Hayward House breathes new life to an iconic corner

by Tallahassee Table
Downtown restaurant and bar melds Tallahassee traditions with modern twists

When Andrews Downtown closed after 50 years, it left a gap in the Tallahassee dining scene. 

Its iconic corner location had long provided a seat of power for the city’s movers and shakers, as well as a laid-back hangout for visitors and locals, just steps from the capitol building. But that gap has closed, thanks to the opening of the new Hayward House and the efforts of its industrious owner/entrepreneur, Ashley Chaney.

Entrepreneur Ashley Chaney is behind the new downtown venue, Hayward House. Photo credit / Hayward House

Ashley has breathed new life into the setting, creating an upscale bistro that melds homey Southern traditions with modern twists. The Hayward website describes dining here as “both familiar and surprising.”

We encountered both.

My husband and I visited the restaurant for a recent Friday night dinner date night and with friends for a Sunday brunch (there’s also brunch on Saturday). On both occasions, we were impressed by Tallahassee’s new downtown gem.

The decor combines homey touches with modern accents. Photo / Tallahassee Table

The place itself looks great. Walls are a mix of dusky and dark gray. The setting has a homey touch with small curtains on rods separating booths. But there’s also a touch of sophistication – with lovely brass sconces and cool lights,  lovely framed art – some of it work done by local artists including Elizabeth Wallace  – and a classic bar in the center of the room. 

Outside seating at the new Hayward House. Photo credit / Hayward House

Hayward can seat 125 inside and 140 outside, some of those seats under colorful umbrellas on the sprawling patio. The front of the restaurant has clear garage windows so they can be opened on a balmy day. There’s also a private room that seats 50 for overflow business, special occasions or events.

The Hayward House was named after the early occupant of that space in the 1920s, Dr. Thomas Hayward and his family. The location has a special significance for owner Ashley, who was director of sales for restaurateur Andy Reiss for 10 years. 

“I never really had the intention of opening a restaurant,” Ashley said. “But when the opportunity presented itself, I needed to jump on it. It’s the next step in my career.”

Like many locals, Ashley remembers celebrating many special events and family milestones in this spot.

Blake Shine is the executive chef of the new downtown restaurant, Hayward House. Photo credit / Hayward House

Hayward House’s executive chef, Blake Shine, also has strong ties to the Capital City. He’s  a Tallahassee native and Florida State alumni. After college, he gained experience in the kitchens of Louisiana and Mississippi, but Blake learned a love of cooking from his mother and grandmother. 

He has called working on opening a restaurant in the city where he grew up a dream come true. 

Blake’s menu features an eclectic mix of starters such as poutine, a rich snack that hails from Quebec – house fries, a brown roux gravy and white cheddar curds; salmon tostadas and our choice, French onion soup.

French onion soup is one to savor at downtown Hayward House. Photo credit / Hayward House

On a chilly night, soup sounded irresistible. French onion soup can often be disappointing but we were happy with Hayward’s rendition. We slowly sipped the savory bone marrow broth with its sweet caramelized onions, topped with a thick layer of Gruyere and Provolone cheese. Since we have dined here, Hayward has added she-crab soup, a luxurious concoction made with Atlantic blue crab, house croutons, green onions and Parmesan. 

The smoked Caesar salad is a highlight at Hayward House. Photo / Tallahassee Table

There are several salads, and one of the menu highlights was a smoked Caesar. A touch of Liquid Smoke added a woodsy flavor to the Caesar dressing, elevating hearts of romaine mixed with hearts of palm, large pieces of shaved Parmesan Reggiano and chunks of toasty croutons. 

Our dinner choices at Hayward House were braised short rib and the smoked Caesar salad. Photo / Tallahassee Table

Hayward has received raves for its Southern fried chicken sandwich, which I will have to try soon, but on this visit I opted for a comforting main dish of braised short ribs with a meaty, slow-cooked ragu sauce. I especially liked the silky, wide pappardelle noodles.

Mussels are on the list of main dishes at Hayward House. Photo credit / Hayward House

Other main dishes include mussels or steak frites, redfish on the half shell and chargrilled cauliflower. The menu is evolving so expect updates. A recent addition is a 12-ounce Cheshire pork chop, bone-in, with a honey garlic  glaze and Southern succotash.

Among the sides: chargrilled asparagus, blistered shishitos and seasonal risotto.

Coconut cake, a cheese plate, berry chocolate brownie and chocolate mousse are on the dessert menu. Photo / Tallahassee Table

Hayward House offers several tempting desserts. We shared a light coconut cake with a drizzle of a raspberry glaze. Delicious. For brunch on Sunday, we devoured a chocolate, berry brownie. There were four of us on this particular morning and we each had several bites that were scrumptious. 

Hayward House is steadily tweaking its brunch menu, adding a side of biscuits and gravy and bruléed grapefruit with Greek yogurt, Tupelo honey and house granola.

Steak and eggs with marinated tomatoes are featured on the brunch menu. Photo / Tallahassee Table

For our brunch, a friend was happy with her order of a five-ounce New York strip steak served with two eggs and marinated tomatoes. 

There are lots of renditions of the Middle Eastern dish, shakshuka – with two poached eggs atop a tomatoey base. Hayward’s version was more souplike than the  thick stews we’ve had but it was good and flavorful.

A waffle flight, available at brunch, adds several toppings for a fun dish. Photo / Tallahassee Table

The waffle flight is a hearty dish with four or five waffles, each with different toppings such as fresh strawberries, whipped cream, tasty honey butter chicken, maple bacon and a peanut-butter banana mix. The waffles could have been a bit warmer but otherwise a fun, filling dish to start the day. 

Brunch options include steak burrito, huevos rancheros, a breakfast sandwich and lunch/dinner offerings such as the smoked Caesar,  also a hit at our table for brunch, along with a Bloody Mary. My friend also praised the coffee.

Customers can check out the game while sitting at the full bar in Hayward House. Photo / Tallahassee Table

Hayward House has an extensive full bar with wine (by the glass and bottle), beer and creative and classic cocktails. My husband raved about his Tupelo Old Fashioned, made with whiskey, Tupelo honey and bitters, garnished with cherries and an orange.

Open since Dec. 7, Hayward House has hit the ground running. We expect to see the restaurant become another top downtown dining destination.

Getting ready to open at Hayward House. Photo / Tallahassee Table. Top sandwich photo credit / Tallahassee Table

When you go

Hayward House is at 228 Adams St.; 850- 825-7081.

Hours: 11:30 to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. for brunch and 4 to 11 p.m. for dinner on Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. for Sunday brunch.

Prices: Starters $10 to $18; sandwiches $14 to $16; salads $14 to $15; mains $22 to $58; sides $8.

What’s Next

Ashley Chaney plans to do more for the restaurant’s location. According to the Tallahassee Democrat, the Tallahassee Community Redevelopment Agency voted 4 to 1 to approve a request of $134,000 from the Downtown Community Redevelopment Agency District to fund more improvements at Hayward House. “A number of repairs, in a list that ‘goes on and on,’ were vital for the restoration of the downtown landmark, she (Ashley) explained. These include light fixtures, restrooms, patio and replacement of kitchen equipment.” For more info, here’s the link: http://tinyurl.com/2s3u8wk3

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