Best bites

From lobster rolls to pork dumplings, we tried it all this year.


For such a tiny little community in the middle of the ocean, Martha’s Vineyard has an impressive amount of quality cuisine. At The Times we record and preserve recipes and dining experiences, so when we look back on our year we can relive all the culinary connections we have made.

We rang in the New Year this year by visiting an Island favorite, Tony’s Market. Around since 1877, this establishment has got breaking bread down to a science. With an overflowing deli case, premade meals, snacks, salads, and sandwiches, not to mention an extensive menu of made-to-order items from its kitchen, this market is a staple for locals and visitors alike. Chris Silva decided to go for the chicken pesto panini, served hot with fresh mozzarella, pesto, tomatoes, and grilled chicken. He was happy with his decision.

In March, Chris checked out the Ocean View when it reopened after renovations and a menu revamping. He guided us through his dinner experience, starting with the fresh salad bar we all know and love, followed by crab cakes with chipotle aioli, concluding with “melt in your mouth” short rib risotto. Chef Joseph daSilva did not disappoint. We were happy to report that a fresh coat of paint and a few new dishes did not take away from the soul of a place we have loved for years.

In May, George Brennan headed over to La Soffitta, which means “the attic” in Italian. He reported that there was nothing attic-like about it, as he watched the sunset through the “small but plentiful windows” and enjoyed a feast fit for a king. From the bruschetta trio all the way to the tiramisu, Brennan said that the delightful food and service made him feel like he was in Boston’s Italian North End. The elegant white tablecloths covered in white paper exemplify this establishment’s wonderful appreciation of high-end food and carefree enjoyment.

Brittney Bowker made the hop, skip, and jump over to Garde East in June, where she couldn’t have been more satisfied with her culinary journey. She sipped on their Haven Lemonade, made with blueberry compote and berry vodka, and said it tasted like a “sip of summer.” She kept with the theme and tasted a variety of seasonal plates, such as the tuna poke and the pan-seared sea bass. While Chef Carlos Montoya executed each dish more uniquely than the last, what stood out the most was the polenta fries, topped with a vadouvan spice blend and curry flakes. While upscale menu options can take a toll on your wallet, Bowker encouraged us to grab a few friends to share some small plates and drinks with, because Garde East sure is worth it.

Britt also got to partake in an Oak Bluffs Harbor hop in July, where she investigated all that this bustling little corner of Martha’s Vineyard has to offer. She sipped some of Donovan’s famous frozen creations at Nancy’s, and enjoyed its array of Middle Eastern offerings. Next up was the Sand Bar, where she tried the Menemsha Sunset and deemed it the “booziest drink on the block.” Lobsterville offered her more fresh flavors of summer, such as sea bass ceviche and fried rock shrimp in a sweet chili sauce. She noted the convenience of its lobster roll size and price options, making one of our favorite New England treats affordable for all. She ended with some Jamaican-influenced fare at Fishbones, and I commend her for making it off the harbor still able to stand.

By July we decided to take a break from the down-Island summer circus, so we fastened our seatbelts and headed all the way to the Aquinnah Shop. Sophia McCarron reported that this restaurant didn’t have to “rest on the reputation of a fabulous view,” as the food was equally fabulous. She said that the 45-minute drive and the fact that most menu items were “comfortably over $10” didn’t stand in the way of her dining experience. Reading about the smoked salmon BLT and grilled vegetable skewers convinced me to venture out of Vineyard Haven myself. McCarron described the restaurant as having a “Vineyard-casual vibe combined with gourmet concoctions.” In my opinion, there is nothing better than enjoying some fine dining without having to change out of your flip-flops.

Jamie Kageleiry decided to journey down those winding Chilmark roads in a palatable pursuit as well, and she was off to Menemsha to check out the Home Port. She talks about the restaurant’s revolution of grilled seafood and plastic cutlery from the to-go window to oysters and BYOB wine on the terrace. She noted that the menu still had bits of an “old timey” feel, with the spinach and artichoke dip and the lobster au gratin. When she talked about her fresh burrata salad by using that familiar description, “mouthful of summer,” I was convinced that this Island sure knows how to encapsulate our favorite season into a flavor.

Have you ever been asked by a mainlander how you could survive living on an isolated island in the middle of the sea? Brian Dowd kicked off our off-season with a trip to Bangkok Cuisine, which is open year-round. He started off with a Singha (Thai beer) and pork dumplings. Being a bit carnivorous, like myself, he surprisingly ordered the tofu pad Thai for his entrée. It is easy to make this vegetarian food option taste lifeless, but he reported that Bangkok Cuisine did quite the opposite. He ended the meal with some fried coconut ice cream, and he noted that you can enjoy this restaurant’s cuisine in multiple locations off the Island too.

Brittany Bowker went to Trivia Night at the Wharf in Edgartown and tried some delicious eats while she tested her knowledge. The simple and delicious nachos, accompanied by some teriyaki chicken wings, were the perfect introduction to the delicious vegetable pasta she tried, and the pasta made her feel better about her unfortunate trivia loss. Luckily the Wharf has an extensive drink menu, for those who might need to drown their competitive sorrows.

Lucas Thors headed to R&B’s Eatery on a cold November day. This is strictly a breakfast and lunch joint with a closing time of 2 pm, but well worth sneaking out of work to try. Luckily he brought a few fellow Times coworkers to help in the scrutiny of their steak and cheese sub, turkey club, and grilled chicken quesadilla. He had nothing but positive feedback to give R&B’s, and he encouraged us to test it out and “eat where the locals eat.”

Speaking of taking a long lunch, Connie Berry and Gabrielle Mannino took advantage of a short workday during Thanksgiving week and headed to the Chowder Co. for a midday meal. Berry, having never tried their claim to fame, had nothing but wonderful things to say about the chowder. With the “not too thick” broth and the finely chopped vegetables, it was clear that this chowder did not come out of a bag.

We were sure to gather as many recipes as we did reviews, so you can enjoy a tasteful affair from the comfort of your own home. Island Grown Schools preschool coordinator Ava Castro shared a monthly harvest with us, as well as knowledge and recipes to go with it. Both Connie Berry and Sophia McCarron shared a variety of simple, affordable, and easily executed recipes. These are just a few examples of those who helped make 2018 a year that our taste buds will remember.

There is nothing like the promise of a new beginning, and while we are losing a few of our favorite Island restaurants in the upcoming year, we are gaining some establishments with fresh new culinary influence. No matter what the new year brings, we can continue to count on food to always bring us together.