As an innkeeper on Cape Cod for 21 years we could generally put our visitors into three categories: “Cape Newbies”, “Cape Toe Dippers” and “Cape Lovers”. The newbies are exploring Cape Cod for the very first time and might ask things like “How far is Hyannis from Cape Cod?” or “Do you have to take a ferry to Martha’s Vineyard, or can you drive?” We loved newbies the best because if they were truly into exploring Cape Cod and gave themselves a few days to do so, we, as innkeepers, would love to show off the island and rock their world.
“Cape Toe Dippers” know their way around, sort of. They would generally stick close to what they knew. These folks have been to Cape Cod before, and although they might be interested in exploring the Cape, they know it enough to not have too many questions, and rarely need help. Their feeling is, “We’ve been here before, we’re good”, and inevitably hit the same bike trail, lobster roll joint and ice cream parlor they enjoyed the last time. Nothing wrong with that–if it ain’t broken don’t fix it, right? But these folks often give themselves the short end of the stick, not being as open to exploring anything and everything as, say, a Cape Newbie would, nor are they as savvy and “in the know” as a Cape Lover.
The “Cape Lovers” LOVE Cape Cod and frequent our island often. These folks know their favorite bars and restaurants–and have many of them–depending on what town they were in at the time their thirst needed quenching. They know, for instance, that not only is the best way to see whales off Cape Cod is aboard the Whale Watch Dolphin Fleet boats in Provincetown. They even know which deck, and in particular, which seats, are best for viewing these magnificent creatures. They know to skip the chain stores on Route 28 and get up to the Cook Shop in The Lemon Tree Shopping Village. Cape Lovers would often bypass the occasional sub-par clam shack and order right from the window at the Chatham Pier Fish Market, and watch the parade of seals swim by. Or drive by the countless Dunkin’ Donuts in order to grab a killer breakfast, at Van Rensselaer’s Restaurant & Raw Bar in South Wellfleet.
One other thing Cape Lovers know that others may not have caught onto…the fall season is the best time to visit Cape Cod. October and November are simply breathtaking. There are plenty of places to eat, drink and explore, but without the crowds, and with no waiting. The fall on Cape Cod is slowly getting increasingly popular as 1) Cape Lovers LOVE Cape Cod, and enjoy sharing their insider info on social media, and 2) With “social distancing” still a social fact in our world, Autumn in New England is conducive to enjoying some much needed space. This is true in particular with the town of Truro, which, even in the heat of the summer, rarely feels like a “fever pitch” of visitors then every other town on Cape Cod. As “locals” we knew when the calendar turned to October, it was time to get up to our favorite Cape Cod destination. We packed up our three Yorkies and headed East for another 24 hours of exploring Truro.
Days Market & Deli: The Lobster Roll Lover’s Mecca
Speaking of breakfast, we decided to skip breakfast all together and not spoil the decadent early lunch we planned as the truck warming up in the driveway. The windshield shimmered with a light coat of early autumn frost, but the day promised to be spectacular, requiring jeans and a light sweat shirt for early morning, but demanding shorts and a t-shirt by noon–the perfect New England weather! Our first stop would be in North Truro, just before the town line, where Truro ends and Provincetown begins. If you are a little familiar with Cape Cod, the row of historic cottages, called Days Cottages, to be exact, is as sweetly laid out as it is an iconic statement. For many years I associated this familiar scene with Provincetown, but it actually is very much part of Truro, and the cottages are currently celebrating their 90th birthday. But we have a place to stay in Provincetown for the night, so a stop over in one of the cottages won’t be necessary. But across the road from the cottages is Days Market & Deli, which would be a very necessary stop. If you’re ever up in the outer Cape area, and also find you need your lobster roll itch scratched, this is the place to stop. Days Market features everything one might need for a day at the beach, including beach gear, beer, wine and locally-made Lewis Brothers ice cream. If you’re hitting Days Market in the morning (or anytime for that matter–they advertise “brekky all day”), their delightfully ooey-gooey, munchy and crunchy breakfast sandwiches, the Lobster Benedict with arugula and Hollandaise sauce, the Avocado Toast or the hefty Belgian Waffle (don’t forget the whipped cream and strawberries) will keep you full and grinning until dinner time. But, in spite of the array of hot and cold sandwiches on the menu, we’re here for the lobster roll. The only decision would be…which lobster roll? Days Market & Deli has become famous for this conundrum. “The Original”, with it’s heaping mound of fresh lobster meat needs no explanation, but “The Connecticut” lobster roll is a familiar twist of The Original, dripping with warm butter.”The Mexican” lobster roll is a seafood fiesta, with lettuce, tomato and fresh salsa but “The Californian” lobster roll, with crispy bacon and fresh avocado is usually the one that gets our vote. Today we decided to jazz things up a bit and order “The Moroccan”, a roll of meaty lobster, with a slight dash of heat from a tasty curry mayo, added sweetness from fresh pineapple and delivering the last bit of summer with fresh mint and crunchy lettuce—a mouth-watering work of art!
A Night Out on the (Outer Cape) Town: Enzo Guest House and Blackfish
After lunch we headed to our awaiting room in downtown Provincetown. Offered an early check-in, we take advantage of our early start and drive to the west end of P-Town’s bustling Commercial Street. Even though Columbus Day weekend is just in the rear view mirror, the area is teaming with tourists taking advantage of the fall sales, as well as the colorful local flare, who seem to be enjoying the fact that there are still crowds supporting the local economy, but that the number are starting to decline–a welcomed sign of more peaceful times ahead. Our room is located in the Enzo Guest House, just above Local 186, a burger and beer restaurant. The restaurant, opened and operated by two local chefs, Eric Jansen and Guillermo Yingling, is one of Commercial Streets hot spots, and although it is tough to not pop into any one of P-Town’s fantastic array of eateries, Local 186 is worth holding out for–especially if beef is what you’re craving.
Enzo Guest House is located in a beautifully renovated Victorian which also houses the restaurant, and although our initial concern might be noise from the restaurant (for our little dogs more than anything), once in the room we felt a million miles away. The octagonal shaped wall of windows in our “Beech Forest” room had wonderful water views, as well as a bird’s eye view of Bubala’s By the Bay, a popular breakfast,lunch and dinner joint, great for people watching from our over-sized chairs. The room is modern and very clean (as were the other rooms we were able to peak into), but with a touch of P-Town whimsy in the wall art. The location is one of the best in P-Town. I’ve always found the shopping in the west end of Commercial Street slightly more interesting than the east side, and although you’re in the middle of everything, the west end of the road always seems to get quieter in the evenings. As a bonus, Joe Coffee is just three doors down from Enzo and Local 168, which has delicious coffee and the best chocolate chip scone you’ll ever have (you’re welcome).
For dinner we had reservations at Blackfish, which many consider (including me) to be one of the best restaurants on Cape Cod. The brick walls and romantic, low lighting of Blackfish hearken back to the days when the building was an old blacksmith shop. Real candles burn on the tables and cast dancing shadows up the brick walls and the menu continues the seduction, highlighting Steamed Littleneck Clams with Vermouth and Fresno Chili Butter, Pan Seared Sea Scallops over Parmesan Fondue and a Roasted Baby Carrot dish with Hazelnut Carrot Romesco, Ricotta Salata, and a Carrot Top Chimichurri for examples of appetizers. Entrees range from Heritage Farms Pork Chop with Crispy Vinegar Potatoes, Lacinato Kale and Mustard Jus and Confit Duck Leg with Duck Fat Roasted Sunchokes, Shiitake Mushrooms and Arugula to a “Blackfish classic”–Tuna Bolognese over Fresh Pappardelle with Mascarpone Cheese and Lemon Confit. Ali ordered the Panko Crusted Sole with Cauliflower Mash and a Lemon Caper Beurre Blanc and although I would normally order the duck, braised short rib or roasted chicken, I was still pretty full from eating the better part of that lobster roll earlier in the day, so I ordered a Bucatini special with Maitake Mushrooms, Curry, Coconut, Sweet Peas, Lemon and Parmesan, which totally hit the mark. As expected, the dinner and service was superb, and with a lively crowd in the dining room, many tables being made up of locals who would stop by other tables for a quick, neighborly “hello”. We washed everything down with a French white wine, followed by a luscious red wine from Truro Vineyards. Although the dessert selection sounded fantastic, we decided to head back to P-Town. Tomorrow we’d wake up early and enjoy a little more fresh air.
Truro’s Pamet Area Trails, a Site to Behold
As I wrote in the previous installment, there are some great websites out there for the serious hiker, or for people like us who just like to get out for some exercise and maybe a few pictures. One website I like is the National Park Planner. As expected, the site had the Pamet Area trails in Truro nicely laid out and described, so off we went. The trail is one of the more beautiful trails on Cape Cod, which is saying a lot since the Cape has countless miles of trails! These trails in Truro are particularly lovely, well groomed and with a nice mix of ocean views and Cape Cod history. The entire trail, if you take every route, is about 4 miles. Although it’s considered one of the more hillier trails, the hills bring on the astonishing views and when the trail goes down into a valley the hiker is surrounded by hills above, which is equally as pretty–it’s almost like walking at the bottom of the ocean, with the hills acting like large waves above. The trails are lined with wild violets, purple clover and plump mushrooms of all different varieties (not to be eaten!). We checked out the old, abandoned Bog House, as well as the East and West summits, and although the views could launch a thousand words, so could a photo, so this hiker thought it best to pass on some of the beauty we enjoyed during our morning hike.
Truro: For Your Senses…For Your Soul.
As the sun gets further from the Earth, and the warm Cape Cod breezes start sending small chills, we are reminded of the ever changing seasons of New England. I can’t think of any place on Earth that celebrates the seasons as heartily as Cape Cod. The hundreds of miles of nature trails and National Seashore which wind through spring’s natural beauty, the bustling beaches, bobbing boats and warm picnic tables of summer, the crisp days of Autumn with old sea captain home chimneys sending smoke into the gold and red trees, and the wind-whipped sea grass lining sandy entrances to baron beaches awaiting new foot prints. It’s all so magical. If you would truly like to enjoy the gifts that Mother Nature has bestowed on New England, take some time and do what two Cape Cod locals and their three Yorkies have done all year. Get in your car and take a drive, or a beach walk, a hike or just a sit down by the water, in the little town known as Truro, Massachusetts. It will deliver magic to your senses, and a lift in your soul. Thank you for reading, and we hope to see you here on Cape Cod very soon!
~ Tommy Dott is an innkeeper, restaurateur and award-winning food writer. He lives on Cape Cod with his partner Ali and their three Yorkies, Jiminy Cricket, B.G. and Bougie.