I think the Bite, the little clam shack on Basin Road in Menemsha, is one of the first reasons I fell in love with the Island; at least it was the first time I considered a serious relationship with scallops. I’ll make no apologies: I know they’re fried, but I love them anyway.
Now every year right after Memorial Day, when the thermometer starts to head toward 70, I wander up to Menemsha at around 2:30 in the afternoon to see if the Bite is open for business. (I have to go at 2:30 pm because I’m much more likely to get a parking spot that time of day.)
I drove up a couple of weeks ago and had a lovely chat with Michael Flynn, who joked, “You know that name, don’t you,” alluding to our contentious political atmosphere. Michael and his sisters Jackie Morgan and Karen Flynn run the Bite, and have been at it for more than 25 years now, since Karen bought the place in 1988. The menu hasn’t changed a whole lot, and the most popular item is still the fried clams, although Michael said the Bite fries (baked potatoes cut up and deep-fried) are gaining popularity. But it’s the scallops that lure me into driving up to Menemsha from Vineyard Haven in the middle of the afternoon.
The tender, sweet bay scallops are local, which only makes them better. They’re deep-fried, but the flavor still shines through, and isn’t overwhelmed by the process. They’re so rich that I can order them mid-afternoon and I’m still not hungry well past dinnertime, which makes me feel even better about eating them.
The seafood at the Bite is awesome — Ipswich clams, local scallops, fish from Larsen’s — and the vibe is even more so. The staff is friendly, and since I like to go when it’s a bit less busy, I can usually count on a little conversation with Jackie, Karen, or Michael. I love how much they clearly enjoy working with the young staff, and how quick they are to laugh.
When I was there on my first trip this season (yes, I’ve returned twice already), I asked Michael what his favorite thing on the menu is: “I like the chicken sandwich,” he said. I was aghast. “Really?” I asked. “Oh yeah, and the fish sandwiches are great too.”
I already knew that.
The Bite, 29 Basin Rd., Chilmark. Open Monday-Friday, 11 am to 8 pm, but call ahead; they’re still rounding up summer staff, and close earlier some days. 508-645-9239.