Few locales are more associated with the classic American summer than Cape Cod and the Islands. Long before “Jaws” was filmed on Martha’s Vineyard, the town of Edgartown was one of the nation’s most prominent summer resorts, thanks in part to the Harbor View Hotel, a rambling Victorian shingle-style hotel originally built in 1891.
The “Grande Dame” of Vineyard hotels, the Harbor View benefits from a privileged location in the exclusive Starbuck’s Neck neighborhood of Edgartown, with breathtaking views of the harbor and the town’s iconic white lighthouse and vistas across the water to the island of Chappaquiddick (known as “Chappy” to the locals).
Edgartown has long had an easy relationship with wealth – and Water Street, the Harbor View’s acclaimed restaurant, reflects the gracious elegance that marked the pinnacle of American WASP culture, which was once so pervasive along the Eastern seaboard.
Running the length of the Harbor View’s deep front porch (which could very well serve as the locale for the next Tommy Hilfiger ad campaign), Water Street’s pristine white dining room with nautical touches recalls an era of country club service in yacht club surroundings.
What makes Water Street particularly remarkable as a summer resort restaurant, however, is the food. Chef Shaun Sells, a graduate of Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I. and a recent addition to the Water Street kitchen, focuses on what he terms “Vineyard Harvest” cuisine, which emphasizes the bounty of local purveyors.
As anyone who has biked or driven around the island knows, the Vineyard is a haven of homegrown produce and line-caught fish. Sells utilizes produce from local farms such as Allen, Morning Glory, and Whippoorwill, as well as day boat seafood from local fishermen, to create a menu that is emblematic of what most people cherish about an American summer.
The thrust of Sells’s menu is freshness and flavor. At a recent dinner, a dozen of the day’s oysters – six from Barnstable’s deep and cold waters, another half dozen from Katama – tasted as briny and fresh as a sea breeze and were plated with an elegance befitting their simple beauty.
The catch of the day was swordfish, served with haricots verts drizzled with Hollandaise, alongside caramelized tomatoes. A salad of grilled romaine with Parmesan crisps was a nod to summer barbeques and picnics.
Desserts include a chilled melon soup, served with oatcakes, as well as Water Street’s rendition of summer’s most iconic dessert, classic strawberry shortcake.
With previous stints at the Pelican Isle Yacht Club in Naples, Fla., The Ritz-Carlton on St. Thomas, and The Westin St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Sells is well-equipped to handle both the Harbor View Hotel’s established, well-heeled clientele and those gourmands who seek out Water Street for the latest interpretation of classic New England cuisine.
Make a reservation at Water Street and toast to the best of an American summer.