Dining Destination

Five Woods Hole Eateries with Inventive Menus, Fresh Plates and an Emphasis on Atmosphere.

By Jaci Conry | Photography by Dan Cutrona
Pictured above: Pan-seared scallops over summer succotash from Quicks Hole Tavern.

For decades, Woods Hole, the terminus for the Steamship Authority ferry to Martha’s Vineyard, was merely a quick stopover for travelers en route to the island. The tiny village lies at the edge of Falmouth, at the most southwestern corner of Cape Cod where the ocean waves lap one side of the land and the protected waters of Eel Pond are on the other.

Woods Hole is known for its world-renowned science research facilities, including MBL (Marine Biological Laboratory) and WHOI (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution), and the area has long been home to scientists and fishermen who keep their boats in the deepwater harbors. The village feels a little lost in time (in a good way): the main drag is lined with shingled 18th- and 19th-century buildings and a drawbridge that opens on the half hour causes the pace to be perpetually slow. The scent of the sea is omnipresent; you just can’t help but feel serene.

In recent years, Woods Hole has evolved into a burgeoning destination that beckons tourists to explore. While you could always get a plate of clams, chowder and a lobster roll here, the village was certainly not lauded for its cuisine. Times have changed—much to the delight of foodies. Lately, established restaurants have put more emphasis on the dining experience and new eateries with inventive menus have emerged on the scene. The only challenges are selecting the restaurant that suits your palette and hoping they have a table for you.

THE CAPTAIN KIDD

77 Water Street, 508-548-8563

Run by members of the Crowley family since the 1970s, Captain Kidd has been a favorite watering hole for nearly a century. You’ll feel the history as soon as you step through the door into the bar, where a mural on the wall, painted in the 1930s, depicts the famed pirate Captain Kidd. The bar’s charm is that it seems of a bygone era: wrapped in dark wood with time-worn brass and marble accents, it’s an enveloping space that makes you want to linger—and many patrons do.

Beyond the bar, the ample dining area overlooks Eel Pond, Woods Hole’s inner harbor, and has a much brighter appeal, the result of a significant renovation in 2014. Walls are painted bright white and banquets are upholstered in nautically inspired blue and white stripes, and there’s outdoor seating on a dock that extends out into the harbor. The menu has pub classics that resonate with the seaside setting, including a wonderful lobster roll, steamers and raw bar offerings. New dishes with a modern flair include tuna ceviche and lobster fritters. Larger entrees appeal to a range of eaters. Vegetarians are enticed by the eggplant zucchini stack: panko and herb-encrusted grilled local summer squash, zucchini and fresh mozzarella with house-made marinara. Carnivores will be more than happy with the 12-ounce New York sirloin, which can be paired with a lobster tail.


QUICKS HOLE TAQUERIA + QUICKS HOLE TAVERN

6 Luscombe Avenue, 508-495-0792,
Quicks Hole Tavern: 29 Railroad Avenue, 508-495-0048

A laid-back hot spot, Quicks Hole Taqueria was a big hit with the locals when it opened in 2008. With counter service, both indoor and outdoor seating and frequent live music, there’s much to love about this place. The menu combines a California surfer vibe with classic New England fare (think: lobster tacos). With an emphasis on farm to table, the offerings include tacos with slow roasted pork or sweet Baja shrimp; burritos with crispy beer-battered cod or fire-roasted veggies, and a slew of Baja bowls—all the burrito without the tortilla. The signature Sangria is to die for and there are always local craft beers on tap.

When the old Leeside across from the Martha’s Vineyard ferry tunnel shut down, Quicks Hole Taqueria owner Beth Colt leaped at the chance to create another restaurant. Quicks Hole Tavern offers a more refined dining experience than the taqueria, with a menu that changes seasonally and features original twists on local seafood. The corn nut-crusted sea scallops with summer vegetable succotash are a favorite and the bag of doughnuts after dinner is a must. The most popular item on the menu is Pig Candy, an appetizer made with house-smoked pork shoulder braised in maple syrup and house spices.


PIE IN THE SKY

10 Water Street, 508-540-5475

There is no resisting Pie in the Sky. The lauded bakery has been around since the 1980s. Owner Erik Gura has finely tuned the business over the years and it’s only gotten better with time. But Gura is hesitant to take any credit; he insists that the establishment is as good as it is thanks to the stellar team assisting him.

All of the delectable baked goods are made on site every day. The offerings are endless: scones that melt in your mouth, muffins bursting with nuts and berries, sinfully decadent cheese Danish and chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies the size of a large hand. The establishment’s signature popovers are absolutely unrivaled (order an egg sandwich on the popover and you’ll never be able to eat one on an English muffin again.) Come lunchtime, the menu expands to include soups—house made, of course—and a slew of roll-ups and sandwiches.

Somehow, the sleek 1,700-pound coffee roaster doesn’t overpower the bakery’s tiny eating area, but rather seems right at home. Onlookers are always intrigued by the methodical roasting process, which takes place daily. The aroma is so pleasant and comforting it lures pedestrians walking by the bakery to pop in to view the action and sample the result. There’s ample outdoor seating as well, and the place stays open deep into the evening and always opens up to start the day at 5:00 a.m.


WATER STREET KITCHEN

56 Water Street, 508-540-5656

There was much anticipation preceding the opening of Water Street Kitchen in the spring of 2016, and when the first meals were served in May, customers were not disappointed. Owners Molly, who manages the front of the restaurant, and John Wilson, the chef, revamped the interior, which overlooks the Eel Pond drawbridge and open ocean beyond. Dark walls and rustic wood finishes envelop diners with a cozy feel. The menu specializes in locally sourced dishes with ethnic flair. Entrees have influences ranging from Southeast Asia to different parts of the United States; signature dishes include curried monkfish with aloo saag and green bean slaw, and the Ten Hour Pork Shank with roasted red potatoes and sweet pepper apple salad. There’s house-baked bread and continually changing desserts such as the dark chocolate pretzel tart with peanut butter mousse.

The restaurant’s craft cocktails are an absolute must-try, mixed by bar manager Chelsea Doohan, who happens to be Molly’s sister. The Rested Dove, for example, is a blend of tequila, grapefruit, homemade bitters, lime and a trace of mescal.

Woods Hole has emerged as a culinary hotspot—much to the surprise of those who frequented the haven years ago when a cup of chowder or a modest piece of fried fish was all you could expect on the menu. It’s a destination for foodies who can’t wait to see what the local eateries cook up next.

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