weekend they had a sweet potato encrusted mahi-mahi and longfin albacore tuna tartare served in half an avocado with wonton chips.

Every time I went to Saltwater Café in Vineyard Haven, chef/owner Josh Aronie was extremely busy but he always managed a quick hello and a smile. He took all the menu favorites from the Menemsha Café like the falafel wrap, Menemsha cheese steak, and breakfast burrito, and added some new dishes like huevos rancheros and the farmer’s plate with local eggs, local cheese, local meat, and homemade hollandaise. Vineyard Haven is not an easy place to open a breakfast place with stiff competition like the ArtCliff and Black Dog, but the Aronies held their own this summer and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next.

Any passersby on Main Street in Vineyard Haven will notice the progress at Café Moxie. There is still some construction going on but there are also tables, chairs, and a bar. They also have a website that does not offer much except that Café Moxie is a “French-style Bistro” and it was established in 2012. Presumably, they will open before the end of the year.

Mikey Rottman made the big switch from l’etoile in Edgartown to running the show at Fishbones on the harbor in Oak Bluffs this season. Bringing his fine dining touch, Mr. Rottman made the menu his own, offering great burgers and fish sandwiches right alongside white-linen worthy beef carpaccio with arugula dressed in a citrus vinaigrette, golden beets, fried capers, and balsamic reduction topped with fresh Pecorino. Fishbones is open until Columbus Day.

Ben deForest and Sarah Omer made quite a splash in Oak Bluffs this summer with the opening of the Red Cat Kitchen at Ken ‘N’ Beck. Both the food and cocktails have earned rave reviews. Ms. Omer is still reeling from what she calls the “overwhelming response” they’ve received on their first season and credits the “outpouring of support” they’ve received from family and friends for helping make it happen. Mr. deForest is happy to be cooking back at home, in a little kitchen in Oak Bluffs. Both Ms. Omer and Mr. deForest look forward to the familiar faces that fall brings.

Chef Raymond Schilcher joined Lobsterville Bar and Grille this season. Jennifer Jette, assistant manager, calls the season a success. Mr. Schilcher’s lobster roll and lobster grilled cheese with brie and white cheddar have been crowd favorites and she says that Mr. Schilcher is already working on a fall-inspired menu. Lobsterville is closed on Tuesdays until it closes for the season on Columbus Day.

Greer and Christian Thornton of Atria in Edgartown expanded with the opening of Hooked in Oak Bluffs. Mr. Thornton was pleased with Hooked’s maiden season. “We’re really happy that the Island embraced our new restaurant,” he said. Hooked will be open ’til the end of October.

In West Tisbury, State Road Restaurant and the Lambert’s Cove Inn added beer and wine to their menus. Inn proprietor Scott Jones said that beer and wine sales “helped quite a bit.” They have a great selection of wines in a range of prices to pair with chef Max Eagan’s elegant and creative food. The Lambert’s Cove Inn offers specials in the shoulder seasons. Last fall and spring they did a Tapas menu on Thursdays. This year’s off-season special hasn’t been decided on yet, but Mr. Jones assures that he and Chef Eagan are working on it.

The Outermost Inn in Aquinnah welcomed Chef Scott Cummings this season. Mr. Cummings said the season was “extremely busy, we were jam packed every night.”

Mr. Cummings is thankful for the change of pace that this week brings. He’s planning a fall menu, which promises juniper rubbed venison with celeriac puree and poached lady apples with foie gras stuffing. The Outermost will end their season on October 7 with an Oktoberfest celebration. The German inspired menu will include homemade pretzels, spaetzle, red cabbage, and more. Call 508-645-3511 for details.

Jacob Vanderhoop graduated from Le Cordon Bleu cooking school last year and promptly returned to the Island to take over the kitchen at the family’s business, the Aquinnah Shop. On the day after what Mr. Vanderhoop called the “busiest day of the summer,” he was breathing a sigh of relief and calling the season a success. The Aquinnah Shop will serve breakfast until Columbus Day and possibly dinners on the weekend. Mr. Vanderhoop is thinking about heading to Boston to cook for the winter.

When asked if he’d be back cooking at the Aquinnah Shop next summer, he laughed and said, “Oh yeah, I’ll be there for the rest of my life.” Plenty of time to expand the menu, which he’s looking forward to.