When you think cool, hip and happening, Leaside may not be the first place that springs to mind. Ossington, Corktown, Distillery District, definitely. But Leaside?
Yet that’s exactly where Leasider Adam Skelly chose to set up a barbecue business in April that is attracting notice well beyond the neighbourhood. Adam’s family are Leasiders through and through. His father owned a business in the Leaside industrial area, and Adam and his life and business partner, Alison Hunt, live just over the Leaside Bridge in East York.
“I grew up in Leaside, but it isn’t where I wanted to locate my barbecue,” says the 29-year-old. His father had offered him generous industrial space at 176 Wicksteed, but Adam had other ideas. After a year of futile searching for the perfect location, Adam decided to take his dad up on his offer.
Over the past four years Adam has grown from being a person who did some barbecuing and smoking meat in his back yard, to the co-owner with Alison of a small business, Stoke Stack BBQ Catering Company and food truck.
“We kept experimenting with various ways of doing barbecue, and we took time to travel, especially in the southern U.S., where we found many different ways of cooking meat. What appealed to us most was Texas barbecue, a 24-hour process from brining to smoking with an oak wood fire, with no gas and no electricity.”
At the Wicksteed location, Adam has really upped his game from running the food truck to operating a full-blown retail location. He serves lunch only, because that’s the way it’s done in Texas, and it’s the way he can make sure the brisket, spare ribs, sausage (customized flavour combos are made three times a week), pulled pork and turkey breast are cooked to perfection as the customers arrive.
And arrive they do. The day I visited, there were any number of hungry diners, from construction workers and men in business suits to moms and elegant Holt Renfrew types. Each weekday at least 120 people show up starting before 11 a.m. to ensure they get their BBQ fix before Adamson’s closes two or three hours later. (Updated April 2019: Adamson’s bbq is still going strong and is now open until 8pm!)
This limited lunch schedule allows Adam to continue his catering business. He’ll often hitch up a smoker to his truck and provide the same sort of experience as at his restaurant.
“I love what I do,” he proclaims. “I work 16-hour days and don’t really enjoy time off. When we opened in April, there were four of us working at the business, including one part-time. Now we’re up to seven, and we want to hire two more.”
In the meantime, there’s just one meat supplier, who delivers as needed for a good customer. There’s also a wood supplier, who delivers a bush cord of dried, split oak every week, and three portable smokers, as well as a big one in the restaurant itself.
Adam and Alison are doing so well with Adamson’s that now they’re glad they decided to open the business in, of all places, Leaside.