If you’d have been at Mac’s Shack in Wellfleet last Wednesday, you could have snooped on my wife and I ordering lunch. You would have seen her with a pair of big maki rolls, and me with two little toro pieces. You could have gazed upon that devastator of a woman, and wondered how on Earth she wound up with a milquetoast like me.
What you wouldn’t have known, and how would you have known, is she had spent the previous four hours in a classroom … and I had spent those same four hours ambushing a neighborhood’s weight in restaurants. How does five meals sound for an effective morning?
I know I was supposed to be on vacation, but I have what you’d call “a tireless work ethic.”
The Basics: My adventure was inspired in part by the Central Ave. Checklist, which the folks at the Heavy Table are undertaking in a much grander scale. Whereas they are (ostensibly) going in a consistent direction, my targets’ operating hours were aligned in a way that made consistency impossible for a man starting at 7:45 a.m.
At that hour, bet your ass I’m starting with coffee.
Hole in One Bakery and Coffee Shop
Okay, listen: This isn’t Glam Doll or Nadia Cakes. If you want a peanut butter sriracha doughnut with vegan sprinkles or whatever, you’re in the wrong place. Me, all I want is a fluffy bread ring wearing a thick chocolate blanket to balance out the hot rush of coffee. A man’s at his best in the morning when chocolate sticks to the front of his teeth and gets burned off by coffee, then the coffee gets wiped off with a bread bite.
Hole in One looks regular, and it’s comfortable. You expect walls decked with nautical knick-knacks, you expect a clean white countertop; and, while you might not expect 50s malt shop-style circular seats, you sure as hell expect a chalkboard with a daily quiz question. That day’s:
A few seats down to my right, a huddle of five elderly men passed a crossword around and yapped about boats. To my left, a fake-blonde middle-aged woman with acrylic blue fingernails, and an surely fake tan (which was real orange) chatted up a friend. A little league sports team and a handful of families would also pass through during my stay.
The shop was busy, but never crowded. I watched Shark Week previews on the TV, played Angry Birds on my phone, and finished my coffee. Not once was my little world disturbed.
Later in the day, a New Orleans native would call this Massachusetts heat “oppressive.” I set back out into it, in search of Breakfast Number Two.
Eastham Box Lunch
A name like “Box Lunch” frightens, if anything. When was the last time you had a box lunch and enjoyed it? The name evokes feelings of workaday chow eaten hurriedly, and moved on from as if it never happened. In that respect, the name “Box Lunch” was perfect for this place.
They’re known for something called a Rollwich(R), or so the central wall mural would have you believe. I sat right next to it, and observed as doodled Cape Codders did everything from riding a sailboat to slacking off during lifeguard duty while gripping a Rollwich(R), while I awaited my Rollwich(R). The wait wasn’t long.
With my Rollwich(R), I had ordered a meat plate. I got two slices of toast, a pile of bacon, and a pair of eggs instead. No big deal — I was hungry for that, too.
The bacon was brittle, virtually see-through, and the egg yolk had been cooked nearly solid. It didn’t taste bad necessarily, but I was no longer hungry for this.
Now let’s get this out of the way: The “Rollwich(R)” is a breakfast burrito. The blanket was dry and starchy, and it felt at times like I was trying to bite through a floor mat, but it was brought at least to edibility by the butter packets it came with. I mean, you can never go completely wrong with butter and bacon. Even the surgeon doing your bypass will say so.
I wouldn’t scamper here desperately, but I guess I’d say it’s worth a stretchy notch on the belt. Maybe just have a Rollwich(R). To the tune of Taylor Swift’s breaths in “Shake it Off,” I stepped out for meal number three.
The Chocolate Cafe
Chocolate. Everywhere. On display. On the shelves. In my dreams. In the car. Melting. The trunk. The luggage. It sticks. My wife. Angry. My body. Fished out of the cape a week later.
I’ll come back when she’s with me.
The Fairway Restaurant
Dark wood grain surfaces, antique-y decor, and low lighting: If a golf course could fold itself up into a building Transformer-style, a nice one would look just like the Fairway. The bartender engaged me immediately.
Oh yeah, there was bar seating; and oh yeah, they were serving beer at 9:45 in the morning. It was tempting, but I needed more coffee.
I opened the menu, from which the chicken and waffle practically jumped out and ordered itself. And of course I want that side of gravy. I’ll skip what happened during my wait for the food because I don’t remember any of that. Behold!
The maple butter had an unexpected sweetness and tasted almost luxurious, while the gravy had a gravy graviness and tasted gravy gravy gravy. Add it up, and the sum is pure comfort. The waffle was fluffy, the tenders crispy. It was more than merely agreeable, it was persuasive. I damn near ordered another one.
The couple to my right first asked about my dish (“Is it the chicken and waffle?” What do you think?), then asked about my phone (The Galaxy S4 is rubbish, don’t do it), despite my efforts at appearing asocial. Typical east-coasters, wanting to talk to people and shit. Where I come from, we don’t do that!
Unlimited coffee was two dollars and this was the best meal I had that whole day. If you come to Eastham and you miss this, you miss hard. Wicked hard.
The Cape Cod Dog
The tagline is “Treats for DOGS, CATS, & their humans!” No, their treats are only for pets. A clerk took a minute to explain them to me — they’re frosted with yogurt, and made without sugar — and I took a hike. What did I need a dog treat for, even if they were human-grade?
This human’s next meal was right down the street. All I had to do was slog down the sandy shoulder of 6, while car after car zoomed past inches away from my arm and gust after gust pounded me askew. It was only two or three minutes before I was in a pizza barn facing down my next course.
Red Barn Pizza
It’s in a red barn, and they serve pizza, if you’re wondering about the name.
They’ve mini golf and a gift shop if you’re more than hungry, and they sell by the slice if you’re less than hungry. I was thankful: despite an impressive step count, the shapes accrued over the course of the morning were starting to fill up the Tetris board of my tum — you know what, let’s just quit right there. I was getting full.
Anyhow, at $3.50, this pepperoni slice will surely be puny, right?
The cape cod archetype is as follows: sandals (socks optional), khaki shorts, gray hair, with varying degrees of rotundness. One such Cape Cod Man was present, and his conversational partner — bearded and pony-tailed, safari-hatted and Game of Thrones-teed — was an obvious out-of-towner. Their dialogue more or less boiled down to “where Mr. Beard buys his clothes.” It sure as hell wasn’t Cape Cod. The only other customer, me, sat in a pocket of cold air by a soda fridge and enjoyed the Fabolous tunes thumping out from the kitchen.
In a snap, my pizza was ready. It was a Cossetta slice with a crispier crust: same foldability, same greasy plate beneath, same great taste, but with Ghetto Fab and unlimited ice water. If it feels good, scream ey yay yay yo. I ate it to the crust, had a glass of water or three, and headed for dessert.
Already painfully full, I wanted something inexpensive and small. It’s hard to find a treat within those parameters worth writing home about … but I found one, all right.
The Cape Cod Dog
“May I have a peanut butter cup?” I asked a woman at the register.
She carefully plucked one off the shelf, one with a dog paw frosted on top, and placed it into a plastic bag with the delicacy one might employ to assemble a detonator. She slid it across the counter to me; I busted open the bag and took a bite of the cup.
Expression, color, everything except the cashier’s face itself scrambled off of the cashier’s face. The shock bounced from her onto the faces of another employee and her customer, and the expressions and colors of their faces scrambled away closely behind as I casually chewed on a dog treat.
“How is it?” asked my cashier. I swiveled an open hand as if to say so-so.
“Probably a little bland …” she continued, in a singsong tone reserved almost exclusively for patronizing, “not really meant for our palates …”
I mechanically flicked the other half into my mouth. One woman nearly died of a heart attack.
“None for the dog even!” said another.
“Nah, my dog is in Minnesota,” I said.
It tasted like putty. It tasted nothing like peanut, butter, peanut butter, or something any type of animal ought to be subject to. It tasted like yogurt had died, been cryogenically frozen for a few years, then came back to life thinking it was peanut butter. I almost felt heroic for eating it, as if I had spared a dog the misery of eating that treat.
Editor’s note: Morning edits cleaned up some sentences and fixed a couple of typos.