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Jul 22, 2008 11:01 AM

Mad Michael's - BBQ near Midland

Anyone else been to Mad Michael’s Tree Art Cafe in Wyebridge? On Hwy. 93 I think, near Midland.

Delicious BBQ!!! This guy is serious about BBQ. He smokes his meat with Oak that he chops himself! Insane. The food is wicked (for the most part). Smoky (but not overly so) lovely pulled pork, possibly the best cornbread I’ve ever had, gorgeous mashed potato salad. I think he even pickles his own baby carrots that accompany the potato salad, which is a nice surprise when you bite into what you assume is a plain old baby boring carrot. Speaking honestly, in visits past I wasn’t thrilled with the brisket (kinda dry, but like good promising BBQ is hopefully a work in progress), but the pulled pork has always been lovely. North Carolina styles. Very little to no sauce, with a chopped perfectly balanced tangy cole slaw on top. This guy does everything from scratch, he even bakes his own buns that house the sandwiches. I like the sweet potato roll (doesn’t taste like sweet potato). And my god, that cornbread.

Keep on meaning to try the ribs but always end up ordering the pulled pork. His menu is relatively small but very interesting. Everything is handmade with love, you can tell. Makes his own baked good desserts as well.

Not open all year round (I’m pretty sure), but wow, in the warmer months this place is awesome. Gorgeous patio, bright natural surroundings. It’s kind of an experience going there as Mad Mike also does wood and twig art which is everywhere, has a treehouse-style kitchen/smokehouse out back, and a giant teepee (which you can go inside). Not to mention a pretty stream running through the property.

This is a very cool place, totally unique. Love the food, love the passion, love the made-from-scratch fanaticism that rules the roost. Is the food perfect? Nope. But most of what I’ve tried is damn good, and I look fwd to trying more. Totally worth the drive if you aren’t in that area.

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  1. I drive through Wyevale all the time and used to go there before Mad Michael owned it. It really is an amazing place with charming patio and outdoor setting. I've been meaning to try it since he started BBQing (and got a licence) but haven't got around to it. I'll make an effort to try this place when I'm next up in August.

    3 Replies
    1. re: JamieK

      Right on, I think you'll be in for a treat!

      (As an aside, since you mention you go through Elmvale, hit up the Elmvale Bakery and get their glazed lemon cakes and apple fritters. A few doors down, Pieces of Olde makes really yummy pork schnitzel sandwiches and other lunch items.)

      1. re: magic

        Sorry, I meant to say Wyebridge. Mad Michael's is in Wyebridge on 93.

        I'm hardly ever in Elmvale but will keep those suggestions in mind. thanks

        1. re: JamieK

          Yeah, Elmvale is like 15-20 mins away so if you're ever there remember those spots, sure.

    2. The original comment has been removed
      1. Indeed an excellent find.
        Tried it over the weekend and was reasonably impressed (although not a life-changing experience). Certainly better than anything I've had (so far) in Toronto.
        Apparantly they were inundated on Friday night (busiest ever) so on Saturday they only had a few BBQ items available - actually a good sign - the smoker was full.
        I settled for the "Texas Style Pork Ribs" (a new item for me - I usually prefer beef brisket with Texas-style). Sort of like a cross between a pork chop and ribs. The smoking was good - not perfect as the centre part hadn't received any smoke, although the edges had. I actually quite liked the contrast; it added interest. the beans were overcooked - not my favourite, but that was more than compensated for by the cornbread - this was also slightly smoky and had some of the sweetness of corn - perfectly complementing the pork (and I'm not really a corn fan). AmuseGirl had the Carolina pulled pork sandwich (served on a paper plate - my choice used a regular plate!. Creditable (as BBQ) but I'm not a Carolina-style fan - but I hve to say it was the best carolina-style I've had - but those of you who like Carolina-style might find it a little tame. The slaw topping was unusual - chopped up more like chopped onions and almost dry (which didn't make the bun soggy - one of my top peeves with BBQ is soggy buns). And the bun was spectacular - a sweet-potato bun was used - a far cry from the wonderbread-style often served with BBQ.
        So overall, GREAT breads - actually better than I've found with BBQ anywhere in my worldwide travels. Pretty good BBQ too - definitely worth a detour and it's only 5-10 minutes from Midland, and is now my choice for best dining in that area.
        Oh, and I'd choose to sit inside. Although the patio was great on the weekend, you have to contend with ants, flies and smoke from the smoker. And the Lemonade (home-made) was pretty good too - always a smart choice if you're driving (sort of essential to even get there).
        And a minor picky point. They claim it's 'Southern' BBQ. My standard of wood is hickory - all my favourite places use that - not sure if oak really qualifies. But it does work well.

        6 Replies
        1. re: estufarian

          Nice! Glad you liked it. Enjoyed your review estufarian.

          Haha, I too was there on Saturday. For lunch. I was there around 2 – I wonder if we shared patio space? I don’t think we did. I was outside too. Personally, I love the patio. The smoke from the smokehouse doesn’t bother me at all. I find it pleasantly smoky, certainly not overbearing or an interference. I think it’s charming, it’s not like I get to dine on BBQ with smoky oak perfuming the air every day. It’s a treat. I also like that their patio tables have big umbrellas for protection from the sun. Cuz while I like eating outside, I don’t like roasting in the sun. And their padded seats make dining there real comfortable. I didn’t have any bug issues on Saturday, too bad about your pests… although I did notice the bugs were out in full force in Georgian Bay this weekend, which is rare (it’s not like this area is the Muskokas…).

          I also got the Texas style pork ribs! First time getting those – previously my outings there had been limited to the pulled pork sandwiches mainly. You are dead on, the ribs were almost a hybrid between pork chops and ribs. I’d never seen that cut before. I like them a lot. I’m not sure if I loved them, but they were certainly very good. Almost excellent. Won’t find anything like that in Toronto. I could’ve used maybe a BIT less smoke in the ribs as the taste of the pork itself was a bit hard to detect amid the smoky taste. But overall it was very good. I didn’t find my pinto beans overcooked at all. They were perfect. Like a meatless chili. Very nicely done. The potato salad was its usual wonderfulness but I chose to add a little extra S+P myself. Usually I don’t have to. But it’s not like it’s a big deal to do that. The cornbread was a little too browned for me this time around but it still tasted great and was nowhere close to dry. Delish. It’s odd that your ribs came on a regular plate. Mine came on a paper plate. Which I love, I must say.

          Ahhh, going up there is a real treat. A real summer thing. Look fwd to going up again….glad you enjoyed.

          1. re: magic

            I think we may have been there together. We got there around 1;30, but as I wasn't wearing a watch (hey it was supposed to be a holiday) I don't know the exact time. Saw someone wearing an 'In 'n Out' Burger tee shirt - was that you - it's the sort of thing a Chowhound would wear. And if you've never read the classic posting from Joe H (Joe Heflin) on In 'n Out Burger (a few years back) then seek it out. It was also referenced in one of the 'greatest all-time threads' discussions (I think Joe had a couple in there).
            Next time I'll break anonymity. AmuseGirl is a Midland Lass.

            1. re: estufarian

              No way, that was totally me!!! Haha, wicked! Now that you mention it I think I do vaguely remember somebody eyeing my shirt. Taller fellow. Brown hair. Or, more of a "older" gentleman. Silver hair. I could be remembering wrong, plus I guess I wasn't being superattentive.

              That is too funny.

              Thanks for the 5,000 Mile Hamburger rec. Great read....

          2. re: estufarian

            estufarian, much of texas BBQ is prepared using using oak, post oak actually. You'll also find mesquite but I do agree that much of the cooking done in the southeast is prepared with hickory. It's a more intense flavour. You do find folks that are in love with fruit or nut woods like apple, cherry, peach, pecan etc. I feel that the vast majority of people can't really tell the difference between smoke woods anyway and only balk when they've found out it wasn't cooked with a certain wood....

            I feel that southern BBQ is more of a preparation and cooking style, slow and low using any number of woods. I can't agree that southern BBQ means hickory.

            Thanks for the review, I will have to check it out in my travels.

            1. re: Dr Butcher

              Thanks for the explanation. All of my favourites (in US) have been hickory - so I assumed that might be the reason. Indeed I did detect that Mad Michaels had a different smoke flavour and 'magic' mentioned the oak in particular. In the past 2 years I've visited Memphis, Dallas/Ft Worth and Kansas City - all of whom used hickory (when I asked), so mine was certainly a biased sample.
              But whatever is used, the food at Mad Michaels is certainly worth a visit - if you're in the area - certainly (for me) better than anything I've had in Toronto.

              1. re: estufarian

                Thank you, thank you Chowhound. Mad Michael's was an absolute delight. Atmosphere was low-key charm, Mrs. Mad was delightful to talk to, and Mad Michael's energy was infectious. And the food was superb. I had the pulled lamb which was moist to the last bite and the smoked flavour kept overwhelming my taste buds right to the end. The sides were above average and not a disappointment. Nothing like it in T.O. that I've come across including Phil's. Worth the drive from Toronto, but I've scored anyways, because my cottage is 15 minutes away.

          3. Yes! Finally made it to Mad Michael's this weekend and we were very pleased. I had the pulled pork sandwich and it was a winner! Since I know squat about "Carolina" style, any inconsistencies didn't bother me. It was a tasty juicy sandwich, and the sweet-potato bread was delicious.

            My friend had the buffalo burger and loved it. I had a taste -- moist and juicy and flavourful, the cucumber relish was really tasty.

            We sat out on the patio, since this weekend finally offered the weather we've been waiting for ALL summer. The bugs weren't bad at this time of year. The smoke didn't bother me. I actually wished they had bigger and more umbrellas because I hate eating in direct sun (we kept squishing around our table as the sun moved).

            Another quibble is that we yearned for more than what was on offer as far as beer goes. Even Creemore would be welcome.

            So with 1 pulled pork sandwich, 1 buffalo burger, 1 beer, 1 glass of wine, the total came to $40 including tip. The service was great and Mr. Mad Michael himself is quite the interesting character, amusing and down-to-earth.

            I would definitely go back, looking forward to trying out other items on the menu.

            Mad Michael's
            8215 93 Hwy, Wyebridge, ON L0K1E0, CA

            3 Replies
            1. re: JamieK

              I’m really glad you guys liked it. I got there 4 times this summer, on weekends. Loved every time. I started going 2 summers ago and have watched the food improve and improve. I dream about that cornbread.

              My last weekend up I finally tried the buffalo burger. Wow was it ever good. It was a bit curious though, cuz it tasted a lot like beef! Wasn’t very gamey I thought, and I was kind of expecting and in the mood for something ‘gamier.’ The only other buffalo burger I’ve ever had was considerably gamier than Mad Michael’s. I brought this up and they acknowledged their buffalo burger is not very gamey (agreed about the staff btw, they are all so nice and take such pride in their work, it’s refreshing). Don’t get me wrong it was a damn good burger; very tasty, not dry, and that homemade relish and mustard were gorgeous. Would definitely order it again. Also, tried a bite of my friend’s Portobello burger (really a grilled Portobello sandwich). Delicious. Also, gotta love their use of beautiful tomatoes and fresh produce. Even though they take a backseat to the BBQ the produce is still fresh and wonderful. Why can’t Toronto places follow suit? Why is that so difficult?

              Can’t wait to get back again. I may have to make a trek up there in the fall, before winter sets in. What a wonderful and interesting place.

              1. re: magic

                My friend found the same thing regarding the issue of gaminess. He had never had buffalo before and was hesitant I think because he was leery of possible gaminess but one bite and he was off to the races, almost had it finished before I could have a taste.

                1. re: JamieK

                  Ya, I was expecting, and hoping for, something gamier. No real complaints though as at the end of the day it was a delicious burger.

            2. I am bumping up this thread because I missed it first time around and just read about this place deep in the Highway 61 thread. Cottage season is coming, I can't be the only person interested! Will be making the drive from Wasaga, I hope - the one chow experience I can get my husband on board for is BBQ.

              10 Replies
              1. re: julesrules

                I'll be posting as soon as it reopens. Victoria day weekend (I expect - the sign says "in May").

                1. re: estufarian

                  Ya I think I remember a waitress telling me Victoria Day long weekend was it's usual reopening time. Thru to Thanksgiving in the fall I think.

                2. re: julesrules

                  That's a bit of a trek from Wasaga. If you're in the area, you might consider bringing a cooler & icepacks and stopping by Mueller's meats to pick up some fabulous made-on-site German style sausages (the hot is my favourite). They also have great double-smoked bacon and other interesting meats and items.

                  You'd have to go north from Mad Michael's, which is on Hwy 93, and then left at Balm Beach Rd aka County Rd 25 and travel along for a mile or two. After you stop at Mueller's you can continue in the same direction to Simcoe County 6 and turn left to take you back down to Hwy 7 (the scenic route).

                  (if you do go to Mueller's, grab a number as soon as you walk in).

                  150 Balm Beach Rd, Tiny, ON L0L, CA

                  1. re: JamieK

                    It's actually not that bad a drive from Wasaga. Maybe a half hour or so. Totally worth the drive in my opinion. I drive in from Collingwood, which is even further than Wasaga!! Love every second of it too. Hey, it's summer, country driving! Beautiful.

                    Thanks for the Mueller's tip btw. Sounds good.

                    1. re: magic

                      From Collingwood that must take more than an hour. Dude, I can see Collingwood, on a clear day from across the bay near Lafontaine/Christian Island -- maybe you should take a boat!

                      You're right -- from Wasaga to Wyebridge/Perkinsfield/Midland isn't that bad. We sometimes drive all the way from Midland area to the village of Creemore for the day and it's about an hour but this is better.

                      1. re: JamieK

                        Ya it probably takes me just shy of an hour to get there from Collingwood. I don't mind! It's worth it and fun for me. If I had a boat I'd probably take that, that would be awesome : )

                    2. re: JamieK

                      We like a road trip and it gives us an excuse to go in a different direction (since we generally go to Creemore, Collingwoord, Thornbury or even across the peninsula to get to the other family cottage). Thanks for the tip - we have a favourite butcher, Sullivan's, in Wiarton when we are at that cottage so like the BBQ, Mueller's is right up our alley.

                      1. re: julesrules

                        Road trips are great. I just realized a typo above -- meant to say "back down to Hwy 27".

                        Another interesting place in the area is Wendy B's Fine Foods in the village of Lafontaine. Great sandwiches and salads, so you could do a lunch there. But she also has an array of on-site prepared foods, such as pot pies, lasagna, kebobs, etc. Baked goods as well.

                        It's about 10-15 minutes north of Perkinsfield and on the way, there's a good farmer's stand with fresh, local veggies and fruits.

                        Also near Lafontaine is a fishmonger where you get can get fresh pickerel (when available) and other fresh fish straight from Georgian Bay. The family holds one of the last commercial fishing licences in the area.

                        Wendy B's
                        339 Lafontaine Rd W, Penetanguishene, ON L9M1R3, CA

                        Lepage Fishery
                        6 Lafontaine Rd W, Tiny, ON L9M, CA

                        1. re: JamieK

                          Great tips. Thank you!
                          Bring on the summer road trips.

                          1. re: torontovore

                            but please everyone, make sure you remember those all important extra-large icepacks and a good-quality cooler!!!

                            Happy chow road-tripping!