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    The Hometown Diner ptownies love: Welcome to Chach!

    June 6, 2023

    Viola “Chach” Briseño and her partner, Sharon Bowes were living in San Francisco when they were invited to Provincetown for a working vacation. “We ended up working all around town for the next six years!” Briseño remembers with a smile. “It just felt right to be here.”

    When the old Kelsey’s Diner closed and the building came up for rent, the women decided to take the plunge, and in May of 2005 they opened Chach. “We came in here and refurbished it,” says Bowes, “but we really didn’t know anything about the day-to-day running of a place!”

    They learned quickly. In both a town and an industry that see a lot of establishments fail in the first years of operation, Chach is still very much the go-to place in Ptown. They started with breakfast, since Briseño is a baker and they’d both worked at breakfast places in town. “We switched to Mexican, then back to breakfast, though we sometimes have Cuban or Indian pop-up specials,” says Briseño.

    Chach Employees

    The restaurant looks and feels like a diner, but there’s no fast food here. “We try to make everything from scratch, which is trickier in the summer, but it’s important to us. The French fries are home-cut, the dressings are from scratch, the soups are homemade.”

    These days Chach serves breakfast/brunch and lunch, and Briseño does all the baking herself. “We offer specials all the time, whatever I’m in the mood to make,” she says. “Donut specials, coffee cakes, all those things.” She pauses, then adds, “When people eat our food, it makes them happy, and that makes me happy that I can feed people,” says Briseño.

    Bowes agrees. “We try to do things they don’t make at home,” she says. “Our specials come into play there. We make passionfruit curd, lemon curd… and none of it is frozen. Serving fresh food is really important. People don’t have the opportunity to eat fresh food, even when they’re eating out.”

    “So I ask myself what would I like to taste, and that’s what I make!” adds Briseño.

    Everything originates and is curated and cooked by the two women. “We really try to make their experience special, even if it’s just a simple egg dish, we do it as well as we can. We’re the only two cooks on the line. It’s all us. We don’t send it out if we’re not proud of it.”

    Which isn’t to say they could ever run Chach alone. “We have such a great staff and it’s fun,” says Briseño. “At the beginning we laugh, then we get through the day, and then we laugh again.”

    “We have a core staff,” Bowes explains. “Of course, we add some on in the summer. We’ve been very lucky over the years. It’s a small space, so everyone has to get along. We share a coffee break before the shift, and have conversations together afterward. We trust the staff, and they look out for us.”

    So what are some favorite dishes? “People seem to love the eggs Benedict,” says Bowes, “and the huevos rancheros, the steak and eggs with chimichurri butter…” She laughs. “Okay, so I love everything!”

    Chach Food

    For her part, Briseño likes the Mexican flavors she grew up with; both her grandmother and mother were great cooks, and passed their passion on to her. “My grandparents lived on a farm in Mexico,” she says. “My grandmother used to always do a big dinner at Christmas for everybody, Christmas tamales. She taught me to always share what we have with others.”

    In San Francisco, Briseño was able to work dinners at the Stars Restaurant, “and that gave me a lot of opportunity to see different kinds of ingredients,” she says,. “Now we have a vast collection of spices!”

    If they weren’t running Chach, what would they do? The question is met with looks of astonishment; there is, apparently, nothing better. “I’d much rather do this than anything else,” says Briseño. “You’’re in a hot kitchen, drinking lots of water, with three waiters coming at you… it’s perfect!”

    It’s certainly perfect from the point of view of the diners! (ptownie tip: try the vanilla custard French toast—now that’s perfection!)

    Briseño’s advice applies to most of life. “Don’t go crazy,” she says. “Some things you just can’t control. For the rest, it’s up to you to make it happen!”

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