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Restaurant Rebirth:​ ​Eateries ​hope for post-COVID boost

This article first appeared as the cover story in the March edition of Today Magazine, our monthly publication

By Lisa Natcharian — Special to Today Magazine

The unprecedented pressure of the COVID pandemic forced a rash of business closures across Connecticut, resulting in a forlorn array of empty commercial spaces and eerily quiet downtowns.

•​ SEO keyword: Restaurant Rebirth​ Post-COVID​ •

To the delight of local residents, the tide has finally turned in Simsbury and a new wave of eager entrepreneurs are preparing innovative and vibrant ideas to energize the historic center of town.

In the Fiddler’s Green shops, at the intersection of Hopmeadow and Wilcox Streets, two unconventional new restaurants are set to replace Joe Pizza and McLadden’s Irish Pub next month.

Grassroots Ice Cream & Street Food

At 2 Wilcox Street, Grassroots Ice Cream & Street Food is slated to bring its wildly popular and locally handcrafted ice cream to town in April — along with a unique menu of globally-inspired small plates, sandwiches and snacks.

Launched in 2013 in the former Granby General Store, Grassroots will boast three brick-and-mortar locations across Connecticut — in Granby, New Milford and now Simsbury — plus two ice cream trucks.

The new space at Fiddler’s Green boasts a dine-in restaurant plus a dedicated takeout area with grab-and-go pints, catering and pickup options.

The Grassroots menu features over 100 flavors of ice cream, ranging from the quasi-traditional (Salted Caramel, Thin Mint Cookie, Vanilla Godzilla) to the daring (Honey Lavender, Goat Cheese Blackberry, Rose Chocolate Chip). Owners Mark and Jenn Sproule proudly proclaim that their ice cream is made locally and contains no artificial colors. Dairy-free ice cream, made from coconut milk and oat milk, is also available. 

Jenn’s brother Brandon Pappalardo, a Simsbury resident, is the much-acclaimed chef behind the unique Grassroots menu.

After years on the Dallas food scene, he brings his own stamp to the intriguing lunch/dinner menu inspired by street food from around the world — including wraps, tacos and salads, alongside twists on traditional favorites like New England poutine featuring waffle fries, bacon and cheddar topped with house-made clam chowder, and BBQ grilled cheese topped with Carolina BBQ pulled pork on sourdough bread. 

Grassroots at Fiddler’s Green is expected to launch the first week in April, and to be open seven days a week — hours TBD •  

Blossom Café

Blossom Café at 6 Wilcox Street is also scheduled to open in April. A chic Asian fusion brunch-style restaurant, Blossom will transport guests to the lush and vibrant world of East Asia.

Incorporating the flavors and culinary techniques of Japanese, Chinese and Korean dishes into American breakfast classics, this innovative and trend-setting café will feature unique specialties like Japanese soufflé pancakes, Hong Kong french toast, Karaage chicken and waffles, and Asian-inspired Sandos (sandwiches) alongside traditional favorites like bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches, avocado toast and healthy bowls. 

•​ SEO keyword: Restaurant Rebirth​ Post-COVID​ •

Blossom Café owners Amanda Liu and Albert Zhang in front of the Fiddler’s Green entrance

•​ SEO keyword: Restaurant Rebirth​ Post-COVID​ •

To elevate the brunch experience, a creative drinks menu will feature fun cocktails and mocktails like flavored mimosas, Asian pear mules, lychee martinis and yuzu lemonade along with café classics like matcha tea, coffee and juices.

Owners Amanda Liu and Albert Zhang, residents of Farmington, plan to leverage their backgrounds in economics and visual art to create a unique destination for foodies from all over New England. Both partners are legacy restaurateurs, members of families who have run successful restaurants in Greater Hartford for decades. 

The café’s chic decor is inspired by the Japandi style, a fusion of Japanese minimalism and Scandinavian warmth. Featuring cream-colored seating accented with light wood tones, contrasting with a profusion of lush greenery and elegant gold lighting fixtures, Blossom Café aims to become both an Instagrammable destination and a favorite gathering space for adventurous diners.

Expected to launch the first week in April, Blossom Cafe plans to be open seven days a week — from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. •

The Coffee Spot 

Grassroots and Blossom Cafe will join The Coffee Spot, a new Simsbury favorite that opened at Fiddler’s Green in March 2021.

This popular coffeehouse, the brainchild of Simsbury residents Amy and Jay Sheehan, has grown from a cozy spot to enjoy fair-trade artisan coffee, loose-leaf teas and in-house baked goods, to a neighborhood gathering place that hosts live music, author talks, artisan workshops and weekend craft fairs.

On Saturday, April 20, The Coffee Spot will host a Bridgerton-inspired “Buryton Ball” to benefit the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. This black-tie event will feature ballroom dancing, horse-and-carriage rides, tea tasting, Bridgerton trivia, a silent auction and optional period costumes. 

The Coffee Spot is open Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. • 

Fiddler’s Green

This landmark property in the center of Simsbury was created from a collection of historic homes and buildings to become a thriving commercial plaza.

Fiddler’s Green is home to 11 eclectic businesses — the above three eateries plus Sew Inspired Quilt Shop, Prescott Construction, Phase Zero Architects, Peterdominic Salon & Spa, Leader Bank, therapist Sharon Eastman and two private consultants.

Four historic buildings were connected by new construction to create Fiddler’s Green.

The Victorian building housing The Coffee Spot was built in 1891 for state senator Alexander Pattison. Next door, the house that was once Joe Pizza was the home of the Wilcox family, who launched a general store in the adjoining buildings on Wilcox Street.

In the back of the property, a large stone barn built in 1909 once held a garage, and then a store. At one time there was even an opera house on the property!

The stone barn has since become a restaurant space, previously occupied by the popular Sakimura hibachi restaurant, and most recently the short-lived Roux Cajun Eatery. Vacated at the end of 2023, the barn awaits its latest incarnation as the flood of entrepreneurial ideas into Simsbury continues. Will your idea be next? •

• Lisa Natcharian and her husband Matthew have owned the Fiddler’s Green plaza since December 2016

• She has been a frequent freelance writer for media outlets such as the Boston Globe, MassLive and the Springfield Republican

• Lisa is also the creative inspiration for The Storyteller’s Cottage, a unique literary-themed initiative that she founded in 2017 in the Victorian house currently occupied by The Coffee Spot — after COVID hit in 2020, she closed the physical location and pivoted to an online model •

•​ SEO keyword: Restaurant Rebirth​ Post-COVID​ •


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