Enjoying Cape Cod’s Best Foods With Kids
I can’t think of a better way to honor July 4th than with a blog about Cape Cod, the place where our nation ostensibly began. As a food writer from Queens, NY with family roots on the Cape and a school-age son who will try just about anything I feed him I have firm opinions on all things edible. And I love to eat on Cape Cod.
Restaurants are one of our favorite reasons to go there. Fish is impeccably fresh almost everywhere from the simple fry shacks to the five-star restaurants. In many years of vacationing there, we’ve only had a handful of bad meals, usually when were famished or had no reservations and had to settle for a known tourist trap. Here is my best advice:
Eat Clam Bellies
Here is my first essential rule for eating Cape Cod: clam bellies or bust. Don’t under any circumstances order clam strips at the myriad fry shacks for which Cape Cod is known; they’re more breading than clam. Whole bellies offer a juicy, briny taste of the sea will make you reel. We favor Seafood Sam’s, Kream N Cone and Captain Frosty’s (we’ve hit all of them in one hedonistic day). Try them all and lend your voice to the age-old local debate over who has the best?
Other Seafood Essentials
Don’t miss Sesuit Harbor Café, my favorite place to eat on Cape Cod. Nothing is better than sitting outside under the umbrellas on a warm, sunny day watching the boats go by with a Lobster Roll in hand.
In Chatham, chowder at the collegiate Squire is a must
The Oyster Company has live jazz on Saturdays and—surprise, surprise—fantastic fresh-from-the-flats oysters. You can slurp while the kids groove.
Brewster Fish House on 6A in Brewster is more interesting than your average fry shack but still pretty casual and has been a consistent source of fabulous meals for us.
If you make it as far as Provincetown, stop at the renowned Provincetown Portuguese Bakery on Commercial Street for kale, bean and linguicia soup and malasadas, their fried, sugared dough.
Our main meal in P-Town is always at the Lobster Pot, a legendary place that serves up seafood with a Portugese accent. The with-dinner salad (with homemade dressing) makes up for the calorie-busting breadbasket (awesome pumpkin bread!) and linguica-crusted cod. If you have small kids though, be for-warned that it’s often crowded and cacophonous with surly service.
Local Ice Cream
My other essential Cape Cod food rule: This is homemade ice cream territory; take advantage of it. The Kennedys put Four Seas in Craigville on the map (peach was said to be Jackie O’s fave). Locals seem to go for Penuche and Rum raisin, but I think pistachio/pineapple, strawberry, peanut butter/dark chocolate, and banana are all just short of a religious experience. The homemade hot fudge topping is a must, especially with the banana ice cream.
If you are not inclined to drive long distances and endure ridiculous waits for ice cream (which Four Seas can have), Buffy’s Ice Cream Parlor in Chatham, Sundae School (multiple locations) and Cape Cod Creamery in South Yarmouth are also fantastic. The latter has an inviting wraparound porch and comfy lawn chairs where we sit and enjoy pistachio (me) and Caramel Crunch (my husband).
Avoid anywhere that offers lame mass-produced Hershey’s ice cream (which has nothing to do with Hershey’s Chocolate).
And other Sweets
Stop by Chatham Candy Manor for some dark-chocolate-covered cranberries or giant strawberries (or both if you’re me!), plus fudge to take home.
Outside of South Yarmouth, look for Mermaid Taffy, an outdoor stand on route 28. A stuffed box will run you about $15 dollars. It’s worth it, but if you don’t like taffy that much, at least pull up in the gravel parking lot and try a few of the more than 30 flavors including cranberry (my favorite) and fluffernutter (my husband’s).
Best for Breakfast
Thanks to its shady back porch, Chatham Cookware Cafe is a town favorite for reading the morning paper over an iced coffee (free wifi, too!).
In Harwichport, you’ll find the very kid-friendly Bonatt’s Bakery and Restaurant. No visit to the Cape is complete for us until we’ve had breakfast here. The solicitous wait staff will bring your kids milk in plastic cups with animals on them. If you have a sweet tooth, go for the blueberry-stuffed French toast. If you like your breakfast on the savor side, don’t miss the Portugese Eggs Benedict with linguica sausage.
Tip: Don’t be daunted by the crowds milling about outside; we’ve never waited more than 15 minutes for a table.
Cape Cod Date Night!
No matter where or what you eat, enjoy Cape Cod. It’s almost impossible not to.
Lisa Antinore is a food writer from Queens, NY. Her family owned a motel in Truro, Cape Cod, for 30 years. You can read more of her food writing on Chow Hound.