Lobster Pot, where a retro neon sign marks the spot
My dinner companion (see "Are We Compatible?", July 22, 2020) and I were welcomed in and sent upstairs to a table socially distanced on the second floor porch. Next came Shawn, the front of the house manager, who offered suggestions on what to order. "Lobster Newburg, we serve 30-40 of them a day. Best out of the shell preparation, sauteéd fresh lobster meat in a sherry cream ..." As he gave the recipe, his ebulliehnce and passion were contagious. We ordered Oysters Rockefeller (Shawn mentioned that this was one of Anthony Bourdain's favorites), Lobster Newburgh, and Seafood Oriecchetti with Scallops, Lobster, and Shrimp. All delicious. But the coup de grâce/pièce de résistance happened when we were leaving: the hostess at the front desk who had initially taken our name actually REMEMBERED my husband's name and said, "Enjoy your evening, Andrew." We were dazzled by that!
So what's the story?
I decided to connect with Shawn, who gave me the skinny on everything from the name of the restaurant, "Lobster Pot" (incorporated in Provincetown since 1876) to the McNulty family (came to town in 1972 and are the fourth family who has owned it.) The McNulty's have the longest run with it, too; an impressive 48 years in Provincetown ... in the restaurant business. No easy task.
It was a seasonal business--Memorial Day to Labor Day--which is what Cape Cod used to be. One Columbus Day in 1982, the McNulty's closed, and about ten days later, there was a fire. Three-quarters of the building was lost. They had been thinking of a business more year-round in Boston or Newport, but in November, they landed something for rent, with an option to buy. The Oxen Yoke Inn in Conway, New Hampshire was their next success. Ever gracious and enthusiastic, Shawn went around to each business in town and introduced himself. "My name is Shawn. I'm from Cape Cod. My family and I just took over the Oxen Yoke, and we're here. We're going to welcome you with open arms."
Before long, the Inn started doing two-for-one on Thursdays, prime rib on Fridays, early-bird on Saturday, and après-ski entertainment on Sunday. "Every weekend there was a beautiful little spread of options, and opportunities to dine as well as lodge. We even had a rock-n-roll bar. Matt "Guitar" Murphy from the Blues Brothers and Carol and the Charmers once played there. The Inn was voted 'Best Bar North of Boston' for four years in a row."
As Lobster Pot was getting rebuilt in Provincetown over the winter, Shawn, his sister, and a group of friends, ran the Inn. Shawn now had a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management from University of New Hampshire, and the thought was to purchase the Oxen Yoke, but things didn't turn out the way they had planned (although they did learn how to ski). The McNulty crew returned to Lobster Pot in Provincetown in 1986-87.
The restaurant is a real "family" business. Brother Tim McNulty, is executive chef and, as Shawn says, "The Brains of the Operation." Sister Julie is a waitress and hostess. Sam, a nephew, is manager of Lobster Pot Express. Staff is considered their second family, and essential to the restaurant's foundation and continued growth. Everyone is cross-trained to do everything from, for example, host, waitress, and bartend. Shawn exclaims with pride that he's an executive busboy.
"My mom, Joy, is founder/CEO, the real back bone of the business," Shawn said. At 82 years old, she's semi-retired and works front of the building two days a week. His daughter Nicole was a waitress, a hostess, and now she's one of the managers at Lobster Pot Express (another McNulty family enterprise down on the dock; predominantly take-out with some seating). She's also taking names and phone numbers for contact tracing during Covid.
"It's tough out there in the world with this Coronavirus. Unemployment looms at 40-million people out of jobs. And we're scared. We're fearful of, God forbid, the state closing down in the pandemic again. That means us, and 100 of our staff, not working. That means thousands of people not getting our service.
"I've never experienced this before and I've been in the business for almost five decades," he continued. "That's why we care so much to show pride, love, and enjoyment in what we do because it could be short-term. We do the best we can with proper hygiene, masks, and 6-feet distancing. Covid guidelines are imperative for your safety, our employees safety, and for us."
Before social distancing, Lobster Pot seated 99 downstairs, and 66 upstairs. "We doing half the business because of these new guidelines," said Shawn, "and that's fine if you can adjust your costs.
"We're committed to quality, consistency, and genuine caring for our customers. This is what I tell my staff. 'What are we going to try and sell today? What are we going to offer?' Let's bring a smile, even with the rain, or the reality of the Covid," Shawn continued.
"The McNulty family takes pride in what we bring to the Provincetown community and we are eternally grateful for our customers. Things like picking nasturtiums from my garden every day to use as garnishes shows another level of care that can be memorable not only to my staff, but to customers as well.
"It's hard with Covid, but we're trying our best to provide and deliver the most consistent product that we can. 'Trying your best' is a philosophy and mentality that has helped the McNulty family endure 48 years in business. And counting!"
Lobster Post Lobster Pot Express
321 Commercial Street 5 Ryder Street
Provincetown, MA 02657 Provincetown, MA 02657