Provincetown Launches Season
Life is a Beach
By: Charles Giuliano - 05/02/2013
During a recent week at The Sandbars Inn (570 Shore Rd, Truro, MA 02666 (508) 487-8700) just a hop skip and a jump from Provincetown, driving around town most restaurants, hotels, galleries and shops had signs that said “See you on May 1.”
In beach resorts all over America the season is launched with a wham bang this weekend.
We just couldn’t wait that long.
During a three week road trip in February, with a turn around after several days in Savannah, we managed to breathe the salt air of a mostly deserted Myrtle Beach as well as a day spent roaming Tybee Island which is a short drive from Savannah.
Then back to the beach to take an offer we could not refuse for an off season week on Lower Cape Cod.
We just loved hanging out at The Sandbars Inn with its sliders to the deck, ocean view, and steps to the beach. The well appointed room also included a compact kitchen for breakfast, lunch and even dinner on a Monday night when normally restaurants close.
It was a blustery, stormy drive from the Berkshires still mired in an endless winter which just wouldn’t quit. It seems that Persephone was still confined in Hades.
Arriving around seven we dropped off the bags and headed to Commercial Street to find a restaurant. Friends strongly recommended The Mews. But on a miserable night it was impossible to find parking. Good grief. Where did all those people come from?
We drove on in despair the entire length of town, which was fun other than the fact that we were hungry, turning about at Race Point.
On the road in Wellfleet we tried a couple of restaurants. One was too precious and frightfully expensive. The other was the popular clam shack P.J.’s which was mobbed with such a cacophonous crowd of kids that it was hardly the romantic atmosphere we were looking for. Actually, we returned on a quiet night, mid week for a quick fix of fried clams.
Knowing that the room would have a kitchen Astrid had packed food. Our fall back position would be to cook a makeshift meal.
There was one last option. I recalled a funky restaurant just at the split of Commercial and Bradford Streets.
What a score. It proved to be so down home and cozy we returned several times.
It ain’t much to look at. An eyesore actually painted a bilious yellow.
At first glance we weren’t even sure if it was a restaurant. The sign out front, with ample parking by the way, a huge plus in P’Town, read “Hotel.” Only the “E” was burned out becoming “Hot L” bar and grille, at 350 Bradford Street, 508 413 9511.
The Friday night special was an all you can eat fish fry for $13. I had that and seconds on the fish, while Astrid, who avoids fried food, had the baked cod.
Our friendly, campy waiter channeled Harvey Fierstein. Only a bit more frumpy. What a hoot. On Saturday night we returned and I had the special prime rib for $20. It was wonderful.
We waved to ‘Harvey” but were served by an ersatz Wayne Newton. We got to know “Wayne” when we returned for the Thursday special, Baked Cod at an astonishing $10. Hard to beat that. We had an early dinner on the way to the Provincetown Theater performance of God of Carnage. We also managed Happy Hour on Wednesday which featured oysters and clams for a buck apiece. We also tried the small lobster stuffed tacos, a treat at $3 each.
Just gottah have those incredible Wellfleet oysters.
On Wednesday we enjoyed the $12 special with home made pasta at Montano's on Route 6. They served Astrid gluten free pasta with no extra charge for the special.
There were daily walks on the beach. Trying to go a bit further each time in the equivalent of Spring training. We visited the beach at Race Point but for me slogging through the loose sand of the dunes was like taking a stress test at the hospital. So I insisted after that on the flat tidal shore with its curving view of P’Town and Land’s End with its exclamation point lighthouse.
Mostly we had bright sunny but brisk days. When the sun came out in force I got fried. Astrid became alarmed by my bright red face and lathered me up with ointment.
We hunkered down in our room. On the breakfast bar, with tall stools, we set up, side by side with our laptops. To, what else, catch up with our travel notes and photoshopping. I also watched a few movies on my laptop with Netflix. It proved to be a productive week of reading and writing in a setting that reeked of location, location, location.
Up 6A at its end we visited Atlantic Spice stocking up on goodies.
During the shoulder season you can enjoy the Lower Cape in its natural beauty. It was so photogenic and romantic to cruise Route 6 A with its endless waterfront motels. Many were being spruced up for the coming season. We remarked that it provided a lot of employment for local workers.
The change of season means that the 4,000 P’Town residents who survive the winter have a few short months to restock their by then empty coffers. Chatting with our Hot L friends we learned that they don’t always quite make ends meet. But during clamming season, weather permitting, you can fill your bucket once a day.
How long does that take? I asked. The friendly barmaid said “As fast as fifteen minutes or up to a couple of hours.”
On Sunday night we joined our friends Tabitha Vevers and Dan Ranalli for dinner in Wellfleet. I taught in Dan’s art history program at Boston University. Tabitha’s dad, Tony Vevers, was one of the first artists I met when I was researching the artists’ colony while in graduate school at BU.
We talked about the legendary dune shacks that Dan wrote about for us. They have often spent time in them but this summer they are headed for Nova Scotia.
After wine and cheese we headed for Wicked Oyster (50 Main St Wellfleet (508) 349-3455) which has an off season Sunday and Monday night $25 prix fixe, three course meal. It was awesome. Overall, Dan commented that they prefer to dine in Wellfleet. Driving around we passed Mac’s Shack which he proclaimed as “Best on the Cape” for seafood (265 Commercial St Wellfleet (508) 349-9611).
Mid week we spent the afternoon with Christine McCarthy the director of the Provincetown Art Association and Museum. On her watch the museum has undergone an $8 million expansion and renovation. We discussed plans for the Centennial Celebrations in the 2014 season.
Several times we stocked up at Stop and Shop on Shankpainter Road. There used to be my favorite diner on that strip that runs perpendicular between Commercial Street and Route Six. I loved the Portuguese Kale Soup. Now long gone.
This winter I made Kale Soup which entailed two nights of dinner parties and several meals after that.
Alas, there is barely a whiff of a hint of the Portuguese community which welcomed artists and bohemians to P’Town a century ago. Their simple cottages and shacks have now been gussied up and gentrified beyond the means of a local fisherman.
It’s another sad example of urban removal to accommodate the 60,000 who swarm over P’Town in August.
For the hardy locals, and adventurous travelers, the best time to see P’Town is off season and in the dead of winter. It’s when waiters and bar tenders are busy in their studios. And Fellows are hunkered down at the Fine Arts Work Center.
Oh, and just a reminder, the Hot L is open year round.