alphabetically (on a 5 point system).........
Mac's Fish House
85 Shank Painter Road, Provincetown
I recall the years driving up the Cape and stopping for lunch in Wellfleet at Mac's Shack at the beach. It was a stop that I always looked forward to and we continued that for quite a few years. And so, when I heard that Mac's was opening a new full-size restaurant in Provincetown, I thought that my prayers had been answered.
It's also interesting that during those Wellfleet luncheon years, Mac's started losing a bit of its touch. Too often did I get a lobster roll on bread that was soaked through from the dressing, a soggy mess that couldn't be handled politely. The Wellfleet visits began to peter out but it was around the same time that I heard about their new opening.
Ptown Mac's is a bit off the beaten path compared to most restaurants in town. Perhaps that is why it seems to attract a lot of families with children, being that most have arrived with a car whether for the day or an extended stay. In fact, on my visit, the restaurant was packed with families and lots and lots of small children lending to the high-decibel atmosphere.
I told our waitress that it was our first visit there and asked for her recommendations. Without a doubt, she said, the lobster pot pie is awesome. As it turned out, not so awesome. The lobster meat was scant and the entire dish felt like something devised by a diner found on Route 6. Grilled swordfish did not fare much better with no discernible flavor along with a mélange of veggies and accompaniments that did not seem to pair very well. Side dishes were ordinary. Desserts are of a size that make everyone ooh and aah but resemble something found on the lazy-Susan of a Greek diner.
By the way, I never did see that waitress much over the course of the evening. Maybe she was in the parking lot having a good laugh over the pot pie suggestion.
There are many restaurants in town. It was time to leave Mac's for those without much ability to discern well-prepared food from all else. Not all is lost however. See my page regarding take-away food and Mac’s seafood market next door.
429 Commercial Street, Provincetown
If you've been to Ptown only once, then chances are that you know The Mews. It may not roll off your tongue quite like The Lobster Pot but it's up there. Kudos must go to any restaurant here that stays open year-round and serves locals during the bitter cold months.
Like so many people, I found myself returning year after year. But then, with quiet abandon, did not. Time has not been a friend to The Mews. Quite likely it was squeezed out by the newer (and better) places, or perhaps it was just looking older and mustier. Or did I only now realize that it was always just OK.
Here, unlike other places, the never changing menu is a bit of a drag. The pastas are interesting but a bit overdone, the fish good but somehow should be better and the salads crisp but lacking something. I've now come to know that this “something” is an inspired kitchen rather than the dutiful one that promises a meal in sun or snow, rain or sleet. While you will probably never have a bad meal here, it also won't be an exceptional one and I feel that the prices should reflect that. Somehow, they do not.
The staff have always been over the top pleasant and could be the cause of your own guilt trip if you decided not to return. The atmosphere is hurried and clubby on the main floor, quieter and subterranean-like on the lower with a view of the water as if witnessed from underneath your neighbor's deck.
And when I promised myself that I would put it on my list again for the summer, I did and once there, thought long and hard as to whether it would make the cut next year.
3225 US-6, Wellfleet
Driving up Route 6, it's hard not to notice Moby Dick's. The place seems huge, the signage similar. We couldn't resist. And over the years, it somehow became our regular stop on ou way to Ptown.
It has all the right things going for it. The front desk staff where all of the ordering is done are sweet and helpful. The food is all fresh and cooked to order, the choices plentiful, the service to the tables is quick and the parking lot is made from crushed seashells. Who could ask for anything more!
On many occasions, I've ordered the fried shrimp which I would call "fried shrimp for those who really don't want fried fish." The batter is extremely light which means that you're eating 95% shrimp and little else. The cocktail sauce is also quite nice. Other fresh fish is also done well including a good fried cod sandwich and a salmon platter. The lobster roll excels here too...a very meaty salad on a nice roll accompanied by mighty tasty cole slaw. The kitchen is also quite accommodating in that they will substitute wherever possible and the counter servers will even make suggestions on how to combo your meal to your taste.
Seating is either in a small room of cloth covered tables or, a larger room filled with picnic tables and a camp-out quality, the latter being my preference. This is definitely no-frills dining and it's best to know that before setting your sights too high.
And even on the occasional visit where the food may be a little less spectacular than you recall, it's still considerably better than most and a welcome sign on the road.
See you on the way up to Ptown next year, and thanks for being there!
328 Commercial Street, Provincetown
Always crowded, this favorite of locals and tourists alike seems to have the magic trick. They have managed to snare a regular crowd in spite of the fact that there are fewer good street-watching tables than Bubala's. And the comparison there doesn't end.
The upside is a lot more shady tables with umbrellas. And that may be it when comparing them to our friends up the block. The food is all quite tasty from large, well-prepared salads to sandwiches on some hefty bread. The wait staff here differs in that here at The Patio "up-selling" seems to be common. The fries here are quite good but Bubala's has the edge. And as far as almost every aspect of The Patio, the edge does indeed go to the other guys.
371 Commercial Street, Provincetown
Splayed across the top of the menu at Pepe’s are the words No Substitutions. For a born-and-bred New Yorker these are fighting words. The devil in me is going to ask for some sort of substitution and I’m going to see just how far I can get.
Let’s see…. The fish platter sounds good but if only I could get it with coleslaw instead of fries. The iceberg salad sounds good but I'm not in the mood for blue cheese dressing. If only I could get it with something else.
If only. Words that are descriptive beyond that of the lengthy menu. If only the service was just a little bit better here and I felt like someone was paying attention to my table. If only the prices were a little bit less than they are. If only each time I came here the waiter did not forget to bring my drink. If only.
And let’s face it. They are now going to need to work pretty hard at the food to offset some of the customer-unfriendly vibe. There are the fried fish platters, not greasy and well-presented but a bit banal. Salads are a real mixed bag. The accompaniment to the green salad (fish, a scoop of lobster salad, etc.) are the highlights making it even more unfortunate that the greens have a slight day-old taste as if they came from a pre-washed bag of greens at your supermarket.
But if only every other restaurant in town had the harbor view that Pepe’s Wharf does. Sitting under a covered porch with an expansive view of Ptown harbor, I can only imagine that even on the most overcast and rainy day it would be marvelous.
Guests of mine coming to town with their small child wanted a place with great ambiance for lunch. I immediately thought of Pepe’s and then asked the magic question. Is your child good eating off the menu as is or is he a finicky eater? If the latter, I can think of only two words. No substitutions.
IT IS MY UNDERSTANDING THAT A NEW OWNER IN 2018 HAS ELEVATED THIS PLACE QUITE A BIT.
82 Bradford Street, Provincetown
https://www.opentable.com/the-pointe-restaurant (and by phone)
Well-hidden within the confines of the The Crown Pointe hotel lies the mysterious Pointe restaurant. Perhaps it remains elusive because The Pointe is so unlike other restaurants, but the mystery unravels once inside.
Enter an old-fashioned historic inn complete with heavy wood wainscoting, tin ceilings and creaking staircases. Heavens me, could lace doilies be far behind? The good news….no lace doilies. Yet that is just about where the good news ends. We were warmly greeted to a table no so much to our liking and when we asked for another, we were told that it would be one hour until another table became available. And so, we took our seats at the original table. Within twenty-five minutes I noticed two other available tables, but I move on.
Our waiter’s efficiency was sharpened to a fine point, smiles in absentia and punctuated by a thick and not-easily understood accent. I watched the other wait staff service their own tables with many of the same characteristics in place. The wine choices are nice, reasonable and quite good. And, as he took our drink order, he wasted no time in the proceedings. “I will now show you the specials” he said, as he whipped out his tablet and scrolled through a catalogue of items one by one. It would have taken a miracle to bring these dishes to the table in a manner resembling their photos, but I kept the faith, even though I was a bit taken back by that entire process. After all, the last time I saw pictures prior to ordering my meal was probably at TGIF.
On to the food. A garden salad was served chilled and well-dressed as it should be. An appetizer of crab cakes was tasty but lacked any exterior crunch. Even if they were baked rather than fried, a good coating of panko would have resolved it. They were indeed served with a tasty little pink sauce on the side. Entrees did not fare very well. If you go as far as saying that your tuna is “sushi-grade”, then cook it appropriately (or perhaps, not at all). Their version was sliced into a thin wedge and cooked well-done. The result…a dried-out affair that should not have been brought to the table. The accompanying green tea soba had no flavor other than the heavy-handed soy it was tossed in. A halibut entrée looked more promising but lacked any real flavor, again due to overcooking but the plate was redeemed by a cheesy risotto side. Accompaniments such as the pleasingly described brussels sprouts were once again, overcooked. Upon complaining about some of the food, we were indeed treated to a gratis dessert. Our choice was the carrot cake, simple and tasty but served moister at Joe’s Coffee in town.
The staff, from front desk to kitchen are all very well-intentioned but the execution was something substantially different. Make no mistake about it, the Pointe serves up country club food, the kind you would expect from a well-meaning kitchen that is too aware of the fact that you just spent a day on the golf course and now need to eat, anything.
The Red Inn
15 Commercial Street, Provincetown
RESERVATIONS BY PHONE
For a starter, I ordered the iceberg wedge salad. There it was glistening with a drizzle of blue cheese dressing topped with diced tomatoes and smoked bacon and looking all rather perfect. Served with a sharp knife just as a wage salad should, I took my first bite only to find out that it was not quite cold enough. And a wedge needs that extra special crutch that it can only get from the big chiller.
Apparently, the well-known joke about the Red Inn is that they are celebrating their 100th anniversary......of the menu! That makes their menu either annoying or comforting, depending on where you stand.
After many meals over many years at the Red Inn, I have always found something no matter how small it may be that isn’t quite perfect about the meal. In most cases, it was something rather small. Today it was about the iceberg wedge. Yesterday, it was the coconut shrimp that needed another minute in the fryer. Shrimp from the raw bar were tasty but varied a bit too much in size. On one occasion, I needed to explain to the waiter why my white wine needed more of a chill. The quizzical look that I received after the wine debacle was followed up by a wonderful experience from the same waiter who was then attentive and suave. And so it goes. And what I have learned like most people who come to this very special place is that there is also something magical going on here. And those of us know that once we dispense of the minor “mistake” of the meal, you can sit back and anticipate a very wonderful and beautiful evening.
At the Red Inn, you will not be presented a wait staff cutting its teeth at your table tonight for the very first time. No, that’s not the Red Inn way. I will always arrive there long in advance of my reservation time. Fewer restaurants have a better harbor and sunset view (see Best of the Bars), served by a very efficient cocktail wait staff, while you are seated in one of their coveted lounge chairs. And they will gladly carry your unfinished drink to your dining table. If the cocktail hour starts off with a bang, your expectation is to be continuously delighted.
But oh, the excellent codfish stacked high over the evening’s veggie accompaniment, lobster rolls that are meaty and fresh, perfectly dressed salads and tender filet of beef with a pepper crust are all wonderful. As is the roast chicken although I wished it were presented a bit more crispy. The scent of a smoked pork chop arrives long before it reaches your table. All are usual quite large and most prepared to perfection on every visit. There is no doubt that each time you are there, your experience will include a nearby birthday or anniversary celebration. Given the size of the restaurant, what better place to throw the party. Because after all, once the not so crispy fried shrimp arrive, or the slightly under temperature lettuce, you know that you are in for an experience that you will not soon forget. And you will be back again and again, as I have.
237 Commercial Street, Provincetown
https://www.opentable.com/ross-grill (and by phone)
After my first visit to Ross’ some years ago, I dreamed that I would return for the halibut shrimp and scallop fettucine. I did. And then again. Whatever goes into this gooey pile of a dish, please don’t tell me. I do not want to attempt this at home since it would most likely make Dr. Atkins shriek in horror all the way from the grave.
I can think of several other things on the Ross’ menu that would also qualify as artery-busters, and yes, arrive with equal tastiness. Not to fear however, the kitchen team behind this place knows how to knock out other killer dishes kinder to your heart. Fried fish is light and delicious both as a fish & chips plate and a cod sandwich. The fries by the way could not stand up to the fish and were a slight disappointment. There is an even better way to go at dinner with the choice of the Tuscan Cod. Swordfish and halibut (kudos to the special on one night with a Thai lobster sauce) were standouts and while they were listed as specials, seem to appear on most nights. Salmon with a miso glaze was superb as an entrée as well as an addition to the classic BLT. The pork ribs served as an appetizer is delicious and plentiful. The shrimp from the raw bar are perfect for that just-caught flavor.
So, if the entrees are winners why can’t they get a few of the simpler things right? A grilled romaine salad was so awful that it tasted as if you were eating soggy lettuce with a dollop of dressing. Yich. Bread, served at every table should be scratched from the restaurant. Why serve tasteless diner style bread along with an ordinary olive oil? What sort of introduction is that to the entrees that follow? Better yet, improve the bread and accompaniments and turn this place into the 5-star restaurant it deserves to be. And a simple burger should be a reliable staple but here it is dry and tasteless.
You may have heard of Ross’ but perhaps never laid eyes on it. That’s because you would have had to frequent the shops at Whaler’s Wharf (think movie theater) but also make your way to the far reaches of this mini-mall’s second floor. Despite that, it has quite a following and reservations are a must for both lunch and dinner. Prices are a bit high here even by Ptown standards but that doesn’t appear to deter anyone given its reservation book.
Tables by the window come with a view advantage and a lovely bar with ample seats for walk-ins is always a good choice.
258 Commercial Street, Provincetown
https://www.opentable.com/saki (and by phone)
(this review is based on a single visit)
Saki is an odd restaurant in that you probably need specific directions to find it even though it's right on the main drag. Located up the stairs in a very commercial block of town, it's not one that you are likely to just stumble into. However, once you're there, it's hard to imagine that you have not heard more about it given it's glamorous look (by town standards) and its huge cavernous space.
The staff was very pleasant from front entrance to the final bill and they definitely aim to please here. The wine list is extensive and they offer a full bar as well. I went with one of the exotic drinks and was not disappointed at all.
The food at our table was a bit of a mixed bag but leaning to the positive side. Appetizer of lobster egg rolls had a scant amount of lobster meat and were a bit too oily for my taste. Edamame were tasty but a bit undersalted and lacked real flavor. Crispy fried brussel sprouts were tasty but did nothing to convert anyone who doesn't swing toward this veg. Entrees fared much better. A very large portion of sushi consisting of two rolls (tuna and spicy salmon) were quite tasty and crunchy where necessary. There was more than enough here to share. The lemongrass chicken had quite a spicy punch and was of a very good quality. It was served with a delicious papaya salad, also enough to serve two people. And by looking around at what was served at other tables, there was much to admire and look forward to. With the meal ending on a high note, we will definitely be back despite some glitches. The decor alone makes it hard to imagine that you are really in Ptown, and can be well worth the escape.
99 Commercial Street, Provincetown
RESERVATIONS BY PHONE
At an unmarked beachside house surrounded by a very large crowd of people, you’ve arrived at Sal’s Place. The very lovely owner will instruct you to hang out nearby and your name will be called soon enough. We have waited up to 30 minutes beyond our reservation time and apparently that is not highly unusual here. Patience however is greatly rewarded. A few others flew the coop. I suggest you stay put.
The owner knows how to take care of her customers. Whether it's an extra glass of wine or a complementary this or that, she doesn't miss a beat. And when our wobbly table needed some help, she and three others took to it for at least ten minutes as if it were their only task that evening.
Summer 2016 appeared to be a test year. The former restaurant in that location had closed and the new owners apparently chose to operate it only for a limited season. We are so glad they returned. While there are a few other good Italian restaurants in town, some of which have been here for many years, I can truly say that superb Italian food has now arrived in Ptown.
Orecchiette pasta with sweet sausage is incredible if a bit spicy. The meatball appetizer comes plentiful and in a rich sauce with a few wonderful slices of bread to soak it all up. Caesar salad has just the right crunch and perfectly dressed, and grilled salmon on two occasions was perfect with a wonderful sauce to accompany it along with an arugula salad. Roasted cod fish was to die for with its sauce of chopped tomato and green olives. It arrived with a side of linguine and although it was very simple, I will probably never be able to duplicate it with its drizzle of olive oil, garlic, and laced with an anchovy tapenade. The seared scallops were cooked just right and accompanied by a terrific faro and veggie salad. Eggplant parm is not your traditional style here but rather a more sophisticated and easier to eat version. The steak pizzaiola was delicious and rich. There is no dessert here but a complimentary offering that ranges from tiramisu to macerated stone fruit.
You should note the cash only policy and that dining could be either indoors in a warm-ish but breezy (and beautiful) room, or at one of their outdoor tables. Preferences should be given with your reservation.
The restaurant has no sign in front but the crowd out front will give it away. I wish the owners a long and happy life in Provincetown.
386 Commercial Street, Provincetown
https://resy.com/cities/cpc/spindlers (and by phone)
Once a relatively unknown restaurant at the Waterford Inn, Chef Barbara Lynch of Boston restaurant fame came to town and transformed their restaurant into what is now Spindler's. In this case, transformation is a mild word to use. What was a banal restaurant that could be passed by without notice has now become the restaurant that should absolutely be noticed. Perhaps a block or two beyond the center of Commercial Street, a turn to the East may be worth your while.
The interior looks pretty and inviting but I have always tried to snag a seat on the upstairs level, open to the street and overlooking the Commercial Street traffic. There you will find a long bar which, if the outermost tables are taken, seem to be a good choice.
The wine list is ample by the bottle and short by the glass with descriptions that scream out for help. Sommeliers may be in short supply.
Mussels served in a saffron broth are amazingly delicious and plentiful even if they will temporarily dye your fingers orange by the end of the meal. A burrata salad with grilled peaches and a drizzle of balsamic is top notch. A meaty, absolutely delicious yet costly lobster roll is stuffed to perfection and the gazpacho is world class and made even better with an addition of lobster or crabmeat. A perfectly cooked halibut adorned with roasted fennel was amazing and the roast chicken with its corn and tomato salad was a perfect summer dish. Scallops, perhaps a bit overcooked are redeemed by its accompanying lobster risotto. I could look around at the dishes served to other nearby tables and know for sure that I was coming back for them too.
And I did. But then came a visit during which the kitchen sous chef must have taken a nap. Dishes were served less than luke-warm, then corrected. But on further inspection of my pork shank (a special on that night), it appeared to consist of exactly two bites of meat and the remainder of bone. When I called this to the server’s attention, he admitted that it looked bad when he picked it up. Really? Isn’t it your job to challenge the kitchen when something doesn’t look right? And the roast chicken, previously a winner looked as if someone threw the ingredients onto the plate without order. The remainder of the meal was spent watching the kitchen bring out several “we’re so terribly sorry” offerings to make up for the events of the night.
Overall, it has not deterred me from coming back and service has improved quite a bit based on a recent visit. They are capable of great things. Service really can be sweet and attentive. And if on some future visit I find myself locked out due to popularity, it will be good news for a restaurant that deserves the kudos, if the missteps indeed remain seldom.
Strangers and Saints
404 Commercial Street, Provincetown
https://resy.com/cities/cpc/strangers-and-saints (and by phone)
(the following review is based on a single visit)
There's been much said about this restaurant from local publications, flapping lips, and a few rumors. I had heard that their reservation system was a bit quirky and requires you to phone in to a reservation list and then wait your turn, all conveyed to you via text messaging.
In prior years, the restaurant has a very odd policy to get seated which involved putting your name on a list earlier in the day and waiting for your call back. Thankfully, online reservations are now possible with RESY (see link above).
The restaurant has many outdoor tables both on street-side and in the rear, all part of a very large house on Commercial Street. The exterior space is probably larger than the number of tables inside but also provide a good seat in a comfortable setting. Staff, from the front desk to the wait staff are helpful, professional and can even be quite adorable and will guide you through the small plate menu.
Yes, another small plate menu. If I have a demi-strike in me at all, it may just have to be over small plate menus. Its concept is somehow growing a little weary on me.
I'd like to say that I had the same fabulous meal that so many people claim to have had here but my experience was a little different. Perhaps my selections will be a little bit more to my liking on the next visit. Marinated olives were a hit with a hint of rosemary and orange. Shrimp ceviche not so much so….... I would have expected a real punch of citrus flavor but it was entirely lacking here. Scallops were grilled to perfection and served over a smoked tomato, chickpea combination. Looking at neighboring tables, the pizzas seemed to be a really popular choice so we went with the arugula and prosciutto version. What was served was a rather traditional thing…… a heaping mound of fresh arugula topped with yet another heaping, untamed mound of raw prosciutto. The figs that were part of the ingredient list seemed a little non-existent and the addition of heavy-handed gorgonzola a bit sharp and overpowering. It all became a very difficult thing to eat and I soon gave up.
I will be back here as I'm certain the restaurant is capable of better. But I think ultimately this is a place where you need to be a little bit more selective about what you order because the kitchen is not a guarantee. As we walked by a couple leaving the restaurant at the same moment, I asked if they enjoyed their meal. She paused and then said…”it was good.” Mhmm.
175 Bradford Street Ext., Provincetown
https://www.opentable.com/victors (and by phone)
Several years ago, I shrugged off Victor's. Perhaps it was all due to the mad rush of a Carnival week visit. Victor's is a small plate, sharing experience. But when we were told that we needed to order every one of our dishes up front, we were a bit turned off. From entry to exit, our dinner lasted a total of 45 minutes and we were out the door.
I'm glad that I gave Victor's several more chances in subsequent years. Their food is quite good and perhaps even on par with some of the best restaurants here in town. But they have since made amends and I am no longer reminded of that initial experience some years ago. Service all around is efficient but where smiles were few in years past, the faces have improved. The waiters, also efficient, try to be helpful throughout the meal and occasionally there is a slight language barrier.
Despite the chilliness, Victor's should be on everyone's go to list. Their kitchen is top notch and at this point have sampled quite a number of their dishes from an extensive menu and they are nothing short of excellent. Tuna is rare and Sushi quality, pork chops served thin and tonkatsu style, beef short ribs as tender and flavorful as can be, dumplings light and crispy, seafood cakes delicious and crispy and, were there a few more to the order of either the cakes or dumplings, would have made a satisfying dinner entree. On the other hand, the halibut was a bit dry and screaming for a sauce to pick it up. You would do very well however with their delicious, crispy and flavorful pizza.
But this is all about small plates and it is best to go there with someone willing to share. Sampling more than just a few dishes is to your advantage. The wine list is quite nice and compliments go out for offering wines by the glass in such a wide array of prices.
The interior has a lovely, beautiful and serene design and may in fact be the nicest looking white tablecloth restaurant in town.
So absolutely put Victor's on your short list for an all-around winner.