Dining at Island Cove is a hole in one

Island Cove co-owner Mary Gosselin fires up fuel on the outdoor grill for hungry mini golfers. — Photo by Michael Cummo

Sometimes the most satisfying food comes from the most unexpected places. No,
I don’t mean the time that you late-night dumpster dived at Dunkin’ Donuts in college (though in my…I mean YOUR defense, they do pristinely package their still-fresh baked goods before disposing of them).

What I’m talking about is those hidden gems of food spots. Holes in the walls. Best kept secrets. Like finding out Tisbury Farm Market might be one of the best coffee spots on the Island: the coffee is hot and strong, the price is right, and there’s never a line. I was going to keep that tidbit to myself, but I’m offering it up as my reward to you for reading my column, and continuing to read it after I discuss dumpster food.

So here’s another one for you: go play mini-golf, and make sure you work up an appetite, because the grill at Island Cove Adventures in Vineyard Haven is heating up. This shady cabana-style food stand has been around since 2002, but few people realize that Island Cove’s menu ranges far beyond ice cream. Mary Gosselin, who owns Island Cove with her husband, Ray, has a long history with food. A nutrition major, Ms. Gosselin came to the Island after college, where she learned the choreographed art of short order cooking at Island restaurants such as the Dock Street Coffee Shop.

“I wanted to own a restaurant, my husband wanted to own a mini golf,” Ms. Gosselin said. She gave her husband the go-ahead, on the condition that “I don’t have to be involved.” As it turned out, getting involved opened opportunities Ms. Gosselin didn’t know existed. She had already decided that the hospital work available for a nutritionist was not for her.

“I was the first person people met when they were diagnosed with medical conditions. I was dealing with 40-, 50-, 60-year-olds who were scared, sick, and I was taking away their comfort foods,” Ms. Gosselin said. So she turned her attention to preventing health issues instead. “I decided I wanted to work with children, because then we could avoid that scary conversation. I wanted to teach kids to like chicken and vegetables, and make good food that tastes good.”

The mini-golf business provided the window to working with children that Ms. Gosselin sought. “I like to cook for kids because they are so spontaneous. If they like it, they’ll tell you, if not, they will too,” Ms. Gosselin said. “Most kids can deal with grilled cheese or a hot dog, but I have a lot of kids that love my grilled chicken. I feel like that’s a personal win for a child to fall in love with chicken.”

Having healthy choices at the mini-golf course was a given. Families were playing together, kids were powering up the rock wall, expending huge amounts of energy. Ms. Gosselin felt it necessary to provide them with the right fuel at the right price. In addition to burgers, dogs, and flatbread pizzas, there are vegetarian and gluten-free options such as fruit smoothies and a sweet potato black bean veggie burger. Prices range from $3.50 for a hot dog, to just under $7 for Mary’s specialty: chicken breast and veggies in a secret marinade, served atop a toasted flatbread.

“Everybody needs to eat, and we made a decision to keep it reasonable,” Ms. Gosselin said. “It’s hard to find good food at a reasonable price, especially in a venue like this. It’s what I would want to find if I were traveling with my family. What a surprise that I can have a veggie burger, or my child who’s gluten-free can join the family for dinner. And it tastes good.”

Ms. Gosselin says offering quality food and ice cream just adds to the positive family atmosphere. “It’s the only place I see families not texting,” she said. It instills the nostalgia for a perfect childhood vacation that Ms. Gosselin says families come back and thank her for year after year.

When I was a kid and went on vacation, my brother and I would always insist on playing mini-golf, mostly so we could beat each other with the putters behind my parents’ backs, or climb over the features into the appealing neon-blue ponds to fish out extra balls (also frowned upon). To bribe us into less-obnoxious behavior, my parents would dangle the possibility of ice cream in front of us. Looking back, a muggy night, a round of mini-golf, and a dripping ice cream cone defined what it meant to be a kid in summertime. Add to that a healthy meal, and a scramble up a rock wall, and you’ve got a real hole in one.

For more information, call 508-693-2611, visit islandcoveadventures.com, or look for Island Cove Adventures on Facebook.