In quick succession, 17 Airport Road in Edgartown has morphed from the Hot Tin Roof to Outerland to Nectar’s. Now add to that list a name that has nothing to do with rock concerts: Flatbread Martha’s Vineyard. According to managing partner Jim Harrison, the new venture, which shares space with Nectar’s, will bring to the site not only pizza but also “cosmic energy.”
Flatbread is not your typical pizza joint. “It’s all about community and local food,” Mr. Harrison explained. The menu is dotted with Island-sourced foods. The greens for salads and toppings come from Morning Glory Farm in Edgartown and North Tabor Farm in Chilmark. The drafts are from Offshore Ale in Oak Bluffs. Mr. Harrison emphasized the point: “We want to buy local. We don’t want to transport the stuff from the ferry. It’s not happening. We want local, local, local food.” Each week, Flatbread has two specials on the menu based on what is available locally. The restaurant focuses on organic ingredients. The menu always features vegan and gluten-free pizzas and desserts.
One of the restaurant’s top sellers is the Mopsy’s Kalua Pork Pie. It features pulled pork barbecued as the oven cools off overnight — slow, 200-degree baking. The method imitates Hawaiian ground-buried baking. Other ingredients include mozzarella, pineapple, red onions, goat cheese and chipotle.
Mr. Harrison’s goal is to make Flatbread a fully integrated part of the Vineyard. Every Thursday, when Island artists and musicians perform at Nectar’s, the restaurant does a benefit where $3.50 of every pizza sold goes to a local charity.
During the first benefit, on July 8, contributions representing 130 pies went to the Martha’s Vineyard Skate Park. One recent Wednesday, Camp Jabberwocky was invited for the family Dance-O-Rama. The next day brought a benefit for the Boy’s and Girl’s Club. Flatbread has booked an event in September to raise money for the eighth grade trip to Washington, D.C. Mr. Harrison said: “We want to be some place that the 15,000 people who live here can count on.”
Flatbread fits its location with an organic, natural feel. The walls feature murals by local artist Margot Datz. The dance floor is covered with brightly painted tables that can be rolled out of the way for concerts. Flatbread sells slices during shows at Nectar’s. Since alcohol is served, Mr. Harrison says: “It is good for people to have a food option at a nightclub.” So far, the slices during the shows have been a hit. He counted 200 slices sold at the last concert.
On a recent Saturday, the airport location sold 230 pizzas, but a busy Flatbread restaurant is capable of 500. The mammoth wood-fired clay oven, specially constructed on the site, is about 10 feet in diameter and four feet tall. It operates at about 800 degrees, so the flatbread pizzas cook in about five minutes. The full kitchen is on display for all to see. Mr. Harrison jokes that it’s not only the chicken he serves that’s free-range. “We have free-range kids, they come look at the oven. They talk to the baker. The kids run the show in a nice way.”
Flatbread is an 11-year-old company operating 10 locations nationally, eight of them in New England. (The others are in Maui, Whistler and Portland, Oregon.) The founder, Jay Gould, is known for starting restaurants where he likes to vacation. That said, Flatbread does not operate like a typical franchise. Mr. Harrison said: “We hire local managers who hire local people, and they support their community because they live in their community. It is as simple as that.”
Flatbread opened officially on July 1, and has seen an increase in customers each day. The restaurant does not deliver but it does take-out, and it has a special “take and bake” option — you get an 80 per cent cooked pizza and bring it to your house to finish baking and serve it hot.
Flatbread will run seasonally for now, but Mr. Harrison hopes to have it open year-round by next year. “If you have the support here you can run a nice, 70-seat restaurant here in the winter.” When Nectar’s is dark, there will still be entertainment. “Flatbread is theatre. The oven is the center stage, the baker is the lead actor, and the play goes on around it!” Mr. Harrison says.