An alphabetical list of the popular gay bars and nightclubs, as well as several great restaurants and cafés, in the famous and historic LGBTQ New England playground of Provincetown, Massachusetts, which is situated at the geographical outer tip of Cape Cod. Although often regarded primarily as a summer destination, Provincetown - which abounds with welcoming gay bars and superb eateries - is actually quite popular year-round, especially with folks from nearby cities like Boston and Providence. That said, a number of establishments in this article are open seasonally (or have reduced hours during the off-season), so call ahead if visiting then.
One of the most famous gay bars in the country, the Atlantic House (4-6 Masonic Pl., 508-487-3169) - or "A-House", as it's affectionately known - was doling out cocktails to locals and tourists back in the '20s and '30s, when the likes of Tennessee Williams and Eugene O'Neill used to drop by. Its existed in its current incarnation since the early 1980s and is a must on Provincetown's gay-bar circuit. The historic space tucked down a lane off of the main drag, Commercial Street, is divided into three sections, all of them fun: the Dance Club, the Little Bar, and the charmingly notorious Macho Bar. As you might guess, the Dance Club is all about cutting loose. To the side is the most historic part of the building, a cozy den-like with a fireplace known as the Little Bar. The Macho Bar, as the name suggests, is a favorite of P-Town's leather-and-Levi's crowd - note the cage in this darkly lighted space that can get mighty cruise-y into the late evening.
A lively spot with fantastic views of the bay on one side and the colorful pedestrian parade along Commercial Street, Bubala's by the Bay (183 Commercial St., 508-487-0773) serves decent, if somewhat inconsistent American fare, three meals a day. But the real reason to hang out here is the fun setting, and that there's a large patio with great views of Provincetown Bay. This is a lovely spot for a cocktail, too, and there's live entertainment much of the time.
In tranquil Wellfleet, an art-gallery-filled community just 20 minutes from Provincetown, you'll find one of Cape Cod's top "in-the-rough" dining experiences, Mac's on the Pier (265 Commercial St., 508-349-9611), a humble take-out place by the town pier and harbor. It's hard to think of a more perfect lunch at Mac's than a lobster roll, a cup of clam chowder (not too thin, not too thick - best garnished with a few splashes of Tabasco Sauce), and a fresh juice from locally renowned Nantucket Nectars. Afterwards, you can stroll back up to Mac's take-out window to order a few scoops of ice cream.
The popularity of Mac's over the years had led to other outposts, including nearby Mac's Shack (pictured here, 91 Commercial St., 508-349-6333) a sit-down restaurant that's open nightly and serves more substantial fare, including sauteed mussels, oysters on the half shell, coconut curry scallops, pan-roasted halibut, and more. And right in Provincetown, just off U.S. 6 out near the beaches, Mac's Fish House Provincetown (85 Shank Painter Rd., 508-487-6227) serves lunch and dinner as well as offering an afternoon daily happy hour. You can pick up to-go seafood to take to the beaches, or enjoy a great meal on-site - from grilled shrimp and grits to Mexican street corn to lobster pot pie.
Mac's also operates seafood markets, in addition to the one attached to Mac's Fish House Provincetown, in Wellfleet (by Mac's on the Pier), in Truro, and in Eastham.
A favorite spot for fans of exotic cocktails served by some of the town's most popular bartenders, Monkey Bar (149 Commercial St., 508-486-2879) offers an impressive martini list - consider the popular chocolate peanut butter cuptini - and has a wide-ranging menu of Asian-inspired eats from adjoining Johnny Thai Bistro that includes sushi and tom kha gai soup. It's a good place to bring your group of friends and mingle with the handsome patrons, and the space is fun and colorful. It's in the West End, close to the hugely popular Boatslip Resort, and it's handy if you're staying at one of the many B&Bs and vacation rentals out this way.
To some extent, all of Provincetown's gay hangouts draw a mix of men and women, but the long-running Pied Bar (193A Commercial St., 508-487-1527) is historically famous as one of the top venues for lesbians in the Northeast. That said, on some nights and for certain events, like the jam-packed daily AfterTea T-Dance parties (these start at 6:30 pm), you'll find a mix of men and women partying here. More known as women's gatherings, the nightly AfterDark parties are another tradition at this attractive, airy space overlooking Provincetown Harbor, which traces its history way back to 1971. Throughout the tourist season and on weekends at other times, you can pretty much always count on good-size crowds of women here, especially for afternoon T-Dances on weekends. On the deck overlooking the harbor, you can also dine on burgers, salads, and other pub favorites.
The Provincetown Art House Theatre (214 Commercial St., 508-487-9222) was completely renovated and redeveloped in the 2000s and comprises two performance spaces that host a slew of big-name music, comedy, and theatrical talents (including many LGBT icons) as well as a cafe serving light breakfast and lunch fare during the day and a bar serving snacks and drinks in the evening.
Provincetown Portuguese Bakery (299 Commercial St., 508-487-1803) has been a fixture in town for generations - a great place for fresh pastries as well as hearty breakfast and lunch fare. They're pretty famous for the traditional Portuguese malasadas, but even if you're not a fan of this delicacy (basically, a Portuguese-style fried doughnut), drop by for the other tasty cooking.
Pull up a stool at the bar or sit back on one of the plush sofas next to the large fireplace at the cozy, friendly Shipwreck Lounge (10 Carver St., 508-487-1472), an ideal venue for conversation and drinks with a decidedly old-school nautical vibe (think rich wood paneling, maritime paintings, and warm lighting). This natty place with a low-key vibe is part of the snazzy Brass Key gay resort complex, which means you'll often encounter overnight guests from here and other close-by lodgings such as the Crowne Pointe, Gifford House, and Bradford Carver House. Beyond the cozy interior space, you can also relax out back on the expansive patio, which is warmed by a gas fire pit. The bar has a good list of premium wines and even some local by-the-glass choices from nearby Truro Vineyard. Other boozing options include a plentitude of colorful martinis and mixed drinks. Be aware that the friendly resident cat likes to make plenty of appearances and has been known to sit on unoccupied laps.
Serving tasty pizza - whole pies or by the slice - as well as ice cream until 2 am, Spiritus Pizza (190 Commercial St., 508-487-2808) packs in the crowds, especially on weekend evenings. The restaurant's website has a live webcam - perfect if you'd like to partake of some P'town people-watching from your own living room.
Victor's - restaurant
Opened in a section of Provincetown's West End that has very few dining options, Victor's (175 Bradford St. Ext., 508-487-1777) occupies a light-filled, modern, yellow house with a fireplace in the main dining area. It looks perfectly simple and casual, is slightly away from the busy throngs along Commercial Street, and is open year-round (serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner), but this terrific spot lauded by both locals and visitors serves exceptionally well-crafted regional American cuisine.
The talented kitchen team here emphasizes organic and sustainable ingredients in preparing such memorable morning fare as huevos rancheros and lobster eggs Benedict. At lunch, consider one of the best lobster rolls in Provincetown, along with Thai chicken salad, Cuban sandwiches, or a perfectly done burger - and Victor's may not overlook the water, but kick back during the day with one of the bar's signature cocktails (the mimosas and sangria are both laudable), and you'll easily get into the spirit of resort living. At night, you can choose a sampling of delectables from the raw bar (ahi sashimi, local oysters on the half shell), or dine on more sophisticated but still reasonably priced dishes like seafood cakes with guac and corn salsa, pan-seared salmon with chickpea-and-spinach stew, and tagine-style lamb shank seasoned with plums, apricots, honey, and orange-flower water.
Victor's location is especially handy if you're headed to Herring Cove Beach, as it's right on the way there if you're heading out via Bradford Street Extension.
Wired Puppy - coffeehouse
When you need a caffeine jolt, to check your e-mail, or to scope out cute Provincetown visitors and locals, drop by gay-popular Wired Puppy Coffee & Tea (379 Commercial St., 508-487-0017). This cheerful and attractively furnished coffeehouse and tearoom in the East End opens early (6:30 am) in the morning and serves high-quality java and teas.