Where to Find the Best Restaurants and Markets on Martha’s Vineyard
The Sweet Life Cafe
This year-round restaurant in Oak Bluffs gives “home sweet home” vibes from the moment you walk into the quaint space, with its vintage-style wallpaper, country wooden chairs, and warm hospitality. The Sweet Life Cafe is owned and managed by husband-wife duo Hal and Erin Ryerson, who met up island working together at the Outermost Inn. (Previously, Hal spent time in the Cambridge kitchen of Puritan & Co.) The Sweet Life team works with island farmers and fishermen to bring an incredible dining experience to life: Expect dishes like Grey Barn Asparagus with stracciatella, local arugula, candied pecans, and black garlic; Martha Rose Sea Scallops with kohlrabi fondant and capers; and homemade pastas. A rare find in the very seasonal area of Oak Bluffs, Sweet Life is open nightly for dinner and Sunday brunch. Take me there.
The petite town center of Chilmark known as Beetlebung Corner has a post office, a library, the indispensable Chilmark General Store, and the destination spot of Chilmark Tavern. Upscale yet laid back, Chilmark Tavern lets farm-fresh ingredients and flavors shine through outstanding dishes like the Market Salad with local lettuces, and the Fish of the Day sourced from island docks. Chilmark is actually a dry town, so beverages are BYOB at Chilmark Tavern. Not just wine and beer: Guests can bring in liquor to be shaken or stirred with house cocktail mixes. Chilmark Tavern offers both indoor and outdoor seating for nightly dinner service. Take me there.
Originally an honor-system farmstand, today the Grey Barn is a certified organic farm, creamery, and bakery with a gorgeous farmstand. The creamery makes six organic cheeses (which have received some major accolades) with milk from its own herd of pasture-raised cows. What better pairing with cheese than homemade bread? The Grey Barn has a daily schedule of bakes like Caraway Rye and Japanese Milk Bread as well as city-rivaling pastries like Kouign-Amann and croissants. The Grey Barn products can be found at the weekly West Tisbury Farmers Market and in Boston’s Formaggio Kitchen, too. Take me there.
Larsen’s Fish Market
Over in the small but mighty fishing village of Menemsha, Larsen’s Fish Market is a favorite stop for some of the freshest seafood around, to cook at home or enjoy at a dockside picnic table. The family-owned and operated spot is open daily in season (typically May through October). Expect hyper local fish and shellfish such as Martha’s Vineyard sole, Katama Bay oysters, and Atlantic bigeye tuna. Larsen’s kitchen menu features favorites like lobster rolls, steamers, stuffed scallops, and clam chowder. Pro tip: Get yourself a dozen oysters on the half-shell, straight out of Vineyard waters that day, and sit right on the dock to slurp them at sunset. Take me there.
A stone’s throw from the Vineyard Haven ferry dock, Beach Road is a coastal restaurant situated on vibrantly colored Lagoon Pond. With its maritime-influenced decor, the restaurant’s interior is just as attractive as the views. Seafood from local waters and global flavors influence the menu, with entree options such as Bouillabaisse with head-on shrimp, lobster, mussels, and clams served with house-baked sourdough toast and rouille; and Lobster Pasta with summer vegetables and basil pistou. There are turf-inspired options as well as briny raw bar bites. Over in West Tisbury, sibling spot State Road is also named for a major roadway on the island. Take me there.
One of the most stunning vistas on the Vineyard is in Aquinnah, located on the western tip of the island. Known for its steep red-clay cliffs, Aquinnah is also home to the Outermost Inn. The house was originally built as an actual inn in the 1970s, and today runs as a seasonal restaurant with a nightly three-course menu and raw bar. Often-changing accents shine through in dishes like Creole-spiced BBQ Clams; house-made duck sausage with candied mustard greens; and Chocolate Praline Tart with pecans and bourbon chantilly. Big windows and a wrap-around covered porch make the most of the scenic location. Take me there.
Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium
Vermont may have Ben & Jerry’s, but on Martha’s Vineyard, meet Ben and Bill’s. An ice cream staple in Oak Bluffs, it often has a line wrapped around inside and out the front door. Setting this shop apart from the rest, Ben & Bill’s is most famous for its homemade Lobster Ice Cream. Yes, you read that correctly. The butter-based ice cream is an only-on-island delicacy with real pieces of lobster throughout. In addition to the homemade ice cream, Ben and Bill’s also makes its own chocolates, nut clusters, and caramels for summering guests to take home. Take me there.
Behind the Bookstore
Behind the Bookstore is a true hidden gem. As the name implies, it’s tucked in the back of Edgartown Books, just a short walk from Edgartown Harbor. An all-day affair, it’s a coffee shop and cafe serving breakfast and lunch and an evening hideaway for dinner or drinks. The Avocado Toast is an exquisite example, topped with vegan wasabi mayo, pickled radish, zaatar, and microgreens; and an Intelligentsia coffee or a craft cocktail on the patio under the delightful canopy is just the ticket to having a great day. This is also an unexpected spot for celebrations: BTB takes custom cake orders with advance notice and has gluten-free pastry options. Take me there.
Donovan’s Reef at Nancy’s Restaurant
Two words: Dirty. Banana. A sweet and creamy Mudslide made with frozen banana, this classic cocktail is arguably the centerpiece at Donovan’s Reef, the iconic outdoor bar at Nancy’s Restaurant. Run by a Jamaican gentleman for whom it is named, Donovan’s is always jamming with loud music and plenty of people. The waterfront spot has lots of outdoor seating within walking distance from the Fast Ferry and the historic Flying Horses carousel. Donovan’s boozy, frozen drinks and other tropical treats are paired with counter-service seafood from Nancy’s Snack Bar. Pro tip: on a stunning day, the line to order can be deep, so order a bevvie for each hand! Take me there.
West Tisbury Farmers Market
The West Tisbury Farmers Market is truly a special experience. Located in the open air at the old Agricultural Hall, it’s been running for nearly 50 years from mid-June through October, every Saturday and Wednesday, rain or shine. Good vibes and live music are always a guarantee. The property is filled with vendors of all sorts—farmers of produce and flowers, local fisherman, even prepared food—including island favorites like Beetlebung Farm, Morning Glory Farm, The Grey Barn, chef Spring Sheldon’s El Gato Grande food truck, and the Pie Chicks, just to name a few. One must-visit: Khen’s Little Kitchen for egg rolls. Trust us. Take me there.