It was 91 degrees today and, regardless of the date, we are shifting into summer mode and thinking about the beach, which for our family usually means Cape Cod. When I was growing up, my family would spend a couple of weeks each summer at whatever rental, some much more successful than others, my father had found over the winter. A highlight of the visit was always dinner at Thompson’s Clam Bar in Harwichport. Thompson’s was a Cape Cod institution, like Cape League Baseball and 4 Seas Ice Cream. Perched on a pier on Wychmere Harbor, it had the perfect balance of clubbiness, family friendliness, good food, and fresh salt air. I returned to the restaurant with my own children for a few summers until one day, we arrived to find that they had become a private club. It was a tragedy as far as we were concerned but it did force us to branch out on restaurant loyalty and find some new places to eat. Each year we add one or two more establishments to our list. So here is our family’s current list of favorite Cape Cod restaurants. Feel free to add your own ideas.
The Marshside– 28 Bridge Street,East Dennis, (508) 385-4010 – This restaurant underwent a complete transformation a couple of years ago from a great little joint to a perfect, spacious restaurant. It’s new Adirondack style with a massive front porch and open lodge-feeling interior, makes it a very pleasant stop. Nice bar to wait at if you don’t get seated immediately. Lots of seating adjacent to massive windows that look out over the marsh and on to part of the harbor. Good menu, reasonable prices, slightly dressy.
Sesuit Harbor Cafe- 357 Sesuit Neck Rd, Dennis, (508) 385-6134 – SHC is a classic clam shack. The freshest seafood you are going to get. The fried seafood is especially light and tender; they also offer grilled and steamed entrees. You order at the counter and find a place to sit among the small grove of umbrellaed picnic tables outside looking directly over the harbor. It is a beautiful view and a very relaxing place to spend time. BYOB
Chapin’s- 85 Taunton Avenue, Dennis, (508) 385-7000 – Chapin’s is another area restaurant to undergo a complete makeover, although in the case of the former Joe Mac’s, the name now memorialized on a glass panel in the bar, it was much more necessary than with the Marshside, which we did happily frequent in its former humble configuration. Joe Mac’s was a roadhouse-style burger joint with pool tables and little to recommend itself, other than it’s location adjacent to Chapin beach, one of the best beaches on the planet. The new place does a nice raw bar, great seafood- including an excellent cioppino and great chowder (as is required by local statutes)- and is also family friendly and offers outdoor seating.
The Lobster Pot- 321 Commercial Street, Provincetown (508) 487-0842 – Yes, this delightful venue overlooking Provincetown Harbor is called the Lobster Pot but I have two words for you- Portuguese Soup. A great use of chorizo. Very family friendly. The rest of the food, including of course the chowder, is also excellent.
The Chatham Squire- 487 Main St., Chatham, (508) 945-1111 – A casual, cozy, clubby place right on the main drag of Chatham. They do an awesome cioppino as well as a perfect bowl of chowder. Great food, also family friendly.
The Ice Cream Smuggler- 716 Main Street, Dennis, (508) 385-5307 – After you’ve had dinner, you need to have ice cream. Any day we are on the Cape, we go to the Smuggler. You simply can not beat their fresh ice cream made on the premises. Our favorite flavors are black raspberry, peppermint stick, coconut, ginger, chocolate, junior mint, cookie dough and coffee oreo yogurt. The last night of vacation we splurge on banana splits.
Although we have never quite recaptured in a new venue everything we appreciated at Thompson’s, we’ve enjoyed some great food on the Cape in our search.