The newest restaurant on Main Street – or, The Whale – is sure to make a splash.
Main Street’s newest dining destination has the Whaling Museum to thank for its name. George Kelly and his partners Nicholas Nass, Jamie Lee Nass, Emily Berger and Chef Emmanuel “Manny” Rojas were searching for something to call their new restaurant that connected to old Nantucket. Trawling the museum’s halls over the winter, they learned that Herman Melville originally titled his literary masterpiece The Whale and not Moby-Dick. The five partners were intrigued. Or, The Whale—as it appears as the subtitle to Moby-Dick—would not only be a unique nod to the island of yore, but it also spoke to the good old bones of their space on 38 Main Street. So it was that on Herman Melville’s 200th birthday, or, The Whale Bistro Bar Patio became downtown’s newest dining destination.
Many will remember 38 Main Street as the former digs of the Even Keel and, more recently, MET on Main. The space is a restaurateur’s dream, with a long bar, open air kitchen, elegant dining room and a sprawling back patio that’s rare on Nantucket. Or, The Whale’s team—let’s just call them “the Whalers” for short— fawned over the space for years. When it suddenly became available late last fall, they jumped at the opportunity to take it over and put their own spin on the historic space.
The Whalers aren’t new to Nantucket’s restaurant scene. Nantucket native George Kelly and longtime washashore Nicholas Nass worked at some of the hottest island restaurants—Corazon del Mar, the Boarding House, Nautilus, the Rope Walk, Cru—before opening their own restaurant, the Sandbar at Jetties Beach, two summers ago. Joined by Nass’s sister, Jamie, who helped open and manage the Sandbar, as well as Emily Berger, who bartended at Cru for six years, the Whalers are rolling deep in experience. Helming their kitchen is Chef Manny Rojas, who cut his teeth on Nantucket working alongside Chef Seth Raynor at The Pearl before serving as the chef de cuisine at Nautilus and then the executive chef at the Sandbar. Suffice it to say, the Whalers have picked up many ingredients along the way that they’ll be throwing into the mix at 38 Main Street.
Or, The Whale will be open year-round, serving brunch, dinner and late-night cocktails. The brunch menu is delightfully hearty, featuring scrumptious plates of buttermilk pancakes, brioche French toast and specialty donuts baked fresh every morning. For those in the mood for lunch, there’s an extensive sandwich menu with such standouts as blackened swordfish on a baguette and open-faced ham and brie on brioche. When dinner rolls around, the quintessential meal might begin with the fluke crudo with jalapeño, celery and coconut foam or the octopus a la plancha with chickpea stew and the mysterious “mojo sauce.” The main courses have a nice mix of surf and turf, ranging from lobster cavatelli to braised short ribs served with hen-of-the-woods mushrooms and Brussels sprouts.
All of these dishes can be enjoyed in the dining room, at the forty-five-foot bar, at the many high tops and on the patio where acoustic acts will regularly perform. The Whalers will complement their cuisine with local staff whom they’ve vigorously recruited throughout the winter and shared the positive attitude they wish to promote in their restaurant. They want or, The Whale to become a regular hangout for locals and tourists alike, and eventually one of those island institutions like they helped build elsewhere. The Whalers know that it will take time, but as their name suggests, or, The Whale is in it for the long haul.