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Aug 19, 2009 09:55 AM

Cape highs and lows

Back from a nice jaunt to the Cape. High points: Sublime ear of corn at Moby Dick's in Wellfleet, along with excellent swordfish. Steamers were remarkably sandy, however, and the ordering system is byzantine--couldn't figure out who was our server at any given moment. Why not a proper waitstaff at those prices?
Low point: Getting charged $2 for a microscopic portion of hot sauce (2 tablespoonfuls, tops) at Caribbean Corner in P-Town. Food was good, but that kind of nickle-and-diming can ruin the mood for an entire meal, especially when the cuisine calls for hot sauce on lots of dishes. Won't ever be going back to that place.
Great meal and top-notch service at VIctor's. In all, good trip with lots of good food. I understand the economics of a seasonal town, but sad to see nickle-and-diming and harried, foreign waitstaff at places like Moby Dick's.

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  1. ahhh, my beloved Moby Dick's- home of the best fried oysters in the world. We only go off- season (as a matter of fact, we were there closing day last year, opening day this year, and we'll be back for a few more meals in Sept & Oct this year), when the wait staff is much less harried- I enjoy talking to them about where they are from, etc. You don't really have your own server at Moby's which can be disconcerting if you are expecting traditional service, but hopefully you enjoyed the experience and will go back. For a more traditional dining experience, try the "sister" restaurant, Winslow's Tavern, also in Wellfleet, and the Wicked Oyster is great, as well.

    I hate the nickel and dime you to death (and $2.00 is outrageous for something that should already be there) thing, too- thanks for the heads- up on Caribbean Corner.

    6 Replies
    1. re: JenJeninCT

      The food was good at Moby's, although those steamers were literally half sand. We've got plenty of "clam shack" type places around here where you order at a counter and then pick up your food, but I can't recall a hybrid-type arrangement like Moby Dick's, where you order at a counter, the server brings you your food and then you have to order anything subsequent from the server. Must be a very raw deal for the servers--providing table service in a packed place chock-full of tourists with no tips. They did have a tip jar, but since we literally had six different servers stop by our table, there wasn't much motivation to tip as service was uneven. Only workers shipped in from Bulgaria for the summer would agree to such an awful setup--all the stress and hassles of waitressing with no tips!

      1. re: newhavener07

        This is a rather common service model on the Cape. I'm surprised you've never encountered it where you order at a counter, and the servers bring it out to you. Why would you rather have to go to tthe counter and pick it up yourself? Cooke's, Sesuit Cafe, to name a few, do it this way. It's not a "raw deal" for the servers as you say, as they aren't relying on tips, but have a steady wage. As to the foreign servers, Bulgarians or otherwise, have you bothered to actually speak to any of them about their experience here on Cape Cod? Most that I've talked to love that they are here. They make more money in a month than they can in a year in their home country. Their room and board is often part of the deal. Many stock up on designer jeans and electronics to take back home where they sell them at 6X what they cost here. Not to mention they get to visit one of the most beautiful areas of the world which they would never had the chance otherwise. Not exactly indentured servitude.

        1. re: CapeCodGuy

          I've been to the Cape and Islands many times and I know that some foreign workers have a good experience, but many don't. Check out this article from the Boston Globe on the conditions at a very high-end restaurant in Edgartown:

          I also wouldn't have taken much note of Moby Dick's service model had it worked--we spent a lot of time trying to figure out where our serve went and who exactly could answer our questions. We also observed several people trying to tip servers on the sly, and a guy in the corner then going up to the servers to confiscate the money. Seemed a bit fishy to me, pardon the pun.

          1. re: newhavener07

            One bad story shouldn't make one think that bad conditions are widespread. I've lived here all my life and have talked with hundreds of these short term visa young people and the far majority love the experience..

            I can't speak to what you saw at Moby's. You assume it was "confiscating" tips and therefore nefarious. I would, on the other hand, assume they pool tips as the service is a cooperative effort, and the "guy in the corner" was just ensuring the money made it to the pool.

            1. re: CapeCodGuy

              True, I can't be sure what exactly I was seeing. But as a frequent Cape visitor and former Cape waitress myself, it didn't look right to me.

              1. re: newhavener07

                Same here but now days they give a percentage to the bus staff and host/ess. We like P.J.'s in Wellfleet, which is self service with a tip bucket. I had a killer swordfish sandwich there. I ditched the bread and slathered it with the home made aiole sauce. It was a 9.95 special with fries. They have a nice dining room in back and I have been told by the staff it's BYOB although I haven't seen anyone actulaly bring in a bottle of wine.

    2. Had a great meal at the Lobster Pot in P'town a couple weeks ago. Clam chowder was worthy of all the "Best Chowder" awards they've gotten. We all loved our entrees. Our waiter was terrific. Their front-of-house left something to be desired. I don't know if they were using a new computer system for taking names, but it was a train wreak. The two people were yelling at each other and making everyone waiting felt uncomfortable.

      1 Reply
      1. re: germay

        same experience at the Lobster Pot. the front staff/system had my nerves so jangled, I was really wanting to bail. But once we sat, the meal was peaceful and delicious. our waiter was attentive without being intrusive and the cioppino was the best i've had in a long time. i also had two cocktails, which i needed to calm my nerves from the process of waiting for the table.