Postcard From Tom: Provincetown, Mass.

Sunday, September 5, 2004

Psst: Now through October is actually the best time to visit Provincetown, Mass. "The crowds are gone and the locals are less cranky," confides one Cape Cod restaurateur. Here's where to refuel:

CHESTER RESTAURANT (404 Commercial St., 508-487-8200)

Former Washingtonians John Guerra and Jay Coburn launched this modern American restaurant in 1998, naming the former captain's house after their Airedale terrier. Chester's service represents some of the best at the beach, and so does the inspired cooking. Creamy scallop chowder and tomato tart both make lovely beginnings; lamb steak with couscous and any of the fish specials are meals to remember. Local art and fine wines add to the allure of the candle-lit dining room. Dinner entrees $22-$39.

ROSS' GRILL (237 Commercial St., 508-487-8878)

You enter through a busy mini-mall known as Whaler's Wharf and climb to an arty, second-floor restaurant whose balcony might overlook a volleyball game being played outside in the sand. Here's where you want to be at lunch when the tribe is getting restless but the chief doesn't want to take the fast-food route. There are sparkling oysters and clams on the half-shell for raw food lovers and a respectable fish and chips for the less adventurous. Taped jazz in the background and choice wines by the glass help stoke the good times. Sandwiches $9-$14.

THE RED INN (15 Commercial St., 508-487-7334)

What a pleasant place to ease into vacation mode. Brunch beckons with tasty blackberry pancakes, cheese-and-salsa quesadillas and a fine lobster salad sandwich. Dinner finds satisfying roast local cod, dry-aged steak and grilled duck. Day or night, the package remains the same: shiny wood floors meet mustard-colored walls meet beams overhead. Meanwhile, the narrow dining room's windows frame fetching views of both ocean and garden. Dinner entrees $21-$39.

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