Hearth Restaurant and Pub’s opening shows Windsor’s appetite for new dining | MyWindsorNow.com

Hearth Restaurant and Pub’s opening shows Windsor’s appetite for new dining

Allison Dyer Bluemel

Owners of the newly opened Hearth Restaurant and Pub and Windsor hoped that the restaurant's style, menu and atmosphere would draw a great crowd. With an average of over 200 customers a night since its opening, things have gone better than expected.

After months of renovation, testing the menu and training staff, the announcement of Hearth's opening went out via Facebook blast the evening of Sept. 15.

By the next night, they were packed.

"It's been bonkers everyday since," Co-owner James Gurley said.

So busy, in fact, that, while walk-ins are welcome, they began recommending customers call ahead and make reservations for the first few weeks of business.

The popularity of the restaurant — which had customers turned away because all the seats were taken by 5 p.m. Thursday night — eases a fear about whether Windsor was ready for the gastropub style of dining.

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"It offers a perceived value at an approachable price," Gurley said. "The view and the price point don't hurt us."

Garage style glass doors slide up to give customers a second-story view of Windsor Lake and the exposed brick and lofty ceilings create an atmosphere unlike any in town.

Gurley and Co-owner Jason Schaeffer hope to keep the patio seating — and the access it has to an outdoor section of the bar — open as long as weather permits. If warm days pop up throughout the winter, they'll likely open it up again, Schaeffer said.

"What we're really working on is maintaining seasonality and an experience consistently higher than expected," Gurley said.

To do that, the menu will change throughout the year to reflect the seasonal change. For fall, customers will likely find roasted squash and apples, he said.

"It's a malleable thing, it's not static in any sense," Gurley said. "We're listening to what our community and guests may be telling us."

However, the restaurant's Wood Stone oven anchors the restaurant's menu and physical layout and caused a delay in the erection of the building's walls in order to fit it into the space.

"It's a machine," Schaeffer said. "It's an incredible cooking tool."

Schaeffer, Gurley and Hearth Chef de Cuisine Justin Miner have worked to get the most use out of the oven to meet demand and keep the menu interesting.

When at its peak the oven runs a base temperature of over 500 degrees. It's at this temperature that cooks make the restaurant's pizzas.

"It's been a marathon to get our pace," Miner said.

But in the morning while the oven warms, they can use the coals to roast chicken and vegetables for the day and then repeat again in the evening during cooling.

The flexibility and versatility of the oven allows Gurley, Miner and Schaeffer to offer a higher quality of food at a lower price that Schaeffer's first Windsor restaurant, Chimney Park, across the street.

So far, the most exciting part has been seeing the excitement and energy of the community coming through the door, eager to try out a new business.

"It hasn't slowed down yet," Gurley said. "It's our job to maintain that (momentum)."

While busy days are good for business — and have pushed the two to look at adding lunch hours in the next four to six weeks — the view at the end of the day of the sunset turning the sky over Windsor Lake purple and orange and the brief pause it gives Gurley and Schaeffer allows them to appreciate the success of their expansion.

If you go

Address: 205 ½ 4th St. in Windsor

Hours: 4-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday

4-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday

4-10 p.m. Sundays

Phone: (970) 460-0193

Website: http://www.hearthrestaurantandpub.com