The Governor Bradford Restaurant in Provincetown just changed hands for the first time in 80 years, and venerable hospitality pros with Boston and Cape Cod ties are now steering the ship.
The Publick House co-owner David Ciccolo and former Mac’s Seafood sushi chef Collin Kolisko, along with their respective partners and front-of-house veterans Jackie Ross and Jamie Lewis, will reopen the Governor Bradford this summer. The couples promise a raw bar and expanded menu, an outdoor beer garden, and a beer program to rival any on Cape Cod.
The managing partners are friends who met through restaurants when Lewis was general manager at Mac’s Shack in Wellfleet and Ciccolo and Ross were regulars. The chance to take over the Commercial Street tavern came earlier this year from the same real estate agent who brokered the Publick House lease back in 2002.
“He knows I’m a Cape guy, too,” said Ciccolo, who was born and raised in Centerville. Soon after learning the Governor Bradford was available, he texted Lewis and talked with his wife, Ross, who is a longtime server at Vee Vee in Jamaica Plain and formerly was bar manager at Lord Hobo Cambridge.
“We wanted to pursue the opportunity because the history of the building, and its location is almost unmatched on Cape Cod,” Ciccolo said.
Located on the Standish Street corner of Provincetown’s main drag, the Governor Bradford is an institution. It was a candy house, a grocery store, and a Portuguese sandwich shop before becoming a 180-seat bar and restaurant in 1960. For years, employees lived in the apartments above, which created an “everybody knows your name” type of vibe.
It has one of the biggest commercial kitchens in all of Provincetown, in chef Kolisko’s estimation, but in recent years the Governor Bradford was best known for its Drag Karaoke. (That tradition will continue, though the singing may start a little later to accommodate dinner service, according to the Provincetown Independent.)
The new partners recognize the place’s iconic status: The name is staying, but their menu and beverage programs will be on a new level.
“We have a lot of really good talent and palates around this table right now,” Kolisko said, referring to his business partners.
The chef was most recently at The Pheasant in Dennis overseeing an izakaya concept, and he has long-standing relationships with Cape Cod’s purveyors of sushi-grade seafood, so we can expect Asian influences. But the Governor Bradford will not serve one particular cuisine.
“It’s a scratch kitchen that insists on locally sourced ingredients whenever possible to help sustain the Cape economy,” Kolisko said.
That means plenty of seafood, like shucked-to-order oysters and raw bar dishes such as Tuna Sashimi with smoked dashi, fried shallot, and rock chives; and a temaki (handroll) special featuring fresh catch called the Daily Handy. (Only in P-town, right?) Other small plates in the works include French onion miso soup with soft tofu and gruyere; corn ribs with aji amarillo butter; and Kolisko’s interpretation of the Publick House mac and cheese with herbs and lemon gremolata. Fry Chicka Bao Bao, a smashburger, and Caesar salad with smoked bluefish dressing will be some additional options.
Ciccolo promises the Cape’s only kegs from Trillium Brewing Company (the beer company confirms they have no other plans to distribute there, for now) and the “best draught list on Cape Cod,” he wrote in a text message using Europe’s preferred spelling. Beers will flow from a gleaming new tap system custom-designed and installed by Boston-area bar-raisers Modern Draught. “With 12 [draft beer] lines, you can imagine it’s going to be mixed up thoughtfully,” the proprietor of Brookline’s beloved beer bar said of his expansion into Cape Cod.
The Governor Bradford will also have a small bottle cellar for rare beers, a curated wine list, and cocktails created by Ross and Lewis. “There will be elements [of the drink program] that complement chef Collin’s food,” Ross added.
The menus will reflect how the Governor Bradford is “a gathering space for everybody,” Kolisko said. “And Provincetown sees a whole lot of different everybody’s.”
The new owners also plan to overhaul the atmosphere of the Governor Bradford. “Right now, it looks like the innards of a ship,” Ciccolo said, and it hasn’t been renovated in decades. The long bar is currently being rebuilt; the new owners envision a more “industrial” look overall with reclaimed woods and white tiles. Working with the existing antique-nautical aesthetic as well, Lewis said it will be “lighter, brighter, and a lot more updated.”
Cape Cod-based Gardens by Settie is leading the beer garden restoration. Plans for the 70-seat outdoor area involve lots of aromatic and edible flora, including climbing hop vines. Plantings and a drink rail will divide the outdoor seating area from Commercial Street, and there will be a service window directly from the beer garden into the restaurant.
The bar area and patio upgrades are priorities. It’s possible the Governor Bradford could reopen this summer as “a work in progress,” Lewis said, with more improvements this winter.
The Governor Bradford has been around for a long time, and the new owners are looking forward to many more years of the Commercial Street staple. They intend to open by Memorial Day and will operate year-round. Stay tuned for updates from @governorbradfordptown on Instagram.
312 Commercial St., Provincetown.