A young couple renovates and revamps the iconic restaurant located inside a 200-year-old red farmhouse on Route 6A in Dennis.By Lisa Leigh Connors | Photography by Julia Cumes
The stars have aligned for Erica and Adam Dunn.
Four years ago, when the two exchanged vows at the Cape Cod Museum of Art, little did they know they would eventually move from New York City to Dennis and end up buying the Red Pheasant Inn, located less than a mile from where they were married. “We are excited to call the Cape our new home,” says Erica, who is expecting their first child this summer.
Last September, Erica and Adam, both 32, noticed the iconic restaurant was for sale by longtime owners Denise and Bill Atwood, and it piqued their interest because they were exploring business opportunities. In Brooklyn, Adam co-founded a seafood business, and Erica over the years worked as a marketing specialist for various publications in Manhattan, including Architectural Digest and New York Magazine.
After several years of dealing with the subway and other aspects of big-city life, they were ready to put down roots and start a family somewhere more peaceful. Since Adam grew up spending summers in Dennis with his family in a rented house on Osprey Lane, a stone’s throw from the restaurant, the Cape was a logical choice. Ironically, he celebrated special occasions and birthdays at the Red Pheasant. His parents now own a house nearby.
When the opportunity came along to relocate to Cape Cod with their chocolate Lab, Georgia, the couple seized it. They put in an offer at the end of last October, closed on the deal in February and hit the ground running to renovate the restaurant and revamp the menu. They ripped up carpeting, installed new wide-plank floors and brightened up the interior with a fresh coat of paint in time for their June 1 opening.
One of the first things they did was change the name to, simply, The Pheasant. “The building is very special to us and a lot of people,” says Erica. “Our vision is to build upon the legacy of the restaurant, but with our own take on it.”
To that end, the Dunns hired executive chef Toby Hill, formerly of the Brewster Fish House and the Belfry Inn & Bistro, bring to life their vision of a seasonal and uncomplicated menu, offering options for every palate—from a hand-ground burger topped with housemade jam and pickles to seared scallops with fiddleheads and mustard greens. For dessert lovers, there’s a chocolate parfait made with Chequessett chocolate from Truro and warm honey cake with honey sourced from E&T Farms.
Hill uses local ingredients from nearby farms such as Not Enough Acres, Cape Cod Organic Farm and E&T, and also from the restaurant’s own garden of tomatoes, rosemary, thyme, parsley, basil and mint. The herbs are also used in specialty cocktails created by bar and floor manager Dylan Cannon. “The cocktails are something you might find more in a city,” says Cannon, who says they use the freshest ingredients, including house-squeezed juices.
One of the couple’s goals is to push diners in new directions. The lobster roast with clams, Chatham mussels, corn, grilled scallions and fingerling potatoes served in a cast iron pot, for instance, is listed as an entrée for two, but it could also be the perfect appetizer for a group. “We want to make this a spot where it’s not so formal,” says Adam. “It’s still really nice, hospitality and service are excellent and the food is high quality, but it’s approachable and you can choose your own adventure.”
Meanwhile, former owners Denise and Bill Atwood, who still live in Dennis, are enjoying life in retirement and spending time with their grandchildren. “We feel Erica and Adam are the perfect couple to carry on the legacy of the [Red] Pheasant,” says Denise. “I love the changes—things are updated but remain warm and inviting. I wish them as much fun and challenge as we have enjoyed the past 40 years! It’s a lifestyle and a beautiful place to live and raise a family.”