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May 9, 2009 01:32 PM

ISO dining/food shopping recs in Barnstable/Dennis area

We're doing a house exchange and will be spending 10 days (mid-June til early July) in the Barnstable/Dennis area of Cape Cod. We've never been there. I've searched some here but haven't found a whole lot of recs. We'll be eating out, usually lunches, and also cooking and preparing picnics. Are there any restaurants from dives on up that are liked? Any particular foods that we can buy and cook? What fish/shellfish are recommended? ANY advice we'll be great. We'll have a car so we don't have to limit ourselves to that immediate area. Any of you live around there? Maybe we could do lunch or something. Thanks all.
PS: I'm sure it will be a madhouse with seasonal population. Another reason to cook.

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  1. Barnstable/Dennis constitutes a pretty braod area believe it or not. On season, it could take almost an hour, for instance, to travel from say, Cotuit (a village of Barnstable) to East Dennis. In which particular village will you be, do you know?

    As for local fish and shellfish, it's all good. Local Cod, Haddock, Flounder, Sole, Striped Bass, and Swordfish are all great cold water local day boat catches. Lobster, although usually soft shelled that time of year, si plentiful. Hard shell clams are called different names depending on size even though it's the same clam. Little necks are the smallest, followed by Cherrystones, Quahogs, and Sea Clams. The two smallest are sometimes eaten on the half shell, are made into casinos. The two larger are baked stuffed or used for chowder. Soft shelled clams are called Steamers and are either steamed and served with drawn butter or shucked and fried. These are what clam shacks call fried clams with bellies, not to be confused with clam strips. Bay scallops will be out of season, but local sea scallops will be readily available.

    19 Replies
    1. re: CapeCodGuy

      Here's part of the description. Don't know if this tells you much if anything. I'll email her for more specifics. (I probably WON'T tell her it's for Chowhound; some people don't understand our priorities!) :

      "Located on the dirt end of Wild Hunter Rd ...the lot is fronted and backed by conservation land... . ...nearby Chapin beach or boat out of Sesuit Harbor. Bayview beach is residents only so less crowded. The walk to the beach is down a small shaded side street so there are no traffic worries. "

      I'm drooling already thinking about all the seafood. Ah, man, life is good. Thanks for your help, CCG.

      1. re: c oliver

        Ok, you're staying near my old neighborhood in Dennis Village on the bay or north side of the Cape. IMO the beaches there are amoung the best on Cape. At low tide, the beach is enormous as the water goes out almost one mile from shore. The village's main road is historic and quite scenic Rte 6A with none of the touristy honky tonk found on much of the south side of Rte 28. Your go-to local market is Dennis Public Market with a terrific butcher shop. A bit up the road in Yarmouthport is Petersen's Market which is even better and there is a decent fish market as well. In your neighborhood on the way to Chapin Beach is a funky old place that serves up terrific basic Italian fare called Gina's By the Sea. Usually a wait on season but well worth it. Back on 6A is The Red Pheasant for excellent fine dining in an antique setting. Decent pizza and subs at Showtime Pizza. Behind the post office you'll find great deserts and pastries at Buckie's Biscotti, and nice sandwiches and soups and such at The Mercantile. Gracie's table has nice tapas. I'd avoid the Scargo Cafe and Center Stage Restaurant on the grounds of the Cape Playhouse. DO take in a play at America's oldest summer theater and take in a movie at the Cape Cinema, also on the grounds of the playhouse. Cool old single theater with the world's largest canvas mural on the ceiling painted by Rockwell Kent in the 30s I believe. Drive up scenic 6A toward Sandwich and you'll pass old restored Captains homes and quaint villages. Stop for lunch or dinner at The Dolphin for great seafood. Go to Barnstable Harbor and have drinks (not food!) at Mattakeese Wharf Restaurant right on the harbor. DO go on a whale watch on Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises out of the harbor for a 3 hour tour past PTown and you'll see humpback whales and maybe dolphins, minke whales, and possible rare right whales. Another day drive scenic 6A in the other direction and have fried seafood on the Jetty in Dennis at Sesuite Harbor Cafe. Farther down 6A is Brewster and the wonderful Brewster Fish House for a proper lunch or fine dinner. Beware it's small and lines can be long at dinner. Get some penny candy at The Brewster General Store. Enjoy the walking trails and wildlife at Brewster's Natural HIstory Museum. You can keep going all the way to the end which is Provincetown. You'll pass the towns of Orleans, Eastham, Welfleet, and Truro to get there. Each has something to offer. Provincetown is loaded with great restaurants, shopping, galleries, and miles of protected dunes and conservation area that are part of the National Seashore. There is a very large and open gay population there so if you're not tolerant of that sort of thing, you may want to skip it. On the south side of the Cape is where you'll find Malls, minigolf, tshirts shops, and a few fine restaurants. One of the nicest towns for walking the village center is Chatham. Worth a day trip in and of itself. Another fun diversion is a seal watcher cruise out to Monomoy Island out of Chatham Harbor.

        That's probably enough to digest for now. Post any questions here and I'll do my best to help. Almost all the places I've mentioned can be found on Google so do a little research. Enjoy your time on the Cape and spend lots of money! Our economy could use it!

        1. re: CapeCodGuy

          Just got home and read this. WOW. Thank you SO much. This is incredible. I've had WAY too much wine to drink tonight so will reread this tomorrow.

          1. re: CapeCodGuy

            What about the Ocean House in Dennisport or they Oyster Co, also in Dennisport. Fresh fish from Swan River and pretty good eats/grocery shopping at Ring Brothers on 134 in Dennis. I'm impressed with CCGuy's choices. Only a summer person, but he hit them all right on the head!

            1. re: donnahobrien

              Thanks, donna. We're SO looking forward to this. We're Left Coast people so this is going to be so different. Different sea creatures! And the sun rising rather than setting over the ocean is always a little disconcerting :)

              1. re: c oliver

                Ocean House for sure. Jillian and I will be trying the Bramble Inn soon so will report on that. ice cream at Smugglers in Dennis Village/6A. The trail CCG refers to is the John Wing Trail at low tide behind Natural History Museum (Dennis Brewster line 6 A). Luke's Liquors past that for Big Fire Pinot Gris or other fine wines. Lemon Tree Pottery(Brewster 6 A) for shopping and the bistro for a latte and snack.

                One Yarmouth Port behind the playground off of 6 A go down Centre St. to Bass Hole Gray's Beach to see sunset.

                1. re: phelana

                  Oh, goody, thanks for the tips and, yes, please report back on any thing else that appeals --- or is a waste of time. Although since we don't live there and we're coming for a visit, we fit the "legal "definition" of tourists. But no matter where we go in the world, English-speaking or not, we always seek out the locals. Can't wait.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    DO follow Phelana's recs as they're all very solid!

                    I'll add a must-do. On Monday nights on the village green in Dennis Village they hold free outdoor band concerts at the gazebo. Grab a couple of lawn chairs or a blanket and go and enjoy a real piece of old time Americana. My fondest childhood memories in the early 60s were from those concerts and they haven't changed a whole lot today . The first one of the summer this year is on Monday, June 29. They start at 7:00 and its a good idea to get there a bit early. Even earlier if you want to grab an ice cream at the Suggler across the street!

                    1. re: CapeCodGuy

                      Sounds lovely. We also live in a small community and love the summertime concerts, plays, etc. I'm so pleased that you're all helping me plan a lovely holiday there. Thank you.
                      PS: Can we take a picnic? What about wine? I know some places don't allow alcoholic beverages.

                      1. re: c oliver

                        Absolutely, pack a picnic. Officially, no public drinking is allowed anywhere on Cape, beaches included. Of course that hasn't stopped many responsible adults, your's truly included, from doing it discreetly. (Don't openly pour wine from a bottle into a couple of stemware glasses. But you wouldn't be alone if you poured wine out of a thermous or container into paper or plastic cups!)

                      2. re: CapeCodGuy

                        Second that on the free outdoor band concerts --attending one is a a true home town experience. The concerts are sponsored by the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod and Citizens Bank, and in addition to the Monday concerts in Dennis, there are also concerts in Harwich that night, not to mention Hyannis on Tuesdays, Eastham on Wednesday, Mashpee on Thursdays, and both Falmouth and Sandwich on Fridays. You can get the complete list of concert schedules and performers here:

                    2. re: phelana

                      I was just going to add--be sure to walk the boardwalk out over the bay at Gray's Beach-but you covered that! No one has mentioned the Sesuit Harbor Cafe. I know it has its detractors but the setting alone makes it worth trying.

                2. re: CapeCodGuy

                  Good solid recs, CCG (as usual!), Dennis Northside is my old stomping ground too. I grew up on Joe Mac's, Gina's, and Rose's. Do you remember Terpo's? The site of The Red Pheasant. Love, love, love the Cape Cod Playhouse. It is a gem. I love the beaches there, too. I have been to many beaches in the world, and the beaches od Dennis are among the very best.. Brewster, too! I want to move back!!

                  1. re: CapeCodGuy

                    Wow. That writeup covers it all. I would disagree only about Center Stage Cafe -- it has had some ups and downs, I give the current owners the benefit of the doubt, because I really love the atmosphere. at the very least, you wouldn't go wrong there having a cappuccino and dessert after a movie.

                    1 last thing -- get some ice cream. Go to Ice Cream Smuggler, on 6a near the Playhouse.

                    1. re: cape year rounder

                      I am so amazed and pleased with all the generosity of you 'hounds. Guess what? We've never had a lobster roll??? And fried clams? Well, definitely not something that started the day in its pure form. I continue to praise you. Thanks so much. Can't wait. Only a month away. YAY!!!

                      1. re: c oliver

                        Get your lobster roll and clams at Sesuit Cafe and not Captain Frosty's....please! I can't stress it enough! If in Hyannis, Cooke's is the go-to place for clams. No atmosphere with counter type service but terrific fried fare.

                        1. re: CapeCodGuy

                          For us food is #1 and atmosphere is WAY down the list. Show us the food ) We're dealing with a gigantic issue with an elderly friend of ours and reading this thread (over and over!) provides welcome relief. Thanks again, CCG.

                          1. re: c oliver

                            We ate at Centre Stage Cafe. It was really not very good at all. Smugglers is great. We like Sesuit Cafe but the size of the lobster rolls is inconsistent.

                          2. re: CapeCodGuy

                            I never thought to go to Cooke's. It always had that chain restaurant appeal to me. We usually go to Marathon in WD, but have been going down to K/K on 134. THANKS!

                3. Must stops: South Cape Beach in Mashpee, the village of Woods Hole take the back way in through Sippewissett and the ocean drive back to Falmouth. Hike along the Mashpee River & bring your picnic lunch, hike along the Cape Cod Canal and take a picnic lunch and visit The Glass Studio on Route 6A in Sandwich, have fried clams at Lindsey's in Buzzards Bay, get a lobster hand roll at Misaki on West Main Street Hyannis.

                  1. We're in the process of moving and reading all these generous recommendations gives me a Calgon-moment (anyone old enough to remember that???) Just a month away. Sigh :)

                    2 Replies
                    1. Since the entire Cape experience will be new to you, you may want to take in all of it just to see the best and worst of the area, that choice is yours.

                      After many years of three-season Cape Cod visits, I have some very strong preferences that you may not share. The busy Route 28 corridor across the southern part of the Cape is very time consuming to traverse in the summer, and simply not worth it to me any longer. You will be staying near the quieter Route 6A on the bay side, where you will experience New England Cape Cod, not New Jersey Cape Cod! It's been years since I visited Falmouth or even Hyannis for that matter. If you like traffic, congestion, tourist tacky, and crime.
                      Much more enjoyable along 6A, although a trip to Chatham is certainly worthwhile. Brewster Fish House is outstanding, and Orleans is a great destination, and you will experience a very different Cape on Route 6 beyond the Orleans rotary. Please be sure to take time to visit Wellfleet, turn left to signs for Town Center and then bear left toward the Wellfleet Harbor, it's gorgeous and not to be missed. Good galleries in Wellfleet. Harbor is on the bay side, also drive along the ocean side, just a short distance away.
                      Great fried seafood along Route 6 in Wellfleet (Moby Dick's) and especially Eastham (Arnold's, a world class clam shack, and Friendly Fisherman) as well as Sir Cricket Fish and Chips in Orleans, just below the Rotary on 6A.
                      Cape Cod Guy and phelana have given excellent coverage of the Dennis area and surrounding.
                      Again, the choice is yours, but to maximize your time on the Cape you may want to avoid a lot of the Upper Cape (Bourne, Mashpee, Falmouth, Hyannis, and the Route 28 corridor except for Harwich and Chatham). Whatever you do, you should have a great time and the best seafood on the continent.

                      1. UPDATE. We got to Cape Cod yesterday afternoon. We're actually in Denis quite near the beach (off Beach Street). Does that change or modify any of your recs? We're actually loving this weather. We're self-described mole people. Love the dripping trees and puddles to splash through :)

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: c oliver

                          Shared a fried clam plate at Sesuit which were unlike any clams we Left Coasters have ever eaten. Just melted in our mouths. Too bad they don't serve beer or wine but it was very good iced tea. Then to Mattakeese Wharf Restaurant for a beer/wine; followed CCG's rec not to eat there tho' the bartender, Jimmy, said they have a new chef. He then referred us down to W. Yarmouth to Cape Codder Seafood Market. We're very happy that we're staying where it's so much quieter. But we DID get a 2# lobster (moving around in the sink as I write this), a pound of steamers and a dozen Little Neck clams. All for $25. A feast tonight.

                          Are there any docks where one can buy fresh or are we mostly limited to the markets? Petersen's had decent looking fish but it was more expensive than the W. Yarmouth place.

                          As you can tell, we're following recs and having a great time. I believe I need a nap now :)