Dairy Queen, later Silva’s Seafood Connection, LiCata’s, and Beach Grill
The Dairy Queen, 175 Bradford Street Extension. [Long Pointer 1987 / School Collection / Provincetown History Preservation Project Page 5606]
An aerial photo taken around 1985 by Julian Essam shows the semi-rural environs around the Dairy Queen, which is at the center. [Salvador R. Vasques III / Facebook / My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection]
[Long Pointer 1979 / School Collection / Provincetown History Preservation Project Page 5590]
A matchbook from Sal Vasques’s collection. Note that the Chicago manufacturer called our town “Providencetown.” [Salvador R. Vasques III / Facebook / My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection]
Left: Ad in the Advocate, 24 July 1958. [Provincetown Public Library / Community History Archive] Right: Elmer I. Silva, proprietor of Dairy Queen and principal of Provincetown High School. [Courtesy of Provincetown High School]
Ad in the Advocate, 21 September 1967. [Provincetown Public Library / Community History Archive]
The author posed in 1997 with the spokesfish for Silva’s Seafood Connection. The Chelsea Earnest playground is in the background. [Scott Bane]
The Beach Grill printed its menu in the Provincetown Phonebook of 2004-2005.
In 1956, Joseph T. “Joe the Barber” Ferreira (1904-1997) built what was “probably the only Dairy Queen franchise in America that served kale soup,” as Amy Whorf McGuiggan wrote My Provincetown. It replaced the Wagon Wheels diner, run by Alfred “Fall River” Pereira. The franchise opened in July 1957, offering its trademark “cone with the curl on the top.” The business was successful enough that Ferreira built a 600-square-foot addition in 1958. At the end of the summer, he sold the business to the younger Robert F. Silva (1930-2014), who had been keeping Ferreira’s tax accounts.
The Silvas were to run the business here for 44 years. From the 1950s to the 1980s, Dairy Queen was most closely identified with Robert Silva’s brother, Elmer I. Silva (1926-1993). Elmer was also the principal of the Provincetown High School — a building at 12 Winslow Street that now carries his name as the Elmer I. Silva Learning Center. He employed students like Yvonne Frazier, now a professional opera singer in Europe.
“The kids love it even if it is owned by high school principal Elmer Silva,” Sally Lindover wrote in The Complete Food Guide to Provincetown 1976. “Soft ice cream, fried seafood (reasonably priced), sandwiches (most under 1.00), and French fries quickly served. Take out to the beach or eat in your car or on one of the picnic tables in the open dining area.” She noted that the Dairy Queen could seat 30 people, and stayed open until 10:30 p.m. or later in its six-month season.
Dilly bars, a D.Q. ice cream novelty that looks something like a chocolate hockey puck on a stick, were popular among the young people who hung out at the Dairy Queen. But the prize went to its kale soup.
“This ‘daily special’ was something of a local secret,” McGuiggan wrote, “and the fact that I knew about it made me feel even more that I was part of the place. Every morning, one of the Portuguese women who worked at the D.Q. brought a bucket of the soup, thick with kale and beans and potatoes and linguiça, and set it on the back burner to simmer all day, or at least as long as the soup lasted. On cool, rainy days it went fast, but on most days we could still get ourselves a cup well into evening. And the longer the soup had simmered, the better it tasted.”
“One of the Portuguese women who worked at the D.Q. brought a bucket of the soup, thick with kale and beans and potatoes and linguiça, and set it on the back burner to simmer all day.”
Proprietorship was passed in 1987 from the older Silva brothers to two of Robert’s sons: David Leonard Silva, who also was to own the Red Inn, and Paul Richard Silva, of the Benson, Young & Downs Insurance Agency. They transformed the restaurant into Silva’s Seafood Connection, which earned a rave review on 20 August 1995 from Molly O’Neill of The New York Times. “While there are no national food franchises,” she wrote, “the smell of fryolators and greasy grills hangs over the [tip of Cape Cod] as certainly as the smell of beach roses and brine.
“Two of the new fast-food places, as a matter of fact, are excellent. Silva’s Seafood Connection, situated in a former Dairy Queen … serves the best fried scallops, clams, and squid in town, each barely floured and exquisitely fresh. Its lobster roll is a thing of sweet, sumptuous beauty.”
The Silvas transferred their license in 2002 to Paul Cunliffe, who managed a short-lived restaurant called LiCata’s. By 2004, the business was known as the Beach Grill. It was razed by Victor DePoalo in ±2007 to make way for condos and Victor’s restaurant.
¶ Last updated on 9 November 2022.
175 Bradford Street Extension on the Town Map, showing property lines.