The Nimrod Falmouth, Massachusetts:
The Place with a Hole in the Wall
Some fascinating American history comes along with the baked Chatham cod,
the New England clam chowder, and the filet mignon-scallop-and-shrimp
mixed grill at Nimrod, the popular Falmouth dining destination on Cape
Cod. For one thing, there’s the nearly 200-year old hole in the wall of
the men’s bathroom.
The hole in the wall of
the men’s bathroom
|“It was made by a cannon ball fired by the British
frigate, the HMS Nimrod during the War of 1812,” Nimrod’s owner Jim
Murray will tell you. “The ship’s captain demanded the people of
Falmouth hand over their guns. When they refused, he had the cannons
fire on the town, and a cannon ball penetrated this part of the
building. The ball has since disappeared, but the hole remains.”
With Jim standing guard, we both went into the men’s room to take a
peek. And there it was, decidedly out of place behind a little door set
into the blank white bathroom wall. But the wall could hardly have
belonged to a bathroom back in 1812 when the building was a small 17th
century harbor-front house. Some time later, it was picked up, hole and
all, and moved to Main Street beside a larger 18th century house. And in
1922, both buildings were put on rollers and pulled by a team of eight
horses to a bucolic two-acre site on Dillingham Avenue where they were
combined into a single private dwelling which subsequently served as guest
house and semi-private club before being converted some time in the 1970’s
into a restaurant named for the infamous frigate that fired on the brave
citizens of Falmouth.
||Jim bought the place in 1995. Today the l-shaped
shingled structure trimmed in white with a bright red door and windows
and bracketed with black shutters is an attractive Cape Cod landmark.
But at the time Jim took it over, the Nimrod was in a sorry state, run
down and deeply in debt. Yet somehow, the youthful restaurateur saw
the future and had the imagination and energy to make it happen.
That he succeeded is evident the moment you enter the low ceilinged-tavern
part of the restaurant with its deep fireplaces and original posts and
beams – this is the 17th century house and contains the famous men’s (as
well as ladies’) room -- and take in the active bar scene enlivened by a
live jazz band. A proficient harmonica player who straddles the spectrum
from bluegrass to classical to jazz, Jim believes in the power of good
music to enhance the Nimrod experience.
colonial atmosphere of a dining area
|The restaurant has a good-sized catering component run
by Jim’s wife Gwyn (who had just graduated from culinary school and
whose specialty is desserts like fruit tarts with macadamia crust and
Triple Sec glaze). But its main focus is feeding a clientele of loyal
locals and Cape visitors. The place can accommodate as many as 300
although, Jim told us, he prefers to keep the crowd down to 200 in the
cheerful, expansive dining areas furnished in comfortable colonial
décor and enlivened by gauzy curtains on the windows and pink napkins
on the table. The single exception is the Key West room which provides
an alternate tropical ambience.
and the tropical
ambience of the Key West Room
|A wealth of choices appears on the Nimrod menu to feed
its many diners: an ample raw bar (oysters on the half shell were
briny and succulent), a healthy selection of starters, soups, and
salads, and a choice of nine entrees in both fish and meat categories.
Our selections: tender and tasty grilled swordfish finished with a
lemon shallot butter, and garlicky mussels sautéed in white wine and
served with pasta were excellent. Pretty waitresses in black dresses
and strands of oversized pearls were informed, charming and anxious to
In a mood of rare indulgence, we decided to have the “Decadent Fallen
Chocolate Cake,” a dessert so labor intensive, it must be ordered along
with the starter and entrée at the beginning of the meal. It is also so
delicious that any consideration of calories proved irrelevant. We told
Jim as much when he stopped by our table soon after we had eaten every
last morsel. Over coffee, we asked how he came to this business.
Jim Murray and daughter
|“I was in high school when my family suffered some
financial reversals and I had to go to work,” Jim began. “I found a
job in a restaurant at the lowest, entry level. That first week
someone got fired, and everyone in the place moved up the rung. And I
thought boy this is the business where you can move up quickly. Three
years later I was chef of the Red Coach in Wayland, near Boston.
“From there, I don’t know how many restaurants I
worked in,” he continued. “I followed some great chefs in New Orleans,
worked in many places on the Cape until I finally got here. When I was a
kid, I thought I would become a marine biologist. But I think deep down,
I always wanted to be a chef.”
And chef he is, as well
as musician, owner of a big, thriving dining establishment, socially
conscious entrepreneur who patronizes local farms and fishermen, and
-- lest we forget -- Falmouth historian whose favorite story is about
a certain hole in the wall.
The Nimrod Restaurant and Jazz Lounge
100 Dillingham Avenue
Falmouth, MA 02540
# # #
About the Authors: Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer are a wife and husband
team who successfully bridge the worlds of popular culture and traditional
scholarship. Co-authors of the critically acclaimed interactive oral histories
It Happened in the Catskills, It Happened in Brooklyn, Growing Up Jewish in
America, It Happened on Broadway, It Happened in Manhattan, It Happened in
Miami. They teach what they practice as professors at Dartmouth College.
They are also travel writers who specialize in luxury properties and fine dining
as well as cultural history and Jewish history and heritage in the United
States, Europe, and the Caribbean.
about these authors.
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This Article is Copyright © 1995 - 2012 by Harvey and Myrna Frommer. All rights