Thai Lounge Bistro & Monkey Bar | Former Cottage Restaurant.
The Felton family’s Cottage Restaurant, established in 1950, was one of the dining landmarks of the West End, along with Cookie’s Tap at 133 Commercial Street and Sal’s Place at 99-101 Commercial Street. The Cottage rested its reputation on its longevity and — as a 1976 guide said — on “good food, properly prepared, and sensibly priced.” Since 2006, the restaurant has been known as Thai Lounge Bistro & Monkey Bar — or variations thereof — under the proprietorship of Johnny Y. K. Pak.
When the entire property, all the way to the waterfront, was owned by the Powe family, this modest building was a fish store. The Powes were mariners and fishmongers. The central figure in the family business was Andrew Thomas Powe (1867-1930), a Provincetown native, who married Bessie Elsworth (Beaver) Powe (1858-1938), of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. The firm of Powe Brothers, fish dealers, was established by 1908, when it appeared in The New England Business Directory, but the family had owned this land — including what’s now Monkey Bar — in the 1880s. Under the old numbering system, it was denominated 144 Commercial Street.
It was known as the Ocean Fish Market in 1931. Ernest Silva was also shown as having a barber shop here in a mid-1930s guide book. (It may have been at 149A Commercial, however.) From cod to coupé, the building served briefly in 1936 as the Amy Ackerman Studio of Dancing. She was described by The Advocate as a New York-based instructor.
Shop front. Note dress on door which is “Provincetown dress,” local specialty much favored by tourists, almost never worn by Provincetowners. Provincetown, Massaschusetts, by Edwin Rosskam for the Farm Security Administration (August 1940). Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. Permalink https://lccn.loc.gov/2017729250.
Advertisements appeared in The Advocate for the Exchange, on 14 July 1938 (upper left); Zora’s Fish Market, 5 June 1947 (lower left); and the Amy Ackerman Studio of Dancing, on 25 June 1936 (right).
Then came Bertha Lemira (Stevens) Russell (1870-1942), who turned 149 Commercial Street into a marvelous little caboodle in the very late 1930s and early 1940s. “Lending Library” was what it said over the door (“Exchange,” was what she called it in some ads), and indeed Mrs. Russell would lend you a copy of Love Among the Cape-Enders, by Harry Kemp, or Mourning Becomes Electra, by Eugene O’Neill. (Strange as the notion seems today, there were several private lending libraries in town.) But she would also sell you an India print dress, a potted poinsettia or chrysanthemum, or a hand-blocked Christmas card. In August 1940, the photographer Edwin Rosskam, working for the Farm Security Administration, memorably captured Mrs. Russell’s storefront. His title said, “Note dress on door which is ‘Provincetown dress,’ local specialty much favored by tourists, almost never worn by Provincetowners.”
Capt. Manuel Zora (1895-1979), skipper of the Paroga and the rum-running “Sea Fox” of Prohibition fame, briefly operated Zora’s Fish Market here in the late 1940s, when he lived behind the store, in a cottage at 149A Commercial Street.
It was in 1950 that No. 149 made its way permanently to the map of Provincetown landmarks. That was when Mildred E. (Stotz) Felton (1919-2009) and Wesley George Felton (1917-1970) opened their Cottage, to immediate acclaim. It wasn’t fancy. It was simple. And good. “Because of its small size — only five tables — customers became friends,” the Feltons wrote in 1975, in a beguiling little history of their establishment, beginning with its operation as a seasonal breakfast and lunch business, “with Wesley as chef, Mildred as waitress, her mother [Josephine G. (Greenough) Stotz (1889-1967)] as baker-helper, and the three children as their severest critics — and sometimes dishwashers standing on milk crates to reach the standard kitchen sink.”¹
A business card from the Cottage shows the old telephone number of 845-J blacked out and replaced by 487-9160. That dates the card to 1966, when direct dialing was introduced in Provincetown. Posted by Salvador R. Vasques III in My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection on Facebook, 21 March 2019.
An undated photograph of the Cottage shows the restaurant in its original building. Note how a single lintel runs across the tops of the windows and the door. The lintel is higher than the two angled returns of the gabled roof, as in the picture above of the Lending Library. From the Scrapbooks of Althea Boxell, Book 2, Page 60, scanned for the Provincetown History Preservation Project, Page 1185.
A later photograph, captioned “Dick Felton’s Cottage,” shows the new facade. Note how much larger the windows are than in the black-and-white photos above, and how much higher the roof gable is. A giveaway is that the window lintels are now a foot or so below the angled gable returns. Posted by Salvador R. Vasques III in My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection on Facebook, 21 June 2016.
An advertisement from The Advocate of 20 July 1961.
Left: Needing a break from filming The Thomas Crown Affair in Boston, Steve McQueen came to Provincetown in June 1967 and showed up one morning for breakfast at the Cottage. The poster was reproduced on Roger Ebert.com, along with his 1968 review. Right: An ad from Provincetown Magazine in 1986. Canary Burton, mentioned in the ad, is a keyboardist, composer, and writer.
The cover image from a commemorative menu issued in 1975. A line drawing of the Cottage restaurant facade adorns an old-fashioned kettle. Posted by Salvador R. Vasques III in My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection on Facebook, 2 November 2016.
And here’s what you could get in 1975 at the Cottage. If you wanted to be extravagant, you could wait 20 minutes for the baked shrimp stuffed with crab meat and mushrooms, for $6.25 (about $30 today).
Steve Silberman, whose summer home was just down the road at 63 Commercial Street, took this moody picture of the Cottage in the rain and posted it in My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection on Facebook, 22 June 2016.
Silberman also photographed the Cottage’s celebrated blueberry pancakes and shared it — by popular demand — in My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection on Facebook, 22 June 2016.
The next year, 1951, the Feltons began serving dinners. They offered a choice of exactly two dishes, both of them meat, except on Fridays, when one entrée was fish, to accommodate Catholic customers who abstained from eating “flesh meat,” in penitential observation of the day on which Christ died. (Abstinence “binding under pain of sin” as a matter of church law was relaxed in 1966 by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.) The new dining room was added in 1954, and the kitchen was expanded. The dining and kitchen areas were enlarged again in 1964 and 1969. A bar was constructed using boards infused with salt from the original structure at No. 149 and planks from the original deck at Sandbar Village. “I worked there three summers in high school,” Sylvia Tarvers Weston recalled in My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection on Facebook. “Mr. Felton was so good to his wait staff. Missus could be a bit testy in the mornings, but she made wonderful apple crisp.”³
The menu grew. But it didn’t get highfalutin. You could get sea clam chowder; roast turkey with bread stuffing; pot roast; surf and turf, “for those who can’t decide”; and — on Saturdays only — baked beans. For dessert, there were pies, cakes, and puddings made from scratch. Bread was baked on the premises.² “We stood in long lines for their blueberry pancakes,” Paul J. Asher-Best recalled in My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection on Facebook.³ Indeed, the blueberry pancakes were so memorable that Hillary Shawaf photographed them — years before diners began customarily to take pictures.⁴
“I worked there for two summers when I was a teenager (circa 1962),” Lauren Richmond said in a comment about this article on Facebook.⁶ “Wesley and Mildred Felton, along with Rosie Oliver, made everything from scratch. Real home-style cooking, chopping and peeling everything by hand. Blueberry muffins, fruit pies, clam chowder, pot roast, meat loaf, oven fried chicken with lots of mashed potatoes and gravy! And hot fudge sundaes. I gained 10 pounds the first summer! Jeanie Van Arsdale and Jill Pires were my coworkers. Nickels, dimes, and quarters accounted for most of our tips but we felt rich and happy back then. Life was good.”
Richard “Dickie” Felton succeeded his father as the general manager and head chef in 1970. Horace Stowman joined the crew as an invaluable general assistant.
In Images of America: Provincetown, Volume II, John Hardy Wright said the Cottage was “a favorite place for breakfast, where over pancakes or eggs, or just a cup of coffee and a cigarette, friends would discuss in great detail, among other trivia, the previous night’s conquests or disappointments.”
Sally Lindover’s Complete Food Guide to Provincetown 1976 gives a terrific summary:
“If you enjoy breakfast you can have it for lunch. It’s served till 3:00 pm and all egg dishes include toast and coffee. The house Bloody Mary special (3.50) is self-explanatory. Salads, sandwiches and hearty food and meat specials at lunch, with a simple sandwich and coffee under 1.00. A family operation, proud of its home cooking with a ‘Cape Cod flavor’ that includes sea clam chowder (.80 cup), pot roast (4.95 at lunch, 6.25 at dinner) and Saturday night baked beans. An expanded dinner menu with many seafood offerings and daily specials. An attractive, intimate dining room with a cocktail lounge open till 1:00 am.”
And what Provincetown restaurant would be complete without a guest star? The Cottage could claim Steve McQueen, in June 1967. He stopped by for breakfast (what else?) while in town on a break from filming The Thomas Crown Affair in Boston. “Needless to say, there was much whispering,” The Advocate reported, “and of course a waitress heart must have skipped a beat as she watched him eat the breakfast she served.”
In 1984, Mildred Felton sold the Sandbar Village behind the Cottage to David B. Willard, who turned it into a seven-unit condominium. The gifted chef Anna Annunziata — formerly of Aesop’s Tables in Wellfleet — moved her Anna Anna Anna restaurant here in 1989 from 179 Commercial Street. Though short-lived, the restaurant is well remembered by those who ate there; among them, Nancy Lowell of Chef’s Last Diet, who posted this reminiscence on 5 November 2013.
“It is summer in 1989 and I am walking west on Commercial Street one evening. I pass a restaurant with the following written on a sign that runs the entire width of the building:
“ANNA ANNA ANNA WORLD’S BEST FOOD.
“Even if they are exaggerating — and I’m pretty sure they are — I want to go to a place that is confident enough to make this claim. … I was surprised to find a dining room with unmatched oilcloth, checkered tablecloths; mismatched salt and pepper shakers; and paper napkins. … Though the ambiance was rustic in the most unfashionable way imaginable, the food lived up to my expectations. The appetizer I ordered was something I had never heard of before — roasted garlic with feta herb butter. … I lived in Manhattan, I ate at restaurants a lot, and I had never eaten, much less heard of roasted garlic! … It was incredible, and when I returned home I recreated that dish to amazed and grateful friends. …
“Anna herself came to the table to see how we were enjoying our meal. She was about 5-foot-1-inch, with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth, a gruff demeanor, and a gravelly voice that seemed more truck driver than chef, but she had already won me over with her great food. We told her how much we liked the food, and her only reply was. ‘Good, come back for breakfast,’ then she moved on. … When I returned to Provincetown the next summer, Anna Anna Anna was gone.”
In 1991, Richard B. Weinstock bought the property and renamed the restaurant Rick’s Pub & Tavern. After the management of the restaurant was taken over by Johnny Pak of Albany in 1993, the name was changed to Scruples World Bistro and then, in 1999, to Burger Mary’s, an establishment that did not endear itself to neighbors, who complained about noise and general rowdiness at a hearing of the Licensing Board in July 1999.⁵
Thai Lounge Bistro & Monkey Bar, photographed by David W. Dunlap in 2018.
David W. Dunlap (2016).
Advertisements for the side-by-side businesses appeared side-by-side in Provincetown Magazine on 4 August 2016.
Clearly, the Monkey Bar. David W. Dunlap (2012).
A facade the Feltons would recognize — since they built it. David W. Dunlap (2009).
Pak bought the property outright in 2005 and changed the name to Thai Lounge & Bistro & Monkey Bar, according to Licensing Board records. The Lonely Planet guide of 2005 referred to it as the “Monkey Bar at the Lounge,” and recommended it “if you’re looking for a quiet drink in mod surroundings,” citing a “nice selection of juices, boozes, and teas (including bubble tea)” and “pan-Asian-meets-Cape-Cod” menu. At this writing, the Monkey Bar had scored 37 “excellent” reviews out of 65 on TripAdvisor, and 30 five-star reviews out of 59 on Yelp. In 2015, Pak acquired Georgie’s Alibi in Wilton Manors, Fla., just north of Fort Lauderdale, and renamed it Georgie’s Alibi Monkey Bar.
With Lily Kwan, Pak also owns the small retail building at 148A Commercial Street that is currently the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod Drop-In Center.
¶ Last updated on 7 January 2021.
O. C. wrote on 14 September 2019: I remember when it was Rick’s. He used to play and sing there. Other local musicians would join him spontaneously. You never knew who you’d see there. His death was a tremendous loss to the local music scene.
149 Commercial Street on the Town Map.
Also at 149-149A Commercial Street:
Thumbnail image: Photo, 2018, by David W. Dunlap.
For further reading online
• Mildred E. (Stotz) Felton (1919-2009)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 93057215.
• Wesley George Felton (1917-1970)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 91585926.
• Bertha Lemira (Stevens) Russell (1870-1942)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 142488820.
• Josephine G. (Greenough) Stotz (1889-1967)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 93057620.
• Thai Lounge Bistro & Monkey Bar
¹ “Bicentennial 1975, the Cottage Restaurant and Lounge, Provincetown, menu,” My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection, Facebook, posted by Salvador R. Vasques III, 2 November 2016.
² “The Cottage, Provincetown,” My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection, Facebook, posted by Salvador R. Vasques III, 31 October 2018.
³ “Cottage Restaurant, Provincetown,” My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection, Facebook, posted by Salvador R. Vasques III, 13 August 2018.
⁴ “Cottage Restaurant, Provincetown, circa 1986,” My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection, posted by Salvador R. Vasques III, 21 June 2016.
⁵ Town of Provincetown, Licensing Board, Minutes, 13 July 1999.
⁶ My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection, Facebook, 6 May 2019.