- Masa flash-fried oysters served atop pickled tapioca
There’s something oddly refreshing about stepping into this 109-year old building that I can’t quite peg. Is it the bright white wooden sectionals that add coziness to any lunch? Is it the vast, custom-made meat locker that holds whole legs of ham and sausage links? Or is it the new metallic touches that merge seamlessly with the old edifice as exposed brick walls make way for an open kitchen?
Whatever the case, it all makes for a welcoming atmosphere that pairs effortlessly with the new American eats chef-owner Steve McHugh is delivering at Cured, his newly opened solo venture that sits inside the former Pearl administration building. The restaurant’s early success (we’ll get to that in a sec) isn’t a total surprise—McHugh spent about 10 years working under New Orleans’ John Besh, opening several of the chef’s restaurants including Lüke Riverwalk. But Cured is a different beast in which McHugh, a lymphoma survivor, presents his own lease on life, food and hospitality.
As with Lüke, McHugh’s penchant for local and sustainable ingredients shines through in just about every dish, and while the meats hog most of the spotlight at Cured, there’s definitely a place for veggies. For instance, during my lunchtime visit I noshed on a great muffaletta. Comprised of housemade ham, bologna and mortadella with a modest layer of mild olive tapenade inside a soft muffaletta loaf, the seriously delicious sammie was overshadowed by my pumpkin and pepper salad. The sizeable mound of roasted pumpkin chunks and red pepper strips sat atop acidic and creamy goat cheese. Touches of toasted pecans and crunchy preserved celery cemented my new salad crush.
While lunchtime visits are perfectly pleasant, the best way to take all of Cured in is during dinner (reservations are strongly encouraged). My dining companion and I started the night with cocktails—including a Blink of an Eye for me. The concoction of rye, grapefruit, house-made (duh) grenadine, Benedictine herbal liqueur and citrus bitters readied my palate for the charcuterie board of chicken liver mousse, goat and citrus terrine and hunters’ sausage. Served with a crispy flatbread, sweet jellied fennel, pickled cauliflower and mustard, the charc boards are somewhat pricey (3 meats for $18, 6 for $26 and 9 for $34), but they’d be an excellent, substantial addition to any happy hour at the bar, and $1 from each board goes toward the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society this quarter.
Intended as a shareable experience, the remainder of the dinner menu is broken down into vegetable, seafood, fowl, pork, beef, goat and lamb. The plates range in size and grow larger as you go through each partition. The other vegetable component we tried, a beet, blood orange and avocado salad with citrus dressing, turned my dining companion into a beet fan. The masa flash-fried oysters on a bed of pickled tapioca turned this diner into someone who doesn’t like sharing.
Over on the swine side of things, the pork cheeks “poutine” was a suitable penultimate course. Tender and braised for several hours, the pork cheek was flavorful without being heavy even on its nest of shoestring fries (the spuds are available as a side for lunch). The fresh cheddar cheese curds were a sweet bonus.
A visit to Cured wouldn’t be complete without at least a peek at the dessert menu. Yes, the chocolate offering with homemade donut bread pudding, dulce de leche ice cream and a cinnamon-laced chocolate soup was heartwarming, but the cardamom and carrot “Winter” cheesecake, with quince caramel and crimson wine-poached lady apples guarantees you’ll leave Cured completely restored.
306 Pearl Pkwy
Best Bets Masa flash-fried oysters, charcuterie boards, any vegetable dish, the muffaletta, Winter dessert
The Skinny “Smart, sustainable and seasonal” meets satisfying at this new American spot opened by chef Steve McHugh. House-cured meats are a must, but don’t miss out on the vegetables and comfort food favorites.
Hours 11am-11pm Mon-Fri, 10am-11pm Sun
Prices $8-$16 lunch, $8-$23 dinner, $18-$34 charcuterie