Archive for category Dining with a Great View
The Chart Room is located at the Kingman Marina in Red Brook Harbor. We went there by boat on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in July with friends.* The nautical approach probably halved our travel time from the mainland, and made for a fun — and exceedingly civilized — adventure, where the food far exceeded our expectations.
After slicing across the Cape Cod Canal, we motored into the harbor and queued in behind an orderly line of boats entering the marina. Our friend radioed in that we were in need of a lunchtime slip and refueling. A team of college students home for the summer graciously guided our vessel to the dock. For a moment we were Kennedys in Camelot, and surprisingly, that feeling remained through our visit.
The Chart Room waiting line involves claiming a circle of adirondack chairs on a sunny crushed shell patio rimmed with a fragrant beach rose hedge looking out over the marina. They’ll come out and get you to bring you to your table. Our estimated wait was 15 minutes, even on this busy afternoon, and that didn’t give us time enough for our nominee to return from the outdoor bar with drinks. We were quickly guided to the restaurant’s open air porch.
Our friends had raved about the lobster salad roll. Yep, it’s 29 bucks. And yep, it’s enough for two. But that doesn’t begin to tell the story. The restaurant happily puts the sandwich on two plates and splits the sides. And one of our sandwich-sharers couldn’t even finish his half.
We all have our thing that we like to order AND see as an indication of a restaurant’s capabilities. For the Big Dog, it’s a chicken salad sandwich. Here, it was $10, and came with delicious potato salad (or choose chips or cole slaw). He got it on Portuguese bread and had plenty left over for dinner. The salad was deliciously rich.
Gina ordered the gazpacho ($5, and we’re not sure it’s always on the menu) and the avocado salad ($9). Gazpacho aficionados will relish the sour cream or creme fraiche float, the onion and pepper dice garnish, and the rich tomato flavor. The avocado salad was full of frisee, with hearty hunks of avocado. The Italian dressing was a couple of ticks up the sweetness scale from the Ken’s Italian Gina likes — if that’s your standard too, you’ll be okay with this.
Our friends had a young teen in tow (who piloted the boat much of the way home) and he ordered a bacon cheeseburger ($10). He enjoyed it, but couldn’t finish it. We can think of no truer evaluation of portion size than a dish that defies a 13-year-old.
The Chart Room and marina seem to employ hundreds of Cape teenagers during the summer, and they are well trained and pleasant. The food is great and the atmosphere is unique. We know from experience that it’s just as enjoyable after an off-season drive.
*We were there with friends, but the occasion was the result of an auction gift they had generously offered to the Boys & Girls Club of Wareham. Want to support the Club? Click here.
The Chart Room
1 Shipyard Lane, Cataument, MA 02534 | (508) 563-5350
We stopped recently for lunch in one of New England’s most vibrant cities, a place shaped by a beautiful working waterfront, historic sites, unique and world-renowned museums, and a thriving cultural scene. Boston? Providence? Portsmouth? Portland?
Nope, New Bedford. And if you haven’t been there recently, you need to visit.
Here’s a good reason: the Moby Dick Brewing Co., an authentic brewpub which recently opened on Union Street, one block from the Route 18 artery, and two from the state pier in one direction, and the famed New Bedford Whaling Museum in another. The food is delicious, the service excellent, and the space is a thoughtfully restored old building.
But let’s talk about the beer. Park on the South Water Street side and walk up and you’ll see the beermaking equipment, smartly separated from the restaurant so the odor doesn’t permeate. We had the good sense to do a flight of four each, so we could sample each of the seven beers on offer that day, five weeks after the restaurant opened. The range and variety of beers was remarkable, from a pale yellow unfiltered wheat to a frothy and nearly black Irish stout. Name any mass-produced beer, and the bar staff will match you up to a Moby Dick brew. Gina, not a beer drinker, liked the amber Ishm-Ale, and the Big Dog enjoyed the hoppy Sailors’ Delirium, a double IPA. All of the beers were good, though, and it was just a matter of personal preference.
A tray of four five-ounce pours is just $10, which felt like a very good value. And non-beer-drinkers shouldn’t feel left out — they have an excellent wine list, and we spotted some very special liquors on the shelf above the bar.
The lunch menu is short but wide-ranging, with a little bit of exotica balancing out the standards, and the dinner menu is as well. (The website, we notice, does not include prices, but don’t be alarmed — we noted prices to be on the low side of reasonable.)
Gina started with a sweet potato and apple soup ($5), a thick and spicy blend topped with toasted sesame seeds. The Big Dog chose the salt cod chowder ($6), a very good twist on the standard chowder.
We split the marinated beet salad ($10): thick slices of beets that were likely roasted, then arrayed over what they call a whipped ricotta, mixed with shallots, which would have been outstanding on toast. The whole thing was topped with chopped cashews and microgreens and looked as good as it tasted.
But the star of the show for us was crispy fried fish sandwich ($12). A buttery bun was piled high with pickles, tartar sauce, lettuce, and a giant pouf of fried fish. If you’ve sworn off French fries, these need to be the ones for which you make an exception. The whole thing was a messy, high calorie treat, plenty for two.
We think that a well-designed space can really enhance the experience of dining out, and the Moby Dick vibe is truly outstanding. Every detail, from the beam over the bar from which bulbs dangle, to the iron pipe toilet paper dispenser in the restroom, to the subway tile behind the bar, celebrates the history of the building, and the oversized windows are a textbook tactic for enlivening a city block while connecting the people inside with the world beyond.
Combined with the great food, delicious beer, and good service, Moby Dick Brewing Co. offered a great special occasion experience, and the reasonable prices make it a sensible regular spot for a meal. We look forward to returning.
Moby Dick Brewing Co.
10 South Water Street, New Bedford
A. The kind of people who got the right seats.
Let us explain. We weren’t all that hungry on a recent visit to Woods Hole, so we decided to stop at the bustling Quicks Hole Tavern on a blustery Friday night for just a glass of wine and light snack. The first floor level was jam-packed, and we made our way up to the second floor where the only two seats available were at the chef’s table, a four-stool bar facing the cooking activity.
Gina ordered a Terra Grande Portuguese blend ($8) and the Big Dog selected a Familia malbec ($9). Both were good wines we hadn’t tried before.
As we perused the menu, waitstaff serving both floors, and likely the floor above us too, dashed in beside us to pick up orders. And 90 percent of them were burgers, even though there was no mention of burgers on our menu. Burgers on plates, burgers in boxes, veggie burgers with Harvarti, burgers with salads, burgers with little tin cups of crispy fries, etc., etc. — they all went flying by.
We finally asked, and learned that burgers could only be ordered on the first floor of the restaurant. We briefly contemplated calling in an order to go from our seat next to the spot where they were dispensed, but we opted instead for an appetizer they call “pig candy” ($9) four slices of pork belly on a sweet potato puree. They were awesome.
But back to our review.
We watched as the four men in the kitchen braised lamb shanks, grilled steaks, sauteed juliennes of vegetables, pan-roasted chickens, and fried, then filled, little homemade donuts they put in a paper bags. We watched them test beef for doneness with a finger (a trick the Big Dog swears by). We watched them navigate the tiny space with nary a bump, criss-crossing paths as if they had done the dance a hundred times before.
Interestingly, we also watched as the line of cars waiting to board the Martha’s Vineyard ferry started to move, and the anxiety level among the waitstaff increased palpably. Not so the kitchen staff. If the customer wanted chicken on his kale salad AND wanted to make the ferry, he should have ordered three minutes earlier. The customer knew that too, and shook off the waitstaff apologies as he grabbed his bag of takeout.
Quicks Hole offers an ever-changing charcuterie and cheese board, with three choices for $17, five for $22, and seven for $26. The choices looked interesting on the blackboard, and the board of three we saw looked like a generous serving for two people with all its accompaniments. We’ll likely try that on our next visit.
But watching the professionalism of the kitchen staff, we’re certain we’ll enjoy any selection from any of the restaurant’s menus. We look forward to returning.
6 Luscombe Ave., Woods Hole, MA
A. The kind of person who wants a seat at the fabulous new restaurant at the Sandwich Marina.
Gina and the Big Dog planned a lunch visit to Fishermen’s View, only to find that this beautiful new spot at the Cape Cod Bay end of the Cape Cod Canal didn’t open until 3 p.m. We enlisted reinforcements for another day and concluded that a mid-afternoon visit would be the best approach, given the many somewhat agitated comments online about long waits for dinner.
The four of us were seated on the deck overlooking the marina. We saw no land mass on the horizon there but knew the next stop was Orleans on the Cape, and after that, somewhere in Portugal. The view of boat traffic on an early fall afternoon was entertaining and relaxing.
The restaurant is family owned and operated, and co-exists in its sleek new space with a fish market. We felt like we learned everything we needed to know about the business during our first visit, when we sat at the crowded bar, marveled at the view, ordered a glass of wine and insisted that’s all we wanted, and we were still treated to a basket of the restaurant’s outstanding herby cornbread with sweet butter.
During our more recent visit with friends, the cornbread was back, and once again set the tone for what was to come. We all loved it.
After the bread, we started with a half dozen Wellfleet oysters ($2.50 each) for the gentlemen and a buffalo cauliflower appetizer ($8) for the table. The former were perfectly shucked and served with a trio of sauces. The latter was a linear arrangement of cauliflower florets that were deep fried and tossed in the familiar chicken wing sauce, then garnished with a Great Hill Blue cheese dressing and carrot ribbons. It’s a tasty, classy, somewhat healthy twist on the traditional bar snack, and a pretty hearty serving for the price.
The Big Dog ordered a burger ($11) with guacamole ($2) and chose potato salad from the extensive list of sides. It was good, but with its two angus patties, onion, “yellow cheese,” and puffy bun, it was just too tall to be easily eaten.
Gina can’t pass up a beet salad, so ordered this one ($11) with a Jonah crab “cocktail” topper ($9). She later likened it to a Twinkie, with a delicious muddled kale in lieu of creamy filling, and crunchy quinoa in lieu of yellow cake. And smokey roasted corn, and crisp pepitas, swirls of pickled onions, and sweet chunks of red beets, all topped with cotija cheese. The crabmeat came naked in a mound on the side. Don’t order this expecting a light meal — it was hearty and filling.
Our friends made their choice from the short but varied list of entrees: the pan-roasted halibut ($28) (shown), whose pancetta and red pepper sauce added a smokey flavor; and the skirt steak ($22), arriving as rare as hoped for, atop a fig risotto.
Gina and the Big Dog opted for a bottle of Josh cabernet ($34), while our friends enjoyed a pinot noir and a sidecar, whose amber color warmed our table.
Our server, who was personable but not to the point of introducing herself, was professional and capable. The food was very good to excellent, the venue comfortable yet sleek, the view was unparalleled, and for all that, the prices were surprisingly reasonable. We look forward to returning in the off-season, when we might be able to enjoy dinner at dinnertime.
20 Freezer Road, Sandwich
There was nothing typical about our recent first visit to Cabby Shack on the bustling Plymouth waterfront. A light drizzle kept the crowds away, and we were treated to some really good fare.
We opted for seats at the third-floor outdoor bar, whose tiki top offered sufficient protection from the mist and whose railing offered a bird’s eye view of the harbor’s construction projects and boating activity. From our vantage point, we were able to watch cranes attending to a pier reconstruction and boat ramp project. Bartender Earl poured the Big Dog a 16-ounce Mayflower IPA ($5.75) and Gina a Quara Malbec ($7.50) in plastic cups, and we were content to sit and watch.
The Cabby Shack menu is full of the New England staples that a tourist from America’s Heartland would expect to find in America’s Hometown — let them go back west thinking that a basket of fries doused with chowda ($8.99) is a thing — but there were plenty of options for locals or visitors whose clam-o-meter has been tipped.
We started with chicken wings in a garlic parmesan sauce ($9.99). It was a simple dish, but one tasty enough to make us look forward to the rest of our lunch.
We love short ribs, and the Heartland visitors who skipped the Pratt-Rib Pannini ($13.99) because they can get that at home did themselves a huge disservice. The Big Dog’s giant triple-decker sandwich came with a layer of portobello and goat cheese on sourdough, all tricked out with some arrugula and carmelized onions. If you like thin, crispy fries, you will enjoy the ones that come with Cabby Shack sandwiches.
Gina chose a special, dubbed Salmon Homard ($22.99), a hunk of salmon topped with one of the restaurant’s signature lobster cakes. The salmon was grilled to crispy-juicy perfection. The lobster cake had a similar texture and color, with some visible chunks of lobster meat. Alongside was a dollop of delicious mashed potatoes, some asparagus, and a nondescript vegetable medley.
Overall, the food was very good and the view was entertaining: a rare combination.
30 Town Wharf, Plymouth
Hadley, who has run this kitchen for a dozen years, has gained a widespread reputation for creativity, while recognizing that diners value food that is consistent, fresh, and a great value. It’s an unusual combination for a restaurant that also offers an idyllic waterfront view, with a deck perched over the Stonebridge Marina in Onset.
On the night of our visit, Hadley was experimenting with an oyster special that displayed his special twist on the classic Rockefeller treatment.
He opened a pair of oysters and sat them, bowl side down, in a bed of kosher salt. “It infuses a little flavor, maybe, and keeps them upright,” he noted.
On these, he placed some chunks of bleu cheese, the element which kept this from being a true Rockefeller recipe, but which added a rich earthiness which clearly enhanced the original.
He then added a layer of scallions sautéed with spinach. While we were surprised at the tangle of scallion, Justin said many oysters Rockefeller recipes call for it in lieu of chopped onion or shallot.
Then came a generous, course crumble of cooked bacon.
Finally, Hadley hauled out a tray of a toasted panko concoction and insisted that we sample a pinch, then another. We could imagine eating this stuff by the buttery fistful from a cardboard tub at the movies, it was that good. The crumbs were mixed with butter, parmesan, butter, a hint of red pepper, and butter. He topped each oyster with the crumbs, then put them in the convection oven for five minutes.
The result was rich, bright, cheesy, salty, and crunchy – all of the characteristics of a perfect bar snack. He served the pair of oysters on a bed of organic baby spinach with two grilled half lemon quarters
The Stonebridge Bistro’s specials were part of the second annual Wareham Oyster Festival. A week of culinary and educational offerings centered around the oyster culminate annually in a street fair on the first Sunday in May on Main Street.
For more information about the Wareham Oyster Festival, visit warehamvillage.org.
The Stonebridge Bistro is located at Five East Boulevard in Onset; visit stonebridgebarandgrill.com for information.
Generally speaking, it’s our kind of place Stretched along scenic Shore Road is first a wholesale fish market, then a retail market, then a room for takeout, then a delightfully rustic dining room, then a pub area with a handful of hightop tables on one side and a copper-surfaced bar on the other, then an outdoor patio, then the brackish Back River, which flows forcefully to and from Buzzards Bay with each tide.
Some come for the lively bar scene with periodic live music, some for the off-the-boat fresh fish in the market, some for the reasonably priced yet inventive meals in a dining room that’s as comfortable for toddlers as for Gramma.
We come for the water fowl, and we’re never disappointed.
Sure, the fish tacos featuring corn and black bean salsa ($12) are excellent. We love the beet napolean salad ($9) a composed structure of beets with blue cheese and not much else. The seafood stew ($8 for a 12-ounce cup) is rich and creamy, and the lobster roll ($21, but often available as part of a lunch special) makes you glad you live in New England even when it snows every day for two months. We like our Cabernet Sauvignon, and they have two good ones by the glass: Josh ($9) and Five Rows ($7).
But if you have any interest in wildlife, you’ll want to visit the Lobster Trap for lunch or an early dinner during the summer, and the food will take a back seat to the scene playing out before you at the bar.
The Back River is a tidal estuary which flows into a protected area known as Phinney’s Harbor. During our visits, we’ve watched heron, egrets, osprey, swans, hooded mergansers, buffleheads, black ducks, and more. Most recently, we watched two flocks of Canada geese converge upon one another as if they were playing out a scene from “West Side Story.” The undertow is vicious, and the birds take full advantage, propelled inland under Shore Road, then bobbing back under the railroad bridge.
Others, we’re sure, come for the unusually pleasant staff. This being a seasonal community — one we tend to avoid in the season — many patrons are greeted with a cheerful, “When did you get back!?”
During our most recent lunchtime visit, we experienced a rare misstep: the oversized “house-made brioche croutons” accompanying the caesar salad were like bricks. The Big Dog’s topping of very good steak tips saved his salad, and Gina thought the classic dressing on her side version offset the crouton debacle. And the slightest expression of dismay on our part drew effusive apologies from our server, and complimentary wines for each of us. Things go wrong even at the best establishments, and the front-line staff’s handling of a complaint makes the difference between a customer who won’t return, and one who enthusiastically recommends the place. As we recommend The Lobster Trap.
The Lobster Trap
290 Shore Road, Bourne
We had the good fortune of returning with friends to the Pilot House, and it was the kind of dinner where time flies by and next thing you know, it’s time to go home. Joining us was a crew of four people we like a lot. You know the drill: one minute you’re seated in a fairly crowded restaurant, and the next minute the waitstaff is scowling at you from a huddle in the corner, calling their boyfriends to say they’ll be late because a party of six just won’t leave.
It wasn’t that bad, but it was well on its way, on this Saturday night before the summer season makes it so difficult to find a seat at a really good restaurant on the Cape.
And the Pilot House is a really good restaurant. We had one service misstep and one dish described only as “good,” but our dining experience was otherwise excellent.
The Pilot House overlooks the Sandwich Marina near the eastern end of the Cape Cod Canal. One of many window seats at what may have been a wrap-around deck would have offered a great view of the waterfront, but we were seated by the fireplace, unlit during this first warm evening of the year. It’s probably a nice spot there on a winter evening, but due to the restaurant’s spare and airy decor, colorful in a classic way, it was a nice spot in the spring too. The restaurant’s design makes great use of varying levels, with the bar at the entrance at the highest point, and dining levels stepping down towards the sea.
The menu includes a varied selection of wines by the glass. We’ll spare you Gina’s anguish at the news that a new list is being introduced and the Albarino is being phased out (who phases out an Albarino in May!?) — but she was placated with a floral Chateau Ste. Michelle sauvignon blanc ($6). The Big Dog spotted a Josh cabernet ($9) and jumped right in. Jim ordered a Harpoon IPA ($5), which we all know is the perfect antidote to a day of yard work, and Mary the fruity Pilots Punch ($9). Dark and Stormy each ordered their namesake beverage ($9).
As an appetizer, Gina ordered the green salad ($3.95) with balsamic vinaigrette served on the side without asking. The salad consisted of mixed green leaves, with a couple of slices of English cucumber and a couple of grape tomatoes. Sounds boring, perhaps, but the combination of a snappy dressing and fresh, clean, spicy greens was spectacular. A flawless green salad portends a meal characterized by obsessive attention to detail.
Jim ordered a cup of the Portuguese kale soup, the day’s soup ($4.95). Anyone dining regularly in the Southcoast region of Massachusetts knows that kale soup tells you as much about a kitchen as a green salad does, and this didn’t disappoint: Jim said it was hot, both in temperature and spice.
Mary ordered a half dozen raw Duxbury oysters ($13.50) while the rest of us looked on in horror, having recently enjoyed endless oyster dishes during the Wareham Oyster Festival. The Duxburys were on the specials menu, as were Barnstable oysters provided by our friends at Big Rock Oyster.
The Big Dog ordered a caesar salad with anchovies ($6.95), and this is where the unfortunate service misstep occurred. As his entree, he ordered a monstrosity called the Seafood Pot ($17.95) off the appetizer menu, and it was hauled out as his appetizer. So while the rest of the table sat with its tiny soup cups and delicate salads and wee shellfish appetizers, the Dog confronted a giant trough containing lobster, shrimp, oysters, clams, mussels, all in a delicious sauce with bread for dipping. Good, but it threw off the cadence of the dinner in a way that the staff should have anticipated.
As an entree, Dark and Stormy each ordered the seafood special: lobster ravioli generously adorned with lobster, scallops, shrimp, tomatoes, and asparagus ($26.99) in a white wine sauce. We all tried some and agreed that lobster ravioli is so often marred by a heavy sauce, but this was not.
Mary is a connoisseur of fish tacos and was pleased but not particularly impressed by the Pilot House version ($19.95), which included black beans and was made with mahi mahi.
Jim’s dish of mussels marinara ($19.95), were pronounced very tasty. They arrived as an enormous mound of relatively small shells concealing a plate of pasta in a sauce worth sopping up with the bread that came alongside.
Gina was pleasantly surprised by her baked scallops ($21,95), a dish that many restaurants badly mangle. A small plate of a dozen or so large day boat scallops, with crunchy crumb topping, were nestled into a delicious sherry butter sauce, and came with rice and crunchy green beans. The scallops were perfectly done, moist inside but cooked through.
We were kidding, in the beginning, about the waitstaff calling their boyfriends. The team at the Pilot House is professional and pleasant, and at one point a passing staffer alerted us that the Bruins were winning in a playoff game that we could not see from our vantage point.
Gina and the Big Dog enjoyed this spot in a different way when stopping in recently for an afternoon snack and beverage at the bar. It was evident during that stop that the Pilot House is the sort of dependable yet adventuresome restaurant where you go with people who are important to you. We did that, and we were not disappointed.
The Pilot House Restaurant and Lounge
14 Gallo Road, Sandwich
At the Pilot House Restaurant, you can see the east end of the Cape Cod Canal from pretty much every seat. A step down here, a couple of steps up there, and you get a multi-level extravaganza of entertaining views.
Of course, Gina and the Big Dog sat at the bar, where you get peeks of sparkly water but not much else in terms of view. We did get to see an excellent golf tournament on TV, and we had a great view of the Pilot House’s excellent selection of unusual wines.
We don’t usually dwell on the alcohol, but let us do that for a moment. We ordered two glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon in order to compare them: one Justin, which we had only ever seen by the bottle at The Rye Tavern in Plymouth, and a Josh Cellars, which the Big Dog gets at The Lobster Trap in nearby Pocasset (and which we just realized we’ve never mentioned). Lucky Gina got the $12 Justin, and the Big Dog got the $8 Josh. Both were rich, lush Cabs, full of fruit but not jammy, but when it came time to order a second glass we decided that the distinction wasn’t worth $4, and we ordered another pair of Joshes.
We note that a Chardonnay drinker beside us was delighted to see a La Crema on the wine list, but balked at the $11 pricetag. Lucky for her, apparently, her blustery male companions insisted ordered the La Crema over her objections.
We’re sure that you could order soup, salad, and entrees at the Pilot House, and maybe a dessert, and enjoy them all. But do what we did, and you’ll be just as happy.
To start, we ordered the cold seafood sampler ($15.95). It came with a lobster claw, two oysters, two littlenecks, and four peel-and-eat shrimp. We don’t share the same taste in seafood, and this was a perfect arrangement, with us each getting plenty of the stuff we like. The platter came with plastic cups of horseradish, cocktail sauce, and a vinegar concoction that Patricia the bartender explained was “minuet sauce — some people like it with their oysters.” The oysters were from Barnstable, we learned, and everything was clean and crisp and fresh.
We then ordered a haddock chowder special ($5.95) and blackened swordfish with lemon caper butter special ($12.95). We informed Patricia that we intended to split both, and she facilitated that with extra spoons and plates.
The chowder was outstanding. We don’t mean it was good. We mean that if we do a chowder contest: sorry, kids, but we’re picking the Pilot House. We mean that if we’re marooned on a desert island, the one food we want with us is Pilot House chowder. We mean that if we’re elected president, this soup will be served in the White House. We mean… well, you get the picture. We all have our pet peeves about chowder: too thick, too thin, potatoes too big, insufficient protein, etc., but we dare you to find something wrong with this creamy, bacony, thyme-y bowl of bliss.
The salad was a very fresh lettuce mix with some added oomph — maybe brussels sprouts leaves? — with grape tomatoes, a few European cucumber slices, some red onion, and the best house-made Italian dressing we have ever tasted. No need to tart up this basic oil and vinegar emulsion with herbs or cheese.
The swordfish was good. The butternut squash served alongside was also good. The mashed potatoes were fluffy, smooth, and delicious.
The Pilot House isn’t new. The building has clearly been there for a long time, although the interior has a fresh updated feel, and the operators tout some significant experience in the area. It was new to us, though, and we look forward to returning for outdoor dining as the weather warms.
The Pilot House Restaurant and Lounge
14 Gallo Road, Sandwich
Now here was an unusual dining experience for Gina and the Big Dog. The food was merely serviceable, the view was disappointing, the decor drab, the service pedestrian, but we’ll look fondly back on the experience itself because of the two delightful strangers who were seated at our table by chance.
We made reservations on the Cape Cod Central “Gourmet Lunch Train” a week before our Wednesday excursion, and didn’t know what to expect. Arriving in downtown Hyannis as instructed, 45 minutes before our 11:30 a.m. boarding time, we imagined being seated with the pack of unruly urchins in matching fluorescent tee-shirts, or worse, with any of the numerous pairs of frail grandmas being hauled around by their hipster granddaughters.
Instead, after some confusion, we were led to the first table in the Great Island car, seated opposite Phil and Betty Rae, a retired couple who summer on the Cape and winter in northern Florida and who we’re pretty sure are the most pleasant people on the East Coast.
While the train chugged through an endless tunnel of bittersweet and ferns, we heard about the couple’s interesting children. While we chewed chicken breast in an egg wash topped with a lemony supreme sauce, a couple of roasted potatoes, and three outstanding asparagus spears, we learned about the couple’s own interesting careers. We heard about Little Dogs and how difficult they can be, and the Big Dog offered some guidance for an upcoming visit by Li’l Dog.
We enjoyed the seafood chowder. We’re not sure you can call a lunch “gourmet” and serve only chicken breast with supreme sauce, but the chicken was good and the potatoes were too. The day’s dessert was a lemon tart with raspberry sauce, and that was good. The coffee was good. We enjoyed a couple of glasses of cabernet with our lunch. Our waitress was cheerful and had really good balance, enabling her to haul a tray full of beverages while the train was in motion.
Looking at a map, you’ll imagine views of the bay, quaint villages, and the majestic Cape Cod Canal. The urchins and many of the grandmas turned out to be in a different non-lunch “Scenic Train Ride” car, along only for the scenery, and we’re certain they were extremely disappointed, because the view is obscured throughout. The sound system played an entertaining selection of rail-related music, but then deteriorated into static. A narrator offered some commentary on the ride back, but we were talking and not paying attention.
So while our servers had to deal with some lurching issues that your normal waitstaff does not, every passenger in the car had the same chowder-chicken-tart order; this was not a service challenge. Presumably, a significant portion of the $45 per person charge is for the train ride. And yet our bill included this off-putting line: If you are happy with your service, we suggest you base your gratuity on 18%-20% of the GRAND total of your bill. We like to think of our dining-out experiences in terms of the overall value, and that statement on the bill suggests that our fee was for lunch service delivered by our waitstaff. If this was a $45 lunch in a train car with a view, it was a horrific rip-off.
And had we been seated with the urchins or Grandma/Hipsters, that would have been our take-away: horrific rip-off. But the fact is that we enjoyed lunch immensely. If the Cape Cod Central Railroad had something to do with us being paired with the nicest couple on the East Coast, then bravo. We’ll leave it at that.
“Gourmet Lunch Train”
252 Main Street, Hyannis