For many diners, the location of a table at a restaurant is as essential to the evening’s overall experience as the ambience, the service, the food, even the price. A special celebration can quickly turn sour if you’re seated elbow-to-elbow with fellow diners or feet from the kitchen.
Most restaurants have their prime tables, those tucked into a corner, with an ocean view, or positioned for privacy. These are the romantic tables that normally must be requested, unless luck intervenes.
Here are five favorite spots on Cape Cod, where the right table can set the mood for an evening before the first course even arrives.
BELFRY INNE & BISTRO, Sandwich
Originally a church dating to the early 1900s it is now an intimate dining room with stained-glass windows, oak walls, and a grand fireplace. White lin
en tablecloths and soft lighting evoke a romantic atmosphere that permeates this unique space, but the secluded Tower Room is perfect for a cozy dinner.
“There have been lots of proposals in this room,” owner Christopher Wilson says.
The 10-by-10-foot space is in a corner room, with curtains that can be closed. A single, round table set alongside a baptismal altar framed by stained-glass windows can accommodate up to four diners.
The contemporary American cuisine includes lemongrass poached Chatham cod, butter poached local lobster, and polenta with roasted corn, spinach, red pepper polenta, red wine beet sauce, and broccoli rabe. Entrees $11-$15 (lunch), $22-$31 (dinner).
8 Jarves St., 508-888-8550 www.belfryinn.com
BLEU RESTAURANT, Mashpee
With plush high-back chairs fit for royalty and a window table looking onto charming Mashpee Commons, you’ll quickly forget that you’re seated in the bar area.
Tables for two line the windows in this French-style bistro, but the coziest is No. 17 at the far end of the room, tucked into an alcove beneath a framed photograph of Brigitte Bardot. A lamp hangs over the table, providing just enough light to read the menu. The king-size chairs create a sense of remoteness even in a bustling establishment.
Chef and owner Frederic Feufeu, a native of France’s Loire Valley and former chef at New York’s famed Rainbow Room, has created one of the Cape’s most popular restaurants over the past decade. Specialties include appetizers such as Fred’s Bacalao, cod fish chowder and poached foie gras “au torchon” with cranberry walnut bread truffle oil, arugula, and rhubarb jam. For entrees, Mediterranean day boat haddock with basil oil tomato provençale with grilled chorizo, niçoise olives, and little necks, and seared sea scallops with maple grapefruit glaze, arugula, and asparagus tossed in walnut oil, jasmine rice, and shrimp crispy wrap are popular items. A lower-priced bistro menu is also available. Entrees $10-$18 (lunch), $19-$35 (dinner). 10 Market St., 508-539-7907
ECLECTIC CAFE, Hyannis
Dining under the stars on crowded Main Street usually means taking a seat at a sidewalk table as tourists stroll past and bumper-to-bumper traffic sends exhaust fumes your way. From the main thoroughfare, there is little indication of the hidden pleasures at this restaurant, which is reached via a narrow, winding red brick walkway. In just a few feet, visitors are transported to a secluded garden oasis of candlelit tables adorned with flowers.
If you walk to the far end of the patio and peek around the left side of the building, you’ll spot a hidden table for two, shielded from view by the side of the building and surrounded by four soaring cedar trees. Tea lights in a circular iron frame hang from the building’s shingles, providing the only light apart from the moon and stars.
Live nightly jazz provides a soothing backdrop for an intimate dinner, where among the choices are marrow-crusted angus filet, seared sea scallops, and bacon-wrapped duck with apples, turnips, brussels leaves, and pomegranate. Entrees $19-$36 (dinner only). 606 Main St., 508-771-7187
OCEAN HOUSE RESTAURANT, Dennis Port
Seven oceanside tables line the wall, each perfectly spaced at the center of a 5-foot-high window that offers views of Nantucket Sound. Diners enter through an archway, stepping down from the main dining room.
The coveted window tables are always in demand and are filled on a first come, first served basis. But the vibrant bar area is a great spot to wait.
Fish is a staple here. Cedar-roasted Chilean sea bass, Cape Cod Potato Chip-crusted cod, and New England lobster ravioli are among the selections. Steak and pasta are also available. A wide variety of small plates includes local clams and oysters, king crab legs, and seafood bruschetta for two.
Although the open floor plan can mean high levels of noise on busy nights, tables are well spaced, allowing diners to easily get lost in the view — and in each other. Entrees $24-$40 (dinner only). 425 Old Wharf Road, 508-394-0700
ROADHOUSE CAFE, Hyannis
With exposed beams that accentuate the wood ceiling, a custom-made mahogany bar, and a red brick fireplace that roars in winter, this is one of the warmest, most inviting spots on Cape Cod for dinner or a casual drink.
The corner booth is a favorite. Situated next to the fireplace, it provides privacy, yet offers a peek through windows into the adjoining bistro. You can hear music from the piano bar or the popular Monday night jazz ensemble.
Memorabilia, all hand-picked through the years by owner Dave Colombo, line the shelves over the bar, rest on windowsills, and hang from the walls and beams. There are 19th-century lamps, vintage sports pennants (including a 1946 Red Sox banner), yellowed newspaper clippings, tobacco boxes, a stuffed Moose head, and a poster announcing “See and hear John F. Kennedy, Sept. 7, Eugene, Oregon.”
Pasta and fish are specialties of the house. Favorites include ragout of short rib with bucatini, spinach, blue cheese, and toasted walnuts; and corn tortilla-encrusted baked haddock with chipotle lime créme, roasted corn, avocado tomato salsa, and basmati rice. Pan-roasted duck, served with cranberry pistachio salsa, mashed sweet potatoes, haricots vert, and red wine demi-glace is the ideal dish to enjoy at the corner booth when the fireplace is blazing. Entrees $16-$37 (dinner only). 488 South St., 508-775-2386