When best laid plans slam into a pandemic – TheSpec.com

Timing is everything, but when plans go awry resilient restaurateurs forge ahead.

Dirty South

Over three decades, and since 2002 under the umbrella of Kreative Katering, Chef Brett Liersch and his wife Kara have built an enterprise that includes a commercial kitchen and several food trucks — Dirty South among them.

With good humour, they ponder the bad luck of choosing March 2020 to launch two “brick and mortar” locations. Dirty South opened on March 13, four days before the state of emergency. Another new venture on Concession Street was to open two weeks later. It will one day celebrate their excellent catering menu.

Dirty South has remained open with curbside pickup and local delivery. The menu offers southern cuisine, sometimes with a twist. Pulled Jackfruit and quinoa salad, for example, ensure there’s something to satisfy various dietary preferences. (They also create Keto meal packs and deliver from Grimsby to Burlington.)

Dirty Southern Love – waffles, Louisiana fried chicken, maple bacon, buttermilk ranch and maple syrup from Dirty South.

We enjoyed the Big Pig — BBQ pulled pork, fried onions, cheese and slaw on a cheese bun. Dirty Southern Love paired Louisiana fried chicken with waffles, garnished with maple bacon, ranch sauce and maple syrup. We passed on poutine, mac ’n cheese and pulled pork tacos — all popular. Watch their social media for weekly specials.

Saltlick Smokehouse

Shane McCartney, owner/chef of Saltlick (opened in March 2015) has been a busy guy running Saltlick Smokehouse, Bar Sazerac and a stall in the Hamilton Farmers’ Market Food Court.

McCartney (affectionately known as Big Pappy) also had plans to open the highly-anticipated Pappy’s Fried Chicken and Biscuits. They were two weeks away from opening when everything closed. Just days ago, McCartney invited fans to watch social media for news about Big Pappy pop-ups.

With only the James North Saltlick open, the core menu is available as takeout/delivery and McCartney has moved into retailing meats, an idea that had never before crossed his mind. It’s another story linked to supporting supply chains, but also offering high-quality products to patrons at affordable prices.

While “timing” was not on his side with Pappy’s, it may be on his side now as the weather invites more people into their yards to barbecue. He offers “Home Packs for Backyard Heroes.” In one example, the Home Pack came with 1lb. of fresh ground beef, two 10 oz. New York steaks, two 10 oz. Frenched centre-cut pork chops, four sweet Cajun sausages, and four teriyaki beef tenderloin skewers — all for $65. He plans to add more BBQ accessories to his online store which also offers fresh fruit and veggie packs, local beer and Sazerac cocktails.

Saltlick Platter – brisket, smoked pork, southern and jerk chicken, beans, mac ’n cheese, coleslaw from Saltlick Smokehouse.

The Saltlicks menu of smoked/BBQ treats includes sandwiches, but I couldn’t resist the platter options. Smoked pork, fried and jerk chicken all paired perfectly with beans, mac ’n cheese and coleslaw. Your choice of meats and sides come in platters priced from $26 to $50. Says McCartney, “It means the world to us to be able to keep doing what we love and feed you comforting soul food at the same time.”

Mai Pai Tiki Bar

Before the world changed, there was a soft opening in February, with the official launch planned for March 27. This was pandemic pre-empted and by March 16, Mai Pai Tiki Bar dine-in was shut down.

Behind Mai Pai is Salar Madadi, owner/chef of Pokeh in the Hamilton Farmers’ Market and on Concession Street, both closed for now). He collaborated with Peter Lazar (Immersive Design Group: Tusq Inc.) who created the space with tropical decor.

Polynesian-inspired Tiki bars appeared in America in the 1930s and eventually fell out of fashion. But they’ve been making a comeback thanks to a wave of nostalgia and a hankering for escape — a pandemic wish that will have to wait. Sort of …

With a switch to curbside takeout and creative events planning, Mai Pai is aiming to give you a taste of the intended experience.

On offer had been exotic cocktails that could be ordered bowl-style and shared with straws. Takeout enabled me to order a cocktail kit — “Orbiting the 6’ — a blend that included lemon, passion fruit and orgeat, the secret ingredient in Mai Tais. All I had to do was add gin.

Do You Wanna? Pizza - Nduja sausage, fig marmalade, ricotta from Mai Pai Tiki Bar.

The menu was pizza, wings, and fries, though only pizza is on offer for takeout. These are Detroit-style, inspired by the iconic Buddy’s which also has roots in the 1930s. Square, with thick crusts and lacy, crispy cheesy edges, the pizzas are known for their unique layering of toppings. (Gluten-free pizzas are available.) The central role of the tantalizing pizzas accounts for the name: “my pizza pie” = Mai Pai.

Madadi and Lazar never stop thinking about how to share the Mai Pai experience. The curbside pickup cannot be missed with its tropical booth. They have featured online livestream dance parties, and musical entertainment.

Out of adversity can come creativity and that includes Lazar’s Curbside Pivot, a project/platform that makes orders and events easier for restaurants.

Mai Pai Tiki Bar

631 Barton St. E., Hamilton


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Hours: Thursday to Sunday 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. (takeout only; preorder day before)



What I paid: Basic pepperoni pizza $17; Do Ya Wanna? Pizza $19; Cocktail kit $7.50

Curbside Pivot



Dirty South

10 Barton St. E., Hamilton


Hours: Monday – closed; Tuesday to Wednesday 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Thursday to Sunday 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. (pickup and local delivery)



What I paid: Dirty Southern Love $12; Big Pig $12; Tater Tots $5; Quinoa Salad $6

Saltlick Smokehouse

282 James St. N., Hamilton


Hours: Curbside pickup every day 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.



What I paid: #2 Platter — 4 Meats 3 Sides $40

Please call restaurants or check their social media for updated details on hours and menus.

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