When my wife and twin sons and I moved to Chicagoland from New Jersey in 2002, we vowed that we’d make it back to the Cape every other year. Well, we were true to our word from July 30th to August 5th, marking our second vacation to Cape Cod in four years.
Our first trip together to the Cape was in ’93, and since then we never thought twice about the five-hour-or-so hike in the summer up to New England. The Jersey Shore, less than an hour away, simply never appeared on our radar screen. Now we're 1,000 miles away and can't imagine ever giving up the Cape for good.
Even before kids, we always played the Cape casually, hitting the beach most days, doing a Route 6A shopping day, walking downtown Chatham one day, catching a CCBL game in Orleans or Y-D, maybe taking the ferry to the Vineyard (but often maybe not), maybe taking a quick flight out of Hyannis to Nantucket, (but often maybe not) ... and ALWAYS enjoying the heck out of our favorite seafood shack, Arnold’s off Route 6 in Eastham. I swear, one week we ate every lunch and dinner exclusively at Arnold’s!
After all these years for us, Arnold’s is still our ace. The nightly lines running out the door last week proved it. We treated ourselves to a lunch and two dinners there this year: My wife tallied two 2-pound lobsters and a lobster roll; I had a lobster roll, a fried seafood platter, and one night had a dozen oysters on the half shell; one meal we shared whole fried clams (simply devine) and another we had a small box of those giant, juicy fried scallops ...
Our twin 5-year-olds loved the clam strips, the clam chowder, the grilled cheese sandwiches. Indeed, the clam chowder is still as good as it gets at a Cape shack. The lobster chowder is worth a try, too. In fact, after a couple spoonfuls of trying mine, one of the twins declared the lobster chowder was better than the clam.
The onion rings are still to die for. Just amazing.
I’ve read two or three times on message boards how some people knock Arnold’s off their list because the food is “too greasy.” That’s never really been an issue for us. In fact, I’m trying to think of ANY fried seafood shack that doesn’t stain the paper plate at least a little bit. I mean, c’mon pal, it’s a friggin’ seafood shack, not the dining room of the Chatham Bars Inn ...
It doesn’t matter how long the line is at Arnold’s – there is always an open table for you by the time your food is ready. Always. The same is not true up Route 6 at Moby Dick’s in Wellfleet (which is a tremendous seafood shack in its own right. At Moby’s you wait in a long line to order your food, then you pick it up on a tray and carry it to a table. Once you get to the table, a waitress checks up on you. Arnold’s is the classic you-get-your-food, you-eat-your-food, you-throw-away-your-garbage-in-a-trash-can-when-you’re-done joint) ...
Two Arnold’s criticisms worth noting: 1) I remember not being thrilled at all the year (was it 2000 or 2001?) they added calamari rings to the fried seafood platter. The following year they were gone, and I was pleased. But this summer the squid returned – rings AND legs. Hey, I like calamari as much as the next guy. But on the Cape, plenty of folks get irritated by filler. 2) I’ve read and heard people say Arnold’s might just serve the best lobster roll on the Cape. Unfortunately, it’s not true. It was probably the same year the squid reared its ugly head when Arnold’s switched from hot dog rolls to larger sesame-seeded sub buns for its lobster rolls. The lobster salad is scrumptious as always – delicate pink and red meat with a touch of mayo, nothing else. But all that bread, plus two decent-sized leaves of romaine lettuce really gets in the way. Let’s just say we’re hoping for the day they switch back to the basic hot dog roll.
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