Snagging a spot at the big table out in front of 20byNine is what I call a score. Several times throughout the summer I lingered along Kennebec Avenue in Oak Bluffs, eyeing the coveted outside seating, and knowing the wait was longer than this local was willing to tolerate. But in the sweet spot of late summer, after the crowds start to wane but before the seasonal restaurants start to close, it’s time to pounce. It’s cozy inside the restaurant, but on a late summer night in Oak Bluffs, the best place to be at 6 pm Friday, in my opinion, is sidled up to that big wooden table with friends you haven’t seen all summer and someone bringing you whiskey, exotic fruits, and plates of artisanal meats and cheeses.
20byNine has a notable whiskey menu, but I like to order off the cocktail menu. Whiskey introduces an unexpected dimension to a cocktail, bringing a warmth that complements the feeling of approaching autumn. I chose a Quint’s Demise made up of rye whiskey, Green Chartreuse, Benedictine, and orange bitters. I had no idea what to expect, but decided to trust the mixologist. It was fabulous. My companion chose the Squid Row Spritzer, made with bourbon, Aperol, Pamplemousse liqueur, and prosecco. It arrived on ice with a slice of orange and a funhouse-colored straw. She enjoyed it so quickly I never got a sip, but it sure looked fun.
To start, we ordered the B&B pickles (housemade flavor bombs) and roasted shishito peppers, a snack so marvelous you’ll wonder where it’s been all your life. Bright green and fiery orange, and roasted until they melt in your mouth, they’re gorgeous to behold and completely addictive.
Next, our “Mason jar” course. We ordered the smoked bluefish pâte, which was presented on a piece of dark slate with a metal bowl full of perfectly toasted crostini and some accoutrements. I prefer to arrange each bite with precision: a dollop of pâte on the crostini, a wee sprig of dill, a smear of red onion marmalade, and, like the cherry on top, a single fried caper.
Our server recommended the Chef’s Selection from the charcuterie menu, which arrived looking ready to sit for a still life. Presumably the stars are the cheese (in our case, a wedge of stinky Weybridge from Jasper Hill Farm and an approachably familiar Shelburne Farmstead Cheddar) and thin slices of ham. But the dizzying selection of accoutrements threatened to outshine them. Apples soaked in Sauternes and vanilla, a squirt of something called “clockwork orange marmalade,” mysterious dehydrated kalamata olives, a quartered fig, a pickled baby carrot. They even make their own raisins. And if you’ve never had a rambutan (spiky, juicy), a cape gooseberry (looks like a cherry tomato; not a cherry tomato), or a cluster of red currants, now is your chance.
Don’t wait too long. The sweet spot of late summer doesn’t last.
20byNine, 16 Kennebec Ave., Oak Bluffs, is open 6 pm to midnight every day — for now. Visit 20bynine.com or call 508-338-2065.