Today it is called the Naukabout Brewery and Taproom where you can find people enjoying one of the 15 different beers on tap and in the warmer months enjoying the outdoor beer garden with patrons engaged in a game of cornhole or grabbing a bite to eat from one of their local food trucks.
But go back in time from June of 1972 until the beginnings of this century, and the 13 Lake Avenue spot, just off the winding Route 130, held the location of one of the best places to eat on all of Cape Cod.
It was called The Flume Restaurant. But it was more than a restaurant, it was a labor of love by the local “Son of Mashpee,” Chief Flying Eagle, Earl Mills Sr.
Located near the flume, where the Mashpee River has its beginnings at Mashpee-Wakeby Pond, hence its name, the restaurant was truly a Mashpee place.
It had local display cases of Wampanoag bead work. There was a Native American statue carved from wood by a chainsaw that greeted you at the entrance, on the walls were family photos, and local Mashpee kids were hired to work the tables and learn how to cook from Earl, who had become one of the noted chefs on the Cape.
Earl Mills started out working at the Popponesset Inn helping with the cooking of lunch and then supper. There he was mentored by French chef Adrian Yelle.
Earl worked there seasonally from when he left Korea and the military service in 1949 until 1968 when much of the Popponesset staff followed Hilda Coppage out of Popponesset to a new restaurant she opened in Falmouth called Popponesset West. Earl also cooked for more than six years at the Coonamessett Inn. This is on top of having a family, being the physical education teacher at Lawrence High (Falmouth High School), director of athletics, and becoming chief of the Mashpee Wampanoags in 1957.
With the encouragement of his mother, Emma Oakley Mills, and his love of cooking, Earl decided in the early 1970s to have his own restaurant. It would be built on land he owned on Lake Avenue overlooking the beach at Mashpee Pond.
In 1971, with the help of his then-wife Janice, he started building his dream restaurant. It had an apartment on the second floor, where they would live, and a lounge and bar in the basement reached by a spiral staircase. The main floor featured a small bar and lounge area just inside the entrance. The main dining room featured a low-ceiling place set with dark wood tables and chairs. There was the large fireplace to one side and fans overhead, with lighting provided by wrought iron wall sconces and table candles.
The Flume featured a New England-Native American style menu. According to those who ate there, Earl’s clam chowder was called the “best on Cape Cod,” a no-muss, no-fuss base of clam, potato, salt pork and onion thinned out just right, the old-fashioned way, “with milk.”
For Easter, ham was the specialty and on Thanksgiving, the turkey dinner.
Earl built up a reputation and following from on and off the Cape. His specialties included “dressed up” coleslaw, corn chowder, fried clams, soft-shelled clams, and fish and chips with a choice of three or four kinds of fish to select from.
Earl said that his “experience in other restaurants paid off when it was time to order the fresh fish, meats and produce.” He had a fish dealer in Boston and often bought eels, blue fish, bass, white perch, and scup from local Mashpee fishermen. The large walk-in cooler in the basement often held a large deer or a swordfish. Desserts were made in house by Earl’s sister, Delscena, who was an excellent cook and pastry chef in her own right.
The other draw to The Flume was that it had a “personality.” Senior citizens, especially widows, flocked to The Flume on their birthdays to get the specialty of the house, “Baked Alaska,” complete with Earl singing “You Must Have been a Beautiful Baby” to them and having the entire restaurant join in singing “Happy Birthday.” It was a fun place, a family place, a consistently good dining spot with friendly service and with the local Mashpee flavor.
According to one of the restaurant’s critics, writing a review of The Flume at that time, “The Flume has always been on my list of best places to dine. The food is very well prepared and consistently good. Service is friendly. I like it and recommend it.”
Over the past 15-plus years, after Earl sold the restaurant, two other restaurants came and went before the building was left vacant. It is now restored to another local favorite spot called the Naukabout.