There’s a double meaning to Cure, the name Greg Marcuson, Don Henderson and their partners Sean Ditson and Mike Geer have chosen for their new Unionville restaurant.
First, they say, it describes “restoration of health” – the months of renovation they’ve put into redesigning the former Matthew’s space on Mill Street, which closed earlier this year after owner Matthew Popkin died unexpectedly in February.
Then, there’s also a meatier significance. “We make our own bacon,” Marcuson, the executive chef, said proudly.
Bacon – house-cured, smoked and presented with six different flavors, from honey applewood to Asian to Frank’s Red Hot – will be just one staple at the new eatery, which officially opens on Aug. 11. Marcuson and Henderson served as executive chef and manager respectively at Matthew’s for several years, before Popkin’s death precipitated the closing of the five-year-old restaurant in March. When the property became available, they seized the chance to start their own project. Ditson, a contractor, handled the majority of the construction work, said Henderson.
“We wanted to go with that modern, rustic watering hole type, have that nice warm feel…but have that modern twist on it,” he said.
That rustic feel comes from an abundance of locally-sourced pine and cherrywood, with an attractive wooden bar holding court in Matthew’s former main dining room and a chalkboard lining a back wall. The restaurant’s old banquet room has been transformed into another dining room, expanding the seating capacity to 104. Black-and-white photos of historical Unionville line the walls.
The menu is contemporary, seasonally-driven and designed around the availability of produce from local farms. Appetizers, sliders and other sides and snacks ($4 to $12) are meant to be “fun and shareable,” Marcuson said, like dry-rubbed BBQ shrimp, chicken wings with housemade sauces, Andouille mussels, smoked bluefish pate and sliders with smoked chicken salad and BBQ pulled pork. House-cut fries come in a variety of flavors and preparations: Cajun, duck fat parmesan, bacon and bleu cheese. There’s a daily selection of raw bar offerings, like oysters, littleneck clams and Pacific sweet red crab. The flavored bacons are even paired with complementing beer flights.
Larger dishes ($16 to $26) include seared Atlantic salmon with lobster consomme, Pacific red crab and zucchini linguini; striped bass and clams, roasted chicken, crispy duck breast with a duck confit hash made with beets and rutabaga, and a chicken-fried steak with pork gravy and pickle relish. Pastas, sandwiches and burgers are available at both lunch and dinner.
Mixology will be another focus at Cure, with several punches and sangrias and an entire section of cocktails infused with wood smoke. Marcuson discovered this technique by using a handheld smoke gun, fueled by burning wood chips. The new bar even has a “smoke box,” which traps smoke from the gun to adhere to a cocktail glass for a smoky finish. Several of these cocktails are designed with brown liquors like bourbon and whiskey, and the smoke “changes the nose of everything and mellows out the palate,” Marcuson said.
The partners say they’re excited to introduce Cure to Unionville, hoping to fill a niche with its innovative craft cocktails and the farm-fresh food.
“That’s all I keep hearing from people in the area; the town’s been waiting for a restaurant like this. They don’t have to go to West Hartford or Hartford, they can stay in town,” Marcuson said. “We want it to be our town’s go-to, but we want it to be a destination for people who come from out of town as well. We’re trying to build something that we think everybody would enjoy.”
As of Aug. 11, Cure Restaurant, at 55 Mill Street, will be open Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. (bar until 1 a.m.,) Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m (bar until 2 a.m.) and Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. A late-night happy hour will run 10 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday and 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. 860-321-7821, curerestaurantct.com.