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The Best of Cape Cod

Tara Donne The Wellfleet Marketplace.

Photo: Tara Donne

Where to Eat

Haute Cape Cuisine

Abba, in Orleans, is widely touted as the Cape’s best restaurant. Israeli-born chef Erez Pinhas dips into his heritage for dishes like falafel in a tahini-amba sauce, then spins the globe to Asia; his shrimp-and-lobster pad thai has a cultlike following. The small restaurant fills up fast, so if you can’t get a reservation, ask for a seat at the tiled bar. Red Pheasant Inn, in a 200-year-old ship’s chandlery in Dennis, sources ingredients from local producers including Not Enough Acres Farm down the road. It’s worth the wait for a table at Terra Luna in North Truro, where Raina Stefani serves up creative concoctions like ancho-and-coffee–rubbed New York strip steak or roasted free-range chicken with bread pudding. With 18 tables in a Cape Cod cottage, the Nauset Beach Club Restaurant in East Orleans is a tough reservation to score. Don’t miss the northern Italian trattoria’s risotto of the day—green peas and fontina cheese one night, wild boar with funghi the next. Set in the basement of a Victorian house, Provincetown’s Front Street is owned by Donna Aliperti and Kathleen Cotter, who can usually be seen in the kitchen making dishes like pan-seared salmon with Swiss chard dumplings, white bean coulis, and sage. For sushi as fresh as it gets, Inaho, in Yarmouthport, has the requisite shoji screens and a Japanese garden out back. Another great sushi spot is Mac’s Shack in Wellfleet, which also serves dishes like coconut-curried scallops and tuna-mango “martinis.” When you’re in a pearly mood: Chatham’s Impudent Oyster, Wellfleet’s Wicked Oyster, and Hyannis’s Naked Oyster are three of the best seafood sources on the Cape. Try to get a table overlooking the sandy beach at the Ocean House Restaurant, in Dennisport, and go deep into the land of fusion. (Roasted black cod with edamame ravioli and miso-truffle broth, anyone?) Consider a jacket and tie for an evening at Twenty-Eight Atlantic, in Chatham’s Wequassett Resort, where dishes range from black-truffle risotto to Chatham day-boat scallops with peekytoe crab, mâche, and a lemon-tarragon emulsion.

Seafood Shacks

At the best joints, the menu doesn’t vary much—fried, fried, and more fried—plus lobster rolls and coleslaw. Cap’t Cass Rock Harbor Seafood is a funky BYOB in Orleans with wood floors, shelves lined with old seashells, handwritten menus taped to the walls, and colorful buoys covering the exterior. Get there on time because the hours are strict (11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch; 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. for dinner). Before you head to the beach, pick up lobster rolls to go from Nickerson’s Fish & Lobsters in Chatham. An insider’s secret, Sesuit Harbor Café is hidden in a Dennis marina, with picnic tables by the water. Order the fried lobster tail at Arnold’s Lobster & Clam Bar, in Eastham—a hit since it opened in 1976. Its new competition is Catch of the Day, in a nearby fish market in South Wellfleet. Liam’s at Nauset Beach, set right between the sand and the parking lot, has legendary onion rings. A couple of other addresses to keep in mind: Sir Cricket’s Fish & Chips, in Orleans, and Provincetown’s Townsend Lobster & Seafood, whose owner, Chris Townsend, runs lobster-catching tours on his fishing boat.

Breakfast

Bonatt’s Bakery & Restaurant, in Harwichport, is nothing to look at—but its sugarcoated Meltaway rolls are dreamy. Another famously decadent breakfast treat: the buttery, cinnamony, muffin-shaped Dirt Bomb donuts at Cottage Street Bakery in Orleans. (Faithful followers have sleuthed out the recipe and make them back at home.) An all-you-can-eat buffet reels them in to Laura & Tony’s Kitchen, in Eastham, in an airy 1970’s-style A-frame across from the Wellfleet Drive-In Theatre (still showing movies all summer).

(Not Just) Lunch

The Dunbar Tea Shop in Sandwich is perfect for afternoon tea, complete with scones and clotted cream. Antique pots line the walls of the yellow 1800’s carriage house. In a tiny cottage with trompe l’oeil rugs painted on the floor, the Brewster Fish House is always packed at dinner; locals know to come during the day. Although it has zero atmosphere, Harwichport’s Talk of the Town Café, wedged between a CVS and a hardware store in a strip mall, sells the best cup of chowder on Cape Cod. The neon-lit exterior of the Lobster Pot, in Provincetown, makes it an often-photographed spot. Order the lobster as God intended it—steamed, with drawn butter on the side.

Picnic Supplies

When the basket demands foie gras or artisanal cheeses, check out the Brown Jug, a gourmet grocery in Sandwich. They’ll also put together a basket for you, complete with cloth napkins and a corkscrew. For simpler fare, try the Osterville Cheese & Sandwich Shop, with a white-and-yellow awning out front and a wide selection of cheeses and wraps. Peter O’Donovan relocated from Ireland to open Chatham’s Nantucket Wild Gourmet & Smokehouse, where he cures heavenly organic salmon on-site.

Afternoon Delights

Practically every town has an old-school ice cream shop with picnic tables outside.

There are vintage black-and-white photos on the walls and birdhouses hanging in the trees at Schoolhouse Ice Cream & Yogurt, in Harwichport, where the intoxicating rum-raisin and Irish-whiskey flavors are for adults only. Sundae School Ice Cream serves unusual varieties like ginger and has three locations across the Cape: the original in Dennisport, plus outposts in Harwichport and East Orleans. In a former blacksmith’s shop in Centerville, Four Seas Ice Cream is the place for Kennedy sightings.

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