The stifling heat this summer has me dreaming about the ocean breezes on a tiny island 30 miles out to sea. A place where no one spends much time indoors, where cobblestone streets weave through town, where protected land — nearly 50% of the entire island! — reigns supreme, and where you may just find yourself with a warm stretch of beach all to yourself.
My version of paradise is Nantucket, MA — the “Faraway Island.” Packed within this island of 105 square miles, you’ll find a place where days can be spent lazing on a quiet beach, afternoons can be enjoyed shopping for one-of-a-kind items at tiny boutiques and evenings savored with dining experiences at world-class restaurants. As you walk around Nantucket, you may even hear people refer to mainland USA as “America” — as if you’re in another country altogether.
Hungry for a taste? Here are 8 ways to truly savor the very best that this much-beloved (and very wealthy) island has to offer:
1. Get blown away by dinner at American Seasons.
Seriously. Dinner at this cozy, romantic candlelit restaurant offers a true taste of Nantucket. Chef Michael LaScola uses fresh, seasonal and often local ingredients to put playful twists on classic American dishes. And the charming Americana decor will remind you that you are, in fact, still in the US of A — despite being out to sea. Be sure to have a glass or two of a wine you’ve never heard of … you won’t regret it.
2. Have a sandwich at Something Natural.
But only order a half! Unless you’re Michael Phelps. A half of a Something Natural sandwich is a whole in any other sandwich measuring terms. My go-to is a turkey sandwich on the sandwich shop-bakery’s world-famous (well, it should be, anyway) Portuguese bread with tons of fixin’s — but the curry chicken salad is also a must-try.
3. Endure the wait for breakfast at Black-Eyed Susan’s.
It’s worth it! The Thai curry scramble, although rather bizarre-sounding as a breakfast dish, is something that I literally must eat every time I’m on the island. Whatever you get, though, make sure you get the hash browns with it. And be advised: The restaurant is cash-only and BYOB, so plan ahead if you’re in the mood for a mimosa.
4. Throw back a few Whale’s Tale Pale Ales at Cisco Brewery.
Or have a glass of wine from Nantucket Vineyards, or a cocktail by the island’s resident distillery, 888 … all at Cisco Brewery! They also offer beer tastings (who doesn’t love tennie-tiny beer mugs?) and liquor tastings (if you’re really feeling adventurous).
5. Take advantage of buck-a-shuck at Jetties.
Because it’s a seriously awesome deal. Dollar oysters (Island Creeks from Duxbury, MA), shrimp and crab claws until 6 p.m. in the bar area.
6. Have brunch at Ventuno — before people find out about it!
I had the best eggs Benedict ever on the patio at Ventuno. Yes, the dinner is also fabulous, but dare to be different and go for brunch instead. The best part? Few tourists seem to know about the restaurant’s new brunch menu, so getting a table is a piece of cake. Or, more appropriately, a bite of homemade doughnut!
7. Trust the chefs at Company of the Cauldron!
This tiny restaurant has 2 seatings per night and a set menu. Check its website for a list of the week’s dinners, or just make a reservation and be surprised. If you like fresh seafood in a romantic setting (harp-playing included!), you won’t be disappointed.
8. Don’t forget other Nantucket favorites.
If you have time, try the indulgent mac ‘n’ cheese at LoLa 41, a mudslide at the Gazebo, drinks at the back bar of newly-opened Cru (formerly the Rope Walk), breakfast at the Hen House and dinner at Straight Wharf. But no matter where you have breakfast, lunch, dinner or drinks, make it a point to put on your dancin’ shoes and stop by the Chicken Box for some live music.
And finally, keep in mind: Nantucket is expensive. There’s no denying that, so be prepared. Just remember, it is an island: Almost everything that’s here — just like you — had to take a ferry or a plane to get here. So it costs a little more. But so do strawberry daiquiris on a cruise ship. And Nantucket is way closer to paradise.