Island Kitchen keeps The Counter on Main Street cooking.
Through a set of farmhouse-style screen doors at the top of Main Street, you’ll find a laminate lunch counter that’s exactly the same as it’s been for decades. With cat clocks twitching their tails on the wall behind the counter, every stool will likely be occupied by diners taking their first bite of a cheesy tuna melt or toasted PB and J. Located within Nantucket Pharmacy downtown, The Counter on Main Street is one of the steadfast connections to old Nantucket. And thanks to Patrick Ridge of Island Kitchen, that’s not changing anytime soon.
This winter, former Counter owner Pete Van Dingstee decided to step down after twenty-two years at the helm of this community hub. When Nantucket Pharmacy’s owner Alan Bell, who also owns the pharmacy location across from Island Kitchen, asked if Ridge was interested in taking it over, the answer was easy. “I think for us it was a nice extension of what we already do,” says Ridge, who reopened The Counter this past January. “And that’s what was so appealing to us.” Ridge recalls the first time he came to eat at The Counter on Main Street nineteen years ago when he first moved to Nantucket. He was working as a cook at Le Languedoc and enjoyed popping into The Counter between shifts to slurp down a delicious chocolate frappé. Nearly twenty years later, Ridge is committed to continuing this tradition of serving up Nantucket-flavored nostalgia.
“First and foremost, we wanted to make sure that The Counter was here to stay,” Ridge says. “With that was the idea of keeping the standard classics: the simple grilled cheeses, toasted peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, and tuna melts.” The Counter will also keep turning out the staples like a toasted onion bagel sandwich with scallion cream cheese, tomato, salt, pepper and bacon. “We also wanted to expand the offering to pressed sandwiches, salad bowls and add our homemade ice cream,” Ridge explains.
Perhaps in honor of the frappés he loved all those years ago, Ridge has made ice cream a cornerstone to the new and improved Counter. Whipping up as much as eighty gallons of handmade ice cream every day, all year-round at his Island Kitchen location, Ridge will be serving up ten to twelve homemade flavors at The Counter this summer. So while licking the sprinkles off your double scoop of rocky road, you can still relish in the idyllic version of America that is often only found in a Norman Rockwell painting. “There’s a nice sense of connection and community there,” Ridge says, “and that’s what I really like.”
Due to the coronavirus, The Counter at the Pharmacy is closed until shelter-in-place safety measures are lifted. In the meantime, Ridge and his team have been helping feed Nantucket’s students who depend on the school breakfast and lunch program. Read about Ridge and his IK Team’s inspiring work here.