Shifting sand dunes and spectacular sunsets are served along with memorable dining experiences.By Lenore Cullen Barnes
There is really nowhere like Provincetown, Massachusetts. Occupying the outermost curled finger of Cape Cod, it encompasses an intriguing geography of shifting sand dunes, sunset views and a magic light that has attracted generations of artists. Once primarily a fishing village, it long ago evolved into an artists’ mecca. It also is host to some of the finest restaurants on the Cape.
Even the name is alluring at Jimmy’s Hideaway, which is tucked down a set of stairs off Commercial Street. The combination of its setting, the inviting fireplace and the bay views yields a warm and welcoming ambiance that’s part old Cape Cod and part Old World. But the true origin of that hospitable tone lies with co-owners and spouses Raife Menold and Jimmy McNulty. “We believe what sets us apart begins with our mission statement, which is to treat everyone as if they were guests in our home,” Menold says.
That was exactly our experience. We were late arrivals and only a few people lingered at the bar. We ordered tasty lump crab and corn cakes and Caribbean-flavored cod fritters with a remoulade sauce from the appetizer menu. We were encouraged not to rush. Menold caught our eye and welcomed us, eventually sitting down for an engaging conversation. He shared the story of their leap-of-faith purchase of the restaurant. “Thank God we were naïve,” he says.
But not that naïve; they celebrate their 10th anniversary of ownership this year. Among the favorites are the Beef Wellington appetizer, scallop piccata, Portuguese cod and oven-roasted pork tenderloin.
The nearby Squealing Pig is a congenial Irish pub, housed in a 19th-century building in the center of town. Customers flock here for the craft beers, Wellfleet oysters and great burgers. “It’s one of the biggest local hangouts,” bartender Eric Roberts says.
There is a fun vibe when locals and tourists rub shoulders, each sharing recommendations. Not to be missed is the smoked seafood chowder and the Tuscan fries. “Our chowder is unique because we use haddock instead of clams,” Roberts says. “The Tuscan fries are hand-cut every morning, cooked twice and tossed with truffle oil and grated parmesan. Substitute them for the regular fries with the fish and chips and it’s the best dollar you’ll spend all day.”
Fish, veggie and chicken curry are also signature dishes. “Our entire kitchen staff is from Nepal, and they make a Nepalese style, fruit-based curry,” Roberts says.
We enjoyed the organic lamb burger with cucumber yogurt relish and the fish curry, a
flavorful combination of haddock with green beans, zucchini, summer squash, cauliflower and peppers in a Nepali curry sauce.
Located at the far end and slightly quieter section of Commercial Street, The Red Inn (picture at top) lays claim to a spectacular setting and historic pedigree. The 1805 manse overlooks the beach where the pilgrims landed. President Theodore Roosevelt once stayed there and scenes from Norman Mailer’s Tough Guys Don’t Dance were filmed here. Owners David Silva, Sean Burke and executive chef/owner Philip Mossy have hosted guests and diners for the past 15 years, attracting a devout clientele.
“The food is very consistent,” says Silva, a fifth-generation Provincetown native. “It’s very relaxed, comfortable fine dining. People like the energy and the atmosphere. And the view is spectacular.”
History and setting aside, it is the thoughtfully prepared seasonal dishes that make reservations necessary. Fresh lobster comes right from the bay and the local cod, a perennial best-seller, is served with rosemary potatoes and Applewood bacon with a lemon-garlic confit. The popular Raw Bar Happy Hour features $1.25 oysters, clams and shrimp and runs every afternoon during high season. An extensive wine list complements the menu and a beverage on the deck completes the experience.
The Mews Restaurant and Café has won multiple awards for its menu and first-class service. The bar stocks 150 brands of vodka and the knowledgeable bartenders are happy to make recommendations. The almond-crusted cod was fresh and flaky. My companion’s sesame-crusted tuna loin was cooked exactly as requested. We’ll go back to try the lobster risotto with roasted corn and chanterelle mushrooms, drizzled with scallion and truffle oil, along with the filet mignon and half duckling.
Provincetown is well worth the 60-mile drive from the Sagamore Bridge or the ferry ride from Boston to indulge in a memorable dining experience in a unique coastal setting.
179 Commercial Street
335 Commercial Street
15 Commercial Street
429 Commercial Street