183-185 Commercial Street
Posted by David W. Dunlap24 December 2015
HomeBubala’s by the Bay.
Bright yellow Bubala’s — the westernmost of the Yingling family’s renowned restaurant trio (Spiritus and Local 186 are the others) — opened here in 1994. Bubala’s owes its generous waterfront site to a decision by the Town long ago not to acquire the 19,480-square-foot parcel from Atlantic Coast Fisheries, or ATCO. This had been where the Fisherman Cold Storage Company complex stood until it was acquired, abandoned, and demolished by ATCO in the 1930s. Since Provincetown — like nature — abhors a vacuum, the empty parcel then became a parking lot under ATCO’s ownership. In 1950, the company offered to sell this half acre by the sea for $9,000; about $100,000 in today’s money. Citizens and officials alike were offended by the high price for the land; wary of the need for bulkhead reconstruction and general site hardening; and fearful that parking revenues would not offset the loss of future real-estate taxes from the parcel. So, in 1950, they said no.
Left: Advertisement in the Advocate of 17 July 1958. Right: From the Advocate of 13 July 1961. Advocate Online, Provincetown Public Library.
From the Long Pointer of 1980, in the School Collection of the Provincetown History Preservation Project, Page 5591.
Left: From the Advocate of 30 July 1964. Right: From the Advocate of 15 July 1965. Advocate Online, Provincetown Public Library.
Christopher “Marcey” Salvador Jr. at the Cape Cod Garage in a photo posted on Facebook by Joel Grozier, 13 December 2017. The photograph came from Elizabeth (Kelley) Salvador, Chris’s wife.
A year later, Christopher “Marcey” Salvador Jr. (1912-1989) said yes. He bought the site from ATCO and operated it as a parking lot until 1958, when he and his wife, Elizabeth Carlton (Kelley) Salvador (1910-2003), constructed and opened the Sea View Restaurant. Elizabeth was a Provincetown native, the child of Mary A. (Viera) Kelley and Hernaldo H. Kelley. And she was by far the likelier restaurateur of the two, having worked for many years at Lai & Sons, 293 Commercial Street. Marcey, also a native, was the child of Delphine (Lombard) Salvador and Christopher Salvador, and the brother of Edward Salvador, who was also known as Marcey, just to keep historians on their toes. Chris owned the Cape Cod Garage, 223 Commercial Street, where the Seamen’s Bank now stands; and the Cape Cod Oil Company, 34 Court Street. (The other Marcey — Edward — owned the Marcey Oil Company, 37 Franklin Street.)
Sea View was an instant hit and a perennial favorite of residents and visitors. “The sweet and friendly lady who greets you at the door is busy-as-a-bee Elizabeth,” the Advocate said on 6 July 1967. And she had interests beside the Sea View: knitting, crocheting, music, and the Celtics. Naturally.
“Fannie Fields, a super chef if there ever was one, keeps the customers contented with her specialties that include home-cooked chicken pie, dee-licious clam chowder, baked Virginia ham, and a seafood platter that’s terrific,” Steve Barrie wrote in the Advocate on 24 July 1958. “It’s all good, good, good!” So was business. Nine months after opening, the Salvadors were already expanding their restaurant southward on the lot, with 760 extra square feet of dining space and 300 extra square feet of kitchen. Fields was succeeded by Arthur Gallant, who was followed by Jimmy Crawley, who was known for his baked stuffed lobster and stuffed shrimp, among other dishes.
Jimmy Crawley in a photo posted by Kelly Turner on Facebook, 28 January 2021.
“My family loved to dine there when Jimmy Crawley was the chef,” Edwina J. Frei said. “Great food at a good price, and Jim would always come out from the kitchen and sit with us.”
“Sea View kept me alive in the ’60s,” the performer Bobby Wetherbee said. “Terrific waitresses!”
The Sea View was expanded again in 1964. The best time to see this new addition, the Advocate said on 16 July 1964, was after dark. “Then the soft lights of the multi-colored ceiling fixtures and the complementary candles on tables covered with cloths of the colors of the rainbow are reflected on the waxed walnut paneling and brass plaques. The new extension, which was necessary to handle the ever-increasing flow of summer visitors, and which Edward Norton, maître d’, calls ‘End of the Rainbow Room,’ is in a perfect spot with picture windows looking out on Provincetown Harbor with nothing to block the view. Chris foresightedly had his restaurant built right in the center of his lot of land so that there is plenty of free parking for all his customers.”
Sea View could boast of another novelty, besides ample parking. “It was then the only restaurant that had air-conditioning,” Marcene Marcoux recalled. “There were so few days when anyone in town needed or wanted air-conditioning. But, yes, that was then.”
The Sea View bar, from a postcard shared by Salvador R. Vasques III on his Facebook page, My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection, 4 June 2020.
The main dining room, from a postcard shared by Salvador R. Vasques III on his Facebook page, My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection, 4 June 2020.
The Sea View had a great advantage: a large parking lot. I’m afraid I can’t yet identify the woman in the photo, which was posted by Salvador R. Vasques III on his Facebook page, My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection, 9 August 2019, and then deciphered by Tony Lagarto.
Ad from Provincetown Magazine of 19 August 1986, from the Municipal Collection of the Provincetown History Preservation Project, Page 6121.
“The Salvadors were great people to work for,” John Roderick recalled in a Facebook thread on 5 June 2020. In the same thread, Tracey King-Cavaco wrote: “My sister and I lovingly referred to them as ‘uncle’ and ‘aunt.’ Uncle Chris would drive us in his yellow truck to see Tillie and John [Jason] for ice cream sandwiches, and on to Herring Cove. One of my fondest memories in Ptown is of going into the kitchen to see Jimmy [Crawley] for an ice cream sundae, and then Aunt Elizabeth sneaking mints to us from the register.” Maria Anthony-Bento was along for some of those treats. “Mr. Salvador would bring us into the kitchen and make ice cream sundaes for us. We could choose whatever we would like. I still remember the silver metal ice cream dishes.”
Some young girls had tricks played on them. One waiter, for instance, would pretend to be blind. “‘How do you know not to overfill the water glasses?’ we’d ask him, and he’d quickly come up with, ‘Oh, didn’t you notice I put my thumb in the glass, and when the water touches, I stop pouring,'” Karen X. Cartwright recalled. “We bought it — kinda like Santa. He made it such a silly, fun game you wanted to believe him. But of course, deep down inside your six-year-old brain, you knew it was a goof.”
“In those days there was a path that went down by the kitchen/bulkhead to the beach,” she added. “The cooks would take their breaks outside — extended family that was. Odd how much I dream about that place.”
There were patrons who even enjoyed dishes that weren’t on the menu. “While working there one night, I asked a customer if she wanted to have dessert,” Marne Hodgin said. “She said, ‘No, thanks, I’ll just have my lemon soup,’ looking at her finger bowl with lemon slice. Good times.”
Not everyone received the red carpet, however. “In the early ’70s, when I was still new in town, I tried to eat at Sea View but they told me, ‘Sorry, we don’t serve hippies,'” Sue Harrison recalled in 2021. Peter Warnock worked at the Sea View in the late 1970s. “They used to line us up before shifts and look at our fingernails and make sure they weren’t dirty, and then they would fix your bow tie, and smell your breath for alcohol.”
After Chris Marcey died in 1989, Ellen and John Cook joined Elizabeth in running the Sea View, Steve Roderick said in a comment posted below. “Ellen ran the front of the house and John did the financial work, which I believe he had done for many years. I remember going to the Sea View and Mrs. Salvador had a comfortable chair next to the front door where she would sit and watch over the restaurant in the later years.”
“In the early ’90s, many of my friends waited and bused there,” Jack Kosko said. “We didn’t have much money, so we went there often, as Sea View was affordable.”
Elizabeth Salvador sold the property in 1994, for $550,000 to John Love “Jingles” Yingling, the proprietor of Spiritus Pizza, 190 Commercial Street. At the time, Yingling also owned Café Edwige, on the second floor at 333 Commercial Street (above Dodie’s Pizza). Edwige took its distinctive name from Yingling’s mother, Edwige St. Maxen de Domashewski, a native of Alsace-Lorraine. It was run by Nancyann Meads.
“The birth of Bubalas was actually upstairs at Edwige,” Steven J. Frappoli told me in 2021. “Bubala’s opened at Edwige as Bubala’s at Night,” Steve Roderick elaborated. Its debut occurred during the 1993 season. Noreen Bahring ran the floor. Rose Kennedy was the executive chef. “When Bubala’s moved to its present location, Eric Jansen joined the staff as chef,” Roderick said. (Jansen later opened Wicked Oyster in Wellfleet, Blackfish in Truro, and Crush Pad in North Truro. Then he and Guillermo “Gui” Yingling, John’s son, opened Local 186, across the street from Bubala’s at 186 Commercial Street.)
In 1995, the embryonic Bubala’s at 183-185 Commercial gained its taxi-yellow livery, as well as a flock of fanciful birds on the rooftop. The restaurant then advertised itself as “the yellow place with the birds on the roof.”
Bubala’s by the Bay in a 2013 photograph by David W. Dunlap.
Main dining room in 2012. Dunlap.
Glimpse of the view to Fishermen’s Wharf in 2012. Dunlap.
Contemporary artwork began filling the restaurant. Most notable was the mural by James Hansen (1952-1997), whose work might be described as abstract surrealism, if it had to be pigeonholed. Covering one wall, over three large booths, the mural depicted a nightclub; patrons crowded around eight small tables spotlit by bright pendant lights, while entertainers moved energetically in the background and on stage. One pair of Hansen’s contorted patrons became the trademark of Bubala’s, memorialized in mosaic on the restaurant’s main sign, and reproduced in countless ads.
Carl Tasha (1943-2006), a sculptor and silversmith, was responsible for the vibrant female silhouettes framing the entrance to the main dining room. Ellen LeBow and Richard Pepitone are also represented with artworks in the space.
René Lamadrid conceived, designed, and constructed a sculpture representing the notes of Henry Mancini’s Peter Gunn Theme, including a large treble clef in silhouette. Music is not just sculptural, but a part of the scene at Bubala’s. The marvelously raucous Chandler Travis Philharmonic has performed here regularly, at Thursday night jams, said Susan Rand Brown.
And there have been some astonishing guest performers, too. “Does anyone remember when Wynton Marsalis dined at Bubala’s (summer/fall 2015) and was asked to join the band performing?” Bill Dugan asked in 2021. “He did.”
Importantly, the sidewalk café was added in 1995, making Bubala’s one of the more prized people-watching spots in town and giving patrons a choice between immersing themselves in the animated nightly passeggiata or in the more tranquil expanse of Provincetown Harbor. “Outdoor seating along Commercial Street is a social focal point, while quieter indoor seating reaches right down to the bay,” Fodor’s 22nd Edition Cape Cod said in 2003.
“I recall when Jingles put all the tables out front,” Harrison said, “and people scratched their heads and wondered why would he do that when he had all that room and water view in the back. He always understood what people wanted.” As a matter of fact, Tony Lagarto said: “I can’t count how many times I’ve dined there but, oddly enough, I don’t think I’ve ever stepped inside — not even once.”
James Hansen’s 1995 mural dominates the main dining room. 2012, Dunlap. Details below.
Silhouetted figures by Carl Tasha flank the entrance to the main dining room. 2012, Dunlap.
The treble clef is part of a sculpture by René Lamadrid representing the notes of Henry Mancini’s Peter Gunn Theme.
Even the traffic signs are artistic. 2014, Dunlap.
“The yellow place with the birds on the roof” was how Bubala’s once advertised itself. 2009, Dunlap.
A canopy was built over the outdoor café in 2020. That happened to yield a space large enough for Jay Critchley to exhibit The Whiteness House — Tarred and Feathered for 10 days in October, just before the presidential election. The work was a volumetric expression of the North and South Porticos of the White House — 14 feet wide, 7 feet high, and 12 feet deep — in a black fabric on a pipe framework, covered with white feathers. In his artist’s statement, Critchley asked several critical questions: “Our nation’s home has taken on an ominous presence with a white president who has defined much of his presidency based on color. How white is a Whiteness House after a black president? How does a White House express its whiteness?”
Of course, people patronize a restaurant for more than views and artwork. “The Cuban cod and Jamaican fish stew are wonderfully fresh and tasty,” Fodor’s said in 2003. “This is the only place on Cape Cod that serves ostrich,” Frommer’s Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard said in 2006. “They’re raised in Pennsylvania and served with a grilled pepper crust and a caramelized onion and balsamic glaze.” (The guide book did not say whether ostrich tastes like chicken.) At this writing, Bubala’s had a 4.0 grade on Tripadvisor, with 30 percent of 953 reviews rating it as “excellent,” and 39 percent rating it “very good.”
Goat has been on the menu, thanks to the presence in the kitchen of Winsome Warren, a prep cook and one of many workers whom Yingling has hired from Jamaica through the H-2B temporary foreign worker program. “I like coming to Provincetown,” Warren told Jan Kelley in an interview published by Provincetown Magazine.¹ “In Jamaica you are at your own pace. Here is so different. … You meet a lot of friendly people in Provincetown and the turnover in the restaurant gives you energy. … You get experience here and you can learn more. You can advance. You can make money to make life easier in Jamaica.”
Music has also been part of the scene at Bubala’s. Click on the image.
Dan McKeon photographed the “Townie Drag Brunch at Bubala’s” and posted the pictures on Facebook, 26 August 2010. Trampolina Glenellen is at left.
Jay Critchley installed The Whiteness House — Tarred and Feathered under Bubala’s new canopy in October 2020.
John Yingling was joined in the ownership of Bubala’s by his son Guillermo “Gui” Yingling. At this writing, Liz Roberts was the manager, as she had been since the restaurant opened. Alongside Warren in the kitchen were the chefs Carlton Christie and Michael Cohen, and the prep cook Francisco Canela. Some of the long-time staff members in the dining room, behind the bar, and at the host’s station were Oriana Conklin, Alex Cowing, Cheryl Duarte, Peter S. Marshall, Angela Parchment, Davie Powell, Julius Reider, and Olivia Roberts.
Easily the restaurant’s most familiar face belongs to Town Moderator Mary-Jo Avellar. She has been a shift manager at the restaurant since 1999. Avellar graduated from Provincetown High School and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She was a co-owner — with her husband, Duane A. Steele — of the Red Inn, and a columnist and reporter for the Provincetown Advocate, when Steele was the newspaper’s publisher. Avellar is a sales associate at Cape Cod Oceanview Realty, 146 Commercial Street. And she wrote the Provincetown Portuguese Cookbook, published in 1997.
She is, of course, far better known as a civic leader of many decades’ standing, beginning in 1975 when she was elected to the Select Board (then the Board of Selectmen) as a candidate of the SCRAM movement, Serious Citizens Revolting Against Mismanagement. She was a member of the board until 1990, 12 of those years as its chair, and returned in the late 1990s. At this writing, she had been the town moderator for nine consecutive years. She’s served on several town committees and was Provincetown’s representative on the Cape Cod National Seashore Advisory Commission, until it was effectively disbanded by the Trump administration in 2017.
Fewer people know that she’s also a baker for Bubala’s and counts among her specialties gluten-free crème brûlée; gluten-free, flourless chocolate cake; cheesecake; coconut cake; peanut butter cheesecake with an Oreo cookie crust; bread pudding, brûléed with a bourbon sauce; gluten free chocolate ginger mousse; and Key lime tart.
Excuse me. For some reason, I’m too hungry to finish this article.
Two figures James Hansen’s mural have become the unmistakable icons of Bubala’s. 2012, Dunlap.
The main sign in 2008, by Dunlap, and a detail below, photographed in 2012.
Left: Ad from the 1995 issue of Provincetown Arts. Right: Business card.
The new sign, photographed in 2017 by Dunlap.
¶ Last updated on 28 January 2021.
183-185 Commercial Street on the Town Map.
Also at 183-187 Commercial Street:
• Fisherman Cold Storage Company.
• Jetty No. 6 (Court Street groin).
• Fisherman Cold Storage Wharf.
Thumbnail image: Photo, 2009, by David W. Dunlap.
• Christopher “Marcey” Salvador Jr. (1912-1989)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 139231348.
• Elizabeth Carlton (Kelley) Salvador (1910-2003)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 139231437.
¹ “Billy Goats Gruff Are the Latest Culinary Craze,” by Jan Kelly, Provincetown Magazine, date unknown. In the Kelly Collection of the Provincetown History Preservation Project, Page 6442.
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