A Nantucket Institution, The Club Car has undergone a transformation that has created a stir in more than the kitchen. Generally speaking, people don’t like change. Me, I am so habitually acclimated to disruption that while I might not always embrace it, but I accept it. I was sad to learn that not everyone has warmed this latest iteration of The Car.
It’s storied history began in 1881 when Nantucket developed its first rail service in support of its burgeoning tourist industry. Modest in size, just two open air passenger cars, named Dionis after the wife of island’s settler, Tristram Coffin. The train first went out to Surfside and later Sconset. The service ran for 36 years until it was supplanted by the automobile.
The rail car, first stood alone at its new location on One Main Street, and served as a diner. Later the restaurant expanded, connecting to larger building, becoming the restaurant and piano bar that serves as the current day memory most hold dear. Keys banging, drinks splashing, the sound of Piano Man carried out the door and down the street on the hot breeze of a summer night. Add in a hangover, and you’ve got powerful memories of place.
Under new ownership, its the design that drew me in and had me crushing hard. Tharon Anderson, of Tharon Anderson Design, a native Nantucketer, is responsible in part, for the transformation. The co-mingling of her coastal roots, with the historic tones of the original cars interior are a far cry from the blood red enclave that preceded it. I love the high gloss paint that glints and sparkles like stars in the night sky on the car’s dome. The brass scones that line the interior in the form of a hand grasping a torch, the brass pipe fittings that hold the shelves of old fashioned glasses, and the industrial light fixtures that are a major feature of the main dining room’s design. Garden elements pop up in art work, and hanging planters. Pale blue leather seating – some of the most comfortable I have seen a restaurant dare to install, least their patrons refuse to leave, create an airiness to the overall space that is powerfully hypnotic.
The piano remains a fixture of the restaurant and patrons can lend their voice to performances twice daily – certain songs will cost you dearly, so select carefully. The food however diverges from the well worn track its predecessor laid. The Chef chose a largely gluten free menu, and a serious farm and fish to table commitment that drives the dishes.
Like a train chugging down the tracks, mindful consumption has a momentum that is changing the way we eat. I like Beef Wellington and Baked Alaska as much as the next guy or gal, but I really like the vitality and energy I get from eating clean. The new Club Car is a breath of fresh air. Given the chance, I bet your fall in love all over again.