Anna Watkins and Amanda Birdsong opened Cured. on Columbia in October 2020 and managed to thrive despite the pandemic.
But the pandemic shutdowns weren’t their only concern. Life partners for 12 years, the former Baton Rouge couple were unsure how they would be received on the Northshore.
“We had concerns about two lesbians coming downtown and opening a community business,” Watkins says. “We thought it would be a challenge. But we could not have dreamed of a better welcome. Every day we feel this. This place is truly a no-judgment zone, which it should be.
Birdsong has a medical background, but the self-taught chef is mostly passionate about food and cooked for regular dinner parties at the couple’s Baton Rouge home before moving to the Northshore. Watkins has a long history of management in the corporate catering world. Together, they wanted to open the kind of place they would want to hang out — relaxed, come as you are. It’s a confluence of the concepts of Magpie, a favorite Baton Rouge cafe, and Bacchanal, the wine store, cafe and party in the Bywater. What started as a take-out concept has turned into a casual neighborhood space.
“People can choose a bottle of wine, order a cheese and charcuterie platter, sit down and relax,” says Watkins. Zero’s menu changes daily with dishes like a smoked chicken and bacon club on sourdough bread with garlic aioli or plant-based choices like roasted beets with goat cheese with honey and beet hummus on a board. The couple fell in love with charcuterie on a trip through Hungary, and they source sausages and cheeses from Central and Western Europe, with options like chorizo from Spain and nduja from Calabria in southern Italy.
Healed. on Columbia is a bright, open space just off Boston Street, Covington’s main thoroughfare, and not far from the Southern Hotel. Large storefronts invite plenty of sunlight, and there’s a back garden with seating at tables scattered with plants and umbrellas for cover.
Clean eating inspires most menu items, with greens and garnishes sourced from the nearby Six Day Acres farm in Mississippi. A selection of salads includes burrata, a ball of creamy Italian cheese on spring greens, with tomatoes, truffle pieces and a crostino covered in browned butter. The Catillac Tuna Salad, named after their friend Cat, has an Asian twist, with seared tuna, shredded cabbage and seasoned greens with coconut aminos, ginger aioli and Sriracha. Diners can add a protein to any salad from a list that includes smoked or grilled salmon, seared tuna, and egg, tuna, or chicken salad.
Charcuterie boards are a house specialty. The hummus trio includes a traditional and beet or black bean version and is served with grilled naan. The lox plate includes heaps of smoked salmon, caper and dill spread, capers, house pickled onions, greens and a grilled baguette. For a hungry party, Chef Smorgasbord’s Charcuterie Selection, priced at $62, offers a feast of meat, cheese and accessories.
An occasional Dine to be Different series features multi-course dinners brought to life by Birdsong’s creative whims and paired with wines.
Cured is also a cafe, and the robust coffee program includes a Wega Italian espresso machine that produces the base for lattes flavored with honey and lavender, coconut matcha, and white chocolate. The wine selection comes mainly from small producers with an emphasis on natural wines. Van Friendly, Northshore’s vegan and gluten-free bakery created by Jiselle Rodriguez and Dylan Beasley provides baked goods including fruit fritters and cinnamon rolls.
“We think we’re offering something a little different to the community,” says Watkins. “And they seem to love it.”
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