Martha’s Vineyard could be a foodie’s paradise.
Recently, my boyfriend and I made a trip to Martha’s Vineyard for vacation (more here). While the island is a hub for tourists in the summer months, things are pretty much left to the locals in the dead of winter. Regardless, we enjoyed exploring all the natural beauty that this destination has to offer (more here). In addition to the nature, Martha’s Vineyard tourists on the off season can enjoy an admittedly small selection of nice cuisine.
Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs, and Edgartown are Martha’s Vineyard’s most bustling metropolitan areas. During the summer months, each town has a fine selection of cafes, bars, and restaurants to choose from with both indoor and outdoor seating. Dining in the winter, however, is slim pickings. Also, with COVID-19 literally in the air, I’m sure the choices are even fewer than usual.
One of the island’s most famous chains is The Black Dog. You’ve probably seen the logo even if you have never even set foot on the island, as the simple print of the black dog is a highly recognizable image on shirts and other apparel. On Martha’s Vineyard, there are The Black Dog General Stores, The Black Dog Cafés, and also, unique to the island, The Black Dog Tavern. Unlike The Black Dog Cafés, the Black Dog Tavern offers indoor seating, which makes it a perennial destination for diners.
For our very first evening on the island, we headed to The Black Dog Tavern. My boyfriend has been to the island more times than he can remember and instead of venturing to check out someplace new, he enthusiastically recommended we visit the Tavern. The inside seating area is somewhat small, which can mean literally waiting up to two hours for a table during the summer months. However, on this December’s day, we gave our names and were immediately seated by the window as Christmas music belatedly played in the near-empty dining room. The food menu offered a fine selection of salads, sandwiches, and protein-rich entrees, and the drink menu boasted beer, wine, and, as we later found out, strong, but flavorful cocktails. After putting in our orders, I was delighted to see the waitress bring a large roll of pumpernickel bread on a wooden slab with a fluffy dollop of butter accompanying it. The meal was quite enjoyable and, with a lack of dine-in options the next morning, we even stopped by the Tavern not more than 24 hours later for breakfast.
After having breakfast at The Black Dog Tavern, we were truly at a loss to find other morning meal destinations. Oak Bluffs, the island town known for its bars and restaurants, showed a surprising dearth of dine-in options. On Google Maps, the red markers showing the restaurant locations were too often accompanied by the words “temporarily closed” (for the summer season that is), and “take-out only” (for the virus). In fact, on the day that we were there, we could literally only find one brunch option that was open for dine-in service in the town — a new place called “The Pawnee House.” It turns out that the place had the misfortune of opening smack in the middle of pandemic in August 2020. If you crave sugary treats, Dear Reader, and believe me that I do, you can satisfy yourself with any of their (very large) French toast or pancake offerings.
Checking The Black Dog Tavern and The Pawnee House off our list of breakfast places, there was literally only one other breakfast place that we could find open for dine-in service during our visit. This restaurant, called “Plane View,” is located inside one of Martha’s Vineyard’s two small airports of all places. In comparison to other airport restaurants, the fare at Plane View was both simple and cheap, and we had a nice view of the small passenger planes on the tarmac.
In my rough estimation, more than half of all restaurants on the island were closed during our December visit and in that half, only about a quarter were open for dine-in service. Regardless, a few other nice places that were open and are worth a visit include the Copper Wok, which features pan-Asian style cuisines and Salvatore’s, an upscale Italian place — both of these restaurants are located in the town of Vineyard Haven (perhaps, your best bet for service during these times).
While it was nice to see Martha’s Vineyard minus the crowds and long-wait times, it is a shame not to be able to enjoy the beautiful beaches, quaint cafes, and happening nightlife. If you are looking for a quiet, simple winter trip, Martha’s Vineyard may still satisfy your needs even during the off season. However, if you prefer a vacation more filled with activities and bustle, perhaps, wait until May to make the trip down.
To each his (her/ their) own!