Live Like a Local: Top Destinations in Chatham

From favorite breakfast and lunch spots to the best place to take a quiet walk and watch the sunset, Chatham resident Joseph Porcari writes about some of his top picks.

Written by Joseph Porcari

I would not presume to call myself a “local,” like the Nickersons or Eldredges. But after dividing my time between Boston and the Cape for most of my adult life, I have been living in Chatham year-round for the past five years. In that time, I’ve sampled most of what the town has to offer for both locals and summer visitors. As a recent “washashore” strolling about town, you can trace my tracks to some of my favorite spots on the following pages.

Best Way to Start the Day

Chatham Filling Station

It has been said that all happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast. Since their opening in 2017, my path to breakfast happiness leads to the Chatham Filling Station. Owners Caren and Rik Morse’s enthusiastic and fun approach to the day’s first meal is reflected in a menu that combines breakfast classics ranging from French toast, biscuits and gravy to eggs benedict, blackboard specials like smoked pork shoulder hash and eggs, and lemon mascarpone pancakes with a mixed berry compote. My only problem is, I usually want to order everything on the menu. As with all popular breakfast spots, early birds rule.

The Filling Station is available for private parties in the evening. With its retro roadside diner vibe, it’s the perfect place for a sock hop birthday party: Elvis or Buddy Holly?

Located at 75 Old Harbor Road, abuts the town playground and playing fields.

Perfect Sunset

Oyster Pond Beach

For a moment of pure serenity, I never tire of watching the sunset at Oyster Pond Beach in town. Facing due west, the views from the beach surpass those of any painting. When there’s a partial cloud cover, the sunset produces unimaginable shades of orange, red and pink. The beach is an easy walk from downtown and near the rotary. Parking is available.

Quiet Walk

Frost Fish Creek Trail

If you’re in need of a break from the summer crowds downtown or at the beaches, I’d recommend a quiet walk on one of the trails maintained by the Chatham Conservation Foundation. One of my favorites is Frost Fish Creek Trail. The 1.1-mile loop follows the eastern edge of its namesake creek and the remains of an old cranberry operation, which is gradually returning to natural wetland. There’s an upper and lower section of the trail; the lower portion parallels the brackish freshwater creek and is bordered with marsh grasses, cattails and ferns. The upland section snakes through pine and oak woodland. Overall, it’s a great place for birdwatchers.

The entrance to the trail is on a dirt road off Route 28. Look for the oval Chatham Conservation Foundation sign. Parking is available. Trail maps are available at the CCF headquarters downtown at the historic Mayo House at 540 Main St.

Browsing for Books

Yellow Umbrella Books

For a one-of-a-kind experience, go to Yellow Umbrella Books on Main Street. The narrow aisles can be a challenge, but the patient browser will be amply rewarded with a wealth of unexpected finds, including “Midnights: A Year with the Wellfleet Police,” by The New Yorker writer Alex Wilkinson.

Beyond the obvious bestsellers, there is an in-depth collection of classic and contemporary literary titles, as well as just about anything written about Cape Cod, both in and out of print. Owner Eric Linder, himself a published poet, is proud of the store’s poetry selection. A favorite is “East of America,” an anthology of poems about Cape Cod by some of America’s greatest poets from the 20th century: Mary Oliver, Stanley Kunitz and Elizabeth Bishop. Published in 1961, “East of America” is out of print, but Linder manages to hunt down copies for the store.

501 Main St., Chatham

Out to Lunch

Chatham Cookware

Some of the best salads and sandwiches in town are to be found at Chatham Cookware. I often order their chicken salad sandwich with tarragon, chopped walnuts and grapes on homemade bread. I will either sit on their peaceful backyard deck or sit on the dock at Mill Pond, located off Main Street on Mill Pond Road. It’s a surprisingly quiet spot. My only companion might be a stray harbor seal taking its own break from the vast herd off Lighthouse Beach.

524 Main St., Chatham

Enjoy the Silence

Eldredge Public Library

Photo by Marcy Ford

When I need a quiet moment to read or think, I often head to the main reading room at the Eldredge Public Library. The circa-1895 red brick Romanesque-Renaissance Revival building (unique on Cape Cod), with a slate roof, sober quartered oak wainscoting and stained glass windows, provides a sanctuary from busy Main Street. No outside noise could ever penetrate this fortress-like building. The reading room is filled with a good selection of reference books (including the monumental 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary), magazines and newspapers. In this era of online subscriptions, reading a real newspaper, smelling the ink and rustling the pages is an experience to savor.

564 Main St., Chatham

Sweet Spots

Chatham Candy Manor and Buffy’s Ice Cream

I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but I can’t resist the Candy Manor’s dark chocolate sea salt fudge. A favorite of locals and summer visitors since the 1950s, the Manor is famous for their homemade fudge, hand-dipped chocolates, truffles and saltwater taffy. Browsing the store feels like walking the game board of Candy Land—the air is scented with chocolate, everyone is smiling and all feels right with the world.

Buffy’s is Chatham’s Empress of Ice Cream and has reigned supreme for 25 years. Homemade ice cream flavors like peanut butter, salty caramel crunch and coffee Oreo are rich and old-fashioned tasting. I love the home-baked chocolate chip cookies, their crispy waffle cones and the freshly squeezed lemonade and lime rickeys.

The ice cream shop, known for its iconic pink bench out front, is a place where family summertime memories are created. The slapping sound of Buffy’s screen door opening and closing announces to all that summer is truly here.

Chatham Candy Manor
484 Main St., Chatham


Buffy’s Ice Cream
456 Main St., Chatham

Best Cinematic Experience

Chatham Orpheum Theater

There aren’t many cinemas in the country where you can sit back on an extra wide seat snacking on truffle fries or tempura chicken bites and drinking a “Yoda Soda” or “Mos Eisley Iced Tea” while watching “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” All of this is possible at the Chatham Orpheum Theater on Main Street. The theater houses a café and full bar, plus two screens with state-of-the-art Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound and Barco digital projectors.

The purchase and restoration of the nonprofit theater, which opened in 2013, is a triumph of community organization and fundraising. Executive director Kevin McLain is dedicated to the Orpheum’s mission to educate as well as to entertain. There are many documentary films, lectures and other events scheduled throughout the year for local schools and organizations.

During the summer, there are 9 a.m. showings of films for kids such as “The Secret Life of Pets” and “Lego Batman.” I’m looking forward to Shark Week in July when they run “Jaws” … and to their “Shark Bite” cocktail made with blue lemonade, Deep Eddy and a bloody splash of cranberry puree.

637 Main St., Chatham

Coffee Break

Chatham Perk and Monomoy Coffee

If I’m in need of a midday wakeup call during the dog days of summer, I head to Chatham Perk on Route 28 in North Chatham to sip one of their richly brewed Vienna Roast coffees at the outdoor tables covered with red Tuscan-style umbrellas. For a non-caffeinated jolt, I’d recommend the Perk’s freshly squeezed juices and smoothies. I like the “Green Garden” juice—a combination of kale, cucumbers, pineapple, mint and ginger; and the “Cape Cod” smoothie—banana, mango and cranberry juice.

Another one of my favorites is Monomoy Coffee on Main Street in Chatham’s East End for an espresso macchiato. If you can snag a table in their patio area, you’ll be treated to a bird’s-eye view of Main Street. For a bit of la dolce vita, Chatham style, it’s the perfect place in town to people watch.

Chatham Perk
307 Orleans Road (Route 28), North Chatham

Monomoy Coffee
447 Main St., Chatham

Dinner & Live Music

Del Mar Bar & Bistro

Photo by Sharon Bartholomew

There’s an urban buzz and a welcoming whiff of wood smoke from the Italian pizza oven at John Zartarian’s Del Mar Bar & Bistro on Route 28 in Chatham. It’s my favorite place in Chatham to dine with family and friends. At this dinner-only restaurant, chef Maria Pollio offers an engaging variety of choices, many with an Asian twist, like Chinese-lacquered pork belly or honey hoisin seared tuna. The wood-fired catch of the day is always a sure bet.

There’s an energetic bar scene and the bartenders mix up a nightly special cocktail. Their Ruby Red Martini, made with Deep Eddy vodka and elderflower liqueur, is a favorite. In the summer, on Tuesdays through Thursdays, there’s live music with, among others, the mellow jazz of the Matt Brown trio.

This restaurant is always packed, and in the summer, one must reserve at least a week in advance.

907 Main St., Chatham

On Stage

The Monomoy Theatre

Photo by Michael + Suz Karchmer

For summer theater at its best, I head to The Monomoy Theatre, which offers a variety of plays each season ranging from comedies and contemporary classics to musicals and Shakespeare. I’m always impressed with the acting and set designs. The productions are a collaboration of college theater majors working alongside professional directors and guest artists, all in affiliation with the Hartt School at the University of Hartford.

The 2018 season will include performances of Noel Coward’s “Present Laughter,” Frank Loesser’s “Guys and Dolls” and Kaufmann and Hart’s “You Can’t Take It with You.” Anglo-British author and Chatham resident, Bernard Cornwall, will be returning to play Jacques in Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.” Cornwall’s experiences with the Monomoy Theatre inspired his latest historical novel, “Fools and Mortals,” set in the time of Shakespeare.

776 Main St., Chatham

Creative Cocktails

Impudent Oyster and Bluefins Sushi & Sake Bar

According to writer H. L. Mencken, “martinis are the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet.” For pure poetry, I’d suggest an expertly mixed martini at the Impudent Oyster, accompanied by their signature appetizer, Devils on Horseback (sea scallops wrapped in bacon), and a new and innovative item on the starter menu, Salt Cod Tater Tots. Another Oyster favorite is the “Cold Toddy”: Bulleit Bourbon poured over shaved ice, with a splash of their housemade honey lemon nectar. If you arrive early, you’ll have a chance to admire the oyster bar, composed of white pine planks, planed and laminated from a single massive tree.

Local legend has it that the Oyster is housed in a building formerly used as a church. In fact, the building was first a men’s clothing store and then a watering hole called “Sign of the Surf.” Peter Bernard opened the Oyster in 1972.

Fun fact: The stained glass windows and pews are from a church in Maine.

Celebrated for their impeccable sushi served up in a sleek and contemporary setting, Bluefins Sushi & Sake Bar on Main Street offers creative cocktails which pair perfectly with the menu. Try their Tokyo Negroni: Maker’s Mark bourbon, Campari and plum sake, or choose from their impressive list of premium sakes.

Impudent Oyster
15 Chatham Bars Ave., Chatham


Bluefins Sushi & Sake Bar
513 Main St., Chatham