+1 508-945-4380 | 75 Old Harbor Road Chatham, Massachusetts
Husband-and-wife team Rik and Caren Morse have always had big dreams that they’ve aimed to fuel with creativity, common sense and hard work.
Their retro American diner, Chatham Filling Station, also has a touch of whimsy, as evidenced by, for example, the Elvis statue properly masked to face COVID and the ‘50s-style mural that Orleans artist Helen Kelsey painted on the back wall.
“She’s a marvelously creative person,” says Rik. “And she was so generous. She basically did it for free. We just had to feed her.”
So a year ago, when Gov. Charlie Baker ordered restaurants closed except for takeout, the Morses asked Kelsey to help them launch a new venture — a summer road trip, of sorts.
While the Morses built a takeout window in front of their diner, Kelsey designed a plywood facade for it on the outside of the diner that shows a brightly colored truck filled with people setting out on a road trip.
“I remember stopping at diners, during family trips, with myself and my parents and my six siblings,” says Rik, a child of the ’50s and ’60s. His parents and sibs lined up by a ’50s-era car is in one of the black-and-white photographs decorating the diner.
Rik and Caren met nearly two decades ago when they both worked at American Seasons restaurant on Nantucket. They knew they wanted their own place, but found the island too expensive. So they headed to the mainland, where they bought Chatham Bakery.
Caren, the baker, planned and baked almost everything for five years until the couple decided to take a year off to recharge and have their daughter, Lydia, now 14. Their next venture was at the Windmill Plaza in East Orleans, where they built Zia Pizza, which they ran from 2007 to 2017.
For their third restaurant, they moved on to what had been Old Harbor Cafe. “This place allowed us to not have to work at night,” Rik says, noting that he and his wife debated several names before finding a vibe that evoked the diners he recalled from childhood.
With a basement full of car memorabilia to use as decorations, the couple decided to name their new place Chatham Filling Station.
Not even two years later, COVID-19 hit.
Like with other changes in the professional life they shared, the Morses got going.
With Paycheck Protection Plan money from the government, they raised the hourly pay rate to $18 for everyone on their small staff. “We wanted people to know we were all in this together,” Caren says.
The couple took a look at their menu to find tweaks that would make it easier to serve breakfast on the go: Omelets with toast became omelets on wraps or served in bowls. The bowls include a choice of Anson Mills cheesy grits or herbed quinoa topped with two eggs any style and a popover. (Friendly hint: Get a popover no matter what else you order!) There are six varieties of omelets available as wraps ($9-$10) or bowls ($12-$13), including Caren’s choice with garlicky sautéed mushrooms, spinach, caramelized onions and feta.
he diner owners temporarily did away with eggs Benedict, which didn’t travel well with its poached eggs and too-quickly-cooling hollandaise sauce.
Caren makes the popovers, muffins, cookies and other baked goods at Chatham Filling Station. On Sundays, when we visited, only breakfast is served. But starting at 11:30 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, there is lunch.
The lunch menu has one hot plate: Carolina grits with Gulf shrimp, onions, tomatoes and sweet bell peppers ($14). There are also three grilled sandwiches, three burgers (including a choose-your-own-toppings version), three salads, four cold sandwiches and a soup of the day.
Chatham Filling Station has several items available for catering, although that business has slowed since many gatherings have been postponed because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Since the pandemic, Rik has started a soup special, which offers a takeout dinner of one quart of homemade soup (six types are available) and two popovers for $12.95.
“I discovered I really liked making soup and I thought it would be nice to provide an affordable, healthy meal our regular patrons could have later in the week since we are only open three days a week right now,” says Rik.
The easy takeout meal has been popular, Caren says, and has helped make up income lost to shorter hours and fewer tables. Before COVID-19 hit, Chatham Filling Station was open daily.
Other changes the Morses made to deal with the pandemic’s disruptions include installing an online ordering system and hiring a photographer to take pictures of all the new dishes for the restaurant’s online presence. The new system works through toasttab.com.
Before the pandemic, Chatham Filling Station had 50 seats at tables and 10 at the counter. Although the state is once again allowing full capacity, six feet of social distancing is required between tables and, Caren says, “We don’t have the room, so we’re still at about 40 percent.”
When the weather gets a little warmer, the Morses plan to once again set up outdoor dining, as they did in 2020, boosting the diner’s capacity with about 14 tables under a tent in a roped-off section of the parking lot.
They are also adding an ice cream parlor with two dozen flavors. Plans call for removing seats at one end of the counter to create space for the parlor, which their daughter is helping to set up and will work at this summer.
“We’ll have a glass case of my baked goods so people can have an ice cream sandwich on freshly baked cookies,” Care says. “We think it will be popular.”
“I have faith,” she says.
—Gwenn Friss | Cape Cod Timeshttps://www.capecodtimes.com/story/entertainment/dining/2021/03/24/cape-cod-restaurants-chatham-filling-station-adds-whimsical-innovations/6875557002/
The Chatham Filling Station is not a gas station, nor has it ever been. But what you’ll discover inside is a fabulous new retro diner offering delicious breakfast and lunch items in a vibrant, family-friendly setting. Customers can choose from breakfast standards such as old-fashioned corned beef hash, breakfast sandwiches or huevos rancheros—two eggs with ranchero sauce, avocado and feta. Owners Ric and Caren Morse, who once owned Chatham Bakery and Zia’s Pizzeria in Orleans, deliberately opened a breakfast and lunch eatery so they could spend more time with their young daughter, Lydia. Located in the former Old Harbor Café, the renovated space is decorated with gas station memorabilia and a giant mural with local references to the town—Chatham clocks, sharks, fishermen, and the Coast Guard rescue boat CG36500. During my visit, I sat on a comfy stool at the counter and tried the French toast with a touch of vanilla, cinnamon and orange zest, the breakfast salad with two poached eggs, fresh spinach and kale, and fresh popovers with strawberry jam. I loved every bite! The menu also features whimsical touches, such as a “self service” omelet with “fill ‘er up” items, including cheeses, meats and veggies. So if you’re looking to fuel up with fresh and tasty food, head over to the Chatham Filling Station.
—Lisa Leigh Connors
Chatham Filling Station, 75 Old Harbor Road, Chatham, 508-945-4380, chathamfillingstation.com. Open 7 a.m.-3 p.m. seven days a week. Breakfast is served all day and lunch starts at 11:30 a.m.: Cash Only.
The days may be cooler but there is always lots to explore and always great restaurants to try here on Cape Cod. Traffic is calmer and life becomes as it should, slow and easy as we can travel the back roads and explore all that nature has blessed us with in the beautiful vistas that make the island such a treasure to all. Some of our favorite restaurants have moved on as the family traditions dwindled and others who have adventurous spirits seek to make their claim of the american dream. The Chatham Filling Station on 75 Old Harbour Road in Chatham has been open since May 2017 and are ready to awaken your taste buds with some very flavorful twists on a great breakfast and lunch menu. Their menu offers a southern/ southwestern flair to enhance your dining experience with cheesy creamy grits, saucy black beans or golden crisp hash browns as your side choices. Your meat choices are also inventive with cherrywood smoked bacon, country ham, maple sausage, pecan smoked shoulder bacon or andouille sauasge. And they have not forgotten their Cape Cod roots with a savory offering of crispy fish cakes sure to make you feel like a fisherman starting your day with a full stomach of goodness. They have a great baking background and you won"t be disappointed by their popovers, buscuits and breads which add extra flavor to those french toast choices. I enjoyed the two eggs scrambled with the creamy chesey grits, pecan smoked shoulder bacon and a delicious popover. My friend decided on raisin french toast and was excited as the dish arrived with thick slices of heavenly dusted savory pieces of heaven as she described it. The waitresses are friendly and the service is very good. Their coffee is rich and boldly flavorful sure to begin your day with a good burst of energy adding to a wonderful breakfast dining experience. Click on my above links to further explore your breakfast choices. Thanks Chatham Filling Station I will return again. Follow me on FaceBook ....Cape Cod FoodLovers
Ask any Cape Codder which season is their favorite and the likely response will be fall, when there are far fewer people yet most restaurants and hotels are still open. With the sun sitting lower in the sky, the light that bathes the Cape in autumn lends an almost ethereal quality to the beaches and, because it’s surrounded by water, the Cape tends to stay warm well into November.
Check in to Chatham Bars Inn, your exquisite home-away-from-home for the weekend. Built in the era of the great Victorian waterfront resort, CBI retains much of its charm – the lobby is like stepping back in time – yet this hotel has its foot very firmly in the 21st century. Rooms are elegantly outfitted in soothing seaside tones. An onsite spa and two restaurants (a third, the Beach House, is seasonal) may make it difficult to venture out, but there is much to explore in town. After enjoying a sunset cocktail on the gracious veranda at the hotel, head to the Chatham Squire for a relaxing meal in casual surroundings. Local seafood and classic New England dishes are on the menu as is creative pub food. Should the mood strike, head over to the bar afterward and take in the display of local color, or enjoy an after-dinner drink at The Sacred Cod back at the hotel.
If weather permits, get out and enjoy the natural beauty of Chatham with a lengthy walk at Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge. Take the trail all the way out to the tip for a view of Stage Harbor Lighthouse. You’ll be ogling views of the ocean, and quite possibly seals, all along the way. Should the weather not cooperate, the shops of downtown Chatham will prove irresistible. Must-visits include Yankee Ingenuity for a wildly-eclectic mix of art, home décor items and jewelry, Ducks in the Window for all things rubber ducky, Puritan Cape Cod for those who wish to effortlessly emulate the Cape Cod look, and Chatham Candy Manor for homemade fudge and chocolates. Get the chocolate-dipped pretzels; trust us. For a leisurely lunch with cocktails head to the Impudent Oyster. For a burger and a beer, it’s the Red Nun (more local color!). Back at the inn, give yourself permission to nap or partake of the spa. Dinner options abound in Chatham. Pisces, whose chef/owner was featured in our Chatham episode, Del Mar Bistro and Bistro on Main are all great choices for outstanding cuisine without an uptight attitude.
Check out of the hotel – perhaps after enjoying coffee out on the veranda – and plan on hitting a couple of landmarks on your way out of town. Within a stone’s throw of the inn is the famed Chatham Fish Pier. Take in the views of what was once the very end of Nauset Outer Beach, now an island, and the Chatham fishing fleet. If there happens to be a boat unloading at the pier, keep your eyes peeled for seals. They know those boats carry their favorite food – fish – and follow the boats into the harbor. Further up Shore Road is Chatham Light, part of an active U.S. Coast Guard Station, and Lighthouse Beach. As you head out of town, stop in at Chatham Filling Station for breakfast. The Filling Station Breakfast Sandwich, with eggs, avocado, bacon jam and cheddar on a homemade biscuit, is the stuff of legend. If you opted for a lengthy walk at Lighthouse Beach, add an order of Loaded Home Fries, topped with cheddar, bacon, sour cream and scallions, for extra fortification.
The menus are intriguing with plenty of choices. The Filling Station Breakfast Sandwich ($8) was phenomenal. But it’s important to note, they don’t take credit or debit cards, so you will have to bring cash or use the ATM out front.
As a big fan of Ric and Caren Morse’s cooking when they owned Zia Pizzeria in East Orleans, I was happy to see they opened a new restaurant this year. The Chatham Filling Station Diner is incredibly charming.
A giant mural of Americana diner classics with some sly nods to Chatham – including a shark driving an old-fashioned station wagon – dominates one wall. The other walls are decorated with retro diner and gas station memorabilia. Antiques – a Hoosier cabinet and an old stove – add to the appeal.
Seating is a combination of tables and chairs and a long soda counter-style breakfast bar. They serve breakfast all day and lunch beginning at 11:30. We decided to sample breakfast, even though we were eating at lunchtime.
The menus are intriguing with plenty of choices. The Filling Station Breakfast Sandwich ($8) was phenomenal. The giant homemade biscuit was flaky and tender, light in texture but very filling. It was lightly grilled and filled with a thick slice of ripe tomato, a fried egg, gooey cheese, slices of tender avocado and topped with a wonderful sweet-and-salty bacon jam. The flavors played off each other beautifully, and it was so large I couldn’t finish it.
A side order of home fries ($4) was unnecessary but delicious. The chunks of red bliss potatoes were well seasoned and grilled to a nice crisp. They weren’t at all greasy.
My husband ordered Mena’s Fish Cakes ($12), a recipe that Caren recreated from her Aunt Mena’s recipe. Two small fish cakes were topped with an attractive drizzle of nicely spiced chipotle aioli. The fish cakes themselves were tender, but they weren’t as crispy as we would have preferred. On the side, a bowl of black beans was enticingly spruced up with bits of red and green peppers and diced onion. The flavor of cumin shone through.
The accompanying poached eggs were perfectly cooked. The plate also came with a homemade popover that was cooked a bit too dark, but had a nice texture. It was the perfect vehicle for dipping in the egg yolks.
He also ordered a side of grits with cheese ($3) that were creamy and smooth. I ordered homemade unsweetened iced tea ($2.50) while he stuck with water. Our bill was $31.56. Service was a little slow, but that isn’t unusual in the summer. We are looking forward to going back to sample some of the lunch items.
The hot plate menu of classic diner favorites, one for each day of the week for $14 each, was especially interesting. There is Mississippi Pot Roast, marinated in Dr. Pepper and served with sweet potato mash, butter beans and red-eye gravy and Dad’s Meatloaf served with mashed potatoes, vegetable succotash and gingersnap gravy.
Chatham Filling Station Diner has a beer and wine menu that features mostly local craft brews including Devil’s Purse and Clown Shoes for those who want an alcoholic beverage with lunch. It’s also important to note, they don’t take credit or debit cards, so you will have to bring cash or use the ATM out front.
Now that it's summer, Bostonians are planning their annual getaway to Cape Cod and the islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. While you'll probably spend most of your time sipping barely concealed booze on the beach or slurping oysters at some old-school shack, we know at some point you'll find yourself hankering for a real, great meal. So we've scouted some of the newest openings in the region — no older than two summer seasons — but they have already proven to be fine additions to the Cape dining scene.
Chatham is one of the more tony towns on the Cape, but there's a refreshingly humble vibe to this classic roadside diner–inspired newcomer, which opened in May. But don't be fooled by the retro interior or kitsch details — like staff work shirts that are embroidered with the names "Ace" (for all the guys) and "Flo" (for all the gals). The breakfast and lunch fare is top-notch, veering toward Southern-inflected selections like meatloaf with veggie succotash and gingersnap gravy, "Mississippi pot roast" marinated with Dr Pepper and a "Gulf Coast" chicken and rice stew, among others.
75 Old Harbor Rd., Chatham; 508-945-4380
Restaurateurs Rik and Caren Morse make a return to down town with Chatham Filling Station Diner at 75 Old Harbor Road. For many years they owned the Chatham Bakery and Zia Pizzeria in East Orleans. They spent several months transforming the restaurant into a classic, retro diner.
We stopped in for lunch the other day and were met by Ric, the owner, who made us feel right at home.
The dining room has a beautiful 20-foot wall mural painted by artist Helen Kelsey which depicts Cape Cod of yesteryear (see photo below). Classic memorabilia, signage and collectibles from the heyday of roadside diners is sprinkled throughout the space. Seating is a combination of tables and a long counter with diner type chrome stools.
Flo, our waitress, was very attentive and offered to start us with a long list of beverages from Cappuccino, Espresso and lattes to watermelon limeade. The lunch menu is made up of creative deli sandwiches, burgers, chowder & soups, salads and a few main entrees.
For starters we tried the spinach & baby Kale salad ($12.) Very fresh and crisp greens with pickled red onion, a sprinkling of goat cheese and candied walnuts are lightly tossed with a homemade cranberry vinegrette. This came with a large piece of warm house made grilled corn bread.
Our next salad was the cold Southern peanut noodles ($12) served in a spicy peanut dressing, with carrots, scallions, bell pepper and shredded cabbage also served with the grilled cornbread. Both salads are large enough to be shared or enjoyed as a meal.
For entrees we tried a touch of the south, some of Rik and Caren’s tried-and-true family recipes. First up were rib-sticking Southern shrimp & grits ($14). 6 large gulf shrimp were sautéed with onion and sweet bell peppers then served on top of creamy Carolina grits and pan sauce, along with grilled cornbread. A nice dish that is a different approach than the usual fried seafood shacks. Delish!
Last but not least, Aunt Mena's Fish Cakes ($14) were made with perfectly grilled fresh local cod. Very moist and flavorful, the fish cakes were served with saucy black beans, home fries and grilled cornbread. I noticed on the extensive breakfast menu the fish cakes were served as "Caren’s Aunt Mena’s tried-and-true crispy cakes" ($12) with eggs any style, saucy black beans with popovers. Yum!
We will be back for breakfast in the near future. Looks like this restaurant is well on it's way to becoming very successful.
Chatham Filling Station is serving breakfast and lunch, with breakfast available all day, six days a week, year round.
Rik and Caren Morse, former owners of the Chatham Bakery and Zia Pizzeria, have opened Chatham Filling Station at 75 Old Harbor Road in Chatham, according to a news release
The Morses spent several months renovating the space and transforming it into a retro diner, anchored by a 20-foot wall mural by artist Helen Kelsey. Classic roadside diner memorabilia, including signs and collectibles, are displayed throughout the restaurant, the release states.
Chatham Filling Station serves breakfast and lunch six days a week, with breakfast available throughout the day. The menu includes diner-style entrees and some traditional, Southern-style “root food” dishes including grits, pulled pork and chicken and rice stew, the release states.
CHATHAM – A mural covering an entire wall inside the new Chatham Filling Station captures the atmosphere that owners Ric and Caren Morse hope to foster in their new diner. The colorful painting by Helen Kelsey, from the point of view of a customer sitting at the counter as a waitress pours a steaming cup of coffee, shows a busy eatery with quirky waitstaff, happy customers and a lot of Chatham-related imagery, from sharks and seals to fishing boats, the CG36500 and even a lone skydiver.
“There's a lot of fun stuff going on” in the mural, says Ric, who came up with some of the ideas for the content. “We want this to be a happy, fun place.”
The Morses wanted the 60-seat Chatham Filling Station to reflect the classic American roadside diner plucked from yesteryear, with “wholesome, hearty, affordable and tasty” food and all the accouterments, including counter seats, milk shakes, and staff members named Flo and Ace (all female staffers workshirts will, in fact, bear the name Flo and the men's will be emblazoned with Ace). Alas, there's no gas pump, though there's a spiffy one in the mural and the couple is on the lookout for a vintage pump to enhance the theme.
The new restaurant is scheduled to open Memorial Day weekend. It won't be the Morses' first venture into the Chatham market.
From 2001 to 2006, they owned and operated the Chatham Bakery. For the next decade, they operated Zia Pizza in East Orleans.
“That place was really a labor of love,” said Ric.
Last September they sold Zia for “qualify of life” reasons. With Caren and Ric sharing the opening and closing duties, they were missing time with their 11-year-old daughter and wanted to spend more time together as a family. The Chatham Filling Station will serve breakfast and lunch from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., allowing the couple to both be able to catch their daughter's sports games.
With its focus on breakfast and lunch, the new restaurant will in a way hearken back to Caren's earlier days at Chatham Bakery, and before that, when she ran her own pastry business on Nantucket. After selling Zia, the couple looked at a few places along those lines, until their realtor told them that the Old Harbor Cafe might be coming on the market.
“I had always had an eye on the place back when we owned the bakery,” Caren said, so when they heard it might be available, “it just felt like it was meant to be.”
They particularly like the location at 75 Old Harbor Rd., just a block from the downtown rotary. It shares the neighborhood with the community center, Veterans Field and playgrounds, all of which fit into the Americana concept they came up with.
“We're just smack in the middle of it all,” said Ric.
Menu items will include the usual diner fare but will also reflect regional variety with dishes like the Cincinnati club, Carolina grits and Denver omelet. Echoing the roadside diner theme, the kids menu will include a grease monkey sandwich (peanut butter and banana). There will be plenty of breakfast pastries, breads and biscuits, “but no donuts,” Caren said. Desserts will have “homespun” themes, focusing on cakes and pies.
“We want somebody to get something different than just a plate of eggs and toast,” Ric said, adding that freshly-made popovers will take the place of toast as a standard side.
During a recent visit, the diner was buzzing with workers installing a point of sale system. Seatless chairs cluttered the floor waiting for new coats of paint. The counter is a holdover from the Old Harbor Cafe but it's been raised to give it a more old fashion soda fountain feel. They pulled up the entire floor – discovering several layers of vinyl tile, Ric said – and put down a new epoxy surface with a warm paint-splatter accent.
Caren, originally from Illinois, and Ric, who grew up in Cincinnati but moved to Vermont when he was 11, met one summer on Nantucket when both worked at the American Seasons restaurant. They bought the Chatham Bakery with the proceeds from Caren's pastry business.
The couple hopes to appeal to local residents, especially families, and will keep The Chatham Filling Station open year-round.
“We're here for the locals, seven days a week,” Ric said. “We want to be embraced by locals and have them rediscover this little gem of a spot in the middle of Chatham.” They're hiring local residents – including two people who had their first job with them at the Chatham Bakery – and are excited about their newest venture.
“We're happy to be back in Chatham,” Ric said.