Every year brings changes in the Nantucket restaurant scene: chefs leave or move to new restaurants, business are sold and reopened, and the intense competition for continuing excellence continues. Realistically, the main tourist season is little more than two months long, and they have just a little time to get established, get their kitchen routine going, build a reputation and attract customers. This is going to be the big challenge this year as two “bigfoot” restaurants have changed hands.
Company of the Cauldron
Chef Joseph Keller who worked with his brother Thomas at the French Laundry and at Per Se has purchased The Company of the Cauldron from long-time owners All and Andrea Kovalencik. Keller also was the chef at the Woodbox on Nantucket some 18 years ago and developed a beloved popover recipe which is now featured at TCotC. Keller was able to keep much the same staff and promises to maintain the same style of a single prix fixe meal. Right now, their website is under construction, but you can see their weekly menu summarized on their Facebook page.
Keller has maintained the single menu per night for a fixed price that had been the policy of the previous owners (their kitchen is probably smaller than yours), but that fixed price has gone up significantly. Lobster Monday is now $115, Tuesday Surf and Turn $98. Every Wednesday is now his ever-popular fried chicken $83, Thursday Grilled Hangar Steak $89, Friday Pan Roasted Swordfish $92, and Saturday Grilled Tri tip $98. Every dinner comes with a salad course, popovers and a dessert course. You can make a reservation by Email or telephone, but you have to give a credit card number to confirm, and they require a deposit of $25 for 5 or under, and $100 for 6 or more.
We look forward to trying them out when we arrive.
However to illustrate this year’s price inflation, last year’s menu featured 4 course meals for $75 with Lobster Mondays being $98, rather than 3 courses, (plus a popover).
The Club Car
The Club Car, right on the way to Straight Wharf has been a popular dining destination since Joe Pantorno and Chef Michael Shannon opened it in 1977. It was a white tablecloth restaurant with tuxedoed waiters and well-regarded food and service. After Shannon retired, sous-chef Tom Proch took over, continuing treasured dishes like Shannon’s Shrimp Scampi and Beef Wellington, but in recent years, especially after Proch retired, the restaurant’s service had become tired and the food repetitive, but much less impressive, while maintaining their high prices, where a number of entrees were over $40.
So it is with some excitement that we learned that Pantorno sold the Club Car to a new team: head chef Mayumi Hattori (formerly the chef at Straight Wharf) Ty Costa, director of operations, and general manager Tanya McDonough. In addition, the interior had been completely redesigned by Tharon Anderson with a lighter and brighter and less formal look (and apparently no white tablecloths).
Hattori, who is of Japanese and Spanish descent, wanted to include some of her home cooking and has overhauled the menu, doing away with the formal dining experience, and replaced it with 6 tapas ($5-$10), 4 toasts ($8-$15), 12 small vegetable plates ($14-$19), 7 Land and Sea plates ($19-$31) and for people who want a traditional main course, there is limited availability of 3 larger plates: roast chicken $39, lamb shank ($40) and whole lubina for a jaw dropping $50. Lubina is just a word for sea bass. So any question that the Club Car is less expensive is easily dispelled.
In an interview in the Inky, Hattori indicated that she wanted to focus on small plates where vegetables are the star. She is also featuring 4 “toasts,” sweet pea, mushroom, beets and jamon Iberico. They do not plan to offer bread. Since the intention of the small plates approach is to get the table to order a number of dishes, this could run up quite a bill, although the food is most likely to be delicious, based on Hattori’s work at Straight Wharf. And of course, by not serving free bread, she hopes to sell more appetizers and toasts.
The pricey Club Car was always the home of the silver-haired yachting set often in formal nautical garb, and switching their menu to small plates with a vegetarian emphasis is intended to attract a younger crowd. This may or may not work, considering the prices, but these are experienced restaurant people and they can make changes quickly if this doesn’t pan out.
The Charlie Noble
That restaurant at 15 South Water Street that keeps opening and closing, once the beloved Atlantic Café, then the Seadog Brewpub and then Nix’s (which closed suddenly last August), is reopening as The Charlie Noble. It’s run by Fred Bisaillon and Denise Corson, who also run the B-ACK Yard BBQ. The name “Charlie Noble” is nautical slang for the smokestack over the ship’s galley. The owners intend this to be a family restaurant much like the Atlantic Café, and open year round.
Their menu includes similar dishes to the previous occupants, with appetizers including crab cakes, shrimp cocktail, crab cocktail, lobster quesadilla, the best hot wings, and crab cakes, and, of course clam chowder. The main courses feature seafood such as lobster and seafood stew ($32), fish and chips ($24), blackened salmon ($23), and golden shrimp plate ($28). They also offer prime beef short rib ($33), Mushroom Kale Bolognese ($24), and a12 oz NY Strip ($36).
They also offer a bucket of 8 pieces of Fried Chicken for $46, (maybe you can share with the next table) and a Seafood Tower for $65, for a hungry table, with crab legs, fried clams, shrimp, cod and fried clams along with corn. No word on what smaller families can pry out of them. Of course even if a couple ordered this chicken and ate only half, this would only be a quarter of the cost of two orders of fried chicken at Company of the Cauldron. And you could take the rest home!
And of course, their sandwich menu includes Lobster Roll, Big Pig ($18) American Burger ($15), Codfish sandwich ($16), Surf and Turf Burger, and the “Fat Chad,” with triple patties, bacon, cheddar and pulled pork for $22, and a Deep Fried Chicken Sandwich for ($17).
Oh, and they have 5 yummy sounding desserts. Looks like a great, relaxing place for dinner with your family and friends!
Greydon House Restaurant
Greydon House (17 Broad St) had a long, slow opening, with hotel rooms available late last summer, but the restaurant, helmed by Michelin starred chef Marcus Ware didn’t open until late in the fall. While people have praised the elegance and décor of the hotel and its $750-$1100 rooms, the menu itself is about all we know about what is probably a really fine restaurant. Ware was the executive chef at Charlie Palmer’s restaurant in Chicago, and more recently at the Michelin starred Aureole restaurant in New York.
The menu features appetizers from $14 to $26 and oysters for $3.50 each. Some of these appetizers include Spring Salad, Grilled Asparagus, Potato Gnocchi, Crispy Calamari and Fusilli with Veal Bolgnese. The entrees range from $29 (chicken) to Halibut ($44), and also include Scallops ($42), Monkfish ($36), Pork Chop ($42) and Black Angus Steak ($36). In other words, at first glance, quite a conventional but somewhat expensive menu. We will be interested in seeing how Ware carries this out.
Afterhouse Raw and Wine Bar
Afterhouse is the project of Galley chef Scott Osif, with David Sylvia and Kevin Anderson, all of whom worked together at the Galley. Located at 18 Broad St, it takes over the space occupied by the Meursault Wine Bar, and in keeping with its informality, it has no web presence. The restaurant features crab salad, oysters, fish eggs, tinned fishes and a leg of Bellota ham, they serve on toast. Along with their beers and wines, this makes up an interesting seafood restaurant in a space without a stove. They are open from 2:30 pm to 12:30 am, so line cooks coming off shift. According to an interview in the Inky, the afterhouse is a room on a whale ship next to the galley, where a sailor could relax and get out of the elements. We expect a number of people will want to relax here.
Sandbar at the Jetties
Sandbar at the Jetties now has an extensive menu for lunch and dinner. The menu includes burgers and dogs, a raw bar, salads, chicken, steak and lobster. They also have an extensive drinks menu. Just the thing for beach refreshment.
Keepers is a new mid-island family restaurant at 5 Amelia Drive, and run by Sabrina Dawson and Gaven Norton. The menu prices are very reasonable, and include appetizers like Shrimp Skewers, Seared Salmon Tacos and Crispy Arancini. Entrees include Meatloaf, Pork Tenderloin, Chicken under a Brick and Flat Iron Steak, and four salad items.