Nantucket is a tiny island in the state of Massachusetts and is about 30 miles away from Cape Cod. As a small island, it has an entirely different vibe from what you would expect to get when in Massachusetts.
Unlike Boston, the capital of the state, Nantucket allows visitors to experience a more traditional stay. It’s the perfect destination for beautiful views of the ocean, delicious authentic American food, exploring fantastic nature, and grand tours to discover the history of Nantucket and Massachusetts in general.
Undeniably the best thing to do in Nantucket is to try all the food possible. After all, this is where you can find the finest local and international cuisines in the country. Be prepared to have fresh seafood like steamed lobster, fried clams, or the best New England clam chowder.
If you are not a big fan of seafood, go for a delicious plate of authentic Italian, French or Asian food, or check out the local steakhouses. For an alternative experience of Nantucket’s food lifestyle, you could always try delicacies from bakeries, gourmets, markets, or even go for a tour at Nantucket’s breweries, and distilleries. After all, the island is part of the coastal wine trail. So, expect to try some of the best wines in America.
Furthermore, at Nantucket, apart from having numerous choices in cuisines, you can choose from several different dining options. Undoubtedly, you can delve into fine dining at one of the island’s open year-round restaurants that offer culinary treats to all food lovers.
But of course, Nantucket, as a laid-back and chill place, also provides several casual dining restaurants that create an enjoyable experience with good food and a relaxing ambiance.
Best Restaurants in Nantucket
Straight Wharf Restaurant
If you want to visit one of the best seafood restaurants in America, then this is your destination. Straight Wharf has been serving delicious elevated seafood dishes with exceptional local wine for nearly half a century.
The restaurant is situated in downtown Nantucket by the waterfront and at one of the busiest piers. As it is at one of the bustling commercial districts of Nantucket, the restaurant managed to fuse traditional seafood dishes with modernized and alternative cooking methods and displays.
No matter what period you decide to go to Straight Wharf, you won’t be disappointed. Since the restaurant is seasonal and strives to be sustainable every time, there is something new and exciting to look forward to and try. The restaurant always serves only the freshest catches combined with local products, classic cocktails, and local brews.
Why you should dine at Straight Wharf:
- This restaurant has been named one of America’s top seafood restaurants by Travel & Leisure Magazine.
- The service and ambience of this restaurant is so incredible that you’ll feel like royalty.
Diner’s note: The restaurant can be a bit pricey. Thus, they offer a price fix menu. With drinks, you can expect to spend $100 per person or more.
CRU Nantucket Oyster Bar
If you are looking for a romantic dining destination, then CRU is a must-visit. Alongside Straight Wharf, it is one of the best seafood restaurants in Nantucket. It is in the heart of downtown Nantucket and right by the waterfront giving mesmerizing views of the ocean and yachts sailing back in at the end of the day.
CRU features a restaurant and oyster bar with chic, sleek interiors and a seafood-forward menu with a spectacular raw bar that serves fantastic cocktails such as chilled lobster cocktail with kumquat and tarragon.
The menu has French and Mediterranean cuisines elements, so expect to have delicious, light, and healthy food. The local littlenecks pasta with buttered breadcrumbs or the restaurant’s famous chilled lobster roll on toasted brioche is the most favored amongst seafood lovers. To fully enjoy your meal be sure to choose a wine from the expertly crafted wine list.
Why you should dine at CRU:
- This restaurant has been praised by Vogue, Travel & Leisure Magazine and Conde Nast Traveller.
- It has one of the best views on the whole island.
- They serve the freshest oysters that are literally just off the dock.
Diner’s note: This is one of the toughest reservations to make. So, make your reservation just before sunset. Cru is also a bit pricey. You can easily spend $100 per person here.
Galley Beach opened back in the 1920s as a clam shack only to turn into a prestigious Nantucket beachfront restaurant. So, with its 100-year-history Galley Beach is not just a fancy restaurant. It’s a historical icon. In fact, it has been written and mentioned in novels, and many celebrities have dined here.
However, Galley Beach is not just any beachfront dining. It’s premier beachfront dining in Nantucket. It features an elegant and modern design but also a relaxed and cozy ambiance. This Nantucket dining room at Galley Beach is a sunny, open-air, coastal chic atmosphere that doesn’t disappoint. You’ll fall in love with its stunning views of the Nantucket Sound.
This is the place to have a tasty cocktail to marvel at the magical sunset after a long day of exploring Nantucket. But it is also a popular restaurant for brunch and dinner. A signature dish is Nantucket Lobster with sweet corn, fennel, roasted mushrooms, and herb crepe. Be sure to accompany your meal with one of the exquisite bottles of wines from the restaurant’s 5,000 bottle wine cellar.
Why you should dine at Galley Beach:
- Oprah called Galley Beach the best place to get married on the East Coast!
- Presidents have dined here and if that isn’t a good confirmation that this is one of the best restaurants in Nantucket then what is?
The Nautilus is another formal dining restaurant but with an alternative concept. It is based on the ideology that “everything should be shared.” Instead of enjoying the main course privately, you can have small plates designed to be shared and enjoyed with your friends.
Inspired from Asia, the Mediterranean, and beyond, the food in Nautilus will take you on a trip across the world with flavor. However, it is mainly a seafood-based menu. Indeed, the menu also has traditional New England elements.
Although the food here is delicious and mouth-watering, the award-winning wine, sake, and spirits selection is equally important to enjoy. Nautilus will offer you a one-of-a-kind dining and drinking experience on the island of Nantucket.
Why you should dine at Nautilus:
- The restaurant has unique elements drawn from Japanese izakaya and Spanish cuisine.
- It’s tapa-style food will allow you to try so many dishes
Diner’s note: The restaurant is closed only on Mondays. The rest of the week the Nautilus is open from 5:30 pm till 1 am. Currently, they offer reservations six days in advance through their website starting at 10 am.
It may be a bit far from Nantucket’s famous sights, but it is certainly worth the 20-minute drive from Nantucket’s downtown or a scenic bike ride across the island. The restaurant has a cozy vibe with affordable prices and is perfect for some family time.
Millie’s has a picnic table, patio dining area, and a great indoor space to relax and enjoy a homemade meal. Even though it is not a fancy and elegant restaurant, its chill and relaxed vibe are perfect for a break from an intense day exploring Nantucket.
Their menu includes Baja California-inspired tacos and lobster rolls. They also serve traditional Nantucket dishes. Furthermore, you should try out the local-favorite Madaket Mystery cocktail.
Why you should dine at Millie’s:
- Their menu includes flavors reminiscent of Baja California with a New England flare.
- They have amazing craft cocktails with Madaket Mystery as the top choice.
Diner’s note: It is closed for the 2021 season (may open on the West End in May 2022). but it’s an incredible spot to visit during peak season! When you visit make sure to stop by Millie’s Market. You can grab some cute Nantucket apparel, accessories, or drinkware.
If you love to explore the traditional and the historical scene of a new town, then Oran Mor is the perfect spot to get immersed into Nantucket’s history. Oran Mor’s nautical decor and antiques will definitely leave you awed.
The restaurant has both a bar and dining rooms. Oran Mor has a variety of food that strives to show that simplicity is the new norm. The food is very unique, and every time is evolving to create new innovative dishes based on the changing seasons and their bountiful offerings.
Oran Mor serves delicious handcrafted cocktails from the freshest ingredients, house infusions, and specialty spirits. The wine list features wines from local producers as well as other renowned wines from around the world.
Why you should dine at Oran Mor:
- This upscale bistro has an extensive cocktail and wine menu.
- It offers elevated and innovative classic dishes, like Bison Au Poivre and Duck Bolognese Cavatelli.
Diner’s note: From Tuesday till Thursday is closed. The rest of the week it is open from 5 till 9:30 pm. It is better to make a reservation before going to the restaurant. Nowadays, you can even book a table at the restaurant online.
Dune Restaurant & Bar
Dune has one of the most exciting menus in Nantucket. Although it is a relatively new restaurant in Nantucket, it has already surpassed many old and historic places. Alongside its exquisite decor and extensive cocktail menu, it attracts thousands of guests yearly.
The decor in the three dining rooms is a fusion of elegance and coziness. The exotic quartzite bar and the charming patio give the restaurant a sophisticated feeling and perfectly accompany the handcrafted cocktails, wines, spirits, and cordials.
At Dune, you can have lunch, dinner, and dessert. The menu changes according to season, so there’s always something new to discover. The food is always prepared with the finest local produce of fish and meats from regional farms and select purveyors.
Why you should dine at Dune:
- It has one of the most interesting Nantucket restaurant menus that you’ll find.
- It opened only in 2009 but it already won the “Best of Cape Cod” award.
Diner’s note: Dune is open six times per week and all year round. On Mondays and Tuesdays it is open from 5 pm till 9 pm and on Wednesday till Saturday it is open from 5 pm till 9:30 pm.
Ventuno is by far the best Italian restaurant on the island. Its exterior may look like any other traditional Nantucket restaurant. Still, its interior reminds you of a classy Manhattan Italian restaurant.
Italian cuisine, in general, is famous all around the world for its delicious and healthy dishes. If you are up for an entire three-meal course, you will certainly not be disappointed. You will be delighted by the elevated takes on Italian classics like osso buco and lasagna.
Furthermore, you can’t have an Italian restaurant without a broad list of wines. Also, its delightful outdoor bar, The Back Bar, is a favorite for aperitivo hours and beyond.
Why you should dine at Ventuno:
- This restaurant serves refined Italian dishes including fresh pasta.
- There is a wide choice of local and international wines.
Diner’s note: On Sundays and Mondays the restaurant is closed, however the rest of the week it is open from 5 pm until 9 pm.
Proprietors Bar and Table
Proprietors Bar and Table is another tapas-style restaurant that serves small plates of globally-inspired dishes. This makes it the perfect restaurant to both share a delicious meal with your family and or group of friends and experience the laid-back family of Nantucket.
The restaurant is located in the historic downtown of Nantucket. Its name is a tribute to the original landowners of Nantucket. It speaks to the island’s important role in the whaling trade.
The restaurant owner actually brought the craft cocktail culture to the island, so this is the best place to try one of Nantucket’s unique cocktails. Furthermore, the food combines international flavors and in-season ingredients, so they are the perfect accompaniment for the cocktails.
Why you should dine at Proprietors Bar and Table:
- The small plates menu is perfect for families or groups.
- It’s been recommended by Conde Nast Traveler, Food & Wine Magazine & Vogue.
Diner’s note: The restaurant is open five times a week from 5 pm until 12 am. It is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. To find a table it is required to make a reservation in advance.
Rather than a fancy dining restaurant, Island Kitchen is the perfect spot for brunch day. It is a casual restaurant 20-minutes walk away from downtown Nantucket. It is ideal for having a break from the busy tourist area of Nantucket.
It may be featured as a brunch place, but it actually is a cozy restaurant with an ice-cream parlor and a cocktail lounge. So, in fact, you can go there anytime in the day. The atmosphere is reasonably casual, but the food is terrific. It could easily hold its own in a fine dining room. The service is cheerful and prompt.
The menu is mainly inspired by traditional American, and specifically New England cuisine. However, the restaurant strives to expand its menu with innovative fusions of different cuisines and alternative dishes.
Why you should dine at Island Kitchen:
- It’s one of the top places in Nantucket for brunch.
- Its menu includes brunch, lunch and dinner and even snack time.
Diner’s note: Island Kitchen is open every day from 7 am to 2pm and then from 5:30 till 9:30 pm. On Sundays, it is open only from 7 am to 2pm. Island Kitchen also has a small counter on Main Street, downtown. So, you can sample a quick bite if you don’t want to take a walk.
Related Read: 16 Things to Do in Martha’s Vineyard
What’s the Best Restaurant For You
If you are looking for relatively quieter restaurants or places for big groups and a children’s menu, restaurants with a tapas-style menu might be better for you. Also, undoubtedly, cozier restaurants with a familiar vibe are indeed the better option. These restaurants are:
- Proprietors Bar and Table
- Oran Mor
If you are looking for a romantic evening with your significant other, you might prefer restaurants with a relaxed yet charming vibe. A restaurant that allows you to feel intimate with your partner is undoubtedly your preference that why you should choose:
- Straight Wharf
- Galley Beach
If you are a traveler who still likes to dine at restaurants that serve delicious food but at affordable prices, then these are the best restaurants for you:
- Island Kitchen
Overall, Nantucket is a fantastic destination to explore New England’s history and an island’s lifestyle. Generally, Nantucket has a diverse culture. Thus, dining on this island is like going on a journey around the world. Nantucket island will definitely give you a memorable dining experience.
Also, if you are a wine lover, you won’t be disappointed with the variety of wines at Nantucket’s restaurants.