The island of Nantucket, located just 30 miles off of Cape Cod, is known for its pristine beaches stretching for 80 miles, its unique whaling history, and its friendly year-long inhabitants who graciously welcome thousands of tourists every year during the summer season. But in addition to all that, Nantucket is known for its bustling food scene and is home to a cornucopia of hot restaurants and bars.
Only in Nantucket will you be able to experience the ice cream of the famed Juice Bar, with its long line of hungry customers wrapping around the block every night between the hours of 5 and 11 pm - they use an Italian ice cream machine similar to one for gelato, giving it the creamy, luscious texture that keeps visitors coming back time and time again.
Only here will you be able to taste the wonders that are Downyflake doughnuts, Something Natural chocolate chip cookies, or Provisions sandwiches, things that anyone who considers himself a true Nantucketer holds near and dear to his heart.
Next time you're in Nantucket - and I urge you to visit just for these items - make it your goal to try as many of the following foods and drinks as possible. I assure you, you won't regret a single one.
1. Doughnuts from The Downyflake
Downyflake serves a sit-down breakfast that includes all the classics. That said, come to Downflake for one thing and one thing only: the homemade doughnuts, which can be purchased in to-go boxes by the dozens. They are simple and come in only four flavors—plain, sugar-coated, chocolate-frosted, and coconut-frosted—but they are always a crowd-pleaser.
2. Hither Creek Taco from Millie's
A favorite of many, Millie's is located in the quieter, more removed part of Nantucket known as Madaket, and it's where you'll find the best Mexican food on the island. Come after the beach in your flip flops and cover-ups, in sweatpants to pick up take-out, or dressed up for a night out with friends and indulge in fish tacos galore.
3. Oysters from Cru
Cru is located at the end of Straight Wharf just before the dock begins—the one that holds the yachts of Nantucket's most elite. In addition to the fancy visitors that this location attracts, Cru's location on the water also means fresh seafood. Enjoy oysters while taking in a beautiful sunset view of the Nantucket harbor—a view, for the record, that remains just as spectacular after the sun goes down.
4. Turkey Terrific from Provisions
Conveniently located at the beginning of Straight Wharf right near the Hyline ferry, this sandwich is perfect for a last minute purchase before boarding the boat or just after your arrival. The Portuguese bread is what makes it stand out from other Thanksgiving sandwiches, and it's only one of Provisions' stellar bites.
5. Fried clams from Sayle's
Every summer destination needs a fried clams spot, and this is Nantucket's. Grab an order of Sayle's fried clams and walk a short distance to the water's edge where you can enjoy your food with a view.
6. Rustica from Pi Pizzeria
Pi Pizzeria's pizza crust has a crisp factor only outstanding pizza can boast. Along with the killer crust are brilliant topping combos like the crispy pancetta and fresh arugula atop the Rustica.
7. Chocolate chip cookies from Something Natural
While most people on the island know Something Natural for their sandwiches and fresh loaves of bread, this shop also whips up some of the best chocolate chip cookies on the island. In addition to the hundreds of cookies sold at Something Natural, they also sell their cookie dough in containers for you to take home and bake yourself (or eat raw).
8. Cheese plate from Table No 1
Whether you're gathering items for a sunset picnic on the beach, inviting friends over for hors d'oeuvres, or having a cheese party with girlfriends, Table No 1 is the ultimate cheese (and wine) shop on the island. Not only do they have an impeccable selection of cheeses and wines, they also have a variety of jams, honey, crackers, and big bags of gourmet truffle potato chips.
9. Glass of champagne from Galley Beach
Galley Beach is a special spot on Nantucket due to its location on the water and unimpeded views of the sun as it sets over the horizon. Sip on a glass of champagne while gazing out across Nantucket Sound. It'll be a splurge, but it'll be worth it.
10. Roast chicken from Annye's Whole Foods
If you're renting a house on the island and you need a break from eating out or cooking, head to Annye's market for the best prepared foods in Nantucket. Annie's is stocked with whole foods items you can't find in the grocery store, and it also boasts delicious homemade soups, cookies, and, most importantly, roast chickens. Stop by on your way home from the beach (before 6 pm) to purchase one of these flavorful, perfectly cooked chickens.
SpoonTip: Call ahead to make sure they haven't sold out of the roast chickens, they go fast!
11. Coffee from The Bean
Everyone needs a good cup of coffee no matter where they are in the world, and in Nantucket you can find one at The Bean. Located right in the center of the island, this shop can easily be one stop on your leisurely morning stroll through town.
12. Whole roasted Peking duck from The Nautilus
Listed on the bottom of the menu under "Table Feasts," this whole roasted Peking duck is unique and full of flavor, served with doughy steamed buns, white rice, lettuce leaves, and three different sauces ranging from creamy to spicy. As soon as you sit down at your table, place an order for the duck, which can run out early and can take up to 50 minutes to prepare.SpoonTip: Nautilus accepts day-of in-person reservations starting at noon. In order to avoid the line, get there an hour early. Trust me, it's worth the wait.
13. Whale's Tale Pale Ale from Cisco Brewers
Not many people you meet who have traveled to Nantucket will say that they never made it to Cisco Brewers during their stay. That's because missing out on the experience would be a big mistake. Cisco is home to phenomenal beer (in addition to cocktails and wine), live music, and plenty of post-beachgoers looking to have a good time.
14. Ice cream from The Juice Bar
Its name might indicate a place one would go to buy juice, and while that's true—they make delicious juice and smoothie combos—Juice Bar is where to go for the best ice cream you'll ever have. Their flavors range from classics to (equally delicious) not-so-classics like Crantucket which includes chocolate covered cranberries, or Triple Chocolate Mountain with a brownie batter ice cream base. Expect a long line and wait it out. There's a reason its the hottest ticket on the island.
15. Cheese soufflé from Languedoc Bistro
For classic and exquisite French food, dine at the Languedoc either outside their dimly lit patio, in the upstairs section of the restaurant, or in the downstairs bar, which will have you feeling like you just stepped into a Parisian bistro. ATTENTION all cheese lovers: don't skip the cheese soufflé, complete with a side of sauce mornay to pour on top. It'll melt in your mouth.
16. Drink from Proprietors
Proprietors, while a great place for tasty and creative appetizers (like the pig ear fries), is also known for having some of the islands best cocktails. Choose one of their creations from the cocktail menu or tell the bartenders what you like and they'll whip something up just for you.
17. Breakfast from Black-Eyed Susan's
Black-Eyed Susan's is another one of those seemingly-never-ending-line type of places, but that shouldn't phase you. From decadent buttermilk pancakes to saucy huevos rancheros to sides of cheesy grits and black-eyed peas, this breakfast joint is unbeatable. They also serve dinner, but their breakfast is on another level of awesomeness.
SpoonTip: Get there before your hanger (hunger anger) kicks in, because it'll be a bit of time before you are sat, but 100% worth it.
18. Nantucket Ocean Roll from Sushi By Yoshi
Sushi By Yoshi is a great place to grab a quick bite or order takeout (to eat on the beach) for dinner. The sushi is fresh and the variety is spot-on. At Sushi by Yoshi, all your sushi needs can certainly be met.
19. Orchards cocktail from Ventuno
The outdoor bar at Ventuno is always the most happening place to grab a pre or post-dinner drink in Nantucket's town. Here, there's space for your boisterous party of six to happily sip on cocktails, or side-by-side spots at the bar for you and your date to nosh on tasty appetizers alongside your drinks. Afterwards, head inside to the restaurant (or sit at one of the outdoor bar tables), and experience Ventuno's outstanding Italian cuisine.
SpoonTip: If you dine here, a must-try is the Strozzapretti.
20. The Lola Burger from Lola Burger
A prime beef patty, aged cheddar, onion compote, and foie gras sauce is sandwiched between an English muffin and is quite possibly the best burger you will ever have. Lola's is located in the center of the island at the rotary, so you can't miss the smell of burgers wafting into your car when you drive almost anywhere on Nantucket. Give into your senses and try one of these burgers.
21. Late night food from Stubby's
After a long night of dancing at the Chicken Box, the salty food at Stubby's is the only thing that will satiate your greasy desires. There's a variety of late night food on their menu, but the waffle fries are classic.
22. Tuna martini from The Pearl
Raw tuna is always a go-to of mine, and truthfully I've never tasted a tuna tartare like this one. Sashimi grade tuna, crème fraîche, and wasabi tobiko are just a few of the ingredients in this dish that make for and indescribable combination. In addition to the tuna martini, come to the Pearl for lobster rangoon, sashimi, and perfectly cooked steak, among other things.
23. Lobster dinner from Jetties
Come to Jetties to simultaneously satisfy your lobster cravings and Nantucket's sunset views. Jetties is located right on the beach, and the combination of relaxed vibes and good food here will make it one of your new favorite spots.
24. Taquitos from Straight Wharf Restaurant
Sit indoors or outside at Straight Wharf's bar and indulge in fish or vegetable taquitos while taking in the commotion of the wharf. In addition to their amazing food, Straight Wharf takes the cake for best ambiance in any restaurant on Nantucket. Add this one to your list when planning your vacation in Nantucket, you'll be sorry if you miss out.