It was Thursday evening, which feels a lot like a Friday night around the Times’ office, and some of the production staff were talking about going out to Oak Bluffs to try the new Thursday Night Jazz Dinners at Sweet Life Cafe. I’d driven past the large white tent covered with sparkling white lights many times, and I thought, yes, I’d love to go. The heated tent means that you can dine outdoors and still stay warm when it’s pretty chilly outside, adding to the whole fairyland atmosphere. Besides, Jeremy Berlin and Rose Guerin were set to play some very catchy jazz tunes, and I could listen to them all night long.
We met up at the restaurant without ever going inside. Jeremy and Rose were up front under the tent and there were both low and high tables to choose from, all of them with a great view. I consider Sweet Life one of my favorite places to dine on the Island. It just feels special, and the food and drinks are what my grandmother would’ve called “fancy,” but without the super-high price point.
I asked our server to recommend a good cocktail (I said it was special) and she said “Bergamot Spritz.” This was perfect because I’ve been going through a bit of a bergamot phase lately — perfume, lotion, spray — and I could only imagine how lovely it would be. Not only was it refreshing and tasty, it was also a lovely peachy/yellow/orangey color. My dinner companion tried a couple of Negronis, classic and mezcal, because he’s into some of the heavier stuff. Once the drinks were decided, it was time to move on to the dinner menu.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I really love to choose three or four appetizers rather than one large meal; that way I get to try more options. With that mindset, I convinced my coworker to try a few of the bar snacks: Shrimp Toast ($10), Brussels sprouts ($9), and a rogue order of Duck Liver Mousse with candied cranberries and homemade nutella and toast points that happened to be suggested by staff. A coworker was completely onboard for the mousse dish — I love nearly all foods, but if the word “liver” is in the description I just can’t do it. (He swore it was absolutely delicious.)
In fact, everything we had was delicious. Everything. The Brussels sprouts were tiny and tender, and arrived in a large bowl, piping hot, with a delicious glaze that I spent too much time trying to decipher so that I could try replicating it at home. The shrimp toast was out-of-this-world good, with plenty of true shrimp taste throughout.
At another table, Times staffers enjoyed Spanish Octopus with chorizo, confit potato, frisee, brown butter, and olives ($17), Housemade Tortellini with Morning Glory arugula and anchovy crumble ($18), and Local Big-eye Bay Scallops in broth ($16). They were happy as clams with their order as well.
Hal and Erin Ryerson have been at the helm of Sweet Life since 2017, and their love of food pervades the menu. Erin was a journalist for a bit, so I feel like she knows food from a few different angles. They definitely have the hospitality side covered; the staff was attentive and knowledgeable, as well as easy to chat with.
With the fairy lights, the live jazz, the spritzer and the Brussels, I could’ve stayed longer than we did. And now we have a Thursday night go-to in the off-season.
Sweet Life Cafe, 63 Circuit Ave., Oak Bluffs. Dinner, 5:30 to 9 pm, Wednesday through Saturday; brunch 11 am to 2 pm, Sunday. 508-696-0200; sweetlifemv.com.