After closing for renovations, The Art Cliff Diner in Vineyard Haven is open again. Don’t worry all you Art Cliff enthusiasts! It is still The Art Cliff we know and love, but there have been a number of changes made. The diner is almost 70 years old, and with that big anniversary coming up, owner Gina Stanely thought that it was the perfect time to take care of some much needed work and some fun things too.
Diner History Art Cliff Style
First, a very brief history before we dive into the changes for those who may not be familiar with The Art Cliff. I didn’t know anything about its past and enjoyed getting a brief history.
The original diner was located in Edgartown, where the yacht club is, and was called Captain Brown’s. In 1943, Art and Cliff purchased it, and thus began the legacy of The Art Cliff Diner. Also, the diner moved to its current location that same year.
In 2000, Gina Stanley became the third owner of the iconic Art Cliff Diner. Since I moved to Martha’s Vineyard in 2003, Gina’s Art Cliff is the only one I’ve known and fallen in love with.
The Art Cliff has been closed for renovations for most of the Spring. For those of us who are here during that time, it was a little rough. Breakfast is kind of a big deal for many of us off-season and Artcliff is one of the best places on the Vineyard — and dare I say the Northeast — to enjoy that first meal of the day. Of course, I have to say that lunch is outstanding too.
Everytime I drove by the diner, I was hoping to see when it would open again. When I saw the “Open May 4th” sign, I was ecstatic to know I’d be having some pancakes and homemade chicken sausage again soon. Then I thought how great it was going to be to see all the things they did to the diner over the last couple of months, and luckily I was going to get a sneak peak.
The New Art Cliff Diner Unveiled
I was a bit nervous when I was about to meet Gina at the diner yesterday. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, and I wasn’t quite ready for a lot of change. When I walked in, I immediately noticed that there were some really fun changes, and the Artcliff was ready to welcome its 70th year with even more style. Also, it still looked like The Art Cliff we know and love — which I was relieved about. There is something so homey and welcoming about the space, and it still has that feeling but with a fresh coat of paint and a couple of fun upgrades.
The first thing I noticed was the wallpaper that is now on the back wall. It’s even more of a statement wall than it was before. The wall paper, which John Murphy from Tracker helped Gina pick out, is handmade recycled newspaper, which of course translates well for a diner. Think of the people that you’ll find lined up at the counter with their newspapers.
The wallpaper then inspired Gina to purchase a painting of a newsstand while in NYC, and it’s just the right thing for the space. When you’re at the counter, you’ll notice the stools have a bit more cushion to them. The old counter stools have been repainted, and the cushions have been redone. Gina said that there were twelve layers of seating on them, including the original seat material. Now they’re covered in a sleek black vinyl which looks fantastic with their new paint job, and they really are comfortable too.
Ok, another thing you’ll notice is the new carpet. Though subtle, it adds to the fresh feeling of the space. On a structural note, the entire floor is now level. Not the most fun renovation but a necessary one.
Back to the fun stuff. There is a new Formica countertop with circles, which is a fun mix of a modern and retro design. You’ll also find there are a couple of tables with coordinating formica tops. Some of the tables have been refinished, and look like new “old” pieces, and the tables with the Formica tops have bases are from the original diner, and they too have been refinished as well.
There is new paint on the walls, and even the bathroom has been repainted. It’s now a deep blue with a fun, funky little mirror. No more stickers – yet. You’ll also notice new menu boards for the specials. Gone are the two pieces of paper, replaced by fun, clear menu boards which are soon to be filled with tempting daily culinary delights. What you won’t see is that the kitchen has also gotten an upgrade – all new appliances. They are shiny and new – just waiting for egg yolk and pancake batter.
On the the walls, you’ll notice there are fewer pieces of art and that those classic diner signs above the counter have been removed from those old red frames and now have a total different look. Gina plans to rotate the art on the wall. She has a lot of pieces at home to use.
Two of my favorite wall items are an old Art Cliff menu from decades ago, and a framed photo a customer gave to Gina this past October. The customer, a woman in her 70’s, told Gina that she had been coming to the diner since she was a child, and it was a special place for her. She then sent a photo of her, and her brother, in front of the original diner. With almost 70 years of history, I can only imagine the memories and stories that people have of this iconic Vineyard eatery.
There have always been fun, eclectic pieces on the walls and on the tables — interesting old coffee cups, juice glasses, porcelain figurines and such. I always wondered how the pieces made their way to the diner. Turns out that Gina is a big collector of knickknacks and has been since she was a kid.
She loves finding pieces at thrift stores and yard sales, and adding them to the diner. She is a welcomed, frequent guest of Chicken Alley. All of these mismatched vintage pieces help add to that classic, comfy diner feel. Luckily she has an extensive collection at home from where she can grab pieces because a lot of the pieces from the diner become souvenirs for people.
Also, don’t forget to checkout the cool clock that will be added to the wall behind the counter. It’s being a little finicky so I don’t know if it’ll be there opening day. It will replace the silver one that’s been there.
On your next visit to The Art Cliff, be certain to take note of all the new things and enjoy all the things that have stayed the same — all in all a perfect blend of old and new. Also, you’ll notice all the familiar faces with the staff, including Helen, Elle, Kara, Cynthia, Lisa, Caitlyn, and the newest addition Fallon. Afterall, it’s the staff that keeps you coming back too. The Art Cliff still feels like coming home when you walk through the door.
Something to be excited about come Memorial Day — you will be able to take home Art Cliff Diner Maple Syrup. A little Artcliff in your own kitchen. Just looking at the bottle makes one smile. Talk about a delicious, fun soveniur for all of us who love the Art Cliff maple syrup! Yummy!