When I started writing about dining experiences in my blog, I made a promise to myself never to write about a restaurant in my own home town and never to write about a place I've worked before and never to write about a place that's owned by someone I know. So, I'm gonna break rule #3 - I know the people who run the Big Daddy's chain of restaurants although I haven't seen them in years and they, not unlike most of my friends don't admit to knowing me. But, when a place is good, I think its OK to say so.
I've eaten in a couple of different Big Daddy's locations and since my travel takes me mostly to T.O. and to Ottawa, I'm likely to eat there more often.
Good: the food is tasty and hot. The price is reasonable. The presentation seems creative enough, although not on the fresh fish entree I ordered. The guy beside me had the Crab Shack Boil. It was served in dutch-oven type pan with lid on, and eating the meal was obviously meant to be an adventure. The bartender helped him to figure out how to eat the crawfish. It looked like a fun entree.
Great: The staff at the King Street location was friendly and personable, knowledgeable and efficient, and helpful. The bartender described the fresh Tuna as being served rare and grilled "just long enough to make it legal." She was entertaining and outgoing. I told her I wanted to eat healthy and she tailored her suggestions accordingly. The staff made the experience all about the needs of the diner. The young lady who made me a Cappuccino did it with great pride and the other bartenders were talking her up as the best former barista in the place. You know a place is well managed when the staff feel comfortable enough to be themselves without making it all about them, when they can chat with you and not with each other, and when they genuinely enjoy their jobs. When you dine alone in restaurants as often as I do it sure makes a difference.
Growth: I only wish they wasn't so obviously influenced by that much larger seafood chain Big Daddy's draws its roots from. My Caesar salad was pretty standard issue - Renee's dressing no doubt, Brownberry restaurant cut croutons, grated Parmesan and a lemon wedge - nothing to write home about. Fresh fish presentation and cooking could have come right out of the kitchens of Red Lobster - just a standard Cajun broiled Catfish. Very good, but nothing particularly original or creative about it. I had hoped that a restaurant that is going for that Louisiana authenticity would really blacken the catfish, not just sprinkle Cajun seasoning on it and broil it. Don't get me wrong - it was good, but nothing special. Also - maybe a signature roll or bread would be nice.
Aah, but would I come back? Yes. Every so often I get a craving for Red Lobster, about every two years or so, and Big Daddy's is more fun and a lot cooler. And, as I said, the food was good and the service was excellent and the price (my bill was $39 for a Martini, Caesar Salad, Catfish dinner, Cappuccino and a Perrier) is right!