The Pleasures of Autumn

We arrived a little early, just two other tables and three stools at the counter were occupied. Wait staff was doing final prep and Chef de Cuisine Todd Edwards and his staff were busy at the open kitchen. You can see all the action from every seat in the house at Black-eyed Susan’s: performance art that results in a delicious meal!

Co-owners Jeff Worster and Susan Handy have operated this island classic for more than 20 years. Every season their creative and internationally inspired dishes earn them more loyal patrons. For many, a meal at Black-Eyed Susan’s is a must on every trip to Nantucket: something you just can’t miss.

Breakfast begins at 7am here at 10 India Street. Lucky for us it’s September. During July and August there’s likely to be a wait, even at this early hour, but it’s usually short because service here is efficient. Morning favorites for those who like a sweet start include Sourdough French Toast with orange Jack Daniels butter and cinnamon pecans and Buttermilk Pancakes with berries and maple syrup.

But this eatery primarily serves the savory, so you can begin your day with Pennsylvania Dutch Pancakes with Jarlsberg cheese, Eggs Benedict, Huevos Rancheros, Corned Beef Hash + Eggs, or an omelette or scramble (try the Thai Green Curry Coconut) with Santa Fe Hashbrowns (black-eyed peas, cheese, pico de Gallo, and sour cream). Their orange juice is freshly squeezed, and the coffee here is not only good, it’s bottomless!

Dinner service starts promptly at 6pm, but well before that hour, anyone wandering down Centre Street is going to notice the amazing aromas wafting down from 10 India. Why not let yourself be drawn around the corner to see what’s on for the evening?

We began our meal with a delightful mix of summer and autumn that was the perfect taste profile for September. Organic Baby Kale Salad replete with herbs and lots of roasted pistachios is tossed in just enough lavender-plum vinaigrette to coat the leaves. This is a tasty way to get your greens.

We’ve not much experience with Japanese cuisine, so Chef Edwards’ Okonomiyaki was a revelation. A popular bar snack in Japan (so we’re told), this “grilled as you like it” pancake is filled with Napa cabbage, scallions, and ginger along with big chunks of rock shrimp yet remains light and fluffy. The flavorful cake is made even more delicious with bacon across the top and zigzags of kewpie mayonnaise and okonomi sauce. The umami is upped with bonito flakes strewn across. Did we mention how well this place does savory? The perfect accompaniment to this treat is a cold brew, so pick up a few bottles on your way—Black-Eyed Susan’s is BYOB.

We had trouble picking a favorite: two dishes tied for top billing. The Crispy Summer Squash arrives breaded and fried and placed on top of creamy whipped goat cheese. It’s beautifully plated with cornichons, cilantro, and bright orange hot sauce. We love the contrasts: the crisp and creamy textures and the heat cooled by the goat cheese. The name Marinated Organic Cauliflower just doesn’t do this justice to our other top pick. Yes, that is what it is, but it led us expect something like you’d get on a crudités plate. We couldn’t have been more wrong. Presented in a graceful bowl, the florets, marinated in vinegar, olive oil, and thyme, are cool and crunchy—a crumble of sesame dukkah adds a toasty earthiness. Underneath is a delicious beet hummus, and on top are spears of pickled onion and micro greens.

Entrees at Black-Eyed Susan’s are evenly divided between seafood and meat. If you want a light meal after one of their hearty appetizers or are hungry enough for an extra course, they have three standards that can be ordered in full or half portions. All three are fantastic, which, of course, is why they have been on the menu for as long as we can remember: Whole Leaf Caesar Salad, Capellini with tomatoes, basil, and garlic, and Linguini with Local Quahogs. When we order from this section, we tend toward the linguini and clams—it’s one of the best preparations of this dish we’ve ever had.

Portions here are generous, and every bite of each entree we ordered was delicious! The accompaniments are perfectly matched to the star of the show and, in some cases steal the show.

The Smokey Atlantic Salmon is slathered with horseradish butter and nestled into a bed of tender caraway spaetzle offset with a crunch of red cabbage. On top of the fish is a generous dollop of fig mostarda that adds a touch of spicy sweetness. We spread the fig mixture across the salmon to get some of this lusciousness in every bite.

We love the Seared Atlantic Halibut served simply (fresh fish well seasoned, who needs more?) over a smooth potato puree spiked with Old Bay. Small cubes of firm, fresh zucchini are scattered across the fish and around the plate, with drizzles of bacon vinaigrette and baby basil. As one of our party commented: this is like meat-and-potatoes for fish lovers.

Chef Edwards’ Citrus Rosemary Chicken is deliciously succulent with temptingly crisp skin. The dish is prepared with chicken thighs, so there’s more flavor in the moist meat than with breasts. The tasty mushroom and spinach risotto underneath has the perfect balance: at once toothsome and creamy. Pomegranate molasses stirred into the jus adds a whisper of sweetness, and toasted pine nuts are the final touch.

The ragout of roasted eggplant and San Marzano tomatoes is superb with the Black Angus Sirloin. We love the thick rounds of polenta that are served alongside fried to a crisp golden brown on the outside and fluffy inside. This dish is best when you include some of the ragout and a ring of pepperoncini with each bite of steak.

We adore the desserts served at Black-Eyed Susan’s. They don’t change much year-to-year, but, really, why would they? They’re delicious as they are. There’s a dense and delicious Chocolate Pot de Creme served with freshly whipped cream and cookies. And, even better, housemade Sorbet or Gelato with a grilled flour tortilla slathered with butter and liberally dusted with cinnamon sugar. The flavor of the gelato or sorbet does change: this visit we had a Pumpkin, Walnut, Peanut Butter Gelato that was marvelous!

Stroll down Centre Street, turn onto India away from town, and follow the tempting aromas. You can’t miss it. And you shouldn’t!

Black-Eyed Susan’s
open through late-October at 10 India Street
stop by or call 508-325-0308 for reservations
Breakfast daily 7am-1pm; prices range from $8.50 to $15
Dinner Mon.-Sat. from 6-10pm; Entree prices range from $26 to $29
BYOB, corkage fee • Cash or checks only, no credit cards
black-eyedsusans.com