Times of change.
Laden with seafaring potential and New England bounty, at times the harvest delivered on Cape Cod doesn’t always match its geographic and human charms⎯even though it should.
From the area’s nutritious dirt, fertile for agriculture of all casts; its waters, perfect for stocks of fish, mollusks and crustaceans; and its chronicled fabric of colonial American, Portuguese, Italian and French Canadian pedigrees, Cape Cod should already be sucking on a silver spoon. In some cornered aspects it is, though with research. To the majority of lacquered tourists in fact, who flock to the seaside peninsula and islands each summer, I know they sure think it is. To genuine food lovers though, initial novelties of clam chowder, fried clams, lobster rolls and mom-and-pop homemade ice cream shops can all-too-often fade into gluey, chewy, overcooked and sweet beyond repair. One can paralyze quickly with this repeated cycle of gut-busting monotony. Food-wise Cape Cod as a region hasn’t always lived up to its inherent, God-given potential. Most gratefully, in the past 3-5 years however, things seem to be slowly evolving.
Smarter, sharper restaurants have begun sprouting, finally allowing the fantasy of a genuinely satisfying meal⎯after your tenth night of fried, fried and fried⎯not seem the stretch it had any longer. After spending ample summers on the Cape for the better part of the last decade, I’ve decided to expose a little run-down of such eye-openers. Albeit brief (and by no means comprehensive), the list below should help direct any visiting food enthusiast, wary of the generic trappings of stale Cape Cod eating, to brighter horizons. If for nothing else, to set off on sound footing.
Mac’s Shack: (Wellfleet, MA)
Upscale, bustling cousin of the Mac’s Seafood Co.’s family of salty establishments, Mac’s Shack delivers a full sushi bar, a manned raw bar and a rotating, seasonal roster of forward-leaning menu items⎯energetic, regional fare with refreshing worldly framings. The sushi product itself is indeed some of the best found anywhere on the Cape (though not exactly a tight race due to lacking local inventory to begin with), and the outdoor bar area alone is lively and optimal for people watching, full of polite but posing WASP-y mugs⎯pretension tailored enough to be tolerable, but after a second glass of wine, nearly enjoyable. Ordered notables on my most recent visit: briny oysters; lobster risotto, rich with local corn, oyster mushrooms and mascarpone; and, a hefty crab cake, layered atop a spicy bacon and corn salsa, and a brush of chive cream.
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