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Rock n' roll and a great Caesar salad at The Paradise Gardens

thekitchenman reminisces about the tableside Caesar served up at the The Paradise Gardens on Woodlawn Road

Back in the late 60s, The Paradise Gardens Motor Hotel Dining and Dancing at 63 Woodlawn Rd. W. (now the Home Depot) was the place to be entertained with top notch food and drink. Known for its unique first class floating dance floor back when our parents would get all dolled up to dine, dance and listen to the big bands that used to visit regularly.

Entertainers like Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians, Duke Ellington, the Dorsey Brothers, and Louis Armstrong, who set attendance records at the dance halls as they played in most Ontario summer resort dance halls and pavilions. Back then getting dressed up to the nines and going out on a Saturday night with friends was a reason to celebrate the weekend. 

Joe Contini offered southwestern Ontario’s most complete entertainment centre for banquets, wedding celebrations with modern spacious accommodation suites and was known for its unique first class floating dance floor.

The Gardens chef prepared a variety of continental cuisine and the fully licensed tavern made all the latest cocktails of the times.

Many of us learned all the latest dance moves like the twist, watutsi, mash potato, the swim, the locomotion, hitchhiker, and later the disco moves like the jerk, the stroll hustle, snap and the get down ending with the disco robot. 

On weekends some headliners like Anne Murray, Paul Anka, Joni Mitchell, James Brown, Ronnie Hawkins, Down Child, David Clayton Thomas plus many more.

When you went to dine and dance you would be guaranteed a good table by the dance floor for the night's event. As the time marched on and it closed like so many other nightclubs. Later it became Buffalo Bills and then The Desert Inn.

One of my best dining memories for me back then was the chefs Caesar salad served with a perfectly char grilled New York strip steak and baked potato.

Ingredients needed:

2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese

2 garlic cloves

4 to 5 anchovy fillets

1 tablespoon of crumbled crisp bacon

1 tablespoon of toasted bread croutons

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 dash Worcestershire sauce

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Fresh ground pepper and salt as required

1 head of romaine lettuce rinsed and dried.

For the Caesar dressing, finely grate the Parmesan cheese into a bowl, add the mustard, Worcestershire sauce and mayonnaise and whisk to combine. Squeeze in the lemon juice, add approximately eight tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and mix again. Taste and season to perfection, loosening with a splash of water, if needed.

Add to a sealed container and keep in the fridge.

It is said that the original Caesar salad recipe which included a green salad of romaine lettuce with croutons and crisp bacon dressed in olive oil, egg, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and black pepper that was prepared and served tableside.


Wayne Conrad Serbu