Nantucket is roughly 30,000 acres or, 47.8 square miles of island. Yet in a fraction of this space, there are a staggering number of world-class restaurants operating on the island, many of them for only half the year.
Part of their charm is not only the highest quality of staff from chefs to waiters and waitresses to bartenders, and their nearly indescribably delicious food, but the intimate, neighborly atmosphere one gets in these small bistros. The experience of eating out on Nantucket one-of-a-kind.
From Nantucket’s harbors come oysters grown in cages in the shallows of the upper harbor, Nantucket Bay Scallops dredged from eelgrass beds, quahogs dug from the harbor bottom all year-long and sometimes, blue mussels along with striped bass from just off shore.
Nantucket chefs source many of their vegetables on their menus from island farms such as Bartlett’s Ocean View Farm, Pumpkin Pond Farm, Moors End Farm and Hummock Pond Farm. Several restaurants have even earned the Nantucket-Grown designations of bronze, silver and gold from Sustainable Nantucket, a rating of island agricultural sustainability awarded to those eateries that source between 5% and 35% of their provisions from local farms.
Some of the Nantucket restaurants that have earned Sustainable Nantucket’s Nantucket Grown stamp of island produce approval include Black-Eyed Susan’s, Òran Mór, American Seasons, Straight Wharf Restaurant, Fog Island Grille, The Pearl, Corazon del Mar, Centre Street Bistro, Ventuno, the Sea Grille, The Proprietors, Annye’s Whole Foods, Cowboy’s Meat Market and Deli and the Boarding House.
In addition, some restaurants are known for foraging for wild Concord grapes, blackberries, blueberries and working them and Nantucket cranberries into their dishes.
Nantucket is also the place for many scrumptious culinary events every year. Restaurant Week, which began six years ago and has now expanded to one week in June and one week in October, allows all of us to sample island restaurant food in three-course meals.
And, around the time of the second restaurant week, Nantucket High School students in that the high school’s culinary arts class compete for the title of Nantucket Junior Chef in a contest held at Cisco Brewers. The event benefits the Nantucket Culinary Arts Foundation, which hands out scholarships to island students entering the cooking world through various culinary schools.
Nantucket Wine Festival
In May, there’s the Nantucket Wine Festival featuring wines, beers and spirits from around the world, from all over the U.S., New England and even Nantucket. Over the last 15 years, the Nantucket Wine Festival evolved into one of the most illustrious wine and food events, drawing vintners, chefs and wine lovers from around the planet.
Several of Nantucket’s restaurants maintain wine cellars that rank among the top 10 in the world including Topper’s at the Wauwinet, which regularly wins the Wine Spectator Grand Award and many island eateries annually earn Zagat’s highest rating of 30 or just under!
Remember that although you’re on an island, many of Nantucket’s restaurants function as if they’re in the trendiest parts of cities on the mainland and therefore, despite Nantucket’s casual island style, the dress code at most of the higher end restaurants is not shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops. But there are certainly plenty of casual take-out, sandwich, pizza, taco, pasty and wrap places to choose from that produce delicious, affordable food. In short, there’s plenty of food for all of us.
However, during the summer, especially in July and August, remember that booking reservations well ahead is key to actually eating at many of these fine establishments.