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4 Must-Try Cape Cod Restaurants | Best Seafood Restaurants in Cape Cod, MA

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If you haven’t been to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, or if you haven’t been in a while, it is one of the best places to grab a laidback meal where the seafood is the star. Cape Cod restaurants are famous around the world for their seafood dishes. 

As the first stop of the Pilgrims, and once a whaling empire, today Cape Cod is known more for tourism, a deep connection to the Kennedys, and some of the best clam and lobster shacks in a concentrated area.

15 small towns comprise Cape Cod within Barnstable County. In 1602 an English explorer, Bartholomew Gosnold, caught a large amount of Cod out of the waters around the landmass. He named the peninsula, Cape Cod.

The hook-shaped sandy peninsula forms Cape Cod Bay on one side and extends out into the Atlantic Ocean, so the fish is fresh. The restaurants on the Cape serve up some of the tastiest fried, broiled, or boiled fare on the East coast. There are so many great places up and down the Cape, you can’t go wrong. Here are just a few great stops to visit.

4 Must-Visit Cape Cod Restaurants

Spanky’s Clam Shack

138 Ocean Street, Hyannis, MA // (508) 771-2770

Hyannis is synonymous with the Kennedy family. It sits right on Hyannis Harbor and is considered Mid-Cape. It is the second-largest commercial fishing port on Cape Cod and is famous as a destination for the charming downtown and the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum. Tourists heading to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard can catch a ferry to the islands from here.

There is no shortage of great restaurants in Hyannis, but Spanky’s is a casual clam shack that sits right on the inner harbor. Open daily from April to October, they serve seafood harvested locally and make award-winning clam chowder. The menu offers all preparations including fish and chips and a full New England-style lobster dinner. However, don’t miss out on the fried clams.

seafood plate with beer and wine restaurants in Cape Cod

I tried the lobster bisque, and a crab cake topped with a lobster sauce. Lobster chunks fill the bisque and the crab cake was filled with sweet crab, no fillers at all. It was absolutely delicious. My husband ordered the grilled shrimp Caesar salad. The shrimp, fresh and cooked perfectly, sat on top of a mound of crisp romaine, croutons, and shaved parmesan cheese. 

lobster roll and fries Cape Cod restaurants

The beer list includes local breweries like Barnstable Brewing, and the cocktail menu is full of inspired drinks including a Spanky’s Original. The ingredients in this cocktail are proprietary, and the limit is two per person. If you’re looking for cocktails and seafood, this Is one of the best Cape Cod restaurants for that

Sesuit Harbor Café

357 Sesuit Neck Road, Dennis MA // (508) 385-6134

Touted as the world’s most beautiful dining room, the Sesuit Harbor Café overlooks the Northside Marina and Cape Cod Bay. The five-star lobster roll is not the only reason that regulars flock to the waterside spot. The raw bar serves fresh oysters, shrimp, and clams.  The chef piles the fried platters high with the freshest fish caught locally.  

lobster roll Cape Cod seafood restaurants

The shack has some rules that, as a newbie, you have to know before lining up to get your meal. The Café is cash only, and they are a BYOB. If you are a party of two or more, one of you should wait in line and order. Meanwhile, one of the others should scout one of the coveted picnic tables along the water. As patrons get up, you can snag a spot.

Many of the diners bring plastic wine glasses, metal flatware, and placemats to decorate the table, but that is totally optional.

Sesuit Harbor Café provides every picnic table with a roll of paper towels and baskets of plastic flatware if you forgot to pack yours from home.

Once you place your order, take your seat and watch the boats sail in and out of the harbor.

If you are lucky to be there on a clear evening, you can watch the sunset over the bay as you slurp on Wellfleet Oysters or munch on fried cod, or bite into one of the best lobster rolls you ever tasted.

plate of fresh oysters where to eat in Cape Cod

Arnold’s Lobster & Clam Bar

3580 Route 6 Eastham, MA // (508) 255-2575

For 40 years, Arnold’s has had a reputation as the place for fried seafood on the Cape. While the line is long, if you visit off-peak, you can have a late lunch, order a cone with premium gourmet ice cream and finish your meal with 18 holes of mini-golf. It is an excellent stop for families. 

fried clams and fries seafood restaurants in Cape Cod
Photo credit: Arnold’s Lobster & Clam Bar, photo by Dan Cutrona

If you aren’t a fan of fried foods, you can order a fresh salad, grilled chicken, Angus burgers, or foot-long hot dogs. But, keep in mind, Food & Wine Magazine named the tender fried clams, “the best in the world.” If you are a seafood lover, the menu includes baked cod, scallops, and salmon. They also specialize in lobster rolls, crab cakes, steamed lobsters, mussels, and steamers. There is a raw bar next to the bar. If you like fried fish, the fried platters are enormous, especially the plate of fried shoestring onion rings coated with a light crispy batter.

We ordered the fried shrimp platter, and the shrimp were huge. The batter is light but crisp. We ordered the onion rings as we heard they were incredible. They did not disappoint. The chef slices the onions so thin then fries them up so crisp they are more like onion straws. The entire meal we perfect for the two of us to share. Make sure you keep that in mind when you order as these plates were perfect for sharing.   

fried shrimp and fries Cape Cod seafood restaurants
Photo credit: Arnold’s Lobster & Clam Bar, photo by Dan Cutrona

The mini-golf is challenging and fun. You can play 18 holes beside a pirate ship and enjoy the water features along the course. The waterfalls let off an enjoyable mist, and the lush landscaping makes an afternoon here a pleasant activity. It is a perfect shack to have the quintessential Cape Cod experience. It is cash only, but there are two ATMs on the premises. 

Bookstore & Restaurant

50 Kendrick Ave. Wellfleet, MA // (508) 349-3154

The Bookstore & Restaurant overlooks the beautiful Wellfleet Bay. It sits near the hook of Billingsgate where an original whaling town stood before it was submerged under the sea. This restaurant has been family-owned since 1964. It is open every day for lunch and dinner daily and serves brunch on the weekends.    

While the setting is pretty, and the sunsets are incredible, what makes this place really unique is the fresh local seafood prepared with the owner’s own family recipes. The Parlante family likes to incorporate their Italian Heritage in their preparations and also honor the Portuguese history on the Cape.

The chef prepares the dishes to order using butter, wine, or marinara sauce. Combine the classics like the Oyster Stew, Fruits of the Sea, and Portuguese Hot Pot with craft cocktails, microbrews, and an extensive wine list, and you will have all the ingredients for a fantastic evening. The shellfish comes right out of the bay, and many customers have a tradition to drop in and have a fresh plate of oysters or clams with a glass of wine and a Wellfleet sunset.

We opted to follow the locals and enjoyed a “six and six,” which is a plate of six oysters and six clams served with spicy cocktail sauce and fresh lemon slices. The staff shucked the Wellfleet oysters right in front of us. Both the oysters and the clams were plucked from the water early that morning. I paired my plate with a Sauvignon Blanc, and I was in heaven.

Steps away from the restaurant is a used bookstore. Here you can find a massive selection of second-hand, antique and rare books, magazines, and comic books. Hard-to-find varieties and classics cram the shelves and make for a great beach read. 

Countless places up and down the Cape take pride in their food. The seaside bounty allows for fresh and tasty meals anywhere you travel. No intricate preparation is necessary; all you need is a lobster boiled and served with lemon and drawn butter.

steamed lobsters with butter places to eat in Cape Cod

Which of these Cape Cod restaurants do you most want to try? Let me know in the comments section below!

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P D MacGuire

Saturday 18th of September 2021

The Red Cottage Restaurant has been closed for over one year, with no apparent plans to reopen anytime soon. It is irresponsible, to direct visitors to closed businesses. Out of date articles are not that difficult to update or edit!

Nathan

Monday 20th of September 2021

The Red Cottage is reporting as temporarily closed but does plan to reopen. From their Facebook page:

The article is not out of date as I provide links to every business's site so readers may check for updates as I'm sure all readers have heard about the pandemic at this point and can assume that restaurants may be affected.

What is irresponsible is you trying to have a struggling business removed from a list that, when they are ready to reopen their doors, can bring them much-needed business. We don't count them as dead when they still have a pulse.

Caroline Blaser

Friday 10th of September 2021

I have loved Arnold’s for over 30 years great place. Serving sizes are perfect. But I do think the Black Cat in Hyannis should replace Spanky’s. Just saying….

Philip Visali

Monday 6th of September 2021

Spankys is the best

Mary Rose Gallego

Saturday 4th of September 2021

Another great restaurant to try is the Fisherman's View on the Cape Cod canal in Sandwich. Try their Knuckle Sandwich (think Lobster BLT). It's delicious!

Mary Rose Gallego

Saturday 4th of September 2021

While the Red Cottage is definitely a wonderful place for a meal, it is a very tiny place and they are now temporarily closed due to COVID. You might want to update this article so people aren't disappointed.

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