With temperatures seesawing between 80 and 40 degrees, October certainly seems a contrary time to launch a New England-style seafood shack. But while tents and space heaters will soon shroud the patio at Bushwick’s recently debuted Cape House, the menu will stay blessedly stable, providing year-round access to beachy staples like deep-fried whole belly clams.
The restaurant’s whitewashed interiors further the impression of the Eastern seaboard in the off-season, evoking a friend’s parent’s summer cottage abandoned for the winter, and appropriated for parties. Family fishing photos (owner Dana Gardner hails from Ipswich) and genteel, nautical knick knacks are illuminated by garish strings of Christmas lights, and surfaces are littered with cans of Narragansett, sticky-sweet rum concoctions, and glasses of Cisco Whale’s Tale Pale Ale. Unfettered festivities will eventually spill over into an expansive rec room downstairs (a parting gift from previous tenant, the spin-the-bottle-loving Amancay), which serves as an ideal venue for live entertainment, and motley late night ragers.
That’s where the house party comparisons end, however, as provisions are hardly the sort procured from a midnight run to Cumberland Farms. Faithfully emulating the shellfish shanties that line the East coast, the Bushwick eatery lavishes extra attention on lemon zest-brightened clam bellies, which command $18 for a brimming paper boat-full, and a bargain $10 for a roll. Other seafood offerings oscillate between high and lowbrow, from grilled head-on prawns with garlic-lime dipping sauce, to fingers of haddock with fries.
Massachusetts-inspired hot dogs square off in the non-seafood section, pledge fealty to either the chili-sauced Worchester or Leicester version, cloaked in syrupy sautéed onions. There are also a few comparatively virtuous creations, directly descended from Brooklyn, such as “market” sourced sweet potatoes strewn with dried cranberries and yogurt, and a rather remarkable celery root patty melt furnished with gruyere, dill pickles, caramelized onions and celery, and toasted caraway and peppercorn aioli, that puts wan, meat-free imitators like portobello mushrooms and beany veggie burgers to shame.
Who knows, it might just inspire a wave of BK-style celery shacks to propagate throughout New England.
2 Knickerbocker Ave., Bushwick
Photos by Maggie Shannon