The Square-Rigger is a traditional New England style restaurant at the triangle in Edgartown, owned and managed by Tony and Doreen Rezendes and their family. Son Dana is the chef, and daughter Jenny Dowd helps manage the front. They specialize in classics like quahog chowder, mussels, stuffed mushrooms, boiled lobster, baked stuffed shrimp, New York strip steak, and prime rib.
The “Rigger” as it is known, serves surf and turf from a menu that has seen little change in over twenty years. “We have a large, vocal clientele who lets us know if we take things off the menu,” said Dana. “Adding new items is difficult because a menu can only be so big before you can’t handle it, and we have one of the biggest menus on the Island.”
“We did add a take out menu three years ago, and we have slowly made small adjustments to the menu,” Dana said. “But there has not been a change in the concept of the menu since we took over the Rigger almost twenty years ago.”
Dana said that his focus has been staying consistent and not getting caught up in the hustle of reworking the menu to fit popular trends. “We are a place where people can find the same thing they ordered last year or the year before.”
Tony worked for the post office and had no restaurant experience when he and Doreen bought the restaurant in 1995 from the previous owner William Holtham. Doreen was managing the Rigger at the time and had managed the dining room at Mr. Holtham’s other Island restaurant, the Homeport in Menemsha. Elder daughter Amy and Dana also got their starts in the restaurant business at the Homeport.
Dana began to work at the Homeport when he was eleven, washing dishes and helping clean up. At fourteen, he was cooking at the takeout line. Six years later, when the family bought the Rigger, he started working as a line cook before moving into the head chef position a few years later.
Jenny Dowd and Doreen manage the front of the restaurant with help from the only non-family member in a management position: Nina Ferry. Jenny is also in charge of the wine list and keeps the shelves stocked with a wide variety of select wines, including good moderately priced wines. Tony fills in wherever he is needed.
Dana said there are always new challenges popping up, usually with employees and customers. “One night a former dishwasher showed up to work wearing nothing but an apron,” he said. “That made us laugh. And there are the situations you find yourself in in the dining room. We had a customer loudly shushing a child at another table, over and over, and yelling at his parents. She told them to tell their child to shut up. You just think, ‘is this really happening? What do we do?’ It just happens. Dealing with people who are drunk and rude to the staff is never fun but we just look back and laugh.”
He said there are new things he would like to try in the kitchen at some point in the future, but he won’t say when or if that will ever happen.