7a Foods redefined the packed beach lunch game when it opened in 2011. Located mid-island in West Tisbury, this eatery proves that there’s no such thing as a simple sandwich; the menu rotates, but there are always house-baked goodies and you can’t go wrong if you order something involving their freshly-baked foccaccia. It’s a wonder no one discovered the genius combination of asparagus, lemon aioli, pickled onions and dried blueberries until these guys slapped them between two slices of bread.
A good option for a romantic night out, Alchemy serves elegant but unfussy cuisine in a beautiful two-story setting. New American dishes take center stage, and the varied venue offers a main dining room, alfresco veranda and lively upstairs pub, each with modified atmospheres but the same reliable cuisine.
Art Cliff Diner
A local favorite for decades (it opened in 1943 as the Captain St. Clair Brown Diner), the Art Cliff, one room in a simple white cottage, is located off busy Beach Road in Vineyard Haven near the ferry terminal. Owner Gina Stanley, who took over the kitchen in 2000, whips up such delectable breakfast fare as almond-crusted French toast and “Drunken Sailor” pancakes with pecans and rum raisins. It can be tricky during high season to score a table in the dining room, which seats 39; your best bet is to arrive early (it opens at 7 a.m.).
This local favorite, open year-round, is located in an old mansion and serves an innovative mix of Mediterranean, Asian and Middle Eastern dishes. While the main floor is home to a formal dining room, the cellar bar has a legendary burger menu. Live music is performed on most summer nights.
Back Door Donuts
For an early morning sugar rush, islanders head to Martha’s Vineyard Gourmet Café & Bakery, Oak’s Bluffs’ baked goods mainstay. While the signature treats are available at the main store, the real secret lies behind the shop at the back door, where the kitchen doles out freshly baked donuts for a late-night treat (7:30pm-1am) during the summer season. The goods are delicious in the morning, but a piping hot donut—especially the substantial apple fritter—satisfies in an entirely different way.
Less than a mile from the Beach Plum Restaurant lies its main supplier, Beetlebung Farm, a five-acre spread where owner and Beach Plum chef Chris Fischer hosts the occasional pop-up supper. Elegant evenings are spent in the farm’s intimate greenhouse, outfitted with a long picnic table and soft lighting. When the farm is literally beneath the table, you’re guaranteed quality ingredients—and a unique menu; as Fischer says, “Every [meal] is different. It depends on what we have and what the people want to do.”
Behind the Bookstore
Helmed by a vet of Alice Waters’s famed Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse, Behind the Bookstore is a charming local favorite for an alfresco breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium
While some prefer the ice cream at Mad Martha’s, Ben & Bill’s is far more consistent when it comes to quality. The creamy flavors are reliably excellent, and Ben & Bills also stocks an impressive selection of chocolate confections sure to induce a sugary haze.
Chilmark General Store
Chilmark’s general store may not be as pretty as Alley’s in West Tisbury, but it’s a popular spot for a slice of pizza (there are twenty-five kinds on the menu) and island gossip. If you’re on your way to the western beaches and Aquinnah, it’s a great place to stop for a picnic or grab takeout. The green rocking chairs on the large porch out front are wonderful for a lazy afternoon snack.
Chilmark Tavern celebrates the Vineyard’s natural bounty with fresh seafood and produce from local farms and markets. The chef refers to the endeavor as an American Tavern and serves dishes such as Martha’s Vineyard oysters, Allen Farm lamb cooked two ways, fluke fillet with a Meyer lemon beurre blanc and warm rhubarb cobbler.
Indagare Tip: There’s a bar menu with delicious tastes, which is perfect for a quick dinner if you arrive late on the island.
Espresso Love Café
Tucked behind the courthouse, away from the bustle of Edgartown, the casual Espresso Love is a wonderful place for a slice of homemade quiche or a cappuccino during a shopping spree. Try to get a spot on the patio for good people-watching.
The sunsets in Menemsha are as legendary as the ultra-fresh seafood sold in its stores. Arrive early to order at the back door of Home Port and score a table on its large patio, where you can feast on ‘fish and chips’, steamed mussels, stuffed Quahogs and corn on the cob. If you don’t want to compete for a spot outside, you can also make a reservation at the restaurant. Be sure to bring your own wine or beer; Menemsha is a dry town.
This lovely spot serves haute French cuisine in a modern setting in downtown Edgartown. The garden patio is ideal for a romantic evening.
Larsen’s Fish Market
The bounty sold at Larsen’s is literally right off the boats, which pull up behind the small cottage with an azure-blue door. Technically a retail fish store, Larsen’s also sells homemade chowders and crab cakes, and they’ll boil lobsters for you. Prepare to wait if you arrive during peak hours, and BYOB. There’s no seating in the store, but dining alfresco on the Menemsha docks or on the beach is one of the most beloved island experiences.
Morning Glory Farm
The sign on the road to Morning Glory Farm reads “Hot Coffee, Baked Goods, Asparagus” (or whatever else is in season), which doesn’t begin to describe this gorgeous country store. Set in a farmhouse with a wood-beamed ceiling and surrounded by fields, it makes an excellent breakfast stop where you can buy oversize homemade muffins, coffee and fresh fruit. Don’t miss Island’s Own, a line of local organic beauty products displayed in the back.
Fudge lovers can’t miss this spot, and even the sweet averse will be hard pressed to turn away from the sugary scent surrounding this island institution. Murdick’s treats make for a great hostess gift or edible souvenir, but even if you don’t buy anything, stop in just to watch them work in the open kitchen. There are additional locations in Vineyard Haven (79 Main St.; 508-693-7344) and Oak Bluffs (5 Circuit Ave.; 508-693-2335).
Red Cat Kitchen at Ken ‘n’ Beck
Oak Bluffs has a bounty of lovely cafes and casual eateries, but when it comes to fine dining there is—well, was—a notable absence. When chef Ben deForest arrived at what was previously known as Ken ‘n’ Beck, islanders eagerly anticipated what the famously wild chef would do with the eatery. In his typical style, deForest overhauled the menu, adorned the walls with paintings from local artists and coupled his innovative dishes with a funky soundtrack and witty cocktails. All this amounts to a feast for the senses, as Red Cat offers some of the best when it comes to food and ambiance on-island.
Flanked by vegetable and herb gardens, the idyllic State Road appears to be no more than a charming country home, but island regulars know it to be the fine-dining destination of the moment. The West Tisbury restaurant bills itself as a modern American tavern, serving elevated comfort food inspired by that day’s produce. In addition, State Road serves a popular weekend brunch and runs a weekly Burger Night—a big hit with families. In the summer there is a great Sunday brunch as well as takeaway cafe.
Sweet Life Cafe
One of the most beloved restaurants on the island, the Sweet Life Café occupies the ground floor of a Victorian house, where the chef creates innovative, French-inspired cuisine. Many dishes include local ingredients, like Katama Bay oysters and organic island greens, and desserts might include pistachio panna cotta with strawberry coulis and fresh berries. In the summer, ask to be seated in the small garden, where strings of small lights create an ambiance straight out of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The Beach Plum Restaurant
Helmed by chef Chris Fischer, whose prodigious resume includes gigs at New York’s Babbo and London’s St. John Bread & Wine, the Beach Plum Inn is one of Martha’s Vineyard’s premiere dining destinations, serving up haute cuisine on an otherwise casual dining island. The delicate dishes are far from stuffy, however; incorporating fresh produce from his grandfather’s farm, Fischer sources each ingredient from within a five-mile radius of his kitchen. For further endorsement, know that it’s the Obama’s favorite restaurant on the island.