Deon at the VFW: Best kept secret in Oak Bluffs

When he's not tickling the ivories, chef Deon Thomas is cooking in the VFW's kitchen. "It’s casual, come as you are, good food," he says. — Photo by Kaylea Moore

October marked the one-year anniversary of the restaurant at the VFW in Oak Bluffs with Chef Deon Thomas, formerly of The Cornerway in Chilmark and Deon’s in Oak Bluffs, at the helm.

Mr. Thomas is at the VFW seven days a week, cooking lunch and dinner for patrons at the bar, dining in the restaurant and for orders to go. “The members are here and I’m at their beck and call,” Mr. Thomas said, while grinning.

Anyone can become a guest member at the VFW. The restaurant is open to the public, but after three visits, Mr. Thomas will encourage you to become a guest member. “Guest membership allows for people to come and partake in inexpensive drinks and good food at a low cost,” he explained.

The spacious, well-lit room is full of tables and chairs with a white piano sitting in the corner ready to be played. The opposite end features a pie case and counter with a view into the kitchen and a separate entrance into the bar.

Mr. Thomas arrives a couple of minutes to 12 noon, ready for lunch. “The boys are here,” he said, referring to the men at the bar. The daily menus are written in marker on two boards, one for entrée specials and the other for lunch and light eats. “Nothing is online, we keep it simple, save some trees, I don’t even print menus,” he said. But the food is far from simple. This past Monday when I visited, the menu consisted of Buffalo or jerk wings, buttermilk fried chicken tenders, roast beef sandwich, fried rice with chicken or beef, conch fritters, BBQ ribs, fish and chips, onion rings, French fries, fried plantains, and a bacon cheeseburger.

Mr. Thomas describes his food as reasonable New American fare with a Caribbean twist. “I have a New York kitchen,” he said, referring to the tight quarters that he cooks in, “but somehow I seem to make it work.” From the small kitchen come big entrées, ranging from blackened codfish served with a baked potato and vegetable and grilled Asian salmon on local greens, to barbeque ribs and chicken and breaded pork chops. Tuesdays is “Make your own Mac Night” where diners choose what they want added to their macaroni cheese. Items include lobster, vegetables, linguica, chorizo, ham, chicken, and “spicy, if you want it spicy.” Local conch usually makes an appearance on the menu in the form of fritters or conch soup and during the winter Mr. Thomas offers pizza, made with dough from Orange Peel Bakery in Aquinnah.

Food is served on disposable plates with plastic utensils, but “people bring their own cutlery, their plates, their china, their silverware and linens, they sit down and have dinner and I welcome that,” Mr. Thomas said. Sometimes on the weekends there will be a pianist playing.

“Do I want to see it grow? Yes. Do I want to see it busier? Yes. Am I ever going to make it a fine dining joint? No. It’s casual, come as you are, good food. It is what it is.”

In his downtime, Mr. Thomas does research and development, working on jerk sauce, hot pepper sauce, and pineapple pumpkin ginger chutney that he’s going to bottle, as well as perfecting his key lime pie. “You’ll see that stuff in the supermarket,” he said.

The restaurant is open until “whatever time the last man rolls off the stool,” he quipped. Stop in for dinner, or call for take-out: 508-693-9261.