The Menemsha Galley, midway through its 72nd year of operation, is tucked away on the western side of Martha’s Vineyard in the fishing village of Menemsha. The Galley sits right on the edge of Menemsha basin and has a porch out back where customers can enjoy their meal overlooking the harbor.
In 2018, Tony Saccoccia bought the Galley from the long-time owners, the Fenner family, and brought on Jack O’Malley to manage it. The little food shack gets busiest at the end of the day, with crowds looking for burgers, shakes, seafood, and soft serve to eat while watching the sunset from Menemsha Beach.
To maintain the nostalgia of the Galley, the partners have made few changes to the running of the place. The first time Saccoccia visited the Galley, he said, was around 1987 and his regular order was a hotdog and lemonade. “Everyday I meet someone who tells me a story about how they’ve been coming here for 50 years,” said O’Malley. “The fish sandwich seems to jar a lot of memories, and of course the soft serve.”
“Fun is the first word that comes to mind,” Saccoccia said. “It’s great for adults, it’s great for children. They can go ‘round the corner and catch crabs or go to the beach. It’s a routine. It’s a lifestyle down here.”
O’Malley and Saccoccia aim to maintain the Galley’s authentic simplicity that generations of visitors and locals cherish. Saccoccia and O’Malley were keen on remaining true to the original feeling of the Galley. “It’s very personal,” O’Malley said. “Tony and I feel a sense of stewardship. The Galley has been around a long time. It’s a landmark.”
Fielding Covid-19 safety protocols and understaffing have been hallmark woes of restaurateurs throughout the 2021 summer season on the Cape and Islands, but O’Malley and Saccoccia have counted themselves lucky. “Staffing at the Galley seems to be a tradition,” O’Malley said. “People pass these jobs on to family and friends. We’re blessed with our staff.” A full staff, which is sprinkled with O’Malley’s wife and four children at various times, is a testament to how well the restaurant was run under the Fenners and now under Saccoccia and O’Malley. “There are people whose grandparents worked here, whose parents worked here and now the grandkids are working here,” Saccoccia said. “It’s multigenerational. It’s definitely an institution.”
The Menemsha Galley is open seven days a week, 11am to 8 pm at 515 North Road, Chilmark. For more information and to order online visit menemshagalley.com or call 508-645-9819.