We recently spent some time in Provincetown, the town precariously perched at the sandy tip of Cape Cod. It is easily one of my favorite places in the world. If I could, I would spend time there every year (hopefully someday). Provincetown is everything: a gay mecca, an artist colony, a place of extreme natural beauty, a family vacation spot, a town full of eccentrics, and a picturesque east-coast seaside village.

What Provincetown is not, however, is a dining destination. When we travel, we often plan our time around where we will eat. I think it is a useful method of organizing things. We’ll figure out where we want to have lunch and then think about what else is in the neighborhood: museums, shops, galleries, etc.. Because even more than I love food, I hate that feeling of meal-panic that can happen when you are traveling. The feeling of not knowing where to eat or what is good can be terrible. I get hangry pretty easily, and let’s just say it is not pretty. Provincetown is full of decent restaurants, we never had a truly bad meal there, but they are almost all forgettable. The “nice” restaurants are so stupidly over-priced that it is almost comical (Tangent: For some reason everything at these restaurants is served atop a strip of banana leaf on the plate—I guess it signified “fancy” to someone at some point?) I can understand the economies of a seasonal and remote location like Provincetown enough to appreciate the prices. But, oof. Who wants to spend that kind of money on that kind of food?

After lamenting this for a couple of days, I began to realize that it is part of what makes me love Provincetown. I don’t care about the food there. It is a relief. Sometimes, it is nice to travel to a place where the only things you are truly concerned with are what time to leave for the beach, how to keep your bottle of rosé cold, and sunscreen. As I have aged, I have understood the difference between Travel and Vacation, and I think the distinction is important. When I go to Paris, I am Traveling, when I go to Provincetown, I am Vacationing. Travel, though amazing in many ways, is not necessarily relaxing, there are maps, and reservations, and must-dos. It can be exhausting. Vacations, due in part to the lack of must-dos, allow you to rest and relax. My mom always wanted to spend her vacations at the beach, something I had always found perplexing. Why would you sit on a beach when you could be exploring a new city? Recently I have begun to understand the importance of an escape from life, of some peace and quiet. In an ideal word, there is time and resources for both regular Travel and Vacation. Maybe someday!

And all of my complaining aside, there are some things we really enjoy eating in Provincetown. Most everything at The Canteen was good, and I especially loved their cod bánh mì. The oysters, the piles and piles of Wellfleet oysters that just jumped out of the ocean onto your plate. We had great burgers at Local 186 and I’m always happy to eat a slice of Spiritus pizza. And it is hard to go wrong with ice cream, I ate a cone almost every night. Oh, and the beach restaurant at Herring Cove is exactly what you want in a beach-side restaurant. There are some gems, but none of them will be what I look forward to when I am planning a return trip. I will look forward to the magical light, the crowds of happy people on Commercial Street, walking through marshes, and biking to the beach. I’ll look forward to taking it easy.


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25 comments to “Provincetown”

  1. Amanda Wojtalik-Courter says:

    August 25th, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    I agree on every front. Why don’t you retire there and do a small restaurant? My husband and I will do the pizza one next door.

  2. It’s a deal, Amanda!

  3. The place is simply magical.

  4. Beautiful photos!

  5. What a pleasant surprise during my morning coffee when I clicked to read Lottie + Doof and there was Ptown. The place I call home. It is truly magical this Land’s End. Your words really capture what so many of us fall in love with. Dining out aside, next time you need to take advantage of the bounty this sleepy town has to offer: Racking through the sands of the bay you’ll find sweet clams of all sizes, east of town is oyster heaven, a fish coop at Saturday’s farmer’s market brings in whatever is caught that day, my husband trudges through the national forest to find cranberries and an occasional lobster roll at the Red Shack is not so bad either. This is a first for me to share but couldn’t resist a bit of Ptown love.

  6. Front Street has some excellent food; Red Inn better than average; Victors great small plates; Chach for breakfast; Mews open all year for a decent meal.

  7. I like the distinction between Paris and Provincetown – vacationing versus traveling. I feel that way traveling with my daughter – with her it’s a trip. Alone (or with friends or my husband), it’s a vacation. Both are great, and very different experiences.

  8. Hi Fred! Thanks for commenting, it is good to hear from you. Yes, I have had fish from the market and agree it is superb. Thanks for reminding me. Enjoy your home town for me, I miss it!

    Chris- Thanks for the recommendations, I think we’ve been to all of those places over time. And I agree there are lots of places to get a decent meal.

  9. Yes! Thanks for posting. I’m going for 3 days right at the end of summer, next week. So I greatly appreciated you sharing your thoughts and favorite places.

    I’ve never thought of the vacation/travel dichotomy, but you hit it spot on. Right now, I need a VACATION. Glad we picked this spot!

  10. Hi Leah, Have fun! You undoubtedly have a place to stay, but if not- we highly recommend The Salt House Inn, it was perfect.

  11. Ooh I want to go there! It looks just how I imagine east coast seaside towns. Glad you enjoyed a vacation. What’s on that salad-like dish?

  12. Hi Sarah- That salad (from The Canteen) has a truly over-the-top amount of buttermilk ranch dressing. It was actually very delicious.

  13. I know, I’m still always trying to combine the two (travel and vacation), because time off is rare in our life. This is a pretty place, and fish and chips, a burger and a daily ice cream sound good to me. Great pictures!

  14. Lois Evans says:

    August 27th, 2014 at 8:37 am

    You can always drive to Wellfleet to PB Boulangerie. I would often drive from Bass River for the bakery goodies or a nice lunch or dinner… never disappointed.I moved from Los ANgeles to the Cape and although there are now a few go to spots for really good food the Beauty of places like Provincetown is the main attraction. However I agree there are only so many Lobster rolls one man can take! Someone out there waana move to P town and open a great little place?

  15. Love this post and the idea of vacation vs. travel; I think it can feel refreshing to let go of supposed-tos and just enjoy being away from home. We have vacationed on the Cape for years in Welfleet, and if you travel out of Ptown a little but I LOVE Mac’s Shack in Welfleet, and would recommend the new Chequessett Chocolate shop and cafe in North Truro, which is truly an enterprise of craft and love. Enjoy and thanks for the beautiful photos!

  16. The summer of Ptown! I’m glad you took it easy. I am in full agreement on your city vs beach outlook: we are getting old :) how are their gardens so ridiculously luscious???

  17. I just love Cape Cod! I’m so glad you were there! And I agree- there’s no amazing food that I have found- me with my west coast tastes. But my is it fun to just, as you say, think about the sand, sun and cold wine. We summer in south Cape Cod.
    ( and no offense to cape cooking- I’m sure it’s lovely, just not my thing.)

  18. Really, like no place else. Thanks for sharing the picks…perfectly captured the essence. As for the food? Bring in the culinary obnoxia and the charm will quickly dissappear. Great that you were able to spend time there.

  19. Lovely pictures! I always adore your posts and love seeing where you’ve been. Provincetown looks like my kind of place. I’ve always enjoyed a good beach vacation.

  20. It’s been several years since I visited the Cape, but I have to agree with Emily who mentioned Mac’s Shack. We were celebrating our parents’ 50th anniversary and everyone really enjoyed our dinner there.

  21. Just got back from our week there. One of my favorite places I the world. This was our 8th year going and we already reserved for next year.
    I agree that the canteen is great. You should check out relish for their superb desserts, pastries and sandwiches. And I’m always happy with the meals I get from cafe heaven. Lastly, I was happy to see Kohi coffee. Very cute.

  22. We have been vacationing/traveling to the outer cape for thirty years.. each year brings new surprises.. the topography changes, their is always a new week of something to celebrate ie bear week, art week, family week, etc. I think the way to think about the food issue is to eat in and enjoy wonderful meals prepared with the bounty the cape has to offer. We love the Blackfish House in Truro and the pork sandwiches at the East End Market are out of this world.. But it is the light, the air, the feeling of letting your hair down that brings us back year after year..

  23. Loved reading this post and seeing your photos! My husband and I got engaged in Provincetown in 2001 at the Crowne Pointe Inn and Spiritus is our absolute favorite!

  24. Another vote for Blackfish in Truro. Superb and locally sourced food.

  25. It’s totally freezing out now and I’m reading about P-town! Oh well, better late then never to chime in on this conversation. I will add my vote to the Blackfish ticket! I had the most delicious burger with truffle aioli and deep fried egg thee. Oh my, was it good. I also love the Canteen. One weekend I was there, I ate all, but one of my meals there. I’m with you on the pricey-ness of it all. But P-town is so much fun. One of my favorite things to do there is the dune walk in the early morning.
    BTW – I have spent a lot of time snooping around your blog and am finally getting around to commenting. You have been a big inspiration to me as I pondered starting my own blog. Thanks for all the great post – great writing, lovely photos and delicious looking food.

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