All these years, I've been eating toutons the wrong way. Maybe you have been, too. Not to worry, Betty Badcock, owner of the Madrock Cafe in Bay Roberts, Newfoundland has toutons - both the making and the eating - down to a science.
Betty serves her toutons butterflied, sliced nearly all the way through the centre. Spread the two piping hot halves apart, then follow her directions: “Molasses first, then butter…that’s the only way to eat them,” explains Betty. “If you put the butter on first then the molasses can’t soak through. Then close it up, make yourself a sandwich.” Add an extra drizzle of molasses on top and the result is the perfect molasses-to-touton ratio, and a purely delicious mouthful with every bite.
If anyone is qualified to dole out advice about toutons, it’s Betty. After the public cast more than 2,600 votes at www.downhomelife.com during Downhome’s 2015 “Clash of the Toutons” competition, the Madrock Cafe came out on top - declaring it the home of the most mouth-watering toutons in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“I never thought we’d win,” says Betty, who knew nothing about the competition or her restaurant’s nomination until one of her regular customers told her about it. “If we had a big place I could understand, but a small place like we got - and so many people voting - it’s unbelievable.”
True, Madrock Cafe is not a huge establishment. In fact, the kitchen where Betty, her husband Graham, and their staff work is no bigger (likely smaller) than most home kitchens. Incredibly, all food is prepared with a single oven and four-burner stove.
“It’s like friggin’ magic,” exclaims Betty. “We’re so busy in the summertime, my darlin’, I can’t even tell you what day of the week it is.” At the peak of tourist season, Betty says customers have waited up to two hours outside the café for their turn at a table. And yes, many of them are waiting for toutons. That’s no wonder, because Betty has a touton to suit just about anybody’s taste. Made from homemade dough, they come white or whole wheat, BLT sandwich-style or as a Madrock Touton - that’s a touton served with a fried egg in the centre.
When Betty and Graham opened Madrock Cafe back in 2005, naming it for the famously angry waves that can be seen nearby, there were no toutons of any kind being served. It started out as more of a souvenir shop, the menu consisting of just soup and sandwiches. “And all of a sudden people wanted more - and they got more,” says Betty. Now in that tiny kitchen they’re whipping up everything from mac ’n cheese to pea soup to fish cakes to tea buns, and toutons, of course.
“Rough grub is what we call it. It’s what you can’t get much of anymore,” says Betty. “Just like being home in Mom’s kitchen.”
One offering that is only unofficially on the menu is the entertainment.
“People say they come here for ‘dinner and a show,’” says Betty, laughing. But there are no violins here. When Betty and her husband Graham get into a racket in the kitchen, the results can be better than Broadway. “Sometimes it just slips out,” she laughs. Especially when the place gets busy, Betty says Graham can often be found in the kitchen, cooking up a storm. Before they met, he was a cook in the army and according to Betty, “he can make a drop of water and a bit of salt taste good.”
It’s clear the couple have poured their heart and soul into their little café, which closes only on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. And the place doesn’t just feel like home to them, it is their home. The Badcocks live in a one-bedroom apartment, one floor above the café.
While most folks their age are retiring, Betty says they can’t stand the thought of closing up shop. Luckily, with business still booming, it’s likely they’ll be turning out toutons for many years to come.
In the meantime, the couple has a lot to celebrate - their 50th year of marriage, the 10th anniversary of the café and, of course, being crowned the touton king and queen of Newfoundland and Labrador. Could life be any sweeter? - By Ashley Miller
The Top 10 Places to get Toutons in N.L.*
#1 Madrock Cafe, Bay Roberts
#2 The Tea Rose, Burin Peninsula Highway
#3 Philip’s Café, Placentia
#4 Slippers ’n Things, Happy Valley-Goose Bay
#5 Woody Island Resort, Woody Island
#6 Treasure Box, Rocky Harbour
#7 Bidgood’s Mug-up, Goulds
#8 Kettle Rock Café, Freshwater Inn, Gambo
#9 Blow Me Down Trails Gazebo, Corner Brook
#10 Earle’s Restaurant, Rocky Harbour
*According to popular vote, and out of 47 nominated restaurants province-wide