by Jaiden van Bork
It’s impossible to miss. Watching over the intersection of Commercial and Standish streets, the Governor Bradford is like the Lady Liberty of Provincetown, welcoming East and West-Enders alike to the center of town, alongside newcomers fresh off the ferry from Boston.
The property was first a candy store in the 1920s, then home to a large grocery chain, and later a Portuguese sandwich joint during the 1930s. It was taken over by John “Chef” Edwards a decade later. The Edwards family continued to run the location for eighty-odd years–until this year, when Donald R. Edwards (who took over from his father in the 1970s) sold the property to the Lexvest Group, who is now leasing it to four local restaurateurs, marking a new era for the iconic location.
To say that the Governor Bradford is a Provincetown landmark would be an understatement. And the legendary eatery’s new owners say that the pressure that comes along with taking over such an important place is—as you can imagine—a lot.
“[It’s] definitely intimidating” says new co-owner and head chef Collin Kolisko, “With such an iconic space you need to find that balance between what it is you want to do [and] what you want to give back to people, while still maintaining the respect of everything that this place has already given the town for so long.”
But Kolisko says it’s a welcome challenge. Alongside partner Jamie Lewis and two friends, David Ciccolo and Jackie Ross, the chef is ready to take on this new location with enthusiasm and innovation. “The Bradford is a town icon—it’s just gotten a little tired”, he says, “The idea was to really keep the essence and the spirit of what this place has been… but with a fresh perspective and a new menu—a little bit like a rebirth.”
The owners are quick to ease the fears of the community’s staunch traditionalists. The plethora of changes are balanced by a deep commitment to and respect for the spirit of the venue, and for every adventurous new addition to the menu, the Governor Bradford’s staff continues to serve up classic beer cans and fried fish sandwiches (now with homemade tartar sauce!)
But ultimately, Lewis, Kolisko, Ciccolo, and Ross aim to put an emphasis on local food and drink. While Kolisko seeks to explore and experiment with the menu, he stresses the importance of local seafood to his dishes. In addition, he approximates 80 percent of the rotating craft beer menu comes from around the New England area. Thanks to a brand-new 12-tap beer system built by Modern Draught, the Governor Bradford hopes to provide a thoughtful and diverse selection of beers, both classic and unconventional.
The restaurant also plans to remain open year-round, a bold but important move for a business in a largely seasonal community. It’s clear that the four owners understand the significance of restaurants like theirs within the local food system. In order for restaurants and producers alike to take more risks and branch out, it’s critical that such elements of the community build relationships with each other instead of relying on off-Cape businesses and catering exclusively towards the preferences of the average tourist.
The success of Cape institutions like Mac’s Seafood, which Kolisko and Lewis have both had a hand in, can be attributed not just to incredible cuisine, but also a staunch commitment to sustainable, ethical, and forward-thinking practices in the food industry. And more and more, young and innovative chefs, restaurateurs, fishermen, farmers, and grocers are moving toward a model of business on the Cape that emphasizes these very qualities, treating the community around them not just as incidental, but integral to their way of life.
The folks at the Governor Bradford are happy to be in good company here in Provincetown, and while they say they have much still to learn, they promise to keep it original. “We’re not trying to imitate or be anywhere else that’s on the street,” says Kolisko, “We don’t do steamed lobster with corn and potatoes because the Lobster Pot’s across the street [does]… We’re not trying to be the big burger spot in town… you’ve got Local 186 for that.”
“As a diner myself… I know what everywhere else around town is doing,” Kolisko continues, “So I’ve kind of seen what holes there are that I can fill in.”
It’s clear that thanks to this acute awareness of the food ecosystem around them, Kolisko, Lewis, Ciccolo, Ross, and everyone else at the Bradford are finding their perfect niche, the place they fit in town—the perfect little streetcorner. With those iconic doors flanking every side of the restaurant, it will be hard to keep the eager patrons out.
The Governor Bradford Restaurant is located at 312 Commercial St. For more information call 508.487.2781 or visit them on Facebook.