If you’re heading to New England’s favorite little island with dune-backed beaches this summer, we’ve found the best stops.
The tiny island of Nantucket is known to summer residents and visitors as an excellent culinary destination, with even more fine dining options than the come-as-you-are (in flip flops, usually) vibes of Martha’s Vineyard. Besides the favorite local institutions, though, there’s always new offerings, bites, and places to try. Here, find our list of the best places for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and everything in between on this little slice of heaven.
Note: Do call or check restaurant websites for open times and dates before showing up, especially in the off-season. Many restaurants are summer only, and may not be open early or late.
This globally influenced counter-service bistro in the heart of Nantucket town is a crowd-pleaser with something for everyone. You’ll find bold Asian- and Latin-leaning flavors heavily influenced by chef Felino Samson’s Filipino heritage and love of travel, including an always changing menu of Korean BBQ quesadilla, as well as healthy options like warm grain bowls, hearty salads, tuna poke, and a classic chicken burger.
9 S Water St., Nantucket, 508-680-1857, thebeetnantucket.com.
A picture-perfect, nautical-inflected spot that mixes casual vibes with an upscale menu (one that tastes even better on the back patio), Breeze is tucked into the Nantucket Hotel—so don’t be surprised if you catch a glimpse of an overnighting celeb or two. (Pats coach Bill Belichick has even been spotted there, proving that he’s a man who appreciates well-crafted coastal cuisine.) The single most famous dish, meanwhile, might be the restaurant’s clam chowder, perhaps the best on the island, although the lobster tacos are A-list material, too.
77 Easton St., Nantucket, 508-228-4730, breezenantucket.com.
After a long day at the beach, nothing satisfies more than pizza. Except maybe barbecue. Well, why not have both? This family business offers thin-crust and deep-dish pizzas, and—since the owners grew up down South—its platters of dry-rubbed and hickory-smoked BBQ are legit, too. Think burnt ends, beans, slaw, and all the fixins, including offerings of “family packs” for your next surfside picnic.
147 Orange St., Nantucket, 508-680-1737, foggynantucket.com.
This gorgeous space sits right on the north west shore of the island, literally on the beach overlooking Nantucket Sound, so the restaurant already has the atmosphere thing nailed. On the menu? New American eats with a heavy focus on seafood, naturally, such as the miso-yuzu butter-poached lobster. While your toes are digging into the sand, you’ll be sipping on world-class selections from a 5,000-bottle-strong wine cellar (not bad for the site of a former ’50s clam shack), or perhaps craft cocktails around the beach bar fire pits.
54 Jefferson Ave., Nantucket, 508-228-9641, galleybeach.net.
Our favorite stop to get caffeinated on famous-for-good-reason cold brews and matcha lattes, the cafe has a cute bicycle theme and plenty of dog-friendly outdoor seating. It’s arguably the best coffee on the island, so be prepared to wait on weekend mornings for your cappuccino. With luck, the lines will let up by the time you ride back from your adventure, ready to treat yourself to something sweet from the daily selection of pastries.
15 Washington St., Nantucket, 508-825-5929, handlebarnantucket.com.
Pretty, polished, and as unpretentious as it gets, this friendly indoor-outdoor mid-island spot is open year-round, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner to hungry locals and tourists alike. Breakfast features everything from classics like eggs Benedict to healthy options like smoothies and açaí bowls for the post-sunrise-yoga set. (Pose yourself sipping a pomegranate cranberry mimosa.) Lunch and dinner offers fine takes on favorites like fish tacos and shrimp scampi, while a seasonal ice cream window serves 30 homemade flavors—cake batter, anyone?—for dessert any time.
1 Chins Way, Nantucket, 508-228-2639, nantucketislandkitchen.com.
This bright and cheery morning-through-midday lunch cafe is the top stop to fuel up for whatever follows, with plenty of take-away-friendly fare as well as spreads that will make you want to stay and stay awhile: perhaps the Persian breakfast of eggs, duck confit hash, and date chutney, or a kofta burger with herbed feta and pickled onions. Healthy açaí bowls and smoothies are a big thing here too, and even the cocktails are made with fresh juices—such as the refreshing Apricot Cooler of rye, apricot peach puree, and ginger beer.
41 Main St., Nantucket, 508-228-3800, lemonpressnantucket.com.
Hop on your bike or take the shuttle out to Madaket if you haven’t tried this West End meets West Coast institution for the cold margaritas and fresh fish tacos you’ll find yourself thinking about when you’re sitting on the T in the dead of winter. In this easy, breezy spot, you’ll find flavorful dishes culling inspiration from New England and Baja California—try summer-ready quesadilla stuffed with lobster meat, slow-roasted tomato, and grilled zucchini—as well as the Madaket Mystery, a rum punch of local legend.
326 Madaket Rd., Nantucket, 508-228-8435, milliesnantucket.com.
If you’ve already tried the new Seaport outpost of Nautilus, you know you’re in for a treat when you head to this upscale, seafood-centric spot on the island. Its creativity really shines through in global small plates, such as crispy monkfish bites with Vietnamese fish sauce caramel, but the whole roast Peking duck is a standout among large format options. Keep an eye out for the crab fried rice; if it’s on the menu, it’s a must. One more “must”? Reservations—they’re strongly recommended.
12 Cambridge St., Nantucket, 508-228-0301, thenautilus.com.
or, The Whale
There are no shortage of lovely patios to dine on here on the island, but the one at or, The Whale, where you’ll find vegan and vegetarian options, along with to-die-for Korean pork BBQ for the table, is something special, with a casual backyard intimacy that works for date-night or brunch with a gaggle of friends. Don’t sleep on lunch, though, which offers smaller versions in the same vein, like country ham toast and a falafel gyro.
38 Main St., Nantucket, 508-825-5897, otwnantucket.com.
Seasonal menus don’t get more seasonal than at Straight Wharf, where the prix fixe menu changes nightly to reflect whatever’s freshest from the farm and sea. You might start with salmon crudo adorned with pickled gooseberry and leek ash, for instance, and then move on to a spice-crusted catch of the day dressed with artichokes, ‘nduja, and a Meyer lemon and green olive tapenade. You can probably even see where said catch was caught: Recently expanded outdoor seating offers stellar views of the harbor from the dock.
6 Harbor Square, Nantucket, 508-228-4499, straightwharfrestaurant.com.