Nantucket Today — Spring
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Restaurant Reporter
M. R. Stanton

Once again, those returning to the island for the first time since last fall are in for a few surprises on the restaurant scene.

If you're stepping off the Hy-Line on Straight Wharf and looking for The Ropewalk, that casual seafood restaurant that Jimmy Buffett was known to frequent, you won't find it. Proprietor Joe Pantorno, also owner of the Club Car, was ousted when his lease ran out and the place is undergoing a transformation into an upscale oyster bar and seafood restaurant, which will be known as Cru, with a stellar cast running it.

Erin Zircher, former chef at The Boarding House for the past seven years, and an amazing talent who has worked over the years with Ana Sortun of Cambridge's wonderful Oleana and Sofra Bakery, is the chef at Cru. Jane Stoddard, former general manager for Angela and Seth Raynor's Corazon del Mar and The Boarding House; and Carlos Hidalgo, also of those locations, will run the front of the house. An investment partner is Douglas Karp, whose family company, Nantucket island Resorts, owns the property.

As Ventuno was the new hot spot last summer, Cru will be the "musteat-at" place to try out this summer. Zircher will focus on fresh presentations of seafood using her classical French training and a Mediterranean flavor profile. If you are an oyster-lover (and who isn't?) this will be the place to go to savor those succulent crustaceans while gazing out across the harbor and watching the working waterfront. Expect to see improved ambiance at this premier location, as work on the building has been ongoing since late winter, so a more upscale look is sure to be in store when Cru opens in mid-May.

Meanwhile, The Boarding House is getting ready to celebrate its 20th anniversary with Seth Raynor back in the kitchen with a new chef he's training. Seth and Angela bought this property back in 1992 and turned it into one of the coziest bistros on the island with consistently good food and a welcoming atmosphere. Angela says the BoHo will feature a number of special lunches and dinners in their "20 Friends" concept of bringing in celebrity chefs, winemakers and farmers to help them celebrate this season. Barbara Lynch, Cat Silirie and Ken Oringer are some of the folks Angela mentioned, while their friends at Island Creek Oysters out of Duxbury will host an oyster roast. Happy anniversary!

Another favorite island restaurant celebrating 20 years is Susan Handy's Black-Eyed Susan's on India Street. She and Jeff Worster transformed this former diner (The Dory, Two Steps Up) into a chic ethnic- fusion eatery which has become incredibly popular over the years. The good news about Black- Eyed Susan's for 2012 is that this year the restaurant will be taking reservations for all three dinner seatings! Except for the first seating at 6 p.m., this has been a first-come, first-served operation for years, which has dissuaded some potential diners who didn't feel like hanging out on the sidewalk waiting for a table.

On Main Street, look for a Bostonbased restaurant concern to occupy the space that the Even Keel has been in for the past 10 years. The Metropolitan Club, with restaurants in the Back Bay, Natick, Chestnut Hill and Dedham, signed a lease with NIR and will open Met on Main in mid-June. The later opening is due to significant improvements the landlord and tenants are making to both the interior and exterior of the property and the patio and secret garden in the back where Met on Main has received approval to serve until 1 a.m. That'll be a nice place for a glass of wine and a bite to eat in the heart of the summer.

The other NIR property undergoing a big change this season is the old Cy's, formerly the Atlantic Café. Sea Dog Nantucket, an arm of Sea Dog Brewery, a small brewpub based out of Camden, Maine with several locations in the Boston area, looks to be the kind of spot the old Atlantic Café was, serving lunch and dinner with hearty sandwiches, moderately- priced entrées and a variety of microbrews from New England, including Nantucket's own beers from Cisco Brewery. With the opening of the new Dreamland movie theater right next door this spring, this should be a popular place.

Although he had been looking for a new tenant over the winter, Todd Arno says he will operate Easy Street Restaurant and Seafood House on Steamboat Wharf himself this season, and since Chris Morris did not renew his lease at Arno's at 41 Main, Arno said he'll be operating that location as well.

Morris has moved on to Nobadeer Farm Road, where he'll run The Pit Stop, a barbecue-to-go joint out of Wong's The Trading Post. Wong had featured Thai food there for years, but with the opening of The Thai House in the old Dancing Pickle spot right around the corner, plus the popularity of Siam to Go at the Nantucket Ice rink, also featuring Thai food, Wong felt the market was saturated, and leased the spot to Morris. Note that The Thai House is also serving sushi – nice for people living on that end of the island and in Sconset who won't have to go all the way into town for sushi.