McMuckle’s cures mealtime monotony

Matthew Sadowski serves Mario DiGiacomo.

Kathryn Boughton

McMuckle’s cures mealtime monotony

NORTH CANAAN—The window says it all.

There, McMuckle’s Market proclaims it is a purveyor of “yumminess,” and owner Matthew Sadowski works hard to deliver on that promise.

Word is spreading throughout the region about the quality of the food at the little eatery, located at 85 Main St. in North Canaan, since owner/chef Sadowski quietly opened his doors Dec. 2.

In an online review, Andrew Anderson, enthused, “Came in on a whim, though I had been hearing about this place for a little while. I tried the kimchi & kielbasa fried rice and WOW. Super unique and flavorful. … The service was good, and the ambience was lovely … .”

In another online review, Craig Whiting added to the praise: “Very unique, high-quality food at a great price with a calming atmosphere.”

In a town that once offered little other than Italian restaurants, the range and variety of North Canaan’s cuisine is becoming more nuanced with the glitzy Industry Kitchen and Bar, the cozy Blackberry River Bistro, and the homestyle New England meals served at the Olde School Deli. There is much more than pasta and pizza on the menu now.

“It’s amazing what you can do with fresh food,” Sadowski said as be bustled past with dishes for a neighboring table. “It’s not the fastest thing, but I make as much as I can from scratch.” He even creates his own mayonnaise, mustard and hot sauces.

Many in town watched and waited as Sadowski prepared the location for his new restaurant, taking a year to open. Finally, with the interior freshly redecorated in a lemony yellow contrasted by a dusky blue, a smattering of tables and a long communal bar down one side, Sadowski was ready.

He has been content to let word-of-mouth bring him customers and enjoys it when new patrons enjoy the experience he offers and return. But he does not obsess if people want something else.

“When I started, people wanted Pop’s Diner [the next-to-last restaurant in the space]. But that is not coming back. I like it when get people on board with what I am doing. When they come back, that is a huge compliment, but I don’t want to do what others are doing — let them have that lane.”

What he is doing is simple food, cooked simply and with great skill — with the occasional surprising twist. The product of a Polish home, where pickled foods were frequently served, and a long-term relationship with a Korean woman, he likes to season his foods with pickled vegetables that offer a piquant — but not overpowering — flavor.

“I was turned on to that funkiness as a kid,” he recalled. “It’s natural flavoring without using flavorings that are bad for you. It’s better food and I want to put out a quality product all the time.”

His menu consists of such starters as an egg, “by the each, any time, anyway, with anything” ($2); pickled vegetables, which he terms “yummy probiotic-filled treats to cure a craving and indecisiveness” ($6); a choice of cast iron skillet veggies seasoned with salt, pepper, lemon and fresh herbs ($7); or kielbasa, sliced and pan-seared with tangy mustard for dipping ($5).

A variety of salads are priced at $9, and his hot sandwiches range from $6 to $10. His most expensive entree is a spicy chili garlic shrimp at $19. The Mediterranean sea bass comes just behind at $17.

Sadowski is happy to have people suggest meals. “If you don’t know what you want, I will cook for you and surprise you,” he said. Because all his food is made to order, his biggest fear is becoming too busy and making people wait too long for their food.

Sadowski is used to a much faster pace and happy to have turned his back on it. A cook since he was 12, working at his parent’s mom-and-pop shop with its soda fountain counter service, he drifted into working at casinos in Connecticut and Florida, where he was executive chef at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

“Cooking in casinos is an odd environment,” he said. “You lose track of everything. The work is nonstop and they are not the nicest people.”

Now, in his own restaurant, he feels different as a chef and finds different ideas that “pop out of my head and are more healthy choices.”

McMuckle’s (named for his dog) is open from “about 11” through 8 p.m., Wednesday-Sunday.

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