When guests sit down for a meal or glass of wine at Seaweed’s in Oak Bluffs, they will find a manifesto on the back of the menu. The declaration reads in part, “Earth provides our food and we try to provide for Her. We respect financial needs: Farmers get paid, our staff makes a living wage, tips are shared with everyone who works here, your dollars stay on the Island.”
This may seem like a straightforward statement of purpose, but in the restaurant industry it is a revolutionary document, and for Seaweed’s co-owners, Danielle Pattavina and Olivia Pattison, it’s personal. After decades of experience in the service and growing sectors of the industry, Pattavina and Pattison decided it was time for a change early this year when they opened their natural wine bar and local eatery.
“I’ve been working in the restaurant industry for 20 years — you are treated a lot of different ways, and often you don’t have a lot of personhood,” Pattavina tells The Times. “It was important to us to let every guest know that they can trust us, we’re people, and we also have rules.”
These rules, as explicitly stated in the manifesto, are what make Seaweed’s so unique. Suffice it to say, there is no space for hate at this establishment, and the rainbow flag that flies in the window serves as a beacon for the community. “Eating at Seaweed’s felt like getting a hug from a new best friend,” says patron Adrian Collins of Brooklyn. “The owners’ pure passion for food, sustainability, and queer community makes Seaweed’s feel like home.” It’s true, if ever there was a safe, inclusive space, Seaweed’s is it, and the expertise that the staff brings to natural wine and local fare makes for an informative and exciting dining experience for any guest.
This culture of inclusion and neighborly spirit arose from the friendship between Pattavina and Pattison, who met while working at the Beach Plum Inn in Menemsha. Pattison went on to open up the local bakery Cinnamon Starship, and after years of pondering what a queer-owned local eatery and natural wine bar would look like, the duo took the leap in March of 2020 when the space that formerly housed 20byNine opened up on Kennebec Avenue. “We asked, what is our dream? In the wildest world, what could we do?” Pattison tells The Times. “What if we could all be a family and create a place where everybody cares?” So that is what they did.
At Seaweed’s, local farms are the backbone of the menu, and every glass of wine is biodynamic or organic. The establishment serves quality food that is priced accordingly, so the owners are open to bartering and trades for guests who would otherwise be priced out. Seaweed’s is a truly revolutionary space right down to the bones, and it offers a dining experience worth having for even the most novice foodie.
Seaweed’s rotating seasonal menu might be overwhelming to patrons who are not accustomed to farm-to-table culture, but the staff is well versed in their offerings and open to adaptation. “Pretty much everyone who works here has a background in growing,” Pattison tells The Times, so their ability to explain and compare dishes is unparalleled. Pattavina adds, “We know personally everyone who grows everything.” Seaweed’s is able to serve exclusively Island-grown food seven days a week, and this point of pride is the result of close-knit relationships the owners have cultivated with local farmers over the years. While the menu rotates from week to week, diners can expect such dishes as GOOD Farm duck rillettes with Cinnamon Starship sourdough and Janey’s mustard, or black sea bass on a bed of summer squash and peas. On any given day, the menu might be dictated by the offerings from growers like Grey Barn, the Allen Farm, or Beetlebung, but Pattison sees this structure as an opportunity rather than a limitation. “It’s the way I know to cook,” Pattison says, “Yes, it is intentional and thought-out, but there is also a level of serendipity that I hope comes through in the food.”
As for the wine, Seaweed’s is a sommelier’s dream. Whether takeout or dine-in, the staff is passionate about explaining the practices that make their natural wine offerings special, and pairing the perfect glass with a meal.
“Everyone who works the floor is a wine professional,” Pattavina tells The Times. “So guests can be confident that they can talk to a natural wine expert.” Like their food menu, the wine offerings rotate regularly, but Pattavina is dedicated to natural wine exclusively. Natural wine is an emerging category within the world of wine that generally describes a product grown sustainably, without pesticides, likely by small, local operations across the globe. The wine list is perhaps the only offering from Seaweed’s that doesn’t come from Martha’s Vineyard, but it’s well worth the trip.
Seaweed’s is open every day from 3 pm until 10 pm. On Sundays they offer brunch beginning at 9 am, with patio seating extended onto Kennebec Avenue, and a DJ set. To manifest their love for Mermaid Farm in Chilmark, Seaweed’s offers local fare at a lower price point on “Mermaid Mondays,” where the $10 grilled cheese is the star of the show. As their manifesto promises, “beautiful food without pretense” is always on the menu.