Woodland Variety and Grill in Vineyard Haven is an Island gem that has been serving tasty quick bites from their convenience store and quaint country grill for years.
Some of my fondest memories of Woodland are from my sophomore year of high school, when my buddies and I would take the bus there for thick slices of decadent Sicilian pizza and juicy chicken sandwiches.
When I revisited the grill, I immediately noticed that not much had changed (don’t fix what ain’t broke). The menu was similar, the atmosphere was relaxed and carefree, and people were scribbling away at keno cards at their tiny rectangular tables — it was like I was still in high school, spoiling my appetite for my mother’s home-cooked dinner.
Although they did add a number of different items to their menu, I decided to try an old classic, and went with the Cajun Chicken Sandwich with hot cayenne spices, lettuce, tomato, and mayo ($7.99 before tax). The chicken was tender and moist, and the cayenne seasoning made me pull at my shirt collar and dab my forehead with a napkin (it really was that hot).
One thing I have noticed about the Vineyard recently is what my father likes to call the “shrinking cereal box effect.” Basically, you pay more to get less of something (yes, I know inflation is the general term).
But the shrinking cereal box effect was not an issue at Woodland, where the chicken cutlet was just as substantial as when I ordered it after high school, and the side of fries I ordered ($2.50 before tax) was overflowing, just as it was back in my days of acne and adolescence.
The fries had that light and airy crunch on the outside, with a warm and soft center that seemed to melt in my mouth. Our photo editor Gabrielle Mannino chose the Chicken Parmesan Sandwich with hot marinara and provolone cheese ($7.99 before tax). She said the thick slice of chicken was definitely enough to satisfy her hunger.
Before departing, we decided to bring a treat back for the office and settled on the combo: Shaved Steak with a choice of cheese, stuffed into a lightly toasted sub roll with sautéed mushrooms and peppers ($8.99 before tax). Everything checked out about that sandwich, especially the price.
Woodland is the opposite of a tourist trap; if I go in there, I almost always see one of my old friends or a friend of my parents. I think it’s the simplicity and quality of the food and other odds and ends that Islanders seem to enjoy most. Hungry patrons aren’t confronted with overcomplicated menus that seem to push the envelope of creativity a little too far, and there is no guesswork required to choose something that will fill the pit and taste great.
You might even venture to say that Woodland sells food at off-Island prices, and the quantity matches the price (sometimes hard to find here).
Early birds sip their coffee and nibble on a pastry before heading to work, and at lunchtime the place fills with a medley of folks trying to get a quick and filling bite.
The Woodland Grill is somewhat tucked away in the Woodland shopping center on State Road, but it’s a place you’ll want to find.
Woodland Variety and Grill is open year-round, Monday through Friday, from 6 am to 7 pm, and on Sunday from 7 am to 3 pm. Check out woodlandvarietyandgrill.com for a full menu, or visit the Facebook page for daily specials. Call 508-693-6795 for more information.