Cape Cod roundup

the knob

Here’s a quick and dirty (and very incomplete) guide to Cape Cod — mainly eating and drinking, but a few sightseeing tips are thrown in as well. The towns are listed in approximate order moving from the Upper Cape to the Outer Cape (i.e., as if you were driving along from Boston towards Provincetown). For reference, it takes just under 1.5 hours to get from Boston to Falmouth and just over 1.5 hours to get from Falmouth to Provincetown in normal traffic conditions, which pretty well don’t exist between May and September.

Note: “Cape fare” = broiled seafood (scrod, scallops, shrimp), boiled and baked lobster, clams (chowder, fried, quahogs, steamers (usually a bit gritty), casino), burgers, fish and chips

  1. Pocasset/Cataumet
    • The Chart Room, 1 Shipyard Lane: This seasonal restaurant is a Cape tradition, open Thursday-Sunday from mid-May to Columbus Day, and full time mid-June to Labour Day. It occupies some prime, west-facing waterside real estate at the Kingman Yacht Center in Cataumet, so for dinner and a sunset, there’s no better spot. The Chart Room serves up standard Cape fare, but is famous for its lobster roll, which is not actually on the menu (just ask for it). There is a choice of “vehicle”, with the Portuguese bun being the recommended option. As far as cold lobster rolls go, this one is quite good and certainly one of the most massive. (If you’re more of a hot lobster roll person, try Neptune in Boston’s North End.) Request a table on the terrace if you don’t want to run the risk of having live music played too close to you. $$
  2. Mashpee
    • Bleu, Mashpee Commons, Nathan Ellis Hwy: Chef Frédéric Feufeu is authentically French and has managed to create a great, affordable bistro in a mall. The food is fantastic — rillettes $7, poached foie gras “au torchon” $13, salads $6-9, seared sea scallops $25, a striped bass special did not disappoint — and there’s a decent-sized wine list, mostly French and Californian. $$-$$$
  3. Falmouth is the “big” town at the shoulder of the Cape, and boasts an attractive main street, a relatively wide range of restaurants, the best grocery store in the area (Windfall Market), a cinema pub, the mediocre Cape Cod Winery and some kettle ponds.
    • The Golden Swan, 323 Main Street: Friendly, family run place. You’ll leave smelling like food, but good North Indian food. $$
    • Osteria La Civetta, 133 Main Street: Small osteria with warm, noisy atmosphere and small, seasonal menu. Salads ($7-10) are fresh, pasta and seafood dishes (spaghetti alla carbonara $14, merluzzo cod filet baked with potatoes, tomatoes, white wine and olive oil $15, tapenade-stuffed calamari) are enjoyable. Service is friendly but slapdash. $$
    • Coffee Obsession: 110 Palmer Ave (Falmouth) or 38 Water Street (Woods Hole). See Woods Hole. $
  4. Woods Hole is a village belonging to the town of Falmouth. It is in the “armpit” of the Cape (a purely geographic comment) and is where you catch the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard.
    • Landfall, 2 Luscombe Ave, on the water: Friendly waterfront restaurant with kitschy nautical decor, an extensive menu of reliable Cape fare, and a great view over Woods Hole Harbor. If you’re just going for a drink, grab what you want at the bar, then traverse the restaurant, exit through the back door and have a seat on the deck. $$-$$$
    • Captain Kidd, 77 Water Street: Similar to Landfall, but overlooking Eel Pond rather than the Harbour, and offering some more varied dishes in addition to the standard Cape fare. If you are in the market for some pirate t-shirts, this is the place to go. $$-$$$
    • Pie in the Sky, 10 Water Street: Bakery with good cookies, popovers, pastries, sandwiches and soups to eat in or take out. $
    • Coffee Obsession: 110 Palmer Ave (Falmouth) or 38 Water Street (Woods Hole). Cheerful coffee shop, good espresso drinks, okay pastries, DVD/video rentals, ceramics by a variety of local potters, including a woman who makes mugs out of sediments from deep-sea cores. Oddly, the coffee club memberships at the Woods Hole and Falmouth branches aren’t compatible — at least they weren’t in 2009, but this might have changed. $
    • The Knob: Spit of land jutting out between Buzzards Bay and Quisset Harbor with a pleasant, sandy beach along its north side.
  5. Chatham sits at the outer “elbow” of the Cape, and provides occasional Great White shark sightings. They come during summer months to feed on the local tourist seal colonies. We were told the best place to see seals is at the fishing pier, but we had more luck by the lighthouse.
    • Maps of Antiquity, 1409 Main Street (Route 28): Maps from around the world, with one entire local interest room that has things like a treasure map of Cape shipwrecks (think Goonies). You can browse their inventory online, and they provide framing and shipping services as well.
    • Gustare Oils & Vinegars, 425 Main Street: They supply little plastic cups to taste any of the 40+ extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars in the shop.
  6. Wellfleet, a quaint fishing village on the Outer Cape, is known for its eponymous bivalve, the Wellfleet oyster. Why not go right to the source to eat them?
    • Mac’s Shack, 91 Commercial Street: An out-of-the-way spot in a post and beam colonial, almost on the water (there’s a parking lot and an Iyengar yoga studio in the way) and with a pleasant patio. Great raw bar (wild Wellfleet oysters and Littleneck clams, $22/dozen) and sushi, very crispy fries and a small, rotating selection of seafood dishes. There is a bigger Mac’s operation beachside by the town pier. $$-$$$
    • PB Boulangerie Bistro, 15 Lecount Road: By all accounts excellent. The parallels to Bleu (Mashpee, see above) are certainly encouraging — it’s in a dubious location (on the highway) and the chef owners are French (from Lorraine and Lyon). $$-$$$
  7. Truro
    • Truro Vineyards, 11 Shore Road, Route 6A: Tastings, tours and shop (call for opening times). Some of the non-fruit-infused wines are okay, but nothing particularly memorable in the lot.

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