Serving the test of time
Cape & Islands restaurants still going strong decades later
The very first issue of Cape Cod LIFE rolled off the presses just in time for the busy summer season in 1979. The top line of the cover text was dedicated to one of Publisher Brian Shortsleeve’s favorite elements of life on Cape Cod—Waterview Restaurants. Over the past 40 years, some things just have not changed a bit. Over the years we have produced what we have always intended to be valuable information that you can you use not only after you first open the pages of any issue, but also as insider tips and knowledge that would stand the test of time and continue to prove to be valuable.
For this retrospective of our four decades, we delve into the noteworthy restaurant community we have enjoyed on the Cape for years and years. A random choice of an issue in the stacks of our office rendered the June/July issue from 1987. It was a delightful surprise, but perhaps not surprising at all, to discover once again the cover text touted a “Water View Restaurant Guide.” Further exploration in the pages revealed familiar coverage of some notable restaurants across the region that benefit from a waterfront position. The juxtaposition of surprise and expectation continued as the article reviewed seven restaurants that are all still in business and thriving today. Beginning with the Red Inn in Provincetown, the author could easily have been writing the story today, with the exception of the price on some highlighted entrées. Moving back down the Cape to Brax Landing in Harwich Port, little has changed as well. The deck and the view still command center stage, and the food and drink still satisfy the crowds waiting to get a seat.
Next on the tour was Mattakeese Wharf on the harbor in Barnstable Village. The beloved restaurant proudly celebrates their 50th anniversary in 2018. Owned and operated by the same family throughout, their loyal customers have practically become extended family.
The Regatta, a sentimental favorite in the town of Falmouth, is the only restaurant covered in this piece from 1987 that could not be included today. Not because they no longer exist, but because they are no longer waterfront at the end of Scranton Avenue, at the entrance to Falmouth Harbor. The restaurant was relocated to Cotuit in the old Crocker House on Route 28 and has been operated under a few different owners since the passing of the very memorable Brance Bryant. It is now Villagio Ristorante.
Any waterfront list is never considered complete without the Chart Room, the iconic converted barge on Red Brook Harbor in Cataumet. Famous for their frozen mudslides and arguably the best lobster sandwiches on the East Coast, the much-anticipated opening of the Chart Room every May brings out their loyal fans. Once again, perhaps longevity and popularity can be attributed to the consistency achieved with uninterrupted ownership. Two generations of the Jarvis family have been at the helm of this restaurant for nearly 50 years.
Next on the list, Home Port in Menemsha on Martha’s Vineyard absolutely embodies the adage “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” As reported in 1987, the town is still dry, and the restaurant still encourages diners to bring their own wine or spirits to accompany the fresh seafood that is served only hours after being brought in by the fishing boats that surround the harbor. And wrapping up the coverage of waterfront dining in the late ’80s, The White Elephant on Nantucket has been a mainstay for visitors and residents alike for several decades. The dining room was described as contemporary then and can easily meet the description today. Food and cocktails are still served on the awning-covered porch. The only perceptible change is the name, from the Regatta Dining Room to the Brant Point Grill.
All in all, Cape and Islands restaurants have garnered an outstanding reputation for dining, and the waterfront vistas are the ideal location to enjoy them. That is as true today as it has ever been.
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