By Paul Augeri, Editor-In-Chief
When not looking back on their favorites teams’ most recent accomplishments or failings, sports fans like to look ahead.
Imagine, then, that it’s the afternoon of the first Sunday in November. Chores are done and you have time on your hands. Sadly, though, you’re stuck in one of three silos: Anti-Patriots; an ashamed Jets fan; or a disgusted Giants fan who accepted back in Week 5 that their season was finished.
Those are the local offerings on network television, and if you don’t have satellite TV plus an NFL games package, what to do? Sliders Grill and Bar on Route 17 might feed your football craving.
Sliders’ Middletown location, just before the turnoff into Wesleyan Hills – the same building that was home to Cypress Restaurant for 80 years — is expected to open in the coming weeks.
“In a perfect world, the end of October is our target for opening,” Todd DiBattista, the company’s vice president of operations, told the Mirror. “We’re moving quickly, we have a good staff, and the city of Middletown has been fantastic.”
Sliders is an independently owned company with establishments in Wallingford, Southington, Plainville, Berlin and West Hartford . Founded in the early 1990s by Fred Marcantonio, Sliders will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year.
As Middletown has become a destination for out-of-towners and foodies alike in recent years, Sliders will fill a niche that has been up for grabs – a sports fan’s hangout. Wings and bar-and-grill-type food can be found elsewhere in town, sure. And while Cromwell is home to Chicago Sam’s Sports Bar and Grille and its vast number of mammoth wide-screen TVs, even a scaled-down version of a similar restaurant hasn’t existed in Middletown until now.
This wasn’t lost on DiBattista.
“Fresh wings, live sports and family fun — it’s what we’re known for, and we never lost the sports aspect of it,” DiBattista said. “We’ve changed the décor of Sliders to keep up with the times, but we still have that sports atmosphere.”
“Sports on the wall,” as he put it. Translated: “Not one of our locations has less than 30 TVs. We thrive on the sports aspect of our business.” And with that, the potential to watch most any game in play at any given time.
Sliders has “always been attracted” to Middletown, said DiBattista, who considers the city “a restaurant mecca.” The timing was right to put Sliders’ stamp here when the Carta brothers put the Cypress property up for sale last year, he said.
Renovations of the aged building continue. Plumbing and electrical work have been completed, sheet-rocking is nearly complete, and painting, flooring and installation of the restaurant and bar equipment soon will be underway. There will be seating for 200.
The property abuts a pond. Behind the building, a patio will be constructed to accommodate additional seating for 40, DiBattista said. This will be Sliders’ first outdoor area, he said. There will be televisions and the same menu available to customers who are seated inside.
“There’s just a nice mix of things that come with the location,” DiBattista said. “With Durham and Middlefield just a 9-iron away, it’s a great location, and the patio is such a bonus.” The overall floor plan is between 5,000 and 5,500 square feet.
One advantage of being independently owned and operated, DiBattista said, is “we can change anything we want at any time.
“We like to adjust to our clientele and we’re flexible,” he said. “To have that neighborhood, family-oriented feel, we can break the rules per se, to make our customers super-ecstatic and happy and make sure they enjoy the experience.”