Deep in the heart of Texas, chef Steve McHugh is getting his heart's desire for Christmas: the timely opening of his very own restaurant, on his terms, built to his specifications, celebrating his joy in life [and, in his case, a very poignant joy it is.] It is called Cured and will anchor Pearl, the historic Pearl Brewing Company complex that is now San Antonio's gastronomical wonderland.
The word 'cured' could mean something made well again, or it could mean something well made, over the fullness of time. In this case, it is both. McHugh's determination to pursue his dream was fueled by a diagnosis of and recovery from non-Hodgkins lymphoma. And his menu is built on a foundation of lovingly hand crafted, time-consuming, cured foods, from charcuterie to pickles.
This gifted farm-raised chef boasts the experience of a twelve-year tenure with chef John Besh, in his various kitchens and in positions ranging from chef de cuisine to corporate chef in New Orleans and more recently, San Antonio.
Dishes at Cured make use of the purest regional ingredients, paired with the organic methods that McHugh credits, in part, for his own renewed health. Leaving nothing to chance or the vagaries of mass-production, he controls the creation of every natural element incorporated in his dishes and cocktails, right down to the bitters, vinegars, and pickles. The pickles–essentially 'cured' vegetables–are everywhere, from the Masa Fried Oysters with Tarragon and Pickled Tapioca; to the Cabrito Sliders with Chayote Pickle and Onion Sprout; even the Brewery Frank boasts an accompaniment of Nopalito Relish and House Made Ketchup. Eleven different cured meats grace the Charcuterie list, from South Texas Heritage Pork Coppa to Hogshead Cheese to Bacon and Frog Leg Rillettes –order selections of three, six, or nine choices for a goodly range of McHugh's passion. One dollar from the price of each Charcuterie board is donated to a different charity rotating on a quarterly basis.
The atmosphere at Cured will 'cure' even the most jaded design eye. Quiet reclaimed natural materials, such as a floor of longleaf pine, are sparked by the glamour of original historic elements like the exposed brick walls, pressed tin ceiling, and the massive iron vault with a header ornately patterned in the original gold leaf. Newer touches impress you with its contemporary flair as you enter the restaurant -a massive, floor to ceiling glass cooling case for the cured meats and the oversized globe lights that hang from the ceiling give a lantern style glow to the entire dining room. There's no doubt why this space was nicknamed the Jewel Box back in the day, in the early 1900s, when it served as the president's office at the Pearl Brewery.
In the spirit of giving back, Cured is finding creative culinary means of helping various causes, as well as curing hunger and thirst: you might say that Saint Nick is bringing Steve McHugh just what he wished for… and all San Antonio gets to share in the blessings.