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Best of the Cape 2009

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After this lovely weekend, it's clear that summer is upon us, and I think it's up to us as year-rounders and others familiar with Cape Cod dining to lay out our recommendations.

I continue to recommend Bleu at Mashpee Commons. Chef Frederic Feufeu is, um, fabulous! Oh, and his food is great, too...

Others have said they don't like the Barnstable Tavern, but I think Chef Bob Calderone cooks simple food perfectly. Do NOT miss his appetizer course take on Italian arrancini rice balls, crispy, delicately fried and served with an excellent red sauce on a bed of greens. So good, I want to look over my shoulder and lick the plate.

My favorite towney place is Stir Crazy on MacArthur Boulevard in Bourne, serving Cambodian specialties in a strange quasi-Yankee setting that used to be the western Cape branch of Mildred's. They're open for lunch on Fridays only, and if you stop by on your way to the ferry, you'll find yourself crowded shoulder to shoulder with contractors, seniors, and other Upper Cape residents. I've also heard great things about the latest reincarnation of the Kettle Ho here in Cotuit, but I haven't been there myself. I guess I remember it as a place for the bar crowd, but I've been told that is no longer the case.

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  1. Just got back from a weekend in Truro, and I have to say that far and away the best thing I ate was a massive pile of Wellfleet oysters my friends and I picked up on the shore of Great Island at low tide. Rushed 'em home, scrubbed 'em off, shucked 'em quick, and down the hatch!

    3 Replies
    1. re: BobB

      I'm getting my shellfishing license for first time this year. I can't wait to have the exact same experience! that sounds heavenly!

      1. re: BobB

        I'm heading to Wellfleet soon and am curious how you go about picking your own oysters. Do you need a license? Where? How? Very interested in doing this if possible.

        1. re: ultbil

          You do. Info is here: http://www.wellfleetshellfishdepartme...

      2. Stay on topic guys, lets not hijack this thread and turn it into a shellfishing conversation!

        That said, The Barnstable Tavern on a "Best of" list, really? I really want to like the place as I live nearby, but in the dozen or so times I've eaten there since Bob took over I've had only two good meals there. The service has generally been horrible, at times rude, sometimes indifferent, and generally inexperienced. Once while eating in the courtyard it took us almost an hour to get our apps. When they finally came we told the waiter to cancel our entrees and he replied indignantly, "But they are already up in the kitchen!" His plan evidently, was to drop our tardy (and now cold) apps and run right back in for our dinners. About that courtyard, why is it always so dirty? Even peak season it's usually litter strewn, dead and dying plants abound, and the "gardens" are full of weeds.I see no pride of ownership in the place to be honest. Another time, in season, after a half hour wait for drinks we were told the kitchen is closed. On a Saturday night in July at 8:30? Evidently Bob was in a bad mood and felt like knocking off early that night. The last straw was when I ordered a martini at the bar, and the perpetually grumpy bartender sneezed twice into her hands and proceeded to dig out a couple of olives without washing and plopped them in my drink. When I mentioned it, it was I who was treated like a whiner. Even after all that I would tend to forgive a place if the food was good, but two good meals, several so-so meals, and four or five absolutely horrible meals, does not constitute a "Best of" place in my opinion.

        2 Replies
        1. re: CapeCodGuy

          Gee, it's always so surprising when people have such different experiences. I've always had pleasant service, myself. The bartender experience sure does sound just a bit off-putting, huh?

          1. re: Giuditta

            Y'know...I REALLY try to give this place a chance, time and time again. My wife and I sat at the bar tonight, after being unable to find a seat at the Dolphin, to be honest. We felt like a few apps and a glass of wine or two. The room was empty except for one other party, and no one was behind the bar. After ten minutes a waitress came out of the kitchen and asked if we'd like drink. She poured our order and left. Five minutes later the bartender emerged from the kitchen and gave us menus. I had the special...$14.95 lobster salad bruchetta with baby field greens and grape tomatoes. Wifwe had veggie egg rolls. We'd order more after these were served we said. Her egg rolls were okay, but mostly cabbage and a slight hint of carrot. My bruchetta was a disaster. The lobster quantity was okay, but it was shredded and so heaped with mayo that the toasted bread underneath was soggy. There was so much mayo you could hardly tell it was lobster. Also, the "baby greens" were a few pieces of chopped
            romaine and not a single tomato. A few other parties arrived and we observed more of the bartender's brand of "service". (I'll detail the service issues in the thread titled "Poor service on the Cape") Fed up with the whole scene we left vowing never to return. This place is the worst. The staff is horrible. The kitchen inept. The owner is both clueless and ambivelent. And why do places like this jack up all their entree prices to counteract the constant coupons they offer everyday in the local paper?

        2. Can I put in a plug for L'Alouette in Harwich? I started going there because my parents love it, but now I like it alot, too. I have never had a bad meal there, and have often had very good ones. The vibe is a little senior, but the food is great.

          1 Reply
          1. re: hungrycc

            I have not been to L'Alouette since the previous owners. The reason is I heard from Mom and best friend it was so so. Glad to hear it's great again.

          2. Giuditta could you tell me what u get at Stir-Crazy I get lost sometimes making up my mind.. the menu is fun but need help in what is there go to dishes I love spicy as well.. Upper Cape resident here love Chappy Grill (west falm.)La Cucina(downtown falm,) ,, Agree w/ C.C.Guy not a big fan of the Barnstable Tavern if over that way I'd rather go to the Dolphin or down 6a further,,I think the Chef is overrated,,,,

            1 Reply
            1. re: chef24

              Gee, I'd say go with a group and try a variety, or just work your way down the menu. My favorite is something called Chemara (Kemara?), with either chicken or grilled shrimp. It's a salad served on a bed of rice with a light sweet & sour sauce. Very tasty and it has a healthy feeling, and won't weigh you down.

            2. I was going to start a thread for some recent reports but I'll support this one instead on the places that are worthy....

              Ocean House: Still the best deal, IMO, on the Cape with their 3 course meal at $25. I had their terrific calamari to start. The tender tubes are sliced very thin so they are extra crispy and oh so tender with a nice slighty spicy and sour sauce. It's a very unique approach with crunchy cashews, apple and water chesnuts. The DW had veggie spring rolls which were both tasty and beautifully presented. I opted for the roasted Atlantic salmon which was cooked a perfect medium as was my wife's filet mignon. (She couldn't keep me from stealing her truffled pomme frites though). A warm chocolate tart finished the evening. I personally appreciate nice wines by the glass. The service was very professional and attentive and the room, of course, is wonderful with it's unique ocean view.

              Tomatoes-Sandwich: This is really becoming my favorite place on the upper Cape. The consistancy of the food is remarkable across the entire menu. Their veal saltimbocca is amoung the best I've had anywhere. The service is generally top notch, although a few forgivable glitches do occur now and again. Portions are generous. Ingredients are fresh and of high quality. The room can be a bit loud but it's surprisingly pleasant given its strip mall location. Can't recommend this place enough.

              Villa Roma- Harwichport: this was my first ever visit and it did not disappoint. I was in the mood for 'comfort food" which for me is a nice plate of Veal Parm and pasta. I'm amazed at how many Italian restaurants do a lousy job on such a basic dish (think Amaris which thinks the veal must be smothern in their sugary canned sauce and baked in the oven under a mound of cheese making it one big mushy mess). But Villa Roma does a terrific job, crispy and tender cultlets, not too much cheese, and a good red gravy. My wife had the veal picatta and it too was a nice rendition. We started with a terrific take of clams casino, garlicky with hints of wine and EVOO. Nice. The room is a bit claustrophobic and not too special. We were lucky to get a pub table in the bar which seemed far preferable to either of the two tiny dining rooms. We'll definately be back.

              2 Replies
              1. re: CapeCodGuy

                The first time we went to the Villa Roma was after driving by it for at least 7-8 years! From the outside it's just not inviting. Are we glad we got over that! The place is perfect Italian "comfort food". The owner also adds color to the meal. How about that sign just outside the door.

                I guess I'll have more people in line this coming summer!

                1. re: CapeCodGuy

                  Thanks for the great post on Villa Roma. Like ppmaysa, my wife and I have been driving past it for years and have always wondered whether it is worth the stop. You have swayed us to make a stop there even though we generally don't do Italian food out.

                2. My feeling about the Mashpee area is don't do Bleu before considering Regatta of Cotuit or Heather in the Roche Bros. mall. Stir Crazy, in my opinion is not Cambodian, not even close. The owner is a lovely lady but the food is surely not Cambodian - what is served is a bit less then so-so. Ocean House has captured top honors in my mind.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Afar

                    Gerardi's Cafe 20.00 3 course menu. Located at 902 Main. S. Yarmouth. Super deal, great wait staff...

                  2. I spend most of my time on the Vineyard these days, and have only one fave so far: The Art Cliff Diner. Not cheap, but very consistent and never had an off meal.

                    1. Embargo in Hyannis continues to be one of the better choices in the Mid Cape area and a bargain on half price Tuesdays. I really like the city atmosphere of the room and the service is both friendly and efficient. Some dishes worth ordering include the Tuna Sashimi, lamb lollipops, kobe beef sliders and truffled pomme frites, lobster mac and cheese, braised short ribs, and maryland crab and tomato cakes. Yummy stuff.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: CapeCodGuy

                        Does Embargo offer a Tues. night special all through the summer (and what is the special)? Will be in Eastham area in one week (woo hoo!) and looking for good dining options - and if there are deals to be found, all the better!

                        1. re: SarahSparkles

                          Yes, their Tuesday night special is year round I believe. It's 1/2 price on all tapas excluding fois gras and lobster items. The menu is predominantly tapas with several salads and a few entrees. Terrific service, especially at the bar.

                      2. How about some suggestions near Brewster or Orleans area. Looking for some lobster rolls and other good seafood.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Barbarella

                          Everyone loves Brewster Fish House. Great seafood...Orleans some love Sir Crickets and Captain Cass. The latter is very traditional Cape Cod. Up the road in Eastham is Friendly Fisherman which has GREAT lobster rolls. Nearby Brewster in Dennis is Sesuit Cafe. AMAZING lobster crab cakes and lobster rolls ON the water.

                          1. re: Barbarella

                            Kate's on Betty's Curve on 6A in Brewster does a decent job for the fried food and picnic table crowd. You can get a darn good Lobter Roll at Youngs Fish Market at Rock Harbor in Orleans. Tiny shack where you get your roll to go and eat it right at the pier on the harbor or at benches by the beach. As an added bonus go at sunset Tip: bring a little bug spray for skeeters.

                            1. re: CapeCodGuy

                              At cape this past week, headed for Brewster Bookstore on 6A, when I saw sign at JT's for hot lobster roll. It got my attention, but I didn't get it; I got a regular lobster roll. Absolutely the best I've had in eons, Cape. Maine, anywhere. The best! Loaded with succulent lobster, just the right amount of mayo, and a tiny bit of celery. SuperB! Can't wait to go back.

                            2. re: Barbarella

                              Friendly Fisherman in Eastham, without fail, has the bet, most consistent perfect lobster rolls year after year. Brilliant! Sesuit Harbor Cafe's are also very good (Dennis).

                              Sundae School for ice cream, Hole-in-One for breakfast and awesome donuts.

                              Brewster Fish House in Brewster and Impudent Oyster in Chatham.

                            3. Just got back from Wellfleet and posted about where I ate:
                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/632254

                              1. Would like to add my support for Sesuit Harbor Cafe (their correct/full name). We only had breakfast there; it was satisfying and cheap. Egg sandwiches and basic eggs over easy were perfect. Only downside: Coffee was virtually undrinkable; thin, like tea. This is a no-frills, basic cafe with walk-up ordering and plasticware. They do bring you your food. Exposed picnic tables and simple tables under a tent. You get to view the water and the boats gassing up. Nothing fancy/no bling-bling, as I mentioned, but very, very un-touristy real.
                                357 Setucket Rd., Dennis, MA 02638 (in Sesuit Harbor-inside the complex) (508) 385-6134

                                1. Black Fish in Truro is my new favorite. In the site of the old Blacksmith House, it is redone in lighting, arrangement and most especially the food. Everything we had was very high quality, presented like it mattered. I had the Pork Belly app glazed with Hoisen Sauce and it was rich and not at all greasy. I had the Tuna Bolognese, and while I would never think to cook tuna for 6 hours, it worked. It was meaty and a true Bolognaise with a citrus infused mascarpone and a touch of cinnamon over homemade papperadelle noodles. Not cheap, but you get full value for the $$$. (approx $75/head)