Food Review- It’s a “Nat-Nation” Nat Hayden’s BARBEQUE

Food Review:
Howard Steven Frydman

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It’s a “Nat-Nation” BBQ world

For the past several months I’ve heard the same mantra- “Mr. Howard when’s your next review? “Theater, Film, Music or Food”? I usually reply. The chant back – “Food Food FOOD!!!
“Yes, I’ve been unusually busy of late, but my next food review is a BBQ place in Windsor, Connecticut”, I relate. And again my “smarter than thou fellow foodies” have shot back the following, “oh It’s Nat’s”, or “It hasta be Nat’s or “so ya gonna do Nat’s “? Let me tell ya, from the beautiful northern hamlet of Bloomfield to the shores of Southern New London- all I hear is Nat’s Nat’s, Nat’s, Nat’s!! Well you “Nat-Nation” folks have spoken and I have heard your cry statewide. Well guess what fellow readers- Mr. Howard is going to Nat Hayden’s!!

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Chef Chris Rakyta of Nat Hayden’s BBQ

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“Nat Hayden’s Barbeque” is situated in Windsor – Connecticut’s first town settled in 1633, and named after the town’s revolutionary war hero Nathaniel Hayden. The eatery, itself a prominent dining destination since 2008 is located within a shopping plaza at 144B Broad Street, and is lovingly tended to by the mom and son team of Charlene and Chris Rakyta – Charlene serves as Bookkeeper and Chris as Executive Chef. In fact Chris has over 20 years of culinary experience, graduating from the illustrious CIA-The Culinary Institute of America, and has sharpened his skills serving under such culinary notables including: Executive Chef Jeff Jackson of the renown A.R. Valentien at Torry Pines Golf Course in San Diego, California; Ann Howard’s Apricots in Farmington, Ct, and now overseeing one of the most popular and always busy dining destination spots here in Connecticut- the “finger-licken – lip-smacking” tasty as all get out – Nat Hayden’s Barbeque.

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From the get go I freely admit to both Charlene and Chris that I am not “a know it all BBQ connoisseur”- but just a fan- I just enjoy it ALL- be it Oklahoma, Kansas City, Memphis or Texas style BBQ and its various sauces and spice rubs! As I’ve been telling my readers for years – I just know from one plain fact- I know when something is made fresh, clean, from hot, juicy and succulent when it comes to BBQ- Nat Hayden’s meets ALL my BBQ requirements and more!!

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Howard Steven Frydman and Chef Chris Rakyta

In regarding the Nat Hayden style, Chris remarks, “It’s a “Pan-Southern” style- a combination of BBQ styles highlighted by our use of “wood” – hickory, cherry and apple to give our smoked meats and poultry that special well-known Nat Hayden distinctive flavor”. Chris utilizes three in- house smokers, each one designated for either pork, beef or poultry with various smoking times of up to eight hours in length to achieve that perfect BBQ. By the way- everything – yes everything is made fresh daily in-house from the slaws to the cornbread – that’s dedication folks!!

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Chris and Charlene Rakyta

Charlene shows me to my table and hands me the so-enticing menu- I begin with a sampling of the “Louisiana Gumbo with Carolina Rice” and the “Pan Fried Crab Cakes”- two great choices. I must remark- the Gumbo immediately gets a “Howard’s Best Bet” – chock full with a flavorful mixture of shrimp, catfish, chicken, yummy andouille sausage and okra- topped with rice and served with a perfectly moist hunk of corn bread- Yummy!!! The Crab Cakes are the real -deal – two colossal plated golden brown crab orbs – massive amounts of fresh crab meat served with a tangy remoulade and mixed baby greens- delish!

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Louisiana Gumbo with Carolina Rice

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Pan-Fried Creole Crab Cakes

And now onto the reason I and thousand of “Nat-Nation” BBQ lovers have made a “B” line to Nat’s- the smoked meats- first up the “samitches” – we try two- The “Pulled Pork” and the “Smoked Turkey” Club. Both of these bread holders are huge!! Massive amounts of meat- that you truly need to use both hands as you journey it upward to awaiting tastebuds. The pulled pork is moist with nary any fat, in fact there is no need to add any sauce-just enjoy the rich smoky taste. The “Smoked Turkey Club” – is another Howard’s Fav- a mammoth amount of smoked turkey breast- served with rations of thick hickory smoked bacon on buttered “Texas Toast” topped with lettuce and sliced tomato! A Howard suggestion – sprinkle a bit of brown sugar over the hot bacon- will up the “sweetness” ante a notch. Both Samitches are grand slams!

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Pulled Pork Sammitches

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Smoked Turkey Club

Nat Hayden’s also serves several Combo Plates including the “Whole Hog”, “The Rib Taster”, “Rib “n Chick”, “Cajun Catfish Plate”, and “The Farmhand”, however for “little ol’ me” Chris creates the one and only “The Howard” – it’s literally everything on the menu- a hearty sampling of “a half rack of succulent St. Louis pork ribs, beef ribs, beef brisket, quarter chicken, Andouille Sausage, pulled pork, and all the fixings too- collard greens, the out of this world three cheese Mac, red beans and rice, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, potato salad, Cole slaw, and macaroni salad. I can see Folks at other tables are beginning to look at what I’m eating and pointing – I overheard one guy taking bets if I can finish off this massive meal! Three words have I “delicious, Delicious, DELICIOUS”!!!

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Howard Steven Frydman and Chef Rakyta presents the “The Howard” everything on the BBQ menu.

Haydens offers a wide assortment of locally produced beers, most notably from neighboring Bloomfield’s Hooker and Back East breweries plus for you Soda lovers- they have the Hosmer Mountain Beverages prepared locally in Manchester- I am addicted to the Black Cherry Soda!!

My final thoughts- this is a happening place- a lot of energy is going on here- A1 all the way- great food, friendly service, and the fact Chris takes the time to make everything fresh daily. At some point, I would enjoy seeing both a BBQ Pull Pork Taco plate plus a baked sweet potato topped again with Nat’s home made pulled pork added to a future menu or even as one of their daily “specials”. Friends, I am honored and proud to be part of the “Nat-Nation”- thousands of folks who have gathered together and have made Nat Hayden’s Barbeque their number 1 dining destination! Where am I going for BBQ? It must be Nat’s!! Enjoy!!

Howard Steven Frydman is General Manager and Executive Director of BATV – Channels 5, 95 & 96 and a member of the CCC. Please feel free to contact Mr. Frydman with your thoughts and ideas at Howardbatv@aol.com.

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