PEMBROKE, NH – Almost three years ago, Manchester was introduced to Madear’s: a petit, eccentric restaurant on Hanover Street specializing in traditional cajun and creole cooking. The hip, casual space was the Queen City’s definitive source of Southern comfort food, bold cocktails and lively events such as theme dinners and drag brunches.
Chef-owners Rob Curry and Kyle Davis spent a great deal of 2020 moving operations from Manchester’s Hanover Street to Pembroke’s quaint Main Street. Madear’s will be the first and only full-service eatery in the 7,000-strong town when it opens its doors Oct. 1.
Curry grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but has lived in New England for almost 20 years. He gained his appreciation for cooking and hospitality through his paternal grandmother, Martha “Madear” Sullivan. Davis is a New Hampshire native who worked as an engineer for many years before seizing onto his passion for baking.
“Our inspiration was to leave the rat race of jobs in Boston and open our own restaurant highlighting cuisines that we grew up with,” said Curry. “The theme of the restaurant pays homage to the motherly figures in our lives who have inspired us to be the men we are today and our passion for food and hospitality.”
The original Manchester location closed in October 2019, but Curry and Davis quickly got their hands dirty with the new Pembroke location, originally set to open in early March.
“We spent a lot of time looking in Manchester and surrounding areas, and no perfect space was available for us. The Pembroke space fits our needs to have the restaurant, bar and bakery. Location wise, Pembroke puts us in between Manchester and Concord, so we should get a mix of new crowds and existing guests,” said Curry.
Like many restaurants set to open this year, operations at Madear’s were pushed back due to overwhelming concern regarding COVID-19. However, Curry and Davis consistently updated their many fans throughout the uncertainty. After nearly a year of dedication, they will hold their grand opening Thursday.
“I was confused and concerned…our livelihood was being put on hold for an indefinite time frame. But with prayer, faith and family, we were able to maintain balance in life to get through it all,” said Curry.
When Madear’s celebrates its grand opening, diners will be introduced to a swanky, French country-inspired space with multiple seating options. The intimate bar/lounge area features a copper bar and plush bar stools. Additionally, there are two-top seats with banquettes and large, six-top tables made from recycled wood. The restaurant has a 56-person capacity
While this brand new space carries many new features, the zeal and southern hospitality that Curry and Davis infuse into their business remains as strong as ever. Many of the soulful, Louisiana-based dishes that Curry grew up preparing are highlighted on the menu.
For those who don’t mind sharing with one another, there’s a smattering of small plates that can be ordered tapas-style and passed at the table. Offerings include crab balls (crispy spheres of spicy crabmeat), deep-fried gator and blackened shrimp with chutney.
Vegetarians need not fear, as there are plenty of options sans animal protein. Those in need of some plant matter on their plate can opt for the cast-iron charred Brussels sprouts with parmesan, Cajun beet fries or the “Red Sea Delight,” which features red bean hummus, Moroccan flatbread and pickled onions.
Anyone with an aversion to sharing should direct their attention to the large plates section of the menu, which reads like an encyclopedia of classic southern dishes. Crawfish etouffee, jambalaya, gumbo, fried chicken with collard greens and mac and cheese and oxtail stew are always available.
Seasonality plays a critical role in the menu as well. “We switch up the menu a few times a year, which allows us to get new ingredients or bring in some new produce based on the season – which means new popular items like fried green tomatoes, pork belly three ways and frog legs.”
Resist the urge to order dessert, and you’ll be doing yourself a major disservice. As an accomplished baker, Davis doles out the best Southern sweets this side of the Mason-Dixon line. A meal at Madear’s isn’t complete without a slice of pecan pie, wedge of red velvet cake or slab of bourbon bread pudding.
With all of the recent turmoil within the restaurant industry, some restaurant owners are concerned for the future of their businesses. Many have seen no other option than to close their doors permanently, as COVID-19 has yielded unprecedented effects for restaurants across the country.
Curry and Davis, however, remain optimistic and are committed to following CDC guidelines to ensure the safety of the public. Despite the setbacks and limitations imposed by the virus, Madear’s will undoubtedly open with the gusto and enthusiasm expected by the restaurant’s many fans.
Visit Madear’s at 141 Main Street in Pembroke, NH. Follow their Facebook page for updates and visit https://madears603.com/ to make reservations.