As I got ready for work this morning, I carried out the same routine I have for too many months. I took my Vitamin D, zipped up my jacket, and let my car warm up as the wipers scraped the rain off my windshield. Is it just me, or has there been a perpetual rain cloud over Martha’s Vineyard lately? Shouldn’t May have brought an end to hot coffee and heating bills? But then, lo and behold, at around 2 pm, the clouds parted and the blue sky I almost forgot existed made an appearance. My first thought was the same as every good native Oak Bluffs girl — time to go to the harbor. I had faith that my favorite little wing and beer shack would be ready for business, because Petey Berndt prides himself on opening Coop de Ville long before any other harbor eatery wakes from winter hibernation.
In typical Coop fashion, I was greeted by a staff who feel like family, and the regulars we all know and love. While I wanted to read about all 60 of the beers I had to choose from, I decided to let my server Ben make the choice. Knowing I like something hazy, hoppy, and citrusy, he brought me a Hazy Little Thing ($7), and it tasted exactly how spring should feel; crisp and cold, with a warm finish that felt like sunshine. One of my coworkers gave the locally brewed and native-to-Coop beer, Shuck Shack extra pale ale ($6.50), a try. I would suggest this beer to someone who would usually go for a light domestic like Coors, but who also might want to try something local, new, and with a slight hint of hops. Next up was the stuffed quahog ($9), which, in my opinion, should be Coop de Ville’s real claim to fame. I was worried that my date might turn his nose up at this dish served in a restaurant, as he grew up eating his very Portuguese grandfather’s scratch-made stuffies. Coop’s achieves a rich and yet light and fluffy texture that keeps you going back for more. It is full of fresh peppers, onions, and bits of clams and sausage. It also has a hint of creole spice that only New Orleans native Lawrence Jackson, who has graced the Coop kitchen for as long as anyone can remember, can achieve. Unfortunately, I blinked, and my date was wiping the drawn butter from the corners of his satisfied lips and the quahog shell was empty. Before I could get too angry, I looked out at the magnificent view of the sunset, which wasn’t polluted by the boundless yachts that take over the harbor during the summer. These are the spring treats we need to savor while we can.
For the main course, we decided to get a double order of hot wings ($30) and the blackened swordfish tacos ($16). I yelled through the kitchen window to make my food with lots of love, because Coop is probably the only place in the world where that kind of thing is accepted, and my demand was most definitely met. The wings held their title as being the best wings I’ve ever had in my life. They are coated with enough of that distinctly delicious sauce that you would never need to ask for more, and yet they still remain perfectly crispy. The grilled swordfish was juicy and exploding with flavor from the corn pico de gallo and the red cabbage slaw. This was well-balanced, though, by the drizzle of lime crema and heaping side of shoestring fries. With a face covered in buffalo sauce and the warmth of a stomach full of wings and beer, I couldn’t have been happier.
While this spring hasn’t brought much sunshine into any of our lives, Coop de Ville never fails to do just that. Get to the harbor and grab yourself one of those iconic green stools, and the Coop crew, cuisine, and atmosphere will be ones you won’t forget.
Coop de Ville Dockside Marketplace, Open seven days, 11 am to 8 pm, Oak Bluffs Harbor, 508-693-3420; coopdevillemv.com.