A relatively new restaurant in Vineyard Haven is bringing the West Coast seafood and street food vibe — surfboards, palm trees, and all — to Main Street.
Past the bustling business district, the expansive deck of Fish MV, containing chairs, tables, and couches, is reminiscent of a classy but casual dockside California restaurant.
The Times visited the restaurant to check out the unique atmosphere and sample the selection of fresh fish, Latin and Asian cuisine, and some outside-the-box takes on classics from both land and sea.
Perched atop the stained-wood porch surrounded by palms and epoxy surfboards, one can easily forget he is a stone’s throw from the town center. “One of the most common things we hear from customers is that they don’t feel like they’re in Vineyard Haven at all — it’s a pretty unique experience here on the Island,” the owner of Fish MV, Steve Bowen, said of his newest restaurant.
Bowen said his wife and he wanted to highlight the laid-back nature of Island living by creating a special outdoor dining experience, and the concept for a fish-focused restaurant came largely from customers eating at the adjacent Waterside Market (also owned by the Bowens).
“That was the most-asked question at Waterside: ‘Where is there a dedicated fish restaurant in Vineyard Haven?’ Well, we went back and forth for a while about the concept, and eventually decided to go for it,” Bowen said.
For Bowen, the customer experience is a central focus, and he said customers love the refreshing opportunity to have some food and drinks outside in a fun, vibrant setting.
He said management wasn’t sure they were going to offer the outdoor deck this year, but they’re sure glad they did. “It was the best decision we made so far,” Bowen said. “Everybody seems to really love it.”
This year’s menu features some unique items based on input from different creative minds, including the Bowens and their two head chefs, Jesse Martin of La Soffitta and Bill Hart of Waterside.
Although the deck is a great attraction and a unique addition to the Vineyard Haven restaurant scene, the indoor operation at Fish MV is also something special.
With a raw bar (along with their main menu), sourcing all their fish, oysters, clams, and more from the Net Result, patrons can expect they are getting the freshest seafood and are supporting local businesses at the same time.
Bowen said the indoor dining space has tables and chairs, and enough room for folks to eat and enjoy a cocktail if the weather is less than ideal, although he added that the restaurant will soon have waterproof sails covering the porch to protect from rain.
Right now, the restaurant is taking business month by month, and the Bowens will determine how late they stay open once Columbus Day rolls around. “Then we can see where we are and how business is, and make changes if we need to,” Bowen said.
Chef Martin said the goal of the menu is California chic, and having grown up in California surrounded by delicious food trucks and oceanside eateries, he is intent on bringing those same offerings and vibes to Vineyard Haven. “It’s the kind of food I grew up on. Tacos and stuff, the Latin and Asian cultural mix that’s out there. I wanted to bring that back to the Vineyard and create kind of a new experience for people,” Martin said.
After I enjoyed a crisp Finback beer ($9), Martin suggested a couple of menu items to start with.
The shrimp bowl ($27) with marinated, sautéed shrimp and mango salsa was colorful and fresh-tasting. I also really enjoyed the variable selection of poke bowls, with the tuna poke ($26) being my favorite.
Apart from the fresh raw and cooked fish bowls, Martin noted that the fish ($20) and lobster ($30) tacos served with cilantro, fresh lime, pickled onions, lime crema, and shaved Nepa cabbage are some of the most popular menu items. “The food definitely has a California flair — small bites, raw fish, tacos, lots of finger food — I love that kind of thing,” Martin said.
One good example of Fish MV taking a classic and making it stand out is their sushiritto ($24), with diced sushi tuna, avocado, cucumber, scallions, mango salsa, and sticky rice in a pretty pink soy paper wrap with ponzu and yum yum sauce.
Martin added that he takes a lot of his inspiration from his time cooking in San Francisco, and that his days as owner and head chef of Park Corner in Oak Bluffs, along with his time spent at Red Cat Kitchen in Oak Bluffs, were formative for his culinary style.
Martin tried hard to pick out some of his favorite things on the menu, but said that’s a difficult task for him. “I bounce around a lot, honestly,” Martin said. “It just depends on the mood I’m in and what I feel like eating, although I never get tired of the fish tacos and poke bowls.”
The restaurant also offers some tasty nonseafood options like tacos with pork belly roasted in mojo sauce ($20), and a sizable portion of housemade guacamole ($20).
Most of the food on the menu is gluten-free or has a gluten-free option.
A rotating beer, wine, and cocktail menu provides a broad selection of drinks to wash down your food, from margaritas, mojitos, and piña coladas (a customer favorite) to a list of craft beers from breweries like Bad Martha, Sierra Nevada, and Black Hat.
As the busy summer season comes to a close, Fish MV will continue to offer a distinctive atmosphere with a menu that truly has something for everyone.
Fish MV is located at 80 Main St. in Vineyard Haven. Visit fishmv.com for the menu and more information.