The Best Restaurants In Nantucket guide image


The Best Restaurants In Nantucket

How to eat and drink your way across this charming little island.

Whether you fly in on Cape Air or take the ferry like the rest of us, dining on Nantucket is all about fresh, local seafood, and lots of casual day drinking. There are endless eating and drinking options—and by that, we mean 60 or so places on the island’s short 14-mile length—and most of the restaurants and bars are clustered around downtown Nantucket, which is also where the ferry lands. Out around the island, you’ll find beachfront spots and even an enormous brewery and distiller with plenty of food trucks.

The restaurants on this list are the best of the best, including fantastic full-service spots with cocktail programs and broiled scallops, casual places for takeout serving fried seafood and sandwiches, and Thai food at an ice rink.

And remember: Nantucket is a summer town, with a season that runs roughly from Memorial Day to Labor Day. A few of these places are only open for that short stretch, so this is your reminder to call or check the restaurant’s website before you go.


The Nautilus

One of the best Boston seafood restaurants (hit them up on Pier 4 in the Seaport) has a Nantucket outpost. The Nautilus, which originated in Nantucket, serves small seafood plates izakaya-style, including meaty crab fried rice, prawns a la plancha, oyster tacos, and a Peking duck that you and your friends should order after a day out on a boat or the green. 2023 is the Nantucket location’s 10th anniversary, so expect the clubby space—we love taking over a spot on the tufted blue banquettes—to go all out for the season.

Right in the middle of town, you’ll find a lovely patio with all the twinkly lights, exposed brick, and heat lamps. Besides just giving good lighting, this spot is a strong pick for a date or a night out with friends. There’s also a cozy indoor space with a few tables and seats at the bar. Order the Korean pork BBQ or duck carnitas for the table, and round out the meal with spicy wings and the crab tostada.

After a morning of whale watching or golfing, stop by this counter-service deli for some of the best sandwiches on the island. They do pulled pork, grilled chicken, and classic New England-style lobster rolls—all hearty options that will keep you happy until dinner. Walter’s doesn’t have seating, so plan to head to the boat, beach, or wherever you’re staying to eat. You’re going to pass this spot on your way to the ferry—it’s a three-minute walk—so do the smart thing and grab a lobster roll to go.

Gallery Beach is open all day, but it's really perfect for date night—think amazing views from a space overlooking the beach, or dine on the sand itself. Yes, you can sit with your toes in the sand—either under a tent or the sky—and get down with things like miso-yuzu butter-poached local lobster and a Return of the Rose spritz with vodka, ramazzotti rosato, grapefruit, and rose water.

The last time we hit up Breeze, we ran into local royalty—Patriots coach Bill Belichick—which is probably all the endorsement some of you need. While we can’t guarantee you’ll run into the leader of a sports team, you’ll always find a killer back patio where you can sample rotating wines by the glass and bottles, and order from a seafood-forward menu with Portuguese influences. They’re open for breakfast, lunch, brunch, and dinner (brunch standouts include the pork belly cornmeal pancakes and a solid lobster roll). You can bring just about anyone to the Breeze—and you probably should.

Nantucket’s most famous brewery has three bars serving Cisco craft beer, wine, and cocktails, and is an essential island hang. There are plenty of picnic tables and food trucks like Big Hug Dumplings and the Lobster Trap Truck. Cisco gets crowded at the height of the season, but it’s pretty much the perfect vacation day drinking situation. Just know that it’s sort of in the middle of nowhere, right off Hummock Pond Road.

Looking for a chill lunch or dinner? This low-key pub with big-time nautical energy is the perfect place for getting down with a cold beer and some oysters, and the raw bar serves several types of bivalves all day. Order some housemade chorizo stuffies and golden fried whole belly clams, hide from the sun, and play a little table shuffleboard while you jam out to some sweet yacht rock.

Smack dab in downtown Nantucket’s historic district, this rowdy piano bar has regular live entertainment and excellent piña coladas. Open for brunch and dinner, you’ll find a well-executed seafood-focused menu with plates that you’ll want to share, like caviar service, baked brie, and a garlic labneh with dukkah and paprika. This is where everyone on the island goes to drink, snack a little, and sing along in a club car from the original Nantucket railroad.

This old-school country cafe, which opened in 1935, is the stop on the island for a box of warm housemade doughnuts to take back to your house or the beach. If you’d rather sit down for a full breakfast or lunch, you’ll find a solid diner brunch with bagels, egg plates, biscuits and gravy, chicken curry salad, and more. If you’re stuck on Nantucket in March for some reason, Downyflake (and those doughnuts) are there for you year-round.

This takeout-only spot makes thick- and thin-crust pan pizza, southern-style BBQ, and big salads, so it's the perfect option for a big group and/or the whole family after a long day on the boat or beach. Make everyone happy by ordering the brisket deep-dish pizza. Just know that it is takeout-only, so plan ahead.

The word is out on Island Kitchen, so get there early (by 9am or so) for lunch and brunch, unless standing in line and waiting around is something you enjoy. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, this unpretentious mid-island spot does acai bowls, smoothies, crab salads, and fried chicken sandwiches, all in a laid-back space. You can grab one of the cozy indoor seats, but the sprawling patio is where it’s at during summer.

A beachside favorite with outposts in Palm Beach and Naples, Lola 41 is known for creative maki rolls, sushi, and mains like grilled salmon lo mein. If you’ve eaten enough seafood to qualify as a commercial fish farm, they also have ribs and a vegan burger, along with a deep sake list. The sushi-meets-bistro thing here works, and it’s not just because of their close proximity to the beach.

Millie’s is worth the bike ride to Madaket Beach for sunset margaritas, fish tacos, and lobster quesadillas. The restaurant’s coastal dishes are heavily influenced by California cuisine, which basically just means you can get guac or queso and chips for the table along with a fresh lobster roll. They’re first come, first served before sunset, so get there early to hear a hundred or so drunk people on vacation freak out over the sun dipping into the horizon. Hit the market next door for two things before you leave: ice cream and to-go cocktail kits you can make at home.

This chic restaurant and bar pours the best cocktails on the island, and does it all in a space that’s romantic with sexy lighting. Sip a Chai Chai Slide with rye, masala chai, and coconut cream, grab some seats at the bar with your person, and order a spread of arctic char crudo, smoked whitefish tea sandwiches, and red lentil hummus with dukkah.

Get your to-go clambake, lobster rolls, fried seafood, and bags of steamers from this small fish market. Outdoor seating is extremely limited, but the dishes are fresh and come out fast, so if you can't get a table, take a few freshly steamed lobsters and fried clams back to your share house and go to town. Coleslaw, fries, and corn on the cob complete your meal, and while you’re there, grab a filet of cod or swordfish for the grill later.

When you hit the wall with fresh seafood (it happens), hit up Siam To Go, which just so happens to be located inside the island’s ice rink. Siam offers all the Thai staples and a whole Asian grocery section if you’re in the market for some snacks. Many of the noodle and rice dishes can be made vegan, and you can take your food to one of the bright red picnic tables near the ice rink and outside.

There’s always that moment on vacation when you just want a big salad or grain bowl, and the Beet is where you should go when those cravings hit. This quick and easy counter-service spot has high-top seating inside, and outdoor seating shielded by bright umbrellas. They have options like mu shu duck, miso-glazed brussel sprouts, and of course, a full bar, because you need a few drinks with your meal on vacation (or just because).

One of the best things about vacation—besides not being obligated to check your email—is packing a picnic for the day’s adventures, and Something Natural will hook you up with superior provisions. Freshly-baked bread, big sandwiches with roasted meats, and fancy sodas make this counter-service sandwich shop a must-stop for a casual lunch, either for takeout or at the restaurant’s picnic tables. The curry chicken salad sandwich is excellent, but if that’s not your jam, there’s a sprouts, vegetable, and hummus sandwich and even a PB&J.

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The Best Restaurants In Nantucket guide image