Nantucket's Famous Coastal Cuisine
Nantucket is heralded as one of the best luxury getaways in the U.S., thanks in part to its standout culinary experiences. From harborside dining on the freshest seafood to delicious deconstructed clambakes to the best lobster rolls in the country, this tiny island packs a big epicurean punch.
Dining in Nantucket is an extraordinary travel experience that brings the best of this New England island together in every bite: local line-caught seafood, spectacular water views and a laid-back vibe where sophistication meets informality. Premier event planner, former chef, and Exclusive Resort’s luxury travel concierge, Maureen Maher, shares her top picks on where to get the best eats on the island. Her best piece of advice to ensure an unforgettable travel experience?
After a long day of travel to reach Nantucket, Maher helps guests settle into their exclusive private residence for the week with a delicious clambake delivered hot to the house from Sayle’s Seafood. Think piles of buttery steamers, piping hot mussels, a quarter pound of fresh lobster, sweet corn on the cob, and steamed red potatoes. Maher also throws in fried chicken and savory biscuits prepared by celebrity chef/owner Joseph Keller of Company of the Cauldron. More on that below!
CRU Oyster Bar
As far as best foodie destinations go, this is arguably the most popular one on Nantucket. Situated along Straight Wharf at the end of the marina, it’s an ideal spot for lunch or dinner featuring French-Mediterranean inspired menus. CRU is beloved for its raw oyster bar, not to mention lobster rolls to write home about. Here, the chefs work with the freshest ingredients plucked right out of the New England waters, which makes it one of the most difficult restaurants to get into on the island. “They typically sell out in one day for the entire month,” Maher notes, so booking months ahead is a must.
“This place is an institution,” says Maher. “Every member goes here." Galley Beach, set on the northwest shore of the island, has been family owned for six decades. “It’s the only five-star dining experience in Nantucket that’s located directly on the beach,” she adds. Overlooking the Nantucket Sound, sunset is the event of the evening. The ambience is fun and romantic with white-linen service and toes-in-the-sand dining. Not to mention an outstanding seafood-focused menu and a prolific wine cellar, “Order the jumbo lump crab cake. It’s world famous and the recipe hasn’t changed in 60 years.”
TOPPER’S at Wauwinet
Located within The Wauwinet, the only Relais & Châteaux hotel on the island, service here is as topnotch as the cuisine. During the summer season, diners can take a complimentary boat ride on The Wauwinet Lady from the hotel’s sister property, The White Elephant, and travel across the bay in-style, arriving directly at the dock for a lunch or dinner reservation. “The menu is amazing, you can’t go wrong with any dish,” explains Maher. “Ask the sommelier for a French white from the extensive wine list, it’s the perfect match for fresh seafood.”
Straight Wharf Restaurant
This is where locals go for fresh seafood. Overlooking the Straight Wharf harbor, the restaurant has indoor and outdoor dining areas with craft paper covered tables and centerpieces made from organic herbs. Mood-setting candlelight makes it perfect for date night and head chef Gabriel Frasca cooks up a killer deconstructed clambake with a beautiful presentation of lobsters, clams, mussels and roasted potatoes that are easy to eat. After dinner, stay for a goombay smash and watch the bar transform into a buzzing watering hole with cranked-up music and an all-around great vibe.
With a Madaket location on the west end, Millie’s is great for the whole family. “Grab a picnic table, order some fish tacos, and those of age should get a round of ice-cold margaritas,” suggests Maher. They also have killer quesadillas packed with lobster meat and a goes-down-smooth Madaket Mystery rum punch. At Millie’s, live music and laughter mingle into sunset skies, making it a must-do pitstop on a bespoke travel itinerary.
With proper planning, Maher can secure the “rock star” table (as it is informally known on the dining circuit). “It’s the table everybody wants because you can see everybody and be seen,” she says. If it’s already booked, not to worry; it’s a small restaurant and there isn’t a bad seat in the house. Owned by chef Neal Ferguson, known for his work with Gordon Ramsay, the restaurant serves a hyper-local sustainable menu with ingredients sourced from boutique farms located at this luxury beach destination.
Company of the Cauldron
“This was a very famous restaurant on the island for many years,” says Maher. A few years ago, celebrity chef Joseph Keller (brother to chef Thomas Keller, both of French Laundry fame) purchased it and opened a restaurant with a menu that changes nightly where everyone gets the same dish. “It’s like you’re going to his house for dinner,” Maher explains. The menu is announced two weeks in advance and features dishes like aged prime filet with Maryland crab cakes, grilled asparagus and croquettes almondine. “Mondays are the most sought-after nights for butter-poached Maine lobster,” she says. “Thursdays are also popular for his classic beef wellington.” On weekends, Keller serves fried chicken and biscuits to go. “It’s a great meal to start or finish a memorable Nantucket getaway,” says Maher.
Where You Will Stay
This charming island getaway is an open invitation for an elevated escape. Bike past cedar-shingled buildings lining cobblestone streets, spot lighthouses along the coastline, and immerse yourself in history before grabbing a lobster roll or other mouthwatering dining options that celebrate summer.
Our charming cottages are walking distance to town, giving you easy access to boutiques, lobster roll munching, and sightseeing. Each luxury home has 5 – 6 bedrooms so there's room for the entire family to spread out.