All photos by John Tunney
Need a Bud, Tom?” the bartender quietly asked a middle-aged guy who sort of slumped into a bar chair at the Land Ho! in Orleans.
“Yeah. Thanks,” replied the patron, who had all the earmarks of a local contractor who put in a hard day’s work – a sullied shirt, muddied boots and more than a hint of exhaustion.
A few feet away, in the dining area of this Main Street pub, dozens of tourists chatted away, children squealed and a busy hostess was giving the bad news to a family at the door – a half-hour wait for a table, at least.
This is a common scene at the Land Ho! during summer, when the venue’s reputation for good, affordable food outshines its seating capacity. Locals know this, and typically are prepared to sit at the bar rather than wait for a table.
In the case of the working man, the bar was his objective and he is well known to the staff. Ditto for the six or seven other men nursing beers nearby.
So the place doubles as a kind of tourist attraction and a local pub. The bar area, with a wide-screen TV at each end, and the main dining room feature what can only be called a stroke of marketing genius. Business signs from virtually every local business in the area hang from every available ceiling space. Locals and visitors recognize the signs and business owners get free exposure every time a Land Ho! diner looks up.
The signs, according to the Land Ho!’s web site, reflects the restaurant’s close connection to the local community.
A narrow hallway at the back of the dining room leads past the kitchen workers to a second venue, called the Captain Walker Function Room. Off-season this space, which has its own bar and seating area, can be booked for private events. In-season, it’s packed with people just like the dining room.
They come for the atmosphere and for the food. Along with its standard menu, the Land Ho! has Chalkboard Specials everyday, year-round. On a recent visit, local steamers and Brewster oysters were offered as appetizers. Entrees included a lobster dinner with corn on the cob and a cup of chowder, blackened Cajun salmon, a New York strip steak, grilled pork loin and a scallop casserole.
The Land Ho! has a big selection of fried seafood, such as clam strips, whole clams, shrimp, scrod, flounder and calamari. It also is known for its excellent burgers, and offers a burger special each day. During my last visit, it was a pepper jack cheese burger served with fries and cole slaw.
I have a few favorites at the Land Ho!. It serves very fine kale soup and excellent chili. Its clam chowder is delicious, if you like it thick, and the locally caught fish is delectably fresh.
The Land Ho! also does well what other pubs often don’t do well – desserts. Its blueberry, apple and key lime pies won’t disappoint, and neither will its brownie sundae.
The restaurant presents live bands on Thursday and Saturday nights, and karaoke on Wednesday.
Based on the success of its Orleans operation, the Land Ho!’s owners in 2010 opened a Land Ho! at 429 Route 28, Harwich Port.
If you go: The Land Ho! is at 38 Main Street, Orleans, Ma 02653, 508-255-5165. Open daily serving lunch from 11:30 am to 5 pm, dinner from 5 pm to 10 pm and appetizers, burgers and soups until 11 pm.