The caliber of dining facilities on Nantucket makes this an island you wouldn't mind being stranded on. It could take all summer, or possibly longer, to sample all the great restaurants here, and there is plenty of variety. It is not, however, what you would call cheap.
Dinner for two at some restaurants can easily cost $120. (At one place the inexpensive wine by the glass is $12.) But there are less expensive options. One idea: Go out for lunch instead of dinner at your favorite elegant restaurant. And look into more casual places for dinner, or restaurants that offer bistro or tavern menus in addition to full dinners. For a quick bite, duck into one of the two Main Street drugstores, Congdon's Pharmacy or Nantucket Pharmacy, which both have sit-down counters and friendly atmospheres. They're side by side, so if one counter is crowded (as is often the case) try the other. And you thought soda fountains had gone out of style!
While we have given you a great head start on finding your own special place among Nantucket's long list of restaurants, consider yourself morally and gastronomically obliged to do your own research. Most of the places we have included are open year-round, but they may take a much-needed break sometime after New Year's; it's best to inquire about winter hours at any facility.
As a general rule, you don't have to dress up for dinner here; we signal restaurants that require specific dress. Most restaurants accept major credit cards; we'll tell you the ones that do not.
We've included the following pricing codes as guidelines in helping you decide where to dine. The key is based on the average price of dinner for two, excluding appetizers, alcoholic beverages, dessert, tax, and tip.
$ - Less than $20
$$ -$20 to $50
$$$ - $50 to $80
$$$$ - $80 and more
41 Main St.
A popular, reasonably priced meeting place for working folk, families, and hungry tourists, Arno's serves a big breakfast (until 2 PM), lunch, and dinner. Get a window table and people-watch while you enjoy your food. We suggest you try the surf 'n' turf. Children have their own menu. Arno's is open year-round.
The Atlantic Cafe
15 S. Water St.
We find ourselves coming back to this casual, congenial place time and again whenever we're on Nantucket because we know we'll always get a great meal at a reasonable price. The waiters and waitresses are super-friendly, and children are welcomed here with high chairs and a children's menu. Popular menu items include seafood dishes such as scallops, swordfish, and fried clams, and hearty appetizers such as nachos and fried zucchini sticks. In operation since 1978, the cafe serves lunch and dinner daily year-round; the full menu is available from mid-morning to late night.
The Boarding House
12 Federal St
In Nancy Thayer's novel Belonging, which is set on Nantucket, the sophisticated, affluent heroine Joanna Jones dines twice at The Boarding House. The lady, however fictional, knows her restaurants. Chef-proprietor Seth Carter Raynor's innovative cuisine has both Mediterranean and Asian influences; yellowfin tuna with wasabi aioli and soy ginger glaze and grilled Szechwan quail are two examples of dishes that appear on the ever-changing menu. Choose from a lighter bistro menu or more formal fare, and sit in the romantic, smoke-free lower dining room with low-beamed ceilings and fresco walls, in the comfortable bar area or, in summer, outside on the patio. The Boarding House serves lunch and dinner and is open year-round.
The Brotherhood of Thieves
$, no credit cards
23 Broad St.
Low, oak-beamed ceilings, wood paneling, and lots of candlelight create a wonderfully warm and cozy atmosphere. The food is terrific, and there's lots of it. The corkscrew fries served with burgers and sandwiches are terrific, and the chowder is hard to beat. It is casual, offers pub fare and is open daily year-round for lunch and dinner, with evening entertainment. The Brotherhood does not take reservations, so you may have to wait for a table outside in a line. But it's worth it!
Caffe Bella Vita
2 Bayberry Ct., Nantucket Commons
If the urge for authentic Italian food hits when you are surrounded quite literally by seafood, stop in here for some linguini alla carbonara or ziti con salsa. Or try the tonna griglia (grilled tuna) if you feel obligated to have fresh fish while on Nantucket. The chef makes delicious sauces! You'll love the outdoor patio, perfect for a candlelit dinner or a relaxing lunch. The year-round cafe is just outside of town, providing the perfect opportunity to work off dinner by walking.
Cap'n Tobey's Chowder House
This moderately priced tavern-style restaurant offers a menu and prices that families can appreciate. The clam chowder is widely and highly recommended. It is open daily for lunch and dinner in season, and closes in October.
Nine New St., Siasconset
The Chanticleer has perhaps the best wine list on the island, as Wine Spectator has duly and consistently noted, and the classical French cuisine is legendary. Chef-proprietor Jean-Charles Berruet has been at The Chanticleer for 27 years. The restaurant's annual opening on Mother's Day is an anxiously anticipated event; it closes in October. In June, when the roses are out and hanging baskets of pink fuchsias are everywhere, go for lunch in the rose garden--and don't plan anything for the rest of the afternoon. Quintessential Nantucket! Unlike most other restaurants on the island, there is a dress code here: Men must wear jackets.
20 Broad St.
An intimate atmosphere adds to the dining experience here, where you'll find a friendly maitre d' and sophisticated fare, including the restaurant's signature dish, made with fresh local shellfish, lobster, and shrimp over linguini. The menu, which changes seasonally, may include hazelnut-crusted salmon or tournedos of beef and vegetarian pasta, to name just a few compelling entrees. There's also a refreshing array of salads and tempting desserts. Cioppino's is open for lunch and dinner from May to December, and has a small bar as well.
The Club Car
1 Main St.
Near the waterfront with a ringside seat on Main Street, this well-regarded restaurant skillfully combines casual dining and elegant eating. The menu is rich and varied--you may find anything from rabbit to octopus--and the food is consistently excellent. If your budget is tight, have lunch at the bar in season and look for dinner specials off-season. If, however, rack of lamb is a favorite of yours, just remember that you only live once. The lounge is the last-known existing railroad car from the Nantucket Railroad Company. For 23 years The Club Car has opened seasonally, from May through the Christmas Stroll, serving lunch and dinner.
9 India St.
This restaurant has outstanding Northern Italian food, an absolutely superb wine list (more than 100 Italian selections!) and a wonderful atmosphere. We once dined at a window-side table where the moon peeked in from above, adding to the romance. If the menu offers swordfish, don't pass it up. Owner Don DeMarco has operated the restaurant for many years. The menu changes regularly, and breads and desserts are made on the premises. DeMarco is open from April to December. Reservations are advised.
40 Main St.
This is a favorite caffeine-refueling stop for us when we've been cruising the shops for hours and can't walk another step. Choose from cappuccinos, cafe lattes, or just plain old fresh-brewed coffee, served in large white mugs. Try one of their desserts or croissants, or for a more substantial meal, soups, chili, sandwiches, or pizza. It's a good place for a quick breakfast or lunch, and you can eat inside, beneath a lovely old tin ceiling or outside in the tree-shaded courtyard. Espresso Cafe is open from morning to late night during the summer; hours are shorter in the off-season.
24 Broad St.
This family-owned restaurant is known and loved by an appreciative following for its warm, intimate, and comfortable atmosphere; excellent service; and wonderful wine--it's one of the few places you can get superior wines by the glass. You can choose between a more elaborate and pricey menu upstairs and a more casual and affordable but equally fine cafe menu downstairs or on the outdoor terrace in summer. The restaurant is open for dinner daily in season. Lunch and dinner are available in the fall from September through Christmas Stroll (the first weekend in December; see the Annual Events chapter), and then it closes until April.
This year-round gourmet deli is a popular place among both locals and visitors, who come for hearty soups, salads, and terrific sandwiches. Or you can opt for pâtés or cheeses with French bread, and treat yourself to a cappuccino. In fine weather the benches outside are filled with people enjoying lunch. Provisions is open for breakfast, too, and they'll pack picnic lunches for you to take along.
1 Straight Wharf
Nantucket is surrounded by water, yet this is one of the few eating places with a water view. Situated near the wharves, RopeWalk is a convenient place to eat lunch or dinner before or after your ferry ride. You'll find ample indoor seating or you can eat outdoors at the raw bar. It's very casual, the food is good (especially the crab cakes) and some say the calamari is the best on the island. RopeWalk, which is open seasonally from mid-May through Columbus Day, is run by the same people who run The Club Car (see listing, above).
The SeaGrille Restaurant
45 Sparks Ave.
The creative and well-prepared seafood, especially the lobster bisque, served with a dill pastry crust topping makes The SeaGrille popular with locals, but you can find most any other kind of entrée here too. In fact, they specialize in local and regional fresh seafood, prepared both traditionally and creatively, as well as the standards--filet mignon, grilled tenderloin of baby lamb, and chicken Provençal. The SeaGrille wine list has earned the prestigious Wine Spectator award of excellence three years in a row. And, the handpainted murals set a nautical tone. A reasonably priced array of seasonal specials are also offered and include bouillabaisse and quesadilla salad (which challenges even big eaters). The SeaGrille serves dinner nightly and lunch Monday through Saturday year-round.
50 Cliff Rd.
This is a great place to stop on your way out to Madaket. Pack one of their incredible, healthy sandwiches in your bike pack and you'll have something to look forward to when you stop--if you can wait that long. You might just want to stay and eat at one of the shaded picnic tables, where you're likely to see a number of locals filling up on their lunch break. The homemade breads alone are wonderful, and if you really want to indulge, try one of their fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies. It's open from April to October.
The Summer House Restaurant
17 Ocean Ave., Siasconset
Set on an ocean bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean with a dark green interior and white wicker furniture, The Summer House conjures up the very image of, well, summer. One of the loveliest restaurants on the island (and one of the few that is actually on the water), this is a place people come to for special occasions as well as for the excellent food. The Summer House Restaurant is open from the Nantucket Wine Festival Weekend in May (see the Annual Events section in this chapter) to Columbus Day Weekend from 6 PM to 10:30 PM, though the bar stays open until 1 AM. Reservations are recommended. The casual Oceanside Restaurant, on the grounds, is open from late June until Labor Day serving lunch from noon until 3:30 PM in a comfortable beachfront Caribbean atmosphere just feet from the Atlantic Ocean.
21 Federal St
With polished wood, linen, and candlelight, this place is quietly sophisticated--and the food has the same quality. Entrees such as braised lamb shank and sauteed breast of duck are simply and elegantly prepared, and first courses include some unusual appetizers such as tuna tartare. Do not skip dessert, which might be hazelnut and raspberry Dacquoise with coffee butter cream, or warm berry compote. They are open for lunch and dinner April to December.
21 S. Water St.
This bright, friendly little restaurant has been serving up generous helpings of Italian dishes since 1954, including seafood specialties and all sorts of pastas, at great prices. Open from May to late fall, serving lunch, dinner, and a late-night menu, Vincent's is housed in the only surviving Humane Society building on Nantucket, one of the houses of refuge that preceded the U.S. Lifesaving Service. Now it's a lifesaver for hungry visitors and residents.
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