On Friday April 1st 2011 it was Opening day at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Our Blue Jays were starting a new season tied for first place and there was an air of hope and optimism in the air.
But do you know what else was in the air?…. The smell of BBQ!
My sister was able to score some tickets through her work for the Jay’s opener so I was meeting her at the Ballpark for 6:45pm.
I left Oshawa at 4pm for the 1 hour drive so that I could go downtown a little early and visit a BBQ Restaurant that I found on the web called Hadley’s which is located at 940 College Street at Davenport.
The area has tonnes of Restaurants and Cafe’s, It seems to be the the main business in that part of the city, Many people that live and work in downtown Toronto use public transportation or ride bikes to get around, but I took my car on this day (and considering that when I parked my car at a public lot near the Rogers Centre later that evening which cost me $40.00 I wish I had taken the Go Train into the city)
At any rate I found a parking spot on Davenport about a block or so North of the restaurant and I did not have to pay for parking there so that was alright though there are not very many empty spots in the area.
I walked in after noticing the Specials sign on the sidewalk and Steak sounded good but I was there to sample Barbecue.
I was greeted by a server and she brought me a menu and told me about the specials. and one of them was the Bacon & Lentil soup and that they smoke their own bacon on-site, I do not often think of having soup with a BBQ meal but we all know that anything that has bacon in it has got to be good so what the heck lets start off with that.
I thought it was pretty cool that they brought a glass of water but that also with that a wine bottle that was filled with water as well. The Bacon & Lentil soup was wonderful, I could taste the smokey flavour of the bacon and it combined perfectly with the other ingredients. Even though I wanted to save room for the rest of the meal I did not leave any soup in the bowl.
Besides there was no way I wanted to be hungry at the ball game as food prices at the Rogers Centre are let’s just say rich. Heck a bottle of coke is $4.75 there and even a bottle of water is $4.50.
I had a look at their menu which I took pictures of but they are kind of hard to read due to the way the pics turned out so I took screen shots from their website which are exactly the same as you would see in the restaurant.
After the soup was done they brought over my meal and I chose the Half rack of Ribs which came with 2 sides and I decided on the Baked Beans and the Mac & Cheese for which there is a $3.00 up charge from the regular sides.
As you can see above and in the picture at the top of this post my meal came to me very nicely presented.
The Mac & Cheese was a good sized portion that was creamy with a perfect blend of 3 cheeses over Fusilli noodles very enjoyable and worth the $3.00 upgrade.
The Baked Beans had nice flavour though the texture was not my favourite, not sure if that was the type of beans used or perhaps it could of needed to be simmered longer. Just personal preference here but I like beans with a darker sweeter sauce and these beans were a little dry for my liking.
The Ribs were fantastic though I did not see much of a smoke ring the meat was cooked right on with a perfect amount of bite, I know a lot of people in Canada like their Ribs to be fall off the bone but in reality that is not considered true BBQ style. The sauce used had wonderful flavour and as I took bites out of it I tasted what could be best described as Pizza Sauce or perhaps a Pasta Sauce, not as sweet as I have tasted at other joints. It is a great taste that I really liked on the Ribs.
After my meal I spent a few minutes with the owners of Hadley’s Eric Hadley and his partner Lex Taman
Both Eric and Lex were friendly made the effort to make sure that I not only enjoyed my meal but also answer any questions I had while offering some insight into their business.
Above you see Eric Hadley standing with his pride and joy, his Cook Shack Smoker that he uses for many foods, not just Pork Shoulders and Ribs but also Bacon, Fish and Cheese. Yes they smoke their own Cheese.
After paying my bill. I drove over to the Rogers Centre feeling quite satisfied and content. the meal was a great start to my evening and then to top it off my Sister and I had a fun night watching the Blue Jays destroy the Minnesota Twins by a 13-3 score.
There are so many other items on Hadley’s menu that sounds so intriguing that I will need to check some of them out next time I head to downtown Toronto. Some of the items that have peaked my interest would have to be the Smoked Chicken Lasagna, and the Whitefish Pancakes. I would also want to try their Hush-Puppies and see how they compare to the ones I had in the States during my Southern Expedition. Oh and the Pulled Pork, I forgot about that, Oh my this will take more than one visit to do, but that is ok as it would be a joy to visit Eric & Lex again.
After I got home I sent Eric and Lex an e-mail just to confirm a few things that I did not write down during my visit and I decided to turn that e-mail conversation into an interview.
1. You mentioned to me that Hadley’s has been open for 6 months What has been you backgrounds before opening this restaurant?
We’ve both worked in the restaurant industry since we were in our teens. I’ve worked at various restaurants from pubs up to fine dining since I was 16, and Lex has done the same. Most recently I was working for the Royal York hotel for the last 5 years where I acquired my Red Seal certification. Lex was mostly recently working for Eatertainment catering where she was a event chef, and previously she was one of the head bakers for Cobs Bakeries.
2. Lex told me that her family is from the South, Can you be a little more specific on which areas and such?
My Granny (Mother’s mother) is from Richmond VA. We used to spend a lot of time down there during school vacations. Most of my family are throughout the south (Atlanta, South Carolina and north Carolina) We’d spend a few summers at Cape Hatteras where we’d all get together.
3. I was Impressed that you are using your Cook Shack Smoker for more than just Pork Shoulders and Ribs.
I believe that you also said you smoke your own Fish, Cheese and Bacon. Did I miss anything? a few more details on the types if you do not mind.
We use our Cook Shack for all the BBQ that you mentioned, as well as we use it to smoke fresh fish (rainbow trout, late trout, whitefish, pickerel) generally what’s fresh and local from Ontario. We also use to cold smoke cheeses and our own duck breasts. It’s a great smoker that allows us to do both hot and cold smoked products.
4. What has been your most popular dish during your first 6 months?
Our most consistently good seller is probably our pulled pork sandwich, but we also have become very popular for our smoked chicken lasagna and our club sandwich which offers the combination of smoked chicken, smoked bacon and smoked cheese for a smoked triple threat.
5. College Street in Toronto, I noticed has many many restaurants and cafe’s and even another BBQ Joint’s a couple of blocks away. Does this competition make it tougher to get a market share or does it draw more people to your area to to begin with?
We find having so many restaurants in the area is a great help as it encourages more people to get out on the street and look around. We are all very different and giving people more options is always better.
6. How has social media and the internet impacted your business? Any plans to promote Hadley’s more through this medium?
We already have a web page and facebook site as well as being active on twitter. We have received a lot of positive feedback from sites such as Chowhound and Yelp which have provided us with a large amount of word of mouth exposure.
7. When I dropped by on Friday afternoon parking was a bit of a hassle as I had to park 2 blocks away on a residential street. Your area would be known a lot more for being accessed by public transportation or walk in traffic, would that be accurate?
Yes parking and traffic can be an issue in our neighbourhood so most of our regular customers are from neighbourhood or reach us on the TTC, We are located directly on a major Streetcar route the also connects easily to the Subway.
8. What would you like to say to anyone reading this article in hopes that they would come down to try your food?
We just like to think we make good honest food with honesty and integrity. We make food that we love and hope everyone else loves it too.
Thank you both for your answers and I look forward to seeing you again in the future.
Phone # 416-588-3113
Be sure to visit the Hadley’s Webs site for more.
Here is a link to where they are on google maps