Waterside Market: Sandwiches, takeout, and a mermaid

Waterside Market is open 362 days a year, making it one of the anchors of Vineyard Haven’s Main Street. The restaurant is celebrating its 10-year anniversary, and moved to its current location, just a few steps up the street from its first spot, three years ago. Now it offers outdoor seating, a great place to people-watch, and it adds a fair amount of additional seating to a restaurant that can get crowded as the season moves on. There’s a reason for that.

I stopped by the other day with my daughter at around 2:30 pm, because I knew that was an opportune time to get a good seat and a good sandwich. I haven’t had a single thing at Waterside that I didn’t like. The CAB, $11 (chicken, avocado, and bacon sandwich with ranch and melted Cheddar on ciabatta), is my personal favorite after trying literally every sandwich on the menu over the years. I like it because you can taste each individual ingredient, but they all go together. My daughter Cate always orders the Red, White, and Green, $10, a vegetarian option with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, fresh basil, and balsamic vinaigrette on a ciabatta (she adds red onions because she likes them with everything). The other thing I like about the sandwiches at Waterside is that they’re big enough that I can save half for later — not something I get away with at other restaurants. There are plenty of salad options that are hearty but also provide gluten-free and vegetarian and vegan options. The gluten-free Waterside Cobb, $14, is a meal by itself, with natural chicken over organic greens, crispy bacon, egg, tomato, blue cheese, and ripe avocado with housemade ranch dressing.

My second favorite sandwich — because I love food so much, I have a second favorite of everything — is the French Quarter, $12, with house-roasted beef, melted brie, organic greens, tomato, onion, and horseradish aioli on ciabatta. I like the vibe inside too. Waterside is a great place to meet people for coffee and a bite to eat. The cold case is filled with salads to go (try the curry chicken salad), and every conceivable juice possibility on the planet. And Waterside is open Fridays from 5 to 8 pm for burger night, serving up grass-fed beef from the FARM Institute and hand-cut french fries.

I ran into owner Stephen Bowen and his wife Susan on my trip to the restaurant last Monday. He admitted the CAB is his favorite sandwich too.

“I’ve had about 10,000 of them,” he laughed. Bowen also likes the breakfast options — everything from Cinnamon French Toast, $11, to Breakfast Burritos, $9, to Lobster Benedict, $22 (fresh lobster on a toasted English muffin with poached Grey Barn eggs, and hollandaise sauce).

Another Island restaurant owned by Bowen’s Just One Bite Restaurants, La Soffitta, an upscale Italian restaurant, is upstairs above Waterside, giving Bowen the best of both worlds. “It’s nice to have the two different environments,” Bowen said. “It lets you experience two different worlds.”

He said La Soffitta has found its rhythm after a couple of years. “We’ve got a great chef now,” Bowen said. Chef Salvatore Della Torre definitely brings authentic flavor to the restaurant. Both Waterside and La Soffitta have a rustic artisan feel that adds to the dining experience.

Bowen credits Waterside’s success with “consistency, and we use the freshest ingredients possible.” (They use fresh, local, and organic ingredients, and, for me anyway, I can taste the difference.)

And that life-size wooden mermaid who stands guard inside, she came up from West Palm Beach. “She goes with the whole waterside theme,” Bowen said.

Waterside Market, 82 Main St., Vineyard Haven. Open pretty much every day — just don’t make the trek on Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter — 7:30 am to 4 pm. 508-693-8899; watersidemarket.com.