Hadley’s: Culinary Casual

The Fourth Street strip has come a long way.

Where once you could merely catch a bus out of town, now you can listen to vintage records, catch a football game, or play Super Mario Bros. In the past, the food options were limited to hot dogs and chicken sliders. Now we have our choice of street-style Mexican, homegrown pizza, Filipino paninis, and proper modern American pub fare.

The latter is Hadley’s Bar + Kitchen, the newest addition to the now officially bustling bank of entertainment and eatery options that is South Fourth. It is the fourth effort from up-and-coming entrepreneur and developer Brian Swanson, who most recently has taken over at other existing fixtures such as Bodega and Grandview Café.

If the notion of pub fare doesn’t have you dancing in place, you’ll want to conjure up the memory of the last good meal you had. Regardless of the cuisine, the environment, or the service, you likely enjoyed the meal because it was well prepared. Thoughtful. There were no corners cut or details missed. You might use the word deliberate.

As it happens, deliberate is exactly the word Hadley’s ascribes to itself.

The casual mode is carried through even the entrance to Hadley’s, which isn’t so much a doorway as the absence of one. No anteroom, no host stand—you’re on the sidewalk, and then you’re inside. The best policy would probably be to walk in, as they say, like you own the joint.

“Overall, our vibe could be described as casual—with a little more energy,” said Charles Carter, one of the general managers in Swanson’s restaurant group. “Hadley’s has been in the works for about a year. Our building is completely rehabbed, but the name comes from the tiles out front. They’ve always been part of the space.”

“You can stop in for a quick business lunch during the week and still come back for an after party. We’re kind of amphibious in that sense, but that’s what the neighborhood calls for.”

As ambiance goes, it feels busy and connected in a you’re-going-out-on-the-town sort of way. Likely a purposeful move. When the food comes, you’ll likely worry less about who’s at the other table than what’s on your plate.

The new classic combo of red-checkered deli paper and wooden food boards is somehow both comforting and exciting; more so than round white dinner plates, anyway. Seeing a brioche-bunned burger with a steak knife sticking out of it is also not an uncommon sight, but one that says, ‘This food is substantial.’

Per Carter, the executive chef at Hadley’s is Cory Windle, previously of German Village’s iconic Lindey’s. “[Cory] brings a level of execution, quality, and consistency to the menu that makes people instant regulars.”

The Hadley Burger is the staple and inspiration for the entire menu. Depending on how you load it up, it’ll run you anywhere from $11 for the standard single, all the way up to $17 for a double with egg and bacon. The aforementioned brioche bun, the house-brined pickles, the dijonnaise: all clearly tested and true tactics for Hadley’s top choice. If the price is a little robust (people tend to balk at burger prices), then go on Sunday and pay just ten bucks for a burger and a beer. Problem solved.

Inside the Shrimp Po Boy ($12) is…you guessed it. Shrimp. The CBC IPA-battered rock shrimp appear on the starter menu as well, and in either iteration, they’re worth it. For the po boy’s part, the paper-thin red onion slaw and soft-but-toasted bun were the little touches you like to see. But the shrimp, most importantly, were perfectly cooked. As with all sandwiches at Hadley’s, it’s accompanied by French fries.

A bit about the fries: they’re not oil-soaked limpies. They’re not drowning in truffle oil (though they do have a truffle fry option elsewise). These are hot, crispy, twice-fried, honest-to-goodness fries that harken back to the days when McDonald’s still used beef tallow in its fryers. How so crispy? “The trick is to let them sit for a day [before frying them again].” A bit of wisdom from the bartender.

Beyond the meat and potatoes, Hadley’s will offer $1.50 oysters from 7-11 p.m. on the weekdays, brunch on the weekends, and a special vegan menu on Mondays. There are pitchers of mules and sangria during happy hour, and a nice lineup of now-obligatory custom cocktails.

Fourth Street was already legit. But Hadley’s itself is  some of the best grub you’ll find on the block, and it already looks to be one of the hot new hangouts.

Hadley’s (260 S Fourth St.) opens at 11 a.m. every day except  Mondays, when they open at 4 p.m. For more, visit hadleysbar.com.