There are a number of great restaurants on Nantucket, among them Sfoglia (so popular that we couldn’t get a table in a five-day period), 21 Federal (for classic food, excellent service and choice people-watching), and the Galley (for elegant beach-side dining and fantastic New England clam chowder). But the one that stood out from the concept right down to every detail of the execution was American Seasons.
“Seasons” here means not just a seasonal menu but a riff on four chunks of the U.S. as “seasons.” Each region on the menu – Pacific Coast, New England, Down South, and Wild West – has been creatively interpreted here by chef Michael LaScola, who has been with the restaurant since age 16. As anyone who’s ever worked the tourist trade knows, it’s a peripatetic existence in which you go where the crowd (and money) goes from season to season. American Seasons has capitalized perfectly on the chef’s wintertime travels to bring authentic cuisine from all over the States to Nantucket.
Here’s a review in photos – every dish was as good as it looks.
80 Centre Street
This and other no-nonsense details about this “fast food” shack make it seem truly New England. The grill master may bend the rules to serve you a lobster roll a couple minutes after closing, but don’t expect him to crack a smile while doing it.
The whole restaurant is a paradox of parsimony and generosity. It’s hard to imagine a place with less frills than the Rotary, with its rudimentary picnic tables separated from a highly trafficked intersection by only a slim hodgepodge of a hedge. Prominently posted rules warn diners what to do and what not to do (arrive without shirt or shoes, skate or bike up to the window), and everything about the place is self-serve – forage for your own utensils, napkins, condiments, and stake out your own place outside.
But look down at your sandwich and you may have a thief’s giddiness of having gotten away with something. The lobster roll here is generally accepted by Nantucketers to be the best on the island, and no wonder. At least an entire lobster’s-worth of meat fills each bun. This may be the only time I found myself wishing for a little more mayonnaise and celery in a lobster salad mix, because it’s pretty much all lobster in huge chunks. Shake it the wrong way and a whole claw may fall out.
The New York standard, disseminated far and wide from places like the Lobster Roll (a.k.a. “Lunch”) in Amagansett and Pearl Oyster Bar in NYC, is a daintier amount of lobster salad served on a perfectly grilled buttered hot dog roll. While I missed the crunch of that roll, I couldn’t complain about the bonanza of lobster that comprised the Rotary’s edition of this classic.
New Yorkers, if you find your way up in these pahts, it’s definitely worth a detour to the Rotary.
The Rotary Restaurant
One of the best sunny-day activities in Nantucket is lunch at Something Natural. This hippie-flavored take-out place, first opened in the 1970’s as a health food store, has been a hit since Matthew Fee converted it to a sandwich shop over 20 years ago. Here’s the drill:
2. Get in line. Confusingly, there is a separate line for the bakery closer to the door. At lunch time assume that everyone who is waiting is waiting for sandwiches. If you accidentally cut in line, a displaced New Yorker may yell at you as one did at me. Insert yourself between people and their Something Natural sandwiches at your own risk.
3. Order at the counter. All the sandwiches are good here, but the vegetarian offerings are especially fresh, excellent and more like California sandwiches than anything else I’ve tasted on the East Coast. Try the sprouts, vegetables, and hummus sandwich on multi-grain or Portuguese bread.
A note on bread in Nantucket: The ubiquity of Portuguese bread on Nantucket may seem random, but it’s actually in the island’s blood. Many Portuguese entrepreneurs emigrated here over the centuries, because, as many a sailor knows, the Azores islands of Portugal are a straight shot here as the crow flies. Several Portuguese families bought and ran the Old Mill in the 19th century. Thus, Portuguese bread.
50 Cliff Road