My latest story for Travel & Leisure was published today! You can check it out here and read the long-form version on my blog below!
Insiders Guide: Where (and what) to eat on Martha’s Vineyard This Summer
When I landed my first real reporting gig on Martha’s Vineyard, I knew two things. First, it’s an island off the coast of Cape Cod. Check. Second, from the Kennedy’s and Clintons to the Obama’s and Oprah, it’s a place where president’s and celebrities like to spend their leisure time, so if it’s good enough for them, well, that’s good enough for me.
So, leaving the late-night shawarma, bodegas and bottomless brunches of my past, I made the move from the Island of Manhattan to the Island of Martha’s Vineyard in search of new haunts and local spots.
Cue, the culture shock. And the second guessing. And the most important question of all; what can a girl get to eat around here?
What I learned didn’t surprise me. It astonished me.
Divided into six towns over the span of a hundred square miles, there isn’t a bustling restaurant scene per se. Of course, as destination locations go, there is an assortment of high-end eateries to choose from. However as I quickly learned, Martha’s Vineyard doesn’t buy into the pretentiousness of its Nantucket counterpart. It’s cool. And casual. That’s what makes it so appealing to celebrities and socialites. And as far as the food goes, it’s more of quality over quantity mentality. Sustainable agriculture is deeply embedded in the local philosophy as is composting, clean food and farmer’s markets. People eat well. Really well. And the best part is you don’t have to pay and arm and a leg for it.
Of course there’s no better time to experience the best the Island has to offer than summertime, so without further ado, here’s your insiders guide to the best local digs around all six towns. Enjoy!
Larsen’s Fish Market
Hands down, Larsen’s Fish Market makes the top spot on this list. Located up-Island in the storied fishing village of Menemsha, this charming little locale encompasses all things magical about Martha’s Vineyard. Amazing food, beautiful views all done in an modest setting. While everything is cooked to order, Lobster is the star of this show, as are the oysters, littlenecks and cherrystones.
Opened in 1969 by Louis and Mary Larsen, this family owned business also has a Vineyard Haven location called The Net Result. You might be hard-pressed to find a spot at one of the picnic tables out front during the lunchtime rush, but if you get your order to go, make your way across the lot for lagoon-side views and little seclusion.
Insiders tip; Larsen’s is BYOB so grab a bottle (or two) of your favorite rose and post up at one of the makeshift lobster trap tables as you watch the fisherman bring their catch in to shore.
Red Cat Kitchen
With a rotating menu that boasts a variety of locally sourced dishes, Red Cat Kitchen is truly in a league of its own. The only problem with the expansive and ever-evolving menu here is that everything is good. Which isn’t as much of a problem as it is just really hard to choose from. From the Menemsha mackerel and “big-ass asparagus” to sweet corn risotto and fried chicken and grits, the food is as eclectic (and delicious) as it sounds. Treat yourself to the fresh basil gimlet or a lazy John Daly. You won’t regret it. Until morning that is. It’s an intimate venue with limited seating so reservations are definitely recommended.
Insiders Tip; Located off Kennebec Ave parallel to OB’s main drag, RCK can be tough to find. Keep your eyes peeled for the "Ken 'n' Beck" sign.
Grace Episcopal Church Lobster Rolls (Fridays Only)
There’s something sinfully delicious about getting down and dirty at Grace Church’s Friday night lobster roll dinner. For the bargain price of $18, your meal includes a lobster roll, chips a drink and occasionally a slice of watermelon. Hotdogs and slices of pie are also on sale for $3 and $4 respectively. A portion of the funds raised each week is donated to local organizations and nonprofits on the Island. Hands down the best deal in town, each Lobster roll is packed with meat and can be eaten in the Church’s mess hall or boxed to go.
Insiders tip; Get there early to avoid the line and order your roll to go. It’s less than a five-minute walk to Owen Park Beach. Sunsets free. Friday’s only through September, 4 pm to 7:30 pm.
The cat may be out of the Back Door Donuts bag, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth mentioning here. For the uninitiated, Oak Bluffs is home to what is arguably one of the best bakeries on the planet. Located next to the OB Post Office, by day MV Gourmet Café & Bakery is great place to grab a quick cup of coffee and an old fashioned. By night, take a walk around the corner to the back of the shop and behold, BackDoor donuts. The cue starts around 7:00pm and closes down around 1am. Most renown for their king-size apple fritter, other popular items include the Boston cream, fried dough and, of course, an assortment of freshly baked donuts.
Insiders tip: Dealers choice, everything is good here, especially the fritter. Bring hand wipes. You’re gonna need ‘em.
Celiacs and Glutenoids rejoice, Scottish Bakehouse in West Tisbury has your back. With a wide variety of GF breads (banana bread is my personal fave) to quinoa burgers and quiche, this place truly has something for everyone.
Even their fabled breakfast sandwich loaded with fried eggs, melting cheese, spinach, a beefsteak tomato, red onion rings, and sizzling slices of bacon, can be prepared atop a GF muffin. It’s no surprise it took the top spot in MV Magazine’s Best Breakfast sandwich of 2015.
Insiders Tip; As a breakfast sandwich connoisseur, this one changed my life. It’s just that good. Grab a seat on the front deck and ham it up with the locals to get the gossip around town.
There’s just so many good things happening at 7a that’s it’s hard to pinpoint just one of them. For starters, The Liz Lemon. Hot home-made pastrami, turkey, swiss, coleslaw, Russian dressing and potato chips on rye, it’s one sassy sandwich that’s bound to make even Ms. Fey blush.
Insiders tip; From locally produced sea-salt to a wide variety of Island-made jams, 7a has an abundance of local treasures to remember the Island by.
The Newes From America Pub
Dark and utterly delightful, The Newes From America Pub is a year-round favorite serving up hearty dishes like Bangers & Mash, Lobster Mac n’ Cheese and some of the most aggressive onion rings you’ll ever see. Nothing beats their signature “world-famous fish and chips,” (fried haddock, home cut fries and secret sauce,) except for washing it all down with one of the many micro-brews on tap. Like any good British/American pub, the food here tends to be on the heavy side and portions are generous.
Insiders tip; Call ahead to see what their live-music schedule looks like. Local artists usually play for the late dinner-crowd which adds to the fun of the place.
ArtCliff Diner & The Right Fork Diner
There are a few diners to choose from on Martha’s Vineyard and everyone, it seems, has an opinion on which one’s “the one.” It’s the great diner debate and when I weighed all the options I couldn’t settle on just one. So I picked my two favorites and I’ll let you figure out the rest!
Art Cliff Diner in Vineyard Haven is, by popular opinion a local favorite. From their breakfast burritos and crepes to burgers and “hot diggity dogs,” this diner does it all.
Insiders tip; Get here early otherwise be prepared to wait. It’s worth it of course, as is the three-minute walk down to Chicken Alley Thrift Shop where you can bide your time antiquing and bargain hunting.
Personally, if I had to pick a side, I’d say The Right Fork Diner in Edgartown slightly edges out the competition. Nicely nestled within the Katama Airfield, the chocolate-chip pancakes, brioche French toast with real maple syrup and blood orange mimosas are worth the trek. It’s just a good-time vibe all around and by far the best “airport food” you’re ever going to get.
Insiders tip; Try and score a seat on the outside patio so you can have unobstructed views of the bi-planes takeoff and landing. Open daily 7am-2pm. July and August open until sunset.
Chilmark General Store
So here’s the thing with the Chilmark General Store. Yes, it’s iconic and yes, its been known to be a frequented by the likes of Larry David’s when he’s in town (which ups its street cred considerably,) but the general gist of this general store is that it’s just plain awesome. You want to hang out on the wrap around porch with a good book and bottle of wine root beer and just let the dog days of summer pass you by.
The other thing about this place; they have really good pizza! For the meat averse, try the Island Grown which comes topped with locally grown veges. On the flip-side, The Stonewall complete with sausage, pepperoni, mozzarella, tomato sauce and basil is meat-tastic.
Insider tip; Accessible by local residents and permit-holders only, some up-Island beaches tend to be more secluded. Be nice to the local lifeguards who patrol the entrances to these elusive hideaways. A couple slices from the Chilmark General Store could be your key to beach-going bliss.
Little House Café
Quaint and charming on the outside, on the inside Little House Café boasts one of the boldest and consistently fresh menus in town. Located off of State Road in the business district of Vineyard Haven, the cozy and convivial atmosphere will make you feel like you’re in the dining room of your favorite aunt. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, this is a popular spot for visitors and locals alike. If I had to choose one, I’d say the lunch options including the muffuletta pressed sandwich with mortadella, peppered salami, olive tapenade, goat cheese & arugula and curried mango chicken salad are definitely on point as are the wide variety of vegetarian and gluten free dishes.
Insiders tip: Save room for the extensive (and home-made) dessert menu.