Cape Cod Casual: Exceptional Food Without the Attitude

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“Cape Cod casual” typically denotes a style of dress, one which relies on Lilly Pulitzer, linen shirts, navy blazers and perhaps a sweater foolishly tied around your neck. When it comes to restaurants, Cape Cod casual means exquisite food and service, where you won’t be subject to scorn if you put your elbows on the table, use the wrong fork or wear jeans. (But guys, please remove the baseball caps!)

Here are a few of our favorites.

Pates Restaurant, Chatham

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This iconic neighborhood restaurant first opened its doors in 1957 as a hamburger and ice cream stand. It has evolved into a popular spot for a special occasion, a date night out or just a comfortable, casual meal. The atmosphere is elegant yet relaxing, with cushioned seating, white tablecloths and a large L-shaped bar.

The menu includes thin-crust pizzas, small plates such as lobster tacos, lump crab cake and pork ribs, and entrees like surf & turf, flat-iron steak, potato-chip-crusted cod and seared ahi tuna. There is also an eclectic array of craft cocktails.

Del Mar Bar & Bistro, Chatham

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In its 11th year under the operation of John Zartarian, who boasts over 20 years on Cape Cod owning and managing popular restaurant venues, Del Mar features native seafood, bistro cuisine and thin-crust pizzas.

Wood-fired oysters, a three-mushroom tart and a vegan squash apple soup are just three of the appetizers, while entrée selections include pan-roasted halibut with charred scallion and miso lobster butter, coconut basmati rice, fennel, mango, kohlrabi and apple salad with cashew almond cream; a short rib pad tai; and tuna with chilled cilantro miso pesto lo mein noodles, pickled ginger, carrot and cucumber slaw, crispy wontons and honey chili sauce.

Impudent Oyster, Chatham

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The Impudent Oyster has been one of the go-to destinations for locals for more than 40 years. Known for its diverse selection of seafood, from cod, sole and tuna to swordfish, salmon steamers and, of course, lobster, the Oyster offers exquisite food and a warm and inviting atmosphere.

Don’t miss the Gambas Al Ajillo appetizer, featuring gulf shrimp simmered in a roasted garlic and olive oil sauce and seasoned with red chilies.

Mahoney’s Atlantic Bar & Grille, Orleans

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Located in the center of downtown, just off Main Street, Mahoney’s was once a dry goods store. Most customers enter through the rear door, where they are greeted by an expansive bar area that includes table seating and a back rail to accommodate overflow crowds. The wood-paneled dining room offers a laidback ambiance.

Relaxing and homey, the bar is the ideal spot for enjoying an app with a craft cocktail. A standout choice is the grilled shrimp and scallops. The key to the dish, says owner and chef Ted Mahoney, is the homemade blackened seasoning, which includes black, white and red pepper, salt, paprika, onion powder, chili powder, ground thyme, cumin, ancho pepper and garlic butter.

For entrees, you can’t go wrong with the pan-roasted lobster or the rack of lamb, although the expansive menu offers numerous other options that are superb.

Colombo’s Café, Hyannis

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Want to venture a bit farther afield? Check out Colombo’s, a wonderful spot on Main Street to gather for classic Italian food and conversation.

Treat yourself to Mama Colombo’s roasted wings or homemade meatballs to begin your meal, then move on to chicken toscana, veal saltimbocca or sole francaise.

Not in the mood for Italian? No worries. Grilled Asian salmon, Tuscan braised short ribs and pan-seared diver scallop are on the menu. There is also a wide selection of pizzas and sandwiches.

Choose a spot at an inside booth or the open-window bar, and make sure to save room for dessert. Colombo’s is known for its pastry selection that includes chocolate-dipped cannoli, limoncello cake, ricotta pie and red velvet cake, along with eclairs, cream puffs and cookies.

All photos via Facebook.