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Holy Rollers: Grace Church

I didn’t believe the hype.

My friend first brought the hype to my attention in early July: Yankee Magazine had christened the Friday night lobster rolls at Grace Church the best in New England. I was curious but skeptical: were the nice church people getting a charity vote? Was the editor’s great-auntie on the church lobster roll committee?

Off we headed to Vineyard Haven on a Friday night: my friend, her mother, my husband, and I. We expected a long line, but there was none. It felt strange approaching a church for a dinner several calibers above “spaghetti supper” or “pancake breakfast.”

Looks like a pretty normal church, right? Except for the shingles.

...But it holds a secret!

For fifteen dollars, Grace Church will give you a lobster roll, chips, and a drink—iced tea or lemonade. Pie’ll cost you extra. Into the parish house you go…

…And a friendly volunteer will present you with a lobster roll.

Apron: "Have you hugged an Episcopalian today?"

The air was hot and stuffy in the dining room, so we crammed ourselves onto a bench outside. After we set down the tray, we sized up our supper. The lobster rolls were of a generous size, with fresh pink meat spilling over the top of the bun.

Yum.

Could the quality match the quantity? We chewed. The lobster meat was sweet, firm, and fresh, perfectly seasoned with salt and white pepper. (Really—I wrote “firm, sweet” on my notes in three different places without realizing it.) A little mayo held the sandwich together. No fillers, simple hot dog bun. Grace Church had given us both incredible quality and generous quantity: This was the Holy Grail of lobster rolls, for the low price of fifteen dollars.

Everyone said “Alleluia.” Angels sang. My friend was converted. Formerly not a lobster roll eater, she went back to buy a second for the next day’s lunch.

After eating this glorious lobster roll, I believe the tee shirt one parishioner was wearing. Jesus was an Episcopalian.

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Hot damn! The Menemsha Fish Market

Martha’s Vineyard offers a treasure trove of delights to visitors: endless shoreline, nature walks, alpacas, one Eurasian eagle owl, sunsets, and lobster rolls. For the latter two pleasures, one is hard-pressed to beat the joys of Menemsha.

Menemsha, a fishing village on the west side of the island, is the home of the aptly-named Menemsha Fish Market. To get there for supper, one must compete with throngs of tourists and locals for parking. I’m not going to sugarcoat it: It gets vicious. There are lots of New Yorkers, well-known to be the most competitive people in the Americas. Also, Menemsha smells pretty bad if you’re downwind of all the bait.

But, oh, the reward! Once you place your order at the fish market—and I strongly recommend a couple of local oysters and the hot lobster roll with a cup of clam chowder—you can visit Lobsterzilla, the biggest darn lobster you ever did see, who lives in the tanks of the fish market. He has barnacles!

We had planned to take our meal and eat it on the beach, so it was a little awkward when I was handed three slippery oysters on a paper plate. (I ordered two—thanks, Menemsha Fish Market!) I slurped ’em down right there in the crowded store. They were tiny, and the sweetest, briniest, freshest oysters I ever did eat. I was crazy for those oysters. Gaga. Head over heels.

Soon after, our lobster roll was ready and we shlepped to the beach to join our friends. We weren’t sure what to expect, although the chalkboard menu had promised it would be “unforgettable.” The preparation was disarmingly simple: a small hotdog bun filled with warm, plump lobster meat, and a side of melted butter.

Artsy photo, eh?

The menu hadn’t lied. This lobster roll was transcendent. The meat was sweet and firm; the butter was, well, buttery; the humble hot dog bun complemented and did not overwhelm the supremely fresh, delicate lobster. The chowder was also delicious—not too thick and generous with clams.

(We visited the Menemsha Fish Market again for the regular lobster roll. It was fresh, but not unforgettable. Forget it and get the hot roll.)

After we finished our seafood feast, we sat back and enjoyed the sunset.

We weren't the only ones taking pictures.