Through the Pass

Quicks Hole Tavern: Local’s Local, Traveler’s Friend

By Jessie Gunnard / Photography By Brett Longworth | December 16, 2014
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plating dishes at Quicks Hole Tavernn
Stephanie Mikolazyk sets an enormous kale salad down on the table between us in the bright second-floor dining room at Quicks Hole Tavern and tucks in, answering questions between bites and managing to concentrate fully on both tasks. Dressed in chef’s whites, with fresh purple streaks in her blond hair, she’s Executive Chef and General Manager at this less-than-a-year-old establishment, and she, along with everyone else bustling around the place, is busy. And that’s a great thing.

For those lucky enough to live near or visit Woods Hole, that science-y village in the corner of Falmouth, take note: the hardworking team at Quicks Hole Tavern has stepped in and stepped up, and it has a hell of a lot going for it: freshness, focus and action, whenever you’re in the mood, whatever mood you find yourself in.

Lunch to break up your day at work, or some refreshment after pedaling the Shining Sea Bike Path? Check. A leisurely dinner with visiting family? Yes. A snack and a drink in the downstairs bar before you get on the ferry to the Vineyard, or just because? Absolutely. Quicks Hole Tavern, perched overlooking the Steamship Authority’s terminal for Martha’s Vineyard, is open seven days a week year round (a rarity in Woods Hole) for lunch and dinner and beyond, with brunch on Saturday and Sunday. Bonus: it’s got a great view of the sunset, the ferries and scientific research ships, as well as a rare bird’s eye glimpse of the Elizabeth Islands.

A tavern is a traveler’s friend, a local’s local, and this place is indeed those things, with a cool vibe and superb people watching. But do not make the serious error of overlooking the food, because it is excellent, and a whole lot of fun.

Take Mikolazyk’s salad, for instance. It’s the gorgeous Chopped Kale Salad, with toasted pecans, cherries and Pecorino cheese, sprinkled with garlic panko for crunch. The menu changes at least seasonally, and right now there are over two dozen offerings, ranging from sandwiches (including a hearty House-made Veggie Burger, with avocado, remoulade and Havarti with a side of delicate, deeply-earthy fries; or the “MBL”-T, a nod to the Marine Biological Laboratory down the street, with mahi-mahi, applewood bacon and miso mayo); to snacks (some surprisingly light Quahog Fritters with a delicate and uplifting creamy dressing of pickled vegetables with dill, and the very popular Pig Candy—chewy, sticky delightful pieces of smoked pork belly with a beguiling flavor profile) to entrées and desserts (more on those later).

This food is fresh, flavorful and surprising. It pays respect to local and regional products, and it’s forward thinking, striking a balance between satisfying a craving for something familiar and New Englandy, while welcoming new flavors and concepts.

In Mikolazyk’s words, it’s a New American spin on New England fare. A New England kid through and through, she grew up in Tiverton, Rhode Island, where her father was a commercial fisherman and her mother an inspiration for her career in food. “I remember it was all about seafood, because it was always in the house,” she recalls. Mikolazyk attended Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI for culinary school, and later worked at several Rhode Island restaurants: The Newport Hyatt Regency, Portsmouth’s Sail Loft, Napa Valley Grille in Providence, then the Kirkbrae Country Club in Lincoln. “My background is very corporate,” she explains. Mixed in there was a several-year stint in Arizona, and more recently, she was at the Stone House Inn in Little Compton.

Then in 2009, Beth Colt, owner of the Woods Hole Inn and the attached Quicks Hole Taqueria, was looking for a new chef to run the popular California-Mexican place. The Craigslist ad “was very lengthy, very detailed,” Mikolazyk remembers. “I thought, ‘Okay, I like this person, I want to go work for this person.’ We interviewed, I cooked a little something, and she loved it. I felt a bond with her, and I’ve been here five years.”

Last fall, Colt was considering buying the old Leeside building, just a few doors down from the Inn and the Taqueria in Woods Hole. Mikolazyk jumped at the chance to head up the new restaurant, and at the end of February 2014, Quicks Hole Tavern opened for business. “I like to be challenged all the time, and I get that here.” She smiles, raising her eyebrows and shrugging her shoulders, like she still can’t believe her luck. It’s clear that she’s happy running this show.

Mikolazyk and her staff get as much good stuff as they can locally; she’s a big fan of Narragansett Creamery’s products, and the cheese board features Great Hill Blue from Westport. Fish comes from Falmouth’s The Clam Man and Ipswich Shellfish, and they’ve sourced oysters from Sippewissett Oysters just up the road. Debbie Allen’s herbs and vegetables from Westport feature in the kitchen.

Some of their produce even arrives by ferry, rolling right off the boat in front of the restaurant. John Wilson, Sous Chef, explains that on Thursday they got a delivery from Morning Glory Farm on Martha’s Vineyard. “We get an email list of what they have that week, what the pack size is, what’s new and what’s winding down.” In mid-October, they’re getting peppers, greens, delicata squash for the salmon entrée (grilled salmon with roasted squash rings, pancetta kale and a lovely sweet pear purée), butternut (for the silky, coconutty rich butternut curry with sticky, crispy tofu) and more.

In the dining room, chalkboards list selections for the cheese and charcuterie boards from nearby and around the world—Amish goat cheddar, Atwells Gold (Narragansett Creamery’s flagship cheese), Queso Ibores, Serrano ham, capicola. The beer taps likewise offer an array of beers from near and far: Cape Cod Beer, Mayflower Brewing Company, Offshore Ale Co., Berkshire Brewing Company, Anchor Steam and Yeungling. This month’s cocktails take on the cooler weather right between the eyes: the Juniper Point, of white wheat whisky, dry vermouth, grappa, bitters and lemon; the Cider House Rules, with bourbon, apple and maple; and the Leeside Maple, with gin and bourbon mellowed with maple syrup.

The dining room and downstairs bar are easy on the eyes, with whitewashed walls and bare wood ceilings and floors. Decoration is spare and limited to marine fittings, parts stripped to wood or painted white and mounted on walls, and focal points include a few carefully selected murals of enlarged historical photographs of Woods Hole. The effect is clean, modern and uncluttered; nautical without listing into overly boaty. Even the serving ware is simple: plain white plates, wooden boards. Your attention is drawn mainly toward your food and the view outside the windows.

But under that careful focus is a boatload of activity: servers wearing white and blue-striped button-downs move swiftly among the assortment of high and low tops (you have a good view wherever you sit), arranged between the six-seat bar against the windows and the chef’s bar facing the open kitchen.

It’s in that long, narrow, wedge-shaped space where, when things are really humming, as many as eight people work among cooktops, grills, reach-in fridges, and deep fryers, all with diners watching close by. It’s prep time now, and at the grill station Glenroy Ricketts points to the great slabs of Havarti and mozzarella, the mounds of sauerkraut for the Reubens. At the other end of the kitchen, Wilson is in the garde manger/pantry position, where salads, desserts, cheese and charcuterie plates are assembled. With not too much prodding, he shares the recipe for their Pig Candy, an especially popular starter. “It’s uncured smoked pork belly, marinated in maple syrup, dipped in a mix of brown sugar, black pepper, cinnamon and cayenne, and cooked so the fat renders down a bit.” Seriously.

There are bins everywhere: candied walnuts for the Braised Beet Salad, those delicata squash rings for the salmon, beets for the Pan Seared Halibut. That last one is a real winner—halibut with a perfect, crusty sear atop mashed celery root, garlic spinach, beets and elderflower. “We can’t keep enough fish in the house,” says Mikolazyk. Another entrée of note is the Braised Pork Cheeks with poached leeks and radishes with potato purée—admittedly not the prettiest dish, but wonderful comfort food.

Except for the breads, which come from Pain D’Avignon in Hyannis, and the charcuterie and cheeses, everything is made from scratch: chowder, spiced nuts for the salads, all desserts. Especially notable sweets are the doughnuts, arriving at your table as a paper bag full of piping hot, sugar-crusted gems with a vanilla dipping sauce—really fun, and worth a visit alone on a chilly day—and the house made ice cream sandwich.

The future? Well, they haven’t even been open for a year, but the way things are looking, Mikolazyk and her staff will be busy through the winter, thinking up and turning out creative, simply tasty food all across the board, with a really solid sense of place tempered with a clean, cool sensibility.

Quicks Hole Tavern—Winter Hours

Open 7 days a week from 11:00 am until the last ferry

Bar only on Mondays after 4:00, bar menu available

Brunch on Saturday and Sunday 11:00-3:00

29 Railroad Avenue, Woods Hole

508-495-0048 / quicksholewickedfresh.com

In addition to being copy editor and contributor for Edible Cape Cod, Jessie Gunnard is a freelance writer and editor for scientists, businesses and nonprofit organizations (jessiegunnard.com). She loves writing about and helping promote local food and agriculture. 

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