We’ve been meaning to try Hayden Block for a while, so a warm Tuesday night with a protest planned at the Plaza theatre across the street seemed like a great time to rubberneck, drink whiskey and munch on some barbecue.
It was crowded when we arrived at about 5:30 and the only table we could find at first was way too big for two. We felt bad taking up so much space, so we were relieved when a staff member approached us and politely asked if we minded switching with a large family. He pointed out a table for six where another couple was sitting and we parked there happily instead – it turns out that all tables at Hayden Block are community tables – a great concept that feels right in a big, open venue with long tables and lots of elbow room.
Of note – our cocktails came out on the house to thank us for moving without a fuss – such a nice touch! Matt had ordered the Smokey Old Fashioned ($12) with burnt orange rind. He thought it was a very nice and well-executed drink, though nothing about it really stood out in his mind against other old fashioned cocktails he’s had around town.
On the other hand, my Green Sleeves ($12) was sweet and refreshing with gin, St-Germain, cucumber, basil and lemon. The only thing I didn’t like about it was how quickly I finished it! Way too delicious.
The menu here allows you to basically build your own platter of meat (by the piece or ½ pound depending on the item), sides such as creamy salads and slaws, soups, beans and corn dishes at ($4 each) as well as “trays” of larger dishes like smoked wings, fresh salads, mac and cheese, hush puppies and frito pie ($8-$14 each).
For $11, we tried a half pound of brisket, which is a must for us at any barbecue meal. The three generous slices of beef had a tender texture, smoky crust and juicy layer of fat that melted in our mouths. The brisket went really well with the quick-pickled cucumber and onions that came out on the side – the pickles reminded us fondly of the Texas-style brisket we ate at a roadside greasy spoon on a recent trip to the US. Another tasty condiment option was choosing from the three house-made sauces on every table. I loved the brisket with Espresso sauce while Matt preferred the House Barbecue.
We both loved the tray of smoked chicken wings (available in hot, salt & pepper, dry rub and barbecue). We ordered barbecue and loved the glaze of sauce enveloping each juicy, tender piece of chicken. The sauce was also very easily washed off our fingers with the wet naps provided at the table, so there wasn’t the usual inconvenience of needing a shower after this particular meat platter.
There’s the option to get some bread with your meal – $1 for corn bread, $0.50 for honey butter and white bread comes out at no cost! The cornbread was delicious, lightly flavoured with jalapeño and was made richer with the generous portion of honey butter. The white bread was just a plain slice of sandwich bread from a bag. A bit mismatched from all the delicious homemade accompaniments on our tray, but a good option for people looking to soak up extra sauce or build their own sandwich at the table.
One order of the bacon-wrapped corn on the cob ($4) turned out to be three pieces, which were roasted beautifully and not as greasy as I would have expected. The bacon clung well to the corn kernels. Sweet, juicy corn on the cob is such a fickle mistress… I had to be careful not to smile too widely for the rest of the evening until I got home to my dental floss. (But so worth it!)
And because we take health and wellness very seriously, we ordered two side salads: broccoli slaw and a creamy macaroni.
The macaroni salad was better than I expected and finished with paprika and chives. Mac salad is so often too soupy, cloying or vinegary, but each bite of this salad was flavourful and tender. The broccoli salad was crunchy, slightly sweet and well-balanced with the raisins and bacon. The pieces of broccoli were quite large, but it was a good reminder to stop being an animal and use my fork and knife for a minute.
Everything was delicious, but we definitely ordered way too much and agreed splitting one or two sides along with two meat dishes would have been plenty.
That said, we still had to try the maple soft serve. One order was way too much for the two of us, but came out in a disposable container with plastic spoons, so we did have the option of taking it to go if we hadn’t already been filled to the brim with meat and meat accessories.
Aside from drinks, dinner came out to about $20 per person, which felt like a great value for the enormous portion. For those of you with self control, you should note that most of the food would have packed up really nicely for leftovers the next day. We would have loved to save some for lunch if we’d had the presence of mind to stop pigging out!
Because of the incredible food, thoughtful service and warm atmosphere, I highly recommend Hayden Block (1136 Kensington Rd NW) for date nights, groups, happy hour or a late night drink and snack.