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Dining on Martha's Vineyard

Grass-by-Sporkist
Grass by Sporkist

Fall is the opposite of spring. Nowhere have I seen the contrast of the two as obvious as on Martha’s Vineyard. In April, we see a world coming slowly and ambitiously to life. I’m not just talking about the overnight sensation of your brown lawn suddenly showing little patches of lime green.  I liken what happens here to ants coming back out of the ground. Suddenly, workmen on ladders are taking plywood down from windows and sprucing up storefronts, and shopkeepers are dusting and sweeping and carting in new merchandise. Seasonal homeowners, fed up with winter, venture back to open up musty houses in hopes that it will hasten the advent of summer. And if we’re lucky enough to get some sunny weekends, brave souls in shorts, but still wearing layers of sweatshirts, descend on the towns to get a jump on the new season. Those of us who live here have fun taking note of the local merchants who move to new venues, thinking the change will bring them a better season than the last. The most positive sign that things are on the upswing is the first time the ferry pulls into Oak Bluffs since last fall. Hope is definitely in the air.

Ah, but I am a fall person. I’ve never bought the theory that it’s a time when everything dies or goes to sleep. There’s a tingle in the air that makes this time of year at least as promising as spring. If you’ve read my previous blogs, you know how I feel about the colors of fall, the long shadows, and the unique quality of the light of October and November. Driving my daily commute from Oak Bluffs to Edgartown, I can barely keep my eyes on the road the marsh grasses on the pond are such a delicious palette of ochres, rusts, greens, and lavenders. And the road, as it takes you toward the Triangle is dappled with sunlight filtering through the tunnel of the tree limbs overhead. You have to beware of deer, fooled by the autumn light into thinking it’s evening, running out in front of you here.

The whole experience is spring in reverse. One by one, we watch the seasonal stores and restaurants locking their doors and posting, “Thank you for a great season” signs in their windows. Now is the time to take advantage of fabulous sales. No department stores with specially brought in sale merchandise here. What you get is dramatically marked down prices on all the unique items you were eyeing in August. Bring your holiday gift list.

You’ll find that activities and entertainment don’t disappear when we roll up the beaches. In fact, there is no better time than an autumn day for a long walk on a beach that was closed to all but town residents in the summer. We still have theater right through the holidays. We have concerts and dance parties, complete with pre-party lessons. Nature walks and kayaking are breathtaking events. Restaurants have specials and two-for-one nights (more on those specials soon). And local bay scallops are in season!

Where we island people made note of location changes in the spring, we now take joy in counting the restaurants that are staying open for the off season. This year, there are several special new ones;  State Road in West Tisbury, Deon’s in Oak Bluffs, The Atlanticin Edgartown, and The Mediterranean in its new Oak Bluffs location. Come enjoy dining with the locals who venture out to dine after the throngs have dispersed. You’ll find some of us may be a bit quirky, but in general, we’re a very nice lot and enjoy talking to the visitors who, like us, appreciate our island at this special time of year.

 

Plan a Visit to the Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival
Where to Get the Best Pizza on Martha’s Vineyard Near Edgartown
Explore Memorable Things to Do & See in West Tisbury
Spend a Day at the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest
See the Next Big Thing at a Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival
A Guide on How to Get to Martha’s Vineyard
A Look at the History of Our Edgartown Hotel
Celebrate the Season | A Guide to Christmas in Edgartown

van

So, if you’ve been following this blog you will have read CJ’s reviews of eating on a budget on MV – she did well but I think I might have found the ultimate eat out on a budget spot – The take out van at the Artcliff Diner!!!!!

Anyone who loves breakfast food knows that the Artcliff does a stellar job on breakfast and an awesome lunch and now they have expanded into dinner fare. OK, it’s burgers and dogs but Artcliff style!  With twinkle lights strung in the trees around the picnic benches and good tunes blaring out of the van it is a uniquely Vineyard experience – gourmet take out that’s affordable.

Hamburger, cheeseburger, pig sandwich, spicy pork taco and, my personal favorite, the lamb burger (with feta and caramelized vidalia onions) make up the burger menu.  In this girl’s humble opinion a great burger is simple but rare – good bun? Check.  Good meat? Check.  Right amount of seasoning? Check!!  My husband will assure you, I am not easy to please when it comes to burgers and there are very few places where I will eat one when we are out (I reason with him that  it’s because the ones he makes at home are so good but it doesn’t help when we are out and I am cranky because of ANOTHER sub-par burger experience-grrr).  The Artcliff has all my points covered, and all for under $8.

Then we get to the amazing Dog menu – 5 options – a Snappy Dog, a Bikini Weenie, a Green Monster, BLT & Cheese Whizz and a Hellish Relish Dog are all available and huge! A falafel offers a veggie spin and there’s something to please most right there.

Add some hand cut fries (if you are lucky the truffle fries with parmesan will be on the specials) and a soda and we successfully ate for $21 for 2 of us (we share the fries – 1 portion is enough for 2 people).

Desserts are another must do here! Nutella or Apple Cinnamon Donuts are fried up while you wait and served with a generous drizzle of either Chocolate syrup or caramel sauce.  At just $5 it seems rude to leave them behind and again, one portion will feed two, unless you are really hungry!

Now only serving on weekends from 5-midnight through the end of October (weather and business permitting) it is a gem that you must discover, if not this year then definitely next summer.

Image courtesy of Joanne Sardini.

 

Plan a Visit to the Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival
Where to Get the Best Pizza on Martha’s Vineyard Near Edgartown
Explore Memorable Things to Do & See in West Tisbury
Spend a Day at the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest
See the Next Big Thing at a Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival
A Guide on How to Get to Martha’s Vineyard
A Look at the History of Our Edgartown Hotel
Celebrate the Season | A Guide to Christmas in Edgartown
Menemsha-Sunset-300x225
Sunset by Joanne Sardini

I often describe the arrival of summer on Martha’s Vineyard as the prospect of a visit from a favorite aunt – you can’t wait for them to arrive, but after 3 months, you’re ready for it to be over!  This year, I have mixed emotions about this.  Labor Day, the traditional ‘end’ of summer season on Martha’s Vineyard, is marked by crisp mornings and evenings with abundant sunshine throughout the day – in short a perfect weather end to a not so perfect weather summer.  This is where my problem lies – I feel like I just didn’t get enough summer in yet! And then I remember the sage advice I give to lots of vacationers – the best is yet to come – come back in September – it’s the BEST month!

September on the Vineyard is a very special experience.  Somehow everything is a little softer – the light is beautiful, especially in the early evenings, with some of the most amazing sunsets and sunrises I have every seen.  The visitors seem less rushed and harried and the workers are all happy to have “made it” to September with another summer season behind them.  Sure, weekends can still get a little crazy due to the booming Island wedding season but if you can come to Martha’s Vineyard mid-week in September you will surely be delighted.

It’s still warm enough to get to the beach without having to fight for a spot to lay your towel.  The water is warmed by those long summer days and is warmer now than through most of July so a swim is definitely not out of the question.  The air is dry enough that a long walk or bike ride is not hampered by that pesky humidity.  There are surprising bargains to be had as the stores sell off their merchandise at discounted prices to empty out for the next season and to top it off, dining is made easier by the dwindling crowds – no more 1 hour waits for a table – yippee!

If you are a visitor, undoubtedly the other great part about visiting in September is the cost.  At the Colonial Inn, there are some great mid-week special rates that extend through the fall that really help you stretch that dollar!

So summer need not end at Labor Day – come and play among the locals – do a survey among them and I promise that 95% will tell you that September is their favorite month – give it a go!

What else do you love about September?

 

Plan a Visit to the Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival
Where to Get the Best Pizza on Martha’s Vineyard Near Edgartown
Explore Memorable Things to Do & See in West Tisbury
Spend a Day at the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest
See the Next Big Thing at a Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival
A Guide on How to Get to Martha’s Vineyard
A Look at the History of Our Edgartown Hotel
Celebrate the Season | A Guide to Christmas in Edgartown

lobster-picnicThis post is the fourth and last in a series of posts that highlight some of the less expensive options for eating out on Martha’s Vineyard.  We (meaning the Vineyard) have gotten a lot of national and even world wide press lately, thanks to the First Family’s visit last week.  A lot of the press wrongly implies that this is a very “high end”, expensive place to vacation.  I have to agree that it CAN be, but you can vacation here at any price point.  If you missed the posts on eating out on a budget in EdgartownOak Bluffs, andVineyard Haven please check them out and add your favorite eateries to the comments.  I know there are other great Martha’s Vineyard restaurants that I’ve missed!  Now, it’s time to turn our focus to the beautiful scenery and delicious food options found “up-island”.

First, I should probably elaborate on the Island jargon.  Down-island is the term used to refer to the more populated and accessible towns of Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and Vineyard Haven.  I use the term “up-island” to refer to everything else – i.e. the beautiful, smaller, and more remote areas of West Tisbury, Chilmark, Menemsha, and Aquinnah.  Officially, I suppose West Tisbury is more “mid-island”, but you get the idea!  Please keep in mind that once you have left the “down island” areas, there are less options and consequently slightly more expensive.  That being said there are definitely a few take-out style restaurants that I feel the need to highlight for your up-island enjoyment.

If you are looking for a place to stop along the way to “break up” the ride up-island, there are 2 great options along State Rd. for a quick coffee and pastry.  The Scottish Bake House and Fellas (across from the W.Tisbury Firehouse) are both popular stops with locals and known for their yummy offerings.  Fellas also has great sandwiches, so if you are in the neighborhood around lunchtime or planning ahead for a picnic you should keep them in mind!  If you find yourself driving up the West Tisbury Rd. instead, Garcias Bakery (behind Alley’s General Store) also has a great selection of sandwiches and is a convenient stop along the way.

Any trip “up island” should include a visit to Aquinnah to view the beautiful Gay Head clay cliffs & lighthouse.  If you crave nourishment while there, plan to stop by Dream Catcher for the most reasonably priced sandwiches and quick friendly service.

The quaint fishing village of Menemsha is a fashionable spot to go for beach picnics and a beautiful sunset.  Luckily, the small village has several options for great seafood take out (always less expensive than eating in).  As you enter Menemsha, you will see the popularHomeport restaurant on the water.  They offer a take out menu that includes the full selection of items for a New England clambake…  lobster, stuffed quahogs, clam chowder, corn on the cobb… you get the idea!  If you prefer your seafood fried, there is a fry shack on the way to the beach called The Bite that is the place to stop.  I have heard from several different sources that they have the “best fried clams on the island”.  As you wander down to the beach area, you will see Larsons Fish market on the harbor.  Since 1969, the Larson family has been serving fresh seafood (frequently right off the boat) and offering take-out seafood cooked to order (not to mention awesome clam chowder).   You can grab your favorite delicacies and enjoy them while sitting on the pier watching the fishing boats come and go.  It just doesn’t get any more “quintessential New England”!  One word of caution… if you don’t like seafood, you may have to go hungry!

Well those are my top recommendations for affordable dining up-island…   do you have an up-island favorite that I missed?

Image courtesy of tuppus.

 

Plan a Visit to the Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival
Where to Get the Best Pizza on Martha’s Vineyard Near Edgartown
Explore Memorable Things to Do & See in West Tisbury
Spend a Day at the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest
See the Next Big Thing at a Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival
A Guide on How to Get to Martha’s Vineyard
A Look at the History of Our Edgartown Hotel
Celebrate the Season | A Guide to Christmas in Edgartown

chescas1-150x150No one can come and stay at the Colonial Inn, or indeed in Edgartown, without knowing Chesca’s. This restaurant is an island institution and has built a very loyal following over its 16 years anchoring the porch of the Colonial Inn on North Water Street. ‘Urban Italian’ is how they describe the cuisine – to me that means lots of yummy pastas, great risotto, lots of fresh fish and seafood and a lot of other good stuff besides.

The atmosphere is always hopping – lots of activity and people having fun. They don’t take reservations unless there are 6 people or more, so don’t show up starving and expect to sit straight away – the average wait runs at about a half hour but this leaves time for a cold beverage in a rocking chair on the porch and some good old people watching time. In fact, most of the regulars feel a bit put out if they don’t have to wait as the waiting on the porch is all part of the experience.

At Chesca’s I’m a creature of habit – I know that there are many great items on the menu, but I have my favorites! (Full disclosure time – I work there as a hostess a few nights a week). They have many fantastic entrée options but I like to go the appetizer-salad-dessert route, otherwise I don’t have room for the dessert and it is not-to-be-missed (there are 10 to choose from – the most extensive list I’ve come across!).

I’m a sucker for the Mussels (with leeks, fennel, shallots and white wine) and I ALWAYS need extra bread to go with them to soak up all the delicious broth. Next, I go for the warm Goat Cheese Salad on baby spinach – toasted hazelnuts give it a bit of crunch and the raspberry lime vinaigrette is perfect. I said I always leave room for dessert and my favorite is the Snowball – vanilla bean ice cream, rolled in sponge cake crumbs, surrounded by caramel sauce and crumbled Chilmark Chocolate pieces – simple but DELICIOUS!!!!

If you just can’t get enough Chesca’s during your visit, you can now have the taste of Chesca’s at home all year. Chesca’s Kitchen Table sauces are available at the Farmers Market, Cronigs, Morning Glory Farm and other Island retailers as well as straight from the restaurant. The Thai Chili Glaze, House Balsamic Dressing and yummy Chocolate Sauce are all available to take back home. I use the chili glaze in lots of ways, not just on salmon – on fish, pork or chicken as a glaze, thinned out with some olive oil as a salad dressing or as a warm dipping sauce for egg rolls or other little hors d’oeuvres.

What’s your favorite dish at Chesca’s?

Image courtesy of Chesca’s.

 

Plan a Visit to the Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival
Where to Get the Best Pizza on Martha’s Vineyard Near Edgartown
Explore Memorable Things to Do & See in West Tisbury
Spend a Day at the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest
See the Next Big Thing at a Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival
A Guide on How to Get to Martha’s Vineyard
A Look at the History of Our Edgartown Hotel
Celebrate the Season | A Guide to Christmas in Edgartown