HADLEY'S (940 College, at Dovercourt, 416-588-3113, hadleys.ca) Complete dinners for $40 per person (lunches/brunches $25), including all taxes, tip and a pint. Average main $20/$12. Open Tuesday to Thursday 11:30 am to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday 11:30 am to 11 pm. Brunch Sunday 10:30 am to 3:30 pm. Closed Monday, holidays. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement, booth seating. Rating: NNN
Eric Hadley has never heard of the Texas Crutch.
"I'm aware of the technique," says the co-owner/chef of Hadley's, the new barbecue joint on College kitty-corner from the West End Y. "I just didn't know it was called that."
His smoked pork ribs ($24 for a 1-pound rack/$17 half) would benefit from the trick. Lean and trimmed, they're a bit on the dry side and need a more distinctive sauce than one that tastes like ketchup and cumin. His smoked chickens ($14 half/$11 quarter, both with two sides) may prove a hard sell in a nabe where a whole churrasqueira bird goes for 10 bucks.
Sides range from perfunctory potato salad and mac 'n' cheese - fusilli, really - to terrific red cabbage slaw in sour cream dressing à la borscht and smoky grilled endive (all sides $3 à la carte).
Dig deeper and the reclaimed Portuguese sports bar's card reveals several gems. Hadley's hefty burger ($10.50) straddles a ciabatta bun dressed with leaf lettuce, ripe tomato and thick rashers of house-smoked bacon. Partner/co-chef Lex Taman's classic key lime pie cheesecake ($6.50) tastes like it could have been brought in (that's a compliment, btw).
At brunch, they update tuna melts with smoked Ontario whitefish, molten Emmenthal and topknots of arugula ($11), some perfect chunky fries on the side ($3). The hungover are directed to the Remedy ($14), a pair of deep-fried (!) poached eggs slathered with hollandaise, smoked cheddar and sweetly pulled pork over hash, baked navy beans and more of that sensational slaw. Bread pudding junkies will slobber over a savoury version laced with portobello mushrooms, sautéed leeks and smoked Emmenthal ($15 with Green Goddess salad).
Hadley's may be off to a slightly uneven start, but the friendly, unpretentious spot oozes potential. Nothing that the Texas Crutch can't fix.