Around this time every year, I like to pretend that I’m a tourist. I know that may sound silly, but hear me out. If you’re like me, you have your routine, your favorite spots, even your town loyalties. Throw in work and life and it’s easy to forget how it feels to spend a day in a seaside town, strolling the sidewalks, peering into shop windows, stopping for coffee or ice cream, poking around a gallery, buying something new, even seeing a film or a play – before or after a delicious restaurant meal, of course.

This year I spent my tourist day in the town with two names – Tisbury, aka Vineyard Haven. Tisbury is the official town name, a holdover from the days when Tisbury was much larger, encompassing North and West Tisbury as well as the village by the harbor known as Holmes Hole until 1871, and Vineyard Haven thereafter. When Tisbury shrank and Vineyard Haven grew, the two became nearly one and the same.

No matter what it’s called, the town has a special place in my heart. I can remember visiting the Island 25 years ago, walking off the ferry and onto Main street, and browsing at the old (huge!) Bunch of Grapes bookstore, walking up the tiny staircase to the second floor of Bramhall & Dunn to ogle the Irish wool sweaters and cashmere throws, perusing the dishes and gadgets at Bowl & Board (once a livery stable, now empty), grabbing a bite at Café Moxie.

The cafe's logo is based on an old Tisbury post card. Ray Ewing

But it wasn’t nostalgia that drew me to Tisbury this year. It was rumors. Of course – nostalgia and rumors are pretty much what we live on, right?! Seriously, I did hear of new spots opening and old spots freshening up – not to mention places friends loved that I’d never checked out. But what got me on my feet was learning that La Strada — the Italian-inspired café, charcuterie and wine bar coming from the Salvatore’s Ristorante folks – was finally opening on Main street. That was all I needed to call a friend and meet her there for coffee. And then I was off.

Alas, I didn’t cover nearly as much ground as I would have liked to, so my highlights here (reduced down like a good sauce) are just that – a few gems; there is plenty more to eat, see and do in Tisbury. One day is not enough time!

Eat & Drink

Grab a coffee and a bottle of olive oil at the same time. Ray Ewing

The newest restaurant opening on Main street is La Strada, a triple-duty café-deli-wine bar opened at 65 Main street by Salvatore della Tore and Dusan Veselinovic, the proprietors of Salvatore’s Ristorante around the corner at 20 Union street. Right now they are leading with excellent coffee in the mornings, house-made paninis and salads all day, prosciutto and other charcuterie to go and a handsome floor-to-ceiling wall of shelves filled with Italian pastas, olive oils and other items you would expect to find in a fine Italian grocery.

Paninis are the main menu item at La Strada. Ray Ewing

Even though there aren’t many tables in the small space, it has the vibrant feel of a European café, so I’d elbow your way in. And if you know Salvatore’s food, you know those paninis are really good. Stand by for the opening of the downstairs wine bar, where you’ll be able to order a glass or a bottle and sample a cheese board or dessert at the same time. Currently open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., seven days a week.

The next new place to open – potentially by the time you have this in your hands or soon after – is 9 Craft Kitchen & Bar, brought to you by Joe and Emily Monteiro of Edgartown’s 19 Raw Oyster Bar and 19 Prime Cast Iron Steakhouse. The Monteiros jumped at the Vineyard Haven opportunity when the former Copper Anchor space at the Mansion House Inn became available. Emily told me that Matty Stencil will be the executive chef and the food will be new world cuisine – a blending of cultures and ingredients.

Entrees like this lobster pappardelle are in the works for the 9 Craft Kitchen menu. 9 Craft Kitchen

In addition to renovating the new space – at warp speed – Joe and Matty have been busy developing potential recipes like chicken satay and lobster pappardelle (pictured here). With 9 Craft’s location and the restaurant group’s reputation for fine food and service, it will undoubtedly be both a drop-in and destination spot anchoring the head of Main street.

While you’re poking around Main street, tuck down the public walkway right before the Old Stone Bank. You’ll find yourself in a lovely little pedestrian park, where you can check on the status of El Barco, a new taqueria under construction and slated to be open this summer.

Beyond Main street: Did you miss the reopening of the ArtCliff Diner on Beach Road last year? If you did, be sure to stop in, sit at the new “bar” for your pancakes and crêpes and wish chef/owner Gina Stanley a happy 81st birthday. Oh, wait – Gina’s not turning 81, the diner is! The diner is open Thursday to Monday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Somehow I missed last year’s July fourth opening of The Ice Box, an ice cream shop next door to the Tisbury Tox Box in Tisbury Marketplace. It gets my vote for best new business name. I’m definitely stopping by soon (it just opened for the season), because co-owner Alex Salop told me their most popular flavors are chocolate-lovers chocolate – a rich chocolate ice cream with brownie truffles, chocolate cookie crumbles and fudge – and peanut butter pie – peanut butter ice cream with chunks of peanut butter cup and graham crackers. Sold. Check for hours.

I’m also very excited that Spring Sheldon (of the El Gato Grande food truck and S&S Kitchenette) will be taking over The Larder space at 342 State Road this summer, creating a business called The Model Deli , which I’m sure will reflect her fresh and energetic style.


On my walk around town, I had to force myself not to go into Bunch of Grapes Bookstore, The Beach House and LeRoux at Home – the three stores that have the power to lure me into town when I’m not simply on a walkabout. I also had to pass by The Shoe Store, which was very hard.

The Seven Sisters sells bed linens and other housewares in addition to clothing, with an emphasis on artisan, sustainable, handmade goods. Ray Ewing

But as a result, I wandered into The Seven Sisters (19 Main street), which a friend had recommended to me, and I found myself in the most soothing atmosphere of beautiful clothes (vintage kimonos!), bedding and home goods. Designer Ty Sinnett is filling her store with ethically produced and carefully sourced apparel (often handmade) and décor, and it feels very natural and undemanding, unlike many retail experiences. Antique pine furniture and soft lighting add to the warm ambience. Open Thursday to Monday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

On my way out of Seven Sisters, I noticed the “coming soon” sign for Weatherly Supply Co. in the window of the little shop at 9 Main street next to the restaurant space. And across the street, between Brickman’s and Bryn Walker at 12 Main street, two new Brazilian clothing boutiques have opened side by side. Gata Fields and Lapie offer both casual and more formal wear for women.

The work of local artists and artisans is tucked all over Vineyard Haven, sometimes in places you wouldn’t expect. Pop off of Main street onto Church street so that you don’t miss the exhibits of fine artists at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse. The Playhouse Art Space will show the work of oil painter Billy Hoff from May 29 to June 28 (with an opening reception on June 5 at 5 p.m.) followed by Harry Seymour from July 3 to August 10. The art space is open 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A new gallery, Bent Wing Pottery, opened up at 5 Beach Road last summer and just reopened for the season. With 30 Island artists on the roster, there’s always something new at Martha’s Vineyard Made at 29 Main street.


Lucky for you, there’s more for you to do on your Tisbury day than eat, shop, and walk. But you’ll have a hard time choosing just one activity between the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse, and the Martha’s Vineyard Museum each offering something new this month.

At the Film Center (79 Beach Road), The Martha’s Vineyard Environmental Film Festival takes place from May 23 to May 26. It will screen some incredible films, including Every Little Thing , Farming While Black , and Giants Rising . The SPECTRUM Film Festival, honoring Pride month, happens later in June.

Upcoming at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse (24 Church street) is The Lesson, written and performed by Tyrone Davis, Jr., on June 7 and 8, followed by Courage: A Play Based on the Life of “Peter Pan” Author J.M. Barrie, on June 14 and 15. Playwright Kathleen McGhee-Anderson’s Miss Maybelline’s Nocturnal Flights of Fancy will run from July 13 to August 10.

I chose to spend a couple hours at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum on my Tisbury day.

Doherty Hall, the barn gallery at the Martha's Vineyard Museum, contains fascinating oversized items, including the first horse-drawn Edgartown hearse and the original Margot Datz murals from the Hot Tin Roof. Susie Middleton

If you live here year-round and tend only to go up to the museum when guests are in town or when a special event is going on (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), I highly recommend visiting on your own someday. The day I went it was raining lightly, highlighting the lush green growth in the Rose Styron garden, arresting against the gray and tan stones of Lew French’s stonework. I was drawn to the open doors of the big barn in back known as Doherty Hall.

The exhibit, Sailing to Freedom: Maritime Dimensions of The Underground Railroad, opens June 8. Martha's Vineyard Museum

Looking up and all around at the outsized objects displayed there, I felt that childlike awe I used to experience in the Washington, D.C. museums I grew up exploring. I was particularly impressed by an 1836 horse-drawn hearse – the first ever in Edgartown – and Mayhew’s peddler’s cart that made deliveries from Alley’s General Store to up-Island homes. And more: the giant steering wheel from the 1902 steam-powered ferry Uncatena , a headlamp from an Island locomotive, whale vertebrae, and so many boats, including a racing whaleboat. There’s a whole wall of old Vineyard signs – and up in the rafters, Margot Datz’s original panels from the Hot Tin Roof grace the ceiling.

Of course there’s an amazing roster of rotating exhibits inside the museum, including Clifford: Our Big Red Dog which runs through September 8. Right now, Peter Simon’s portraits are on exhbit. And I am most looking forward to coming back to view Sailing to Freedom: Maritime Dimensions of The Underground Railroad, a traveling exhibit that originated at the New Bedford Whaling Museum and is based on the work of Dr. Timothy Walker, who’s book of the same title helped to illuminate the lesser known stories and coastal routes of those enslaved people who escaped by water. The exhibit runs from June 8 through September 22.

If you’re supercharged with energy, you may still have time for a round of mini golf at the Cove Golf & Grill, a walk in the West Chop Woods, a class at the Vineyard Haven Public Library, or even a round of nine holes at Mink Meadows Golf Club. But like I say, I think you need more than one day to enjoy Tisbury.


Susie Middleton is editor of the Vine.