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Picking the best places to eat on Nantucket is like asking which season is best on the island: They all have their draws. But after careful consideration and years of eating out on the Grey Lady, here are a handful of the best of the best:
Topper’s. This Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star restaurant is located within The Wauwinet on beautiful Nantucket Bay. Inspired seafood is the standout at the fine-dining destination, with courses like sea urchin risotto with truffle and Maine rock shrimp showcasing New England ingredients. Sit inside the comfortably elegant dining room or opt for the more casual outdoor deck for closer proximity to the water. Be sure to peruse the award-winning 1,450-label wine list and make a special toast to enjoying a meal at this singular spot.
Lola 41. Having celebrated its eighth season on Nantucket in 2013, this year-round hot spot is jam-packed in July and January and it’s no wonder why. The global bistro showcases an eclectic mix of sushi and comfort food, from the freshest bluefin tuna to what’s been called “the best burger on the planet.” (It’s a hand-packed sirloin patty with caramelized onions and aged Cabot cheddar on an oversize English muffin with a foie gras dipping sauce. Drooling? It also comes with fries — make them truffle while you’re at it.) While their reservation system (same-day reservations starting at 4 p.m.) can frustrate summer patrons, it’s always hopping. This small restaurant does three turns on each table most nights.
Cru. New to the island in 2012, Cru’s location on the end of Straight Wharf is unparalleled. You’ll find that this favorite has the feeling of an old distinguished yacht with exposed wood, a navy color scheme with accents of yellow, two bars that you can thank your lucky stars to get a seat at in August and a raw bar with the most extensive selection of oysters on the island. Be sure to make a reservation, and try their blue crab dip, hush puppies and grilled nightly fish that could only be fresher if it was still on the hook.
Dune. A spectacular year-round dining establishment that prides itself on a modern-chic-meets-casual-comfort vibe, Dune restaurant is a delicious must. The contemporary French-American menu offers half and whole portions of most dishes, as well as vegetarian and vegan plates. An indoor and outdoor bar adds to the ambiance, a private dining room upstairs easily fits 12 guests and a bistro-style covered patio is a great spot for lunch as well. Make sure to try the Dune burger with its hand-cut fries and housemade ketchup. Save room for the desserts and ice cream.
The Pearl. A coastal kitchen and cocktail bar, The Pearl has been a Nantucket favorite for well over a decade. The space’s whimsical lighting, fish tanks and wave photography help make this restaurant a true experience. Well known for its wok-fried lobster and tuna martini, The Pearl uses only the best seasonal, local shellfish and produce but incorporates flavors from the chef’s off-season travels each year. Make sure to check out the original chef’s table in the garden, an extraordinary way to have a private dinner for you and your closest friends in a magical setting.
Ventuno. Farm-to-fork gets a Nantucket twist with this fresh take on traditional Italian dining. Located in the heart of the historic district at the legendary address of 21 Federal, Ventuno gives its guests a three-course meal with antipasti, primi and secondi courses, but also offers morsi (light bites meant to be enjoyed before your appetizers) and a delicious selection of dolci like bombolocinis (semisweet-chocolate-stuffed caramelized donuts with housemade coffee gelato), crostadas baked to order using local fruits and original gelato flavors (think olive oil). Make sure to check out the three bars (inside, outside and upstairs) to see how this Nantucket restaurant gives diners many different locations to enjoy their meals.