She, however, takes the back way there and I found her directions a little daunting. So we decided to treat ourselves and go together.
From the moment we walked in the door of the charming and titular red cottage, it was clear Helen was a regular. The wait staff called out a greeting and, when we ordered, our server automatically asked Helen if she wanted the half-size portion.
She didn’t, but she did order one of her favorites, Eggs Napoli ($9.50). The dish featured a Bay’s English muffin split open and topped with roasted tomatoes and garden-fresh basil, then crowned with two poached eggs and lemon hollandaise sauce. It was an interesting take on the traditional eggs Benedict. She urged me to try a bite but I couldn’t because I was trying one or two bites of what seemed like nearly everything else on the menu.
When our waitress saw me waffling (no pun intended, although I was stuck in the breakfast menu) over several dishes, she suggested I try the Thursday special. It was a breakfast version of a chef’s tasting dinner.
For $9.99, the chef sent over silver-dollar-sized portions of nine menu items. It was a journey, with cuisine ranging from New Orleans’ French Quarter — “French Toast Foster” advertised as the original recipe, rich with brown sugar, butter, banana liqueur, dark rum and caramelized bananas — to a “Mississippi Omelette” filled with shrimp and crab sauteed in bread crumbs with cheddar cheese. From the menu’s lunch side, the special included a 2-inch-long Thanksgiving wrap with all the fixings. On the dessert side were two varieties of crepes: graham cracker and vanilla bean.
It was all very good. The only thing I didn’t like was the turkey sandwich because I don’t like the texture of mashed potatoes and gravy served on a wrap sandwich. Maybe that’s just me; I don’t like mashed potatoes on pizza either and I know you can order that at some pizzerias.
In the interest of space, since there were so many dishes, let me wax poetic over my two favorites, beginning with the “French Toast Foster.” Having been fortunate enough to try the original at Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans, I can tell you that Red Cottage chef Dan Rosenbach cooks up a fine tribute. With due respect to our Southern neighbors, I liked the Cape version better because the butter buffered the strong flavor of the liqueur. I suppose on the downside, the Red Cottage doesn’t flamb breakfast and serve it over ice cream as they did when we had the Bananas Foster dessert at Brennan’s.
My other favorite was the creamy, rich omelette in which the flavor of seafood stood out pleasantly.
The bad news is that Rosenbach doesn’t serve the Thursday special in the summer when it’s too busy to make nine entrees and divide them into little buffet feasts for the undecided like me. The good news is that all these items are on the menu and are prepared wonderfully by Rosenbach, a Johnson & Wales University graduate who honed his skills at several restaurants before returning to the Cape to cook at his parents’ restaurant.
Hollandaise figures in many of the egg dishes and Rosenbach makes a great one in which the fresh lemon taste is laced throughout the rich sauce.
The Red Cottage, which celebrated its 60th anniversary as a restaurant last year, has gone through many incarnations since Kenneth Pareseau opened it as a seasonal seafood place in 1951. Take a few minutes to enjoy the history printed on the menu. The restaurant is a narrow, warm space that feels homey (check out the photographs on the walls) but features modern culinary equipment behind the counter.
If you’re stuck in the line that stretches out into the parking lot during the busy summer season, there’s a bit of comic relief. The menu says: “Our motto remains the same as always — ‘Same Day Service.’”