LaSalle serves casual fare in a unique setting in downtown Burlington
Owner Adam Baxter says popular menu items include crispy pork dumpling
It’s been Adam Baxter’s lifelong dream to run his own restaurant.
Things fell into place last year when a series of circumstances “made the decision” for him.
“The space became available,” said Baxter, of the downtown spot in John Street. “It just kind of magically happened where I was offered a chance to take over the space and the lease.”
Then the hard work began.
Baxter pointed to one corner of the restaurant, at the time stripped down to its bare bones, where he sat down and spent hours envisioning what he hoped would be a unique and different dining experience — and create something that he would be proud of for years to come.
“I think we pulled it off. I mean, I got mannequins in the windows,” he chuckled, which help pique curiosity and draw people in. He also enlisted the help of a talented graffiti artist to paint the inside walls.
LaSalle, named so after his late mother’s hometown in Quebec — also the place where he was born — opened its doors about eight months ago — featuring a varied menu that doesn’t focus on a specific cuisine.
“There’s really nice dishes,” the Burlington resident said, including lobster and duck — but there’s also fried chicken and burgers.
“There’s really no category … I cook within the seasons and change the menu up every four or five weeks,” he added.
The crispy pork dumpling is a crowdpleaser.
The pork shoulder is smoked for about 10 hours and then slow braised for another four. He then adds his homemade barbecue sauce — a recipe that Baxter has perfected over a decade.
Another popular offering is the fried chicken, which is served with mac and cheese.
The key to a great fried chicken, he said, is to brine the chicken in buttermilk and herbs and spices “for a good while.”
“I usually do it for 24 hours,” said Baxter, who has been involved in the restaurant industry for 28 years.
While acknowledging the great waiter staff and community support in the past year, running a “one-man venture” has proven to be a tough endeavour. He recalls the time when he had to deal with a burst pipe during a cold snap in January that had him mopping the floor for eight hours.
“That was probably my most challenging day. I wanted to break down but I just fixed the problem,” he said, focusing on the more positive part in that it caused only minimal damage to the restaurant.
Still, Baxter said there’s not a single day that he doesn’t love doing it.
“I wake up every day and wanting to go to work,” he said with a beaming smile, noting that he strives to make his guests happy.
“That’s what makes me happy.”