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Sunset over red cliffs at Martha's Vineyard
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Mr. Harper Recommends:

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Massachusetts Travel Guide

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 ...

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 legalize same-sex marriage. Its geography spans similarly disparate poles, from bustling Boston 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 historical treasures, from colonial-era landmarks like Paul Revere's home and Faneuil Hall Marketplace to the hallowed halls of Harvard University in nearby Cambridge. 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 and the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket have drawn generations of summertime leisure-seekers to their quaint maritime villages, sweeping beaches and luxury estates.

Luxury Hotels in Massachusetts


Best Restaurants in Massachusetts

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 Martha's Vineyard

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 Martha's Vineyard

This 1803 Beacon Hill townhouse offers a classic view over Boston Common. Chef Barbara Lynch’s fare can include appetizers such as mushroom tortellini with speck, pine nuts and chili; or prune-stuffed gnocchi with foie gras, almond and Vin Santo. Equally fine main courses might be Alaskan halibut with fennel, spring Vidalia and morels; or Berkshire pork with asparagus, salsa rossa and ramps. The intelligently crafted wine list highlights France and Italy. 

9 Park Street Boston $80. Three-course menu, $75; six-course chef’s menu, $120

L’Espalier features a mix of New England and French culinary approaches. Chef/owner Frank McClelland offers starters such as Georges Bank scallops with sweet and sour pork belly, farro with spring greens, smoked almonds and a confit of egg yolk. Main courses could be grilled Maine lobster with spring root vegetables, morels, summer truffle nage, carrot-miso purée and pancetta vinaigrette; or roasted sirloin with Maine crab Béarnaise, asparagus and black garlic-glazed shallots. 

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

In this handsome bistro-style restaurant in Cambridge, chef Tony Maws has built a reputation for using the abundant produce of the area in exceptionally imaginative ways. The seasonal menu changes daily, but look for starters such as crisp fried clams from Essex, a New England favorite given a twist with preserved lemon, pickled peppers and a squid-ink anchovy paste; and main courses like chicken stuffed with dates and chicken sausage served with spiced yogurt, fava leaves, green pea hummus and raisin chermoula; or Vermont pork prepared three ways: spice-crusted rib, slow-cooked belly and roasted loin. 

853 Main Street Cambridge $70

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 Martha's Vineyard

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 Martha's Vineyard

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

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 Martha's Vineyard

Massachusetts Itineraries

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