The Governor Bradford: A Classic Restaurant Finds a New Vibe
One of the most noticeable changes in town over the past couple of years is the shift in ownership of the venerable and revered Governor Bradford on Commercial Street. The restaurant on the corner of Commercial and Standish streets has been an institution for well over 50 years, and this most recent changing of the guard is not without its detractors.
It’s worthwhile remembering that even the Governor Bradford so many townies knew and loved was actually, once upon a time, the new kid in town, too.
The corner has always been famous. Back in the days when the railroad ran down Standish Street on its way to MacMillan Pier, it was “Provincetown’s Palace of Sweets” where you could buy chocolates—and cigarettes! The restaurant side of the building began in the 1930s as Marshall’s Restaurant and Sea Grill, later becoming the Chef’s Restaurant, whose most impressive feature was a 26-foot-long mural depicting a beach with shells and driftwood scattered on the sand. The space became the Governor Bradford Restaurant in 1960.
The building was sold in 2021, and last year the “new” Governor Bradford opened its doors. “We want people to understand that change happens, especially so much changed so quickly with the pandemic,” says Jackie Ross, one of the owners. “Ptown is a place you go with an open mind; and we ask that people come to us with that same open mind.
Ross is joined by three other business owners:
- Jamie Lewis, the general manager, who has worked in restaurants on the Cape for over a decade, most recently at Mac’s Shack
- Collin Kolisko is the executive chef and Lewis’ life partner; he was formerly chef of the Pheasant and Mac’s executive sushi chef
- Jackie Ross, the bar manager, has worked in restaurants like VeeVee, Lord Hobo, and Marliave in the Boston area
- David Ciccolo is Jackie’s husband and craft beer director at the Bradford; he owned The Publick House in Brookline for over 20 years.
Ross says the vision is to keep the bones and the feel of the old Governor Bradford, providing food that is “elevated, approachable, and engaging.”
The result is essentially still Cape classics—but with something of a twist, in particular importing an Asian flair. Kolisko’s background is in sushi, so the restaurant plans to make that even more of a feature in 2023. But they’re all acutely aware of what their predecessor meant to the community. “We’re considering bringing back some lunch specials,” says Ciccolo. “And Chef is working on a menu that’s both approachable and allows him to keep his artistic integrity.”
Other things won’t be changing; entertainment is still essential to the venue’s success. “We’re never letting go of Dana,” says Ross, laughing, referring to Dana Danzel, who’s been hosting drag karaoke at the Bradford for over two decades. “And we’d like to try some collaborations. We want to try and bring in more live music—the Alley Rat Orchestra, Billy Hough and Sue Goldberg, and we’re looking forward to a lot more of that this year.”
But as much as entertainment and atmosphere are important, the quality of any restaurant comes down to the food, and the Bradford doesn’t disappoint. “There’s so much care that goes into every dish,” says Ross. “We are all food and beverage people down to the core. Chef is adamant about being a scratch kitchen—we don’t even have a freezer. Seven days a week, everything is crafted by hand using only fresh ingredients.”
“We want to be part of Ptown without being just another restaurant,” says Ciccolo. “Without townies, we’d consider ourselves less.”
“It’s a fine line, trying to navigate the tourists and the neighborhood,” agrees Ross. “We had a wonderful fall and winter and we so loved that locals were supporting us. Anyone is welcome is our motto!