It should start like any other true tales do: many years ago 282 James Street North in downtown Hamilton was a Portuguese grocery and fish store. It was called Atlantic Fish Market. Linda and her husband ran it until circumstances compelled them to sell and move. The sign from their store still adorns one of the walls of the current establishment, Salt Lick Smokehouse.
When Shane took over this place, he started a subdued salad-centric restaurant, but not too many may remember that. This one is different. The appeal is immediate and the style very congenial. Now a few words on our host extraordinaire Mr. Shane McCartney. He is a self-taught chef who has worked in many kitchens, including a long stint at Blazing Kitchens. Catering to artists and musicians for days on end, he had to be creative and not bore them with the same food twice. He did a lot of catering, he traveled and worked on the east coast and he commuted to Toronto from Hamilton’s north end until he met Eric Bowden, of Jack and Lois, himself working in the film business in Toronto. So four years ago Shane’s James North culinary adventure started a stone’s throw away from the current Salt Lick. He ran the place until he decided to open up his own. Just as an aside, part of his accomplishments was also assisting Charred, another successful restaurant on James North, in design and overall management.
Outside of Salt Lick Smokehouse, Shane partnered with George, owner of Wild Orchid, to open Knead Pizza in the building just north of Christ Church Anglican Cathedral.
With such a varied food culture background, Shane could jump on any tradition and feel at home in it. He likes cooking, creating bold flavours with simple ingredients. One style of cuisine stood out and appealed to him most: that is Southern American cooking. So, he set out to travel and try all of what the good ol’ South had to offer. Soon enough anyone will find out there is no one single place that represents the ultimate goodness in all things Southern: pulled pork may have been best in Memphis, and ribs best in North Carolina, but then you’ll find moist brisket in Texas and deep fried chicken in New Orleans.
Finding that ready-made smokers were beyond his budget, Shane built his own, saving him about 80%. Being a self-taught chef, therefore a true free mind, he mixes ingredients that may not be thought of as part of this cuisine. He uses premium charcoal, maple syrup, and dry rub of his design. The menu is displayed on wall-mounted boards. Lunch and dinner offer slightly different choices. Meats are chicken, pork, and beef. The presentation is rustic, on wood boards and the side dish options are very traditional: beans, green salad and coleslaw. The deep fried chicken drums are big and juicy. Smoked first, they are then deep-fried. This is real food with tons of fat and sweet coatings. It is bold, tasty and filling. Pork belly, pulled pork and brisket are all there, and for dinner you could add Korean ribs for good measure. The wine list is simple and easy to understand. Everything is priced right and pairs well.Go ahead and gather with friends and colleagues and share in the goodness of food you can eat with your fingers. Pour some wine or beer, and enhance your Southern experience!
Go ahead and gather with friends and colleagues and share in the goodness of food you can eat with your fingers. Pour some wine or beer, and enhance your Southern experience!
TRY IT YOURSELF!
282 James Street North, Hamilton
Photos by Mel Gedruj