Pearl Cape Cod Waterfront Dining on Wellfleet Harbor

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At A Glance | The Story of the Shell | What People Are Saying | Photos

At A Glance

The Restaurant

• Opened summer of 2009. Season: May-October
• General Manager, Kristi Wageman
• Executive Chef: Bob Wageman
• # Seats inside: 175; on the upper deck: 40
• Menu: “Classic Cape Cod” with heavy emphasis on local seafood. Local produce used whenever possible.
• Moderate priced menu. Soup & Appetizers range from $5 – $12. Sandwiches and Entrées range from $10 to $32, with several items at market price.
• Raw bar featuring fresh-shucked oysters straight from Wellfleet Harbor
• View: More than 180 degrees of panoramic water view stretching from Wellfleet Marina to Wellfleet Harbor to a view of Great Island. By far, one of the most breathtaking water views seen from any restaurant on Cape Cod.

The History of the Building

• Pearl is located on the site of the former Captain Higgins Restaurant which operated seasonally for approximately 30 years.
• Prior to its run as the Captain Higgins, the building was known as “The Oyster House” and later, the “Spit and Chatter Club”.

The Art of Reconstruction

• The building, as you see it today, was created by the design team of Dana Heilman, Lauren Stapleton and metal artist, Steve Swain. In addition to Pearl, this trio is well known for their work on the Roo Bars in Hyannis, Falmouth, Chatham and Plymouth.
• Their strategy: to keep or repurpose all parts of the Captain Higgins structure and also to expose parts of the original Spit and Chatter structure beneath it Rather than purchase new lumber when they needed more, they obtained permission to strip a historic home from 5 Woodland Road in Harwich that was too fragile to be moved and therefore slated for demolition. Other materials were recycled from an old inn in Woods Hole.

• The Results: Doors from the Harwich house were used to create roomy booths, counters and trim. The wide-plank pine flooring, uncovered from the original Spit and Chatter Club was transformed into a 25-seat L-shaped bar. Pearl’s leaded-glass windows, which overlook the harbor, are there courtesy of a renovated Inn in Woods Hole.
• The Art: in addition to the artistic design of the renovation, the interior and exterior are enhanced by the metal sculptures and light fixtures of designer/artist Steve Swain, who owns the “Frying Pan Gallery, adjacent to the restaurant.

The Respect For The Environment

(Green Practices in building and day-to-day operation)

• Eco-friendly construction practices were used to repurpose as many materials as possible.
• Low VOC paints were used during renovation.
• Bar top and tables were finished with water-soluble coating.
• Corrugated steel roof was designed as part of building’s rainwater collection system to be used for landscape irrigation.
• Installed environmentally safe, state-of-the-art septic system to prevent run-off. Will not impact the waters that surround Pearl.
• Devised system to collect run-off water from ice machines and reuse to water the landscaping.
• Staff uses only chemical-free cleaning products.
• Use of plastic is kept to a minimum.

What Makes This Pearl So Special

• Quite possibly the best water view from any restaurant on Cape Cod.
• A menu that stresses fresh, local produce and seafood, and quality meats, and offers variety to satisfy most tastes.
• The FRESHEST Oysters you could ever eat, straight from the harbor.
• A building with artistic character and history, reconstructed in an eco-friendly manner, with Green practices an integral part of day to day operations.

The Story of “the Shell”

an eco-friendly renovation

When the owners of Pearl first began considering concepts for the former Captain Higgins Restaurant location, “one of the last sweet spots on Cape Cod,” as co-owner Dana Heilman refers to it, “it became obvious that everyone was concerned about this fragile sliver of land” he said. He felt that both renovating and operating Pearl in an environmentally responsible manner was “just the right thing to do” and immediately began moving forward with plans to create this exceptional restaurant utilizing eco-friendly construction practices.

Prior to being expanded and run for more than 30 years as the Captain Higgins restaurant, the building was known as the ‘Oyster House’ and then the ‘Spit & Chatter Club’. In fact Heilman said he’d seen an issue of National Geographic from 1941 with photos of bearded older gentlemen sitting around on wooden barrels, shucking piles of famed Wellfleet oysters.

As construction began and the building’s interior was totally gutted, Heilman, along with longtime colleagues Steve ‘Swainer’ Swain and Lauren Stapleton, began to realize that they were unearthing the original outlines of the Spit & Chatter Club and ultimately decided to leave much of it exposed, rising up to a peak above where the open kitchen now sits. When Heilman, Swain and Stapleton recognized they weren’t going to have enough lumber, they did not head to the local lumberyard, opting to go green instead and reuse planks and doors from another historic area building.

“Someone in Harwich was leveling an old building, so we threw him a couple grand and he let me have a truckload of wood, a bunch cedar and old-growth pine,” said Heilman. Taking down the building in Harwich and moving it down to Wellfleet proved to be a labor-intensive and expensive task, but the effort was in keeping with the entire concept of Pearl.

Inside Pearl, the vibe is on the beachside breezy feel. The open floor-plan eatery has wall-to-wall windows, many of which are the old leaded-glass variety salvaged from a renovation of the Woods Hole Inn. All these windows are perfect for capturing the stellar harbor views and salty sea breezes.

Stapleton, known for his artistic ability to use materials in unexpected ways, repurposed the doors from the historic Harwich building to create booths, counters and trim-work, now painted in soft blues and greens, using low VOC paints, naturally. He also repurposed the wide-plank pine flooring from the Spit & Chatter Club into a 25-seat L-shaped bar, topped with a water-soluble coating, naturally, which overlooks a marsh behind Pearl.

An adjacent exterior bar and deck seating sit under a corrugated steel roof. Sure, the roof looks hip and provides shelter, but it also is a working part of the building’s rainwater collection system that is used for landscape irrigation. A second story dining deck offers quite possibly the best water views on Cape Cod.

Swainer, who Heilman said was “a huge influence on making this happen”, is a well-recognized artist whose signature metal sculptural pieces can be found throughout Pearl, from the sign outside, to funky pieces scattered throughout the interior.

In an effort to ensure that Pearl makes as little environmental impact as possible to its stunning natural surroundings, day-to-day operations are tailored to make certain that Pearl and its employees embrace the whole ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ concept yet do so in a subtle way, ways that will not necessarily be immediately apparent to diners; preparing foods with fresh, local ingredients whenever possible, using chemical-free cleaning products and generally trying to keep waste to a minimum.

What People Are Saying About Pearl”

“Perfect location, interior space wonderfully decorated, food wonderful, 3 – 5 weekend Happy Hour w/ live music wonderful, best bartender ever…”
-nybailey7, Rhinebeck, NY
Trip Advisor, June 2011

I live in Wellfleet, worth a visit for the sheer beauty alone, and I love having lunch at the Pearl. It’s a fun relaxed place with great oysters!
-E.Meyer, Wellfleet
Yelp, May 2011

Four of us went there Sept. 23rd. The service was very good, our waitress was friendly and knowledgeable. Atmosphere one of the best around. Food outstanding!!! prices comparable to any restaurant. Will go back often.
-Michael, September 2010
Urban Spoon

We had never explored Wellfleet, and, we came across this place for lunch. Our service was friendly, and, I liked that our server didn’t hesitate to make recommendations. I was a big fan of the Cobb Salad. On a nice, sunny day it is a nice place to kill an hour of the afternoon.
-cmdo809, NYC
Trip Advisor, September 2010


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