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Sunset over red cliffs at Martha's Vineyard
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8 Restaurants

From Andrew Harper:

At the heart of New England, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has a rich heritage as a hub of America's Colonial incarnation and fledgling democracy. Founded by Puritans in the 1600s, Massachusetts was more recently the first state in the union to allow same-sex marriage. Its geography spans similarly disparate poles, from the bustling Boston metropolis on the Atlantic coast to the forests and small farms of the central and western regions. The Boston area offers a nearly inexhaustible array of cultural and social treasures, from Colonial and Revolutionary landmarks like Paul Revere's home and Faneuil Hall Marketplace to the hallowed halls of Harvard University in nearby Cambridge. A diverse dining landscape includes gems like Grill 23, a classic steakhouse with polished brass accents and dry aged beef. On the state's western border, the Berkshire mountains are home to Tanglewood, the summer residence of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In the southeast, Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Island have drawn generations of summertime leisure-seekers to their quaint maritime villages, pleasant beaches and luxury estates.

- Andrew Harper

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L’Espalier features a mix of New England and French culinary traditions. Chef/ owner Frank McClelland offers starters such as Georges Bank scallops with charred ramps, English peas, ham and a confit of egg yolk. Main courses could be grilled Maine lobster in the style of a Provençal brandade with littleneck clams; or beef rib eye with braised tongue tortelloni, charred eggplant, sweet-and-sour shallots and wild ramps.

774 Boylston Street Boston Three-course menu, $95; six-course degustation menu, $115

This 1803 Beacon Hill townhouse offers a classic view over Boston Common. Chef Barbara Lynch’s fare can include appetizers such as yellowfin tuna carpaccio with langoustines, sea urchin and Meyer lemon; or gnocchi stuffed with prunes accompanied by foie gras, toasted almonds and Vin Santo. Equally fine main courses might be Faroe Island salmon with creamed sorrel, fiddlehead ferns and mousseron mushrooms; or leg of Colorado lamb with porcinis, malloreddus pasta and Calabrian chili. The intelligently crafted wine list highlights France and Italy.

9 Park Street Boston $75. Three-course menu, $70; eight-course chef’s menu, $115

This relatively new place in Edgartown is located in a choice spot right on the harbor. The building’s exterior comes with the mandatory shingles and white trim, and the interior hums with activity. The fare is straightforward but enticing. Coming to the end of my starter of bone marrow and cod brandade topped with Asiago cheese gratin, I found myself wishing for more. Fortunately, a juicy swordfish steak, which needed nothing more than the accompanying lemon beurre blanc, was entirely satisfying. Other standouts include the wild striped bass crusted with pumpkin seeds and served with a charred tomato vinaigrette. Carnivores are not neglected, and I have particularly enjoyed the Moroccan lamb tajin.

Two Main Street Edgartown, Massachusetts

The question of who makes the best clam chowder is a source of endless debate on the Vineyard. I have long since resolved this weighty issue to my satisfaction: The Bite. This is not a restaurant; it is a takeout stand in Menemsha. Not a typical Harper recommendation, to be sure, but still worthy of attention. The fried clams are also excellent. I invariably head to the nearby Menemsha Beach for a sunset feast.

29 Basin Road Menemsha, Massachusetts

Located in the fishing town of Menemsha, this long-established restaurant was a personal favorite for many years. But after a while, the place seemed to have lost its stride. I am happy to report that the good times are back. A short walk from the Coast Guard station, the Home Port serves excellent Vineyard seafood. I can’t think of a better starter than the smoked bluefish pâté; then I invariably opt for the baked lobster stuffed with shrimp and bread crumbs and topped with butter. Reservations are a must.

512 North Road Menemsha, Massachusetts

Neighboring Oak Bluffs is much more relaxed than Edgartown, with dainty Victorian gingerbread houses encircling the Methodist Tabernacle (the scene of lively band concerts in summer). There, The Sweet Life Café is a longstanding favorite. Its French-American cuisine strikes a judicious balance between casual and fine dining. Notable dishes include the beet and burrata salad, followed by the breaded Vermont quail breast served on a ragout of quail confit with favas, cherry reduction and foie gras mousse.

63 Circuit Avenue Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts

For more than 25 years, Grill 23 has been a Boston steakhouse favorite. The beef comes from a single herd on a family-owned ranch in California that uses neither hormones nor antibiotics. Some top choices include New York steak, filet mignon and a fine porterhouse. To begin, there is an extensive raw bar with oysters and a generous shellfish sampler. Chef Jay Murray’s weekly menu includes day boat seafood options and several special cuts of beef.

161 Berkeley Street Boston $80

Edgartown provides excellent window-shopping, and once you have become immersed in this, you often find that more time has elapsed than you thought or intended. It was under just such circumstances that we discovered Espresso Love, just out of the bustling town center. The cool garden is perfect for enjoying the baked goods that draw morning crowds, as well as the fresh-made, generous sandwiches and salads.

17 Church Street Edgartown, Massachusetts

Massachusetts Itineraries

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