Four Seas Ice Cream

Review by: Jane & Michael Stern

When W. Wells Watson opened a little ice cream shop just west of Hyannis in 1934, his location was the inspiration for a name. Recalling the first line of a favorite poem – “We face four seas / Four seas of azure blue” – he counted the Atlantic Ocean, Nantucket Sound, Buzzard’s Bay, and Cape Cod Bay, all of which surround the Cape, and he named his parlor Four Seas. The wood-sided building, which once had been a blacksmith’s shop, is burnished with age. The floor lists; and the waist-level, silver-topped freezers where ice cream is stored bear dents and dings from millions of scoops and milk-shake beakers. The snug interior decor of miscellaneous fish nets, nautical nick-nacks, souvenir T-shirts, and newspaper clippings has been called “hodgepodge Cod.”

The most interesting aspect of the decor are the signs, which are everywhere. Long inventories inside and on the building’s outside wall enumerate which of several dozen flavors are available that day: vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, of course; maple walnut, black raspberry, and other fairly familiar names; plus such curious house specialties as penuche pecan and frozen pudding; and, on occasion, fresh cantaloupe. Likewise, the list of sundae sauces ranges from the familiar – hot milk chocolate (a.k.a. hot fudge) and hot butterscotch – to such soda-fountain Victoriana as claret, wild cherry, and soft walnuts in maple syrup. Frappes and milk shake flavors are also itemized – all are available plain, minted, or malted. If you’re not from around here, you need to know that a milk shake means nothing but a flavored syrup and milk; a frappe is what most of the rest of us know as a milk shake: flavoring, milk, and ice cream blended together.

One sign opposite the counter offers deliverance for those of us seated on a low stool with our jaws dropped and eyes unfocused out of a paralysis induced by so many tempting choices. It is headlined “Two Good Sundaes,” and suggests these combos: coconut ice cream with hot fudge and coffee ice cream with walnuts and maple syrup. They are served in appropriate glass dishes – tall clear tulips for ordinary-sized sundaes, broad hobnail milk-glass trays for triple-scoopers – and they are accompanied by old-fashioned, pointy-bottom paper cups filled with cool drinking water and stuck in heavy reusable bases.

The sundaes are a delight; claret sauce on chocolate ice cream is our undoing. Frappes are expertly blended. But the pride of Four Seas are the cones: small (one generous globe), large (one extra-big triangle-shaped scoop), or double (two globes); the last is the maximum amount of ice cream any ordinary-sized cone can bear. It is a pleasure to watch the boys and girls behind the counter construct the cones. They have perfected the correct circular scooping motion to retrieve just the right amount from the bucket, packed tight and even; and they know exactly how to use the scoop to force it onto the cone for maximum adherence and minimum drippage.

Directions & Hours

  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday: Closed
  • Wednesday: Closed
  • Thursday: Closed
  • Friday: 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Saturday: 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Sunday: 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM

What To Eat

Four Seas Ice Cream Recipes

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