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The 10 Best Restaurants in Nantucket Sorted by Mealtime

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1 month ago

Nantucket’s restaurants have built a very well-deserved reputation for themselves for outstanding cuisine and amazing experiences. There are so many restaurants that could make the list for best restaurants in Nantucket, but as with all Travel Insighter recommendations, these have been vetted by locals who know where to find the best cuisine.

Restaurants in Nantucket are usually good for breakfast and lunch or lunch and dinner, but there’s usually a better meal and the right time of day to visit these restaurants. We’ve split this list into the three main mealtimes of the day, as well pointed out where you can find the best coffee in Nantucket. Ultimately, every meal of the day is an entirely different vibe.

Best Coffee in Nantucket

Lemon Press

Lemon Press is the crown jewel of coffee spots on the island. You should absolutely expect to run into the couple you sat next to at dinner the night before, or the group you met at the bar. Lemon Press provides both takeaway and sit-down options with a robust menu of coffee, matcha, smoothies, takeaway salads, and a full breakfast menu.

And being Nantucket, they also have fantastic cookies (because cookies are a delicacy of the island). If you happen to want breakfast or lunch with your coffee, Lemon Press’s Veganwich is a yummy and healthy sandwich to start the day.

You can’t miss the beautifully arranged flowers on the façade of the building or the smiling host at the front door. They stay open all day if you want to go in for a casual lunch or dinner.

Handlebar Café

Handlebar in the center of town is perfect for a cold brew before walking around time. Food options are more limited than Lemon Press, but Handlebar is the essence of cute Nantucket vibes with casual outdoor seating next to a branded Handlebar truck in the back. Handlebar would probably win best coffee in Nantucket, not just because the coffee is excellent but because the atmosphere (especially in the morning) is charming.

This is also a great option before you get on a HyLine ferry from Nantucket back to the mainland and it’s not so close to town which means you won’t have to battle crowds. Handlebar is more of a place to sit down and enjoy a coffee rather than just get it takeaway.

Best Breakfast in Nantucket

Black-Eyed Susan’s

This very well-known dinner spot just started serving breakfast, and it is now unequivocally one of the best breakfasts in Nantucket and one of the best restaurants in Nantucket generally. The team at Black-Eyed Susan’s serves up an incredible traditional blueberry short stack of pancakes, but what you really want that you didn’t know existed is their savory Jarlsberg pancakes.

They put a slice of Jarlsberg cheese in the pancakes which makes the pancake cheesy and stringy. We can confidently say that you will be craving this for days.

There is often a long wait for a seat for breakfast (especially if you’re more than a party of two), so we recommend going early to put your name on the list and then use your hour-or-so wait time to explore the great boutique shops immediately around the restaurant.

If you can’t get a table at Black-Eyed Susan’s for breakfast, be sure to make a reservation for dinner. We can’t call it a ‘close second’ to breakfast because it is an entirely different meal and is absolutely delicious. Dinner is also BYOB, which comes as a refreshing option compared to some of the island’s pricier menus.

Island Kitchen

Island Kitchen serves all your breakfast staples, but for the adventurous they also offer excellent signature specials and acai bowls. Like Black-Eyed Susan’s, this is also one of the best restaurants in Nantucket – and not just for their breakfast, but for their lunch and dinner as well.

Make sure to grab a seat on one of the outdoor picnic tables and enjoy the summer sun and the friendly staff that will make you feel at home. Island Kitchen is also perfect for brunch in Nantucket before picking up your rental bike to explore the island (and we absolutely recommend you rent a bike and explore Nantucket – it’s made for it).

Island Kitchen is great for a larger group (and is family friendly), particularly if you didn’t manage to land a reservation at Cru for dinner if you’re looking for a party vibe. Expect healthy, organic, American food with everything ranging from green juices, smoothies, acai bowls, to an extensive breakfast menu of eggs benedict & omelettes, to their classic smash burger.

Downyflake

We can’t deny the fact that Downyflake is first and foremost a donut shop, but they also serve a fantastic breakfast including their famous blueberry pancakes which makes it one of the best breakfasts in Nantucket.

Downyflake is a place for more than a coffee but less than a full sit-down breakfast. It’s proudly family-owned diner and has been serving doughnuts and breakfast for 90 years and is the perfect greasy spoon that opens at 6:30 am.

If you need a recommendation, get no less than a dozen chocolate-frosted donuts to kick off your day Otherwise, opt for the classic “Flake Special” offering your full American diner spread of eggs, home fries, bacon and, of course, your choice of a donut.

Best Lunch in Nantucket

Provisions

For the uninitiated, there is a not-so-secret competition for the best sandwich in Nantucket, and Provisions is our choice for the winner. The sandwiches are incredibly tasty, and locals agree that it’s almost become a Nantucket tradition to get a sandwich from Provisions and eat it on Straight Wharf – or go further afield to one of the best beaches in Nantucket.

Local tip: Provisions is very popular so there will always be a line at peak sandwich time (breakfast and lunch) but it moves qiuickly.

Provisions has been serving sandwiches in Nantucket for over 50 years, and you can take that to mean their food is delicious and you can trust them to make an incredible gourmet sandwich. The turkey sandwiches at Provisions are known for reminding Americans of the Thanksgiving ‘leftovers’ sandwich filled with turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce.

Millie’s

Millie’s is an institution in Nantucket and is firmly one of the best restaurants in Nantucket. The restaurant really starts to get busy at around 5 pm when the crowds descend for sunset. Stop by Millie’s on your way home from the beach, or to catch the sunset, with a taco in hand – specifically their delicious Pocomo pork tacos.

This casual seafood and baja-style taco house has an incredibly fun and vibrant atmosphere, perfect for a long lunch, or a quick take-out option. The mahi-mahi tacos are delicious and, of course, they offer a delicious fresh lobster roll for the person in your group dedicated to eating this local crustacean for every meal.

Don’t expect a $1 dollar taco from Millie’s, but lean in and enjoy the full experience (which definitely includes a Dark ‘N’ Stormy in hand). Millie’s is walk-ins only but they do allow sandy feet.

Nantucket Lobster Trap

If you’re visiting New England for the first time, the lobster roll, clam chowder and clambake at Nantucket Lobster Trap are a fantastic foray into New England’s seafood-based cuisine. Throw your bib on, roll up your sleeves, and dive into the New England and Nantucket lifestyle at Nantucket Lobster Trap – you absolutely won’t be disappointed.

Most restaurants on the island specialize in a standard lobster roll, but Nantucket Lobster Trap is your destination for the full lobster experience. You can do the work cracking the shell and extracting the meat yourself which, in truth, is an entirely different experience to just being served lobster. I would go so far as to say that it actually tastes better.

Fresh, casual, and authentic, locals agree that at least one visit to the Nantucket Lobster Trap is essential to understand and appreciate the Nantucket lifestyle – and it’s an imperative for the seafood lovers.

Best Dinner in Nantucket

CRU

You can’t come to Nantucket and not hear someone mention CRU. This upscale eatery is perfect for that long Saturday lunch on the water, or the martini & shrimp cocktail dinner you have been dreaming about. Reservations are needed for CRU and it absolutely does book up early – but that’s because it’s one of the best restaurants in Nantucket not just for the food but for the Nantucket summer party vibes. Get on Resy and set those alerts for a reservation.

CRU is dubbed an oyster bar and is your destination for an overpriced seafood tower, caviar service, and maybe a bottle of champagne for those looking to indulge. The vibes are simply fun times at CRU – but it’s very much a restaurant where you dress to impress, as it’s likely you’ll spot a celeb or socialite (or hedge fund manager, this being Nantucket).

We must warn: CRU is a scene. It turns into a party, especially on the weekends. And because it is a scene, it is very popular and needs to be booked well in advance. Thankfully, the team at CRU doesn’t rest on its loins when it comes to food. You’ll still get a tasty meal (including the very tasty lobster roll).

Straight Wharf

Straight Wharf is known for a lot of things, but the reason it is still a mainstay among locals and frequent visitors is because of the signature clambake entrée. It’s certainly not the only reason why Straight Wharf is one of the best restaurants in Nantucket right now, but it helps to make a very strong case.

Dimly lit candles and an inviting, warm atmosphere make Straight Wharf a favorite for both weekend travelers and summer locals. The recently renovated space has been opened for nearly 50 years and offers reinterpreted summer classics with outstanding hospitality. The team do an excellent job of making you feel like a long-time customer.

Straight Wharf’s menu changes nightly based on what is available in the local catch and farms. There is typically a tasting menu offering as well as a la carte depending on what your group is interested in that night. Expect to spend at least a few hours in this relaxed but upscale eatery.

One of the best parts about Straight Wharf is that there is a bar next door that is connected by an internal door. After dinner, walk across to their bar room where you might see someone dancing on a chair. But don’t let that deter you from the quality of the restaurant offering as they have done a phenomenal job soundproofing the top 40s playlist or DJ pumping music next door.

The Pearl

The name says it all: The Pearl is a pearl of a restaurant, but we’re glad to say that is one of the many pearls of Nantucket, with a modern Japanese twist.

The interior is beautiful, light, and inviting, and the wok-friend lobster is a decadent requirement. The cocktail menu is extensive, and the menu is made for sharing. Similar to so many other restaurants on the island, The Pearl has been operating for over 30 years, but recently received a face lift during the pandemic.

If you still want the wok-fried lobster but can’t get a reservation at The Pearl, stop by The Boarding House located next door which is operated by the same owners to dine al fresco on the patio with a slightly different menu.

Sister Ship

Get ready to walk into an interior design magazine at The Sister Ship. This Mediterranean restaurant offers a refreshing cuisine compared to the other American restaurants on the island, while still offering the freshest seafood and local ingredients available. There is a strong element of glamorousness that pervades the whole experience at Sister Ship, so you’ll want to look the party.

While the menu is somewhat limited, you can’t go wrong with the seafood paella for the table, or the braised lamb tagine if you are tapped out on the local catch. Sister Ship is also perfect for your pre- or post-dinner drink, but it is firmly one of the best restaurants in Nantucket.

Best Ice Cream in Nantucket

There really is only one choice for best ice cream in Nantucket and that is The Juice Bar. There’s only one other ice cream shop in the main town, but we promise you that the extra 4-minute walk to get to The Juice Bar is worth it. If that isn’t clear enough, Jack and Charlie’s is not serving up a satisfying cone, and we know ice cream.

Expect a line, but locals know what’s good – and when in Nantucket, you should take ice cream seriously. Don’t settle for anything less than the best.


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