eat new england

Tres Bien! This Out-of-the-Way Cafe Offers Tremendous French Food

The Outer Cape still has a lot to offer in the off-season, and crowds still flock to PB Boulangerie Bistro in Wellfleet after summer ends


Pastries at PB Boulangerie Bistro in Wellfleet, Massachusetts

For many, Labor Day means one final visit to Cape Cod before putting away the swimsuits and beach chairs, but locals (and those in the know) see it in another way — the start of one of the best stretches of the year to be on this beautiful peninsula south of Boston.

The Cape becomes even more special when the weather cooperates in the fall, as it has this November, with days of record-breaking warmth and glorious sunshine. (This Saturday included!) Normally busy areas are much less crowded and much of the beach parking is free this time of year — it’s tough to think of a better place to be. The Outer Cape is particularly fun when the weather’s nice, and Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro and Provincetown have a sense of peace that is difficult to find during the height of tourist season.

Enjoying the salty air and ocean views while kicking back with a picnic lunch may be more of a challenge this time of year, when some dining spots have already closed for the season, but many remain open, including a beloved French bakery and café in Wellfleet called PB Boulangerie Bistro that is not only ideal for takeout but is a wonderful place to have a relaxing dine-in meal even if the weather isn’t quite so cooperative.

Like other communities on the Outer Cape, Wellfleet doesn’t look like much if you only stick to Route 6, the main thoroughfare that whisks people along the backbone of Cape Cod from the canal to Provincetown. But this old fishing village and artist colony has one of the most charming town centers on the entire peninsula, and its stunning beaches and bucolic kettle ponds make it a very popular spot for lovers of the outdoors.

While Route 6 isn’t the most interesting road, some of the best restaurants between the Orleans rotary and Provincetown can be found along it, including a number of iconic seafood shacks in Wellfleet and Eastham. Those tend to be seasonal spots that shut down when the crowds head home, but one dining spot that remains open is PB Boulangerie, which sits just off Route 6 — and within sight of the Cape Cod Rail Trail.

Are you looking for something to do this weekend? The Provincetown Food and Wine Festival runs November 2nd through November 6th.

Yes, it tends to be a bit quieter now than during the peak of the summer months, though enough year-round residents live in and around Wellfleet to cause the occasional line out the door especially on weekends — and certainly when the weather is nice.

As soon as you pull into the parking lot of PB Boulangerie Bistro, you may sense that this is not your typical roadside eatery.

A walkway leads from the lot past a cozy outdoor patio situated off to the right while more seating is situated to the left of the walkway, and various memorabilia, knick-knacks and hurricane lamps are set up along the walkway leading up to the entrance. A traffic light tells people when they can enter the building, going from red to green as people leave with their orders or head into the indoor (or outdoor) dining areas.

Stepping inside PB Boulangerie can lead to sensory overload. Cases of pastries and baked goods stand on one side; displays of cheeses, drinks and other goods are on the other; breakfast and lunch items sit on top of the cases; and, behind the cases, an array of breads of every imaginable kind.

Beyond the counter to the left is an entrance into a room with canned and boxed goods along with other merchandise for sale; just beyond it is seating in a quiet indoor dining area, with an entrance to an enclosed porch with more seating beyond that. The porch is possibly the best option for dining in, since you get the best of both worlds — shelter from the elements while also giving the feel of being in the great outdoors.

PB Boulangerie is one of those places where you can go for a snack, a cup of coffee, a full meal, a dessert or perhaps all of the above. All of the breads are well worth trying, including a classic French baguette; a dark chocolate cranberry bread with a nice mix of sweet, bitter and tart; and a savory olive and rosemary pave, or flat rectangular bread.

A must among the breakfast meal options is the belly-busting ham-and-cheese croissant, while a somewhat similar option for lunch is the croque monsieur, which is basically a ham and cheese sandwich to the nth degree (though the huge, cheesy squares of pizza may make you think twice before automatically ordering that sandwich).

Any meal ordered here will make it tough to save room for a pastry, so ordering them to go is certainly an option that makes sense, though just the look of the eclairs, kouign-amann layered cakes, chocolate croissants and creme brûlée brioche may make you consider taking part of your meal home — or even bypassing the meal entirely and turning the pastries into the meal itself.

So many great options for dining can be found between Eastham and Provincetown both during the height of the summer and in the off-season, but there’s no place quite like PB Boulangerie Bistro. This spot is a must for anyone who appreciates good food, and the beauty of the place is that you can go there for anything from a quick to-go item to nosh on while sitting at a nearby beach to a leisurely dine-in meal where you might be tempted to go back in line to order more food before taking a nap with a full — and very happy — belly.

[Ed note: PB Boulangerie is currently open Wednesday through Sunday.]

PB Boulangerie Bistro, 15 Lecount Hollow Road, South Wellfleet, MA, 02663.