If you're ever lucky — or determined — enough to brunch at Nantucket's remote Wauwinet Inn, the lobster roll and bloody Mary from the acclaimed Topper's Restaurant is exquisite and worth the $41 price.
It's not just that the lobster tastes like all-claw and the bloody Mary is the right blend of pepper and hot sauce (and vodka), you pay for the view of Nantucket Harbor from the eastern end of the island, a scene that has remained about as close to the turn of the 19th century as any on the much-developed East Coast.
Rich in history that dates to a local whaling industry and set such iconic families as Macy, Folger and Starbuck on the rest of America, Nantucket and its modern aversion to well, modernity, has captured in a time capsule the best of old New England. That is, the best of old New England that the island's eclectic mix of year-rounders and mega-wealthy who summer here want to capture. (The island's governing bodies have established among many local rules a prohibition on any chains with over 14 stores nationwide — except that rascal Ralph Lauren — and tight restrictions on how building exteriors can look.)
But we commonfolk have more chance than ever in the 12-mile-long island's 400-year history to sneak in and take an extended (long weekend?) peek. Nonstop flights from New York City's JFK Airport and from Boston on JetBlue now fly daily. A second daily flight will be added later this month. The roundtrip cost of about $225-250 is almost half the price to take your car to the island via the car ferry from Hyannis, Mass. (It's $400.)
The flights aren't the only good deals Nantucket yields these days. A newly-formed resort empire consolidated in the last decade from existing hotels and cottages on the island by a Boston-based real estate mogul (the Karp family, which has long summered on the island) now offers very advantageous "shoulder season" deals.
Two boutique hotels in particular, the White Elephant in the center of town and the aforemention Wauwinet Inn about as far from town as this small island will allow, are five-star in both body and mind and stays can begin in $175-225 per night range during the months that surround peak season.
The smart traveler will love those deals, but will still have to dish out big bucks for breakfast, lunch and dinner tabs. Nantucket exudes wealth and its restaurant's menus seem up to a challenge of greeting that wealth with haute cuisine. Creative, highend highballs round out most offerings, admirably and expensively whetting the palette. (Big drinkers need not apply.)
Every ugly rich man knows the price of beauty (just like every poor man knows the price of luxury; the difference is only one can afford the cost).
That is Nantucket, beauty with a price. Luckily for most of us, its beauty has become more accessible in recent years. Just make sure to pick your spots for lobster wisely.
(A more contemplated — and organized — review of my trip to Nantucket, which took place from the time I left Trenton, N.J., at 8:30 a.m. last Friday, until I got back home at 7:30 p.m. last night, will appear in the near future in the travel section of Metro's print edition.)