After over a decade serving the community of Bradford and surrounding area with his famous Portuguese chicken, owner Tony Garcia of Poleiro BBQ has decided to close its doors officially on Aug. 20.
Located in the West Park Plaza off Holland street, the popular quick-service restaurant offers a mix of Portuguese and European cuisine, dishing up rice pilaf, Parisian potatoes, seasonal vegetables and salads, with a variety of seasoned or marinated meats including veal, beef, ribs, seafoods, and of course the famous Poleiro BBQ chicken.
Garcia catered to many businesses and residents over the years through his hot table service, take-out, and catering, and was especially popular with the local high school students who frequented Poleiro BBQ on their lunch breaks.
“It’s time to focus on my seasonings and on catering events only,” shares Garcia, adding he has been pulling away from the restaurant retail and take-out side for some time now. “This was a perfect opportunity for me to leave and get some rest and family time.”
Garcia is a father to two children; Nicholas, 12, and Amanda, 24, and has resided in Bradford for over 10 years.
He immigrated to Canada in 1980 when he was 11-years-old from Azores, Terceira Island located in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, and grew up in the Toronto area where he was the youngest of four siblings.
Having lost his father when he was just five-years-old, he and his siblings were raised by their mother who never remarried.
“She worked hard to raise (us) kids,” recalls Garcia. “Growing up without a father, my mother was the only person I knew.”
Garcia shares his mother instilled values such as integrity and honesty at an early age and he and his siblings were raised to work hard; milking goats, collecting chicken eggs, hoeing the land, and fishing for food were a ‘way of survival’.
"(We were) never on welfare here in Canada,” he says. “Hard work and dedication to family life was my upbringing.”
After graduating high school, Garcia gained employment as a court officer and prisoner security where he remained employed for 22.5 years, working out of various provincial court houses, family court, Osgoode Hall, and Old City Hall in Toronto.
“I was a provincial DNA Officer and went to several provincial and federal jails to acquire blood from prisoners after the DNA Act was introduced,” he shares.
Having received numerous awards of excellence in his roles with the court system, Garcia finally decided to leave the service and relocate to the Town of Bradford in 2010 where he started the first Poleiro BBQ.
Over the years, Poleiro BBQ has been involved in many community events and fundraisers where Garcia has catered (often times for free) for members of the community and organizations including the Bradford Legion and local churches.
“Many memorable moments to mention,” Garcia reminisces. “Catering for many town events, police service and fire department, hockey teams, engagement parties, baby showers and weddings.”
Garcia recalls an elderly couple who met while feasting at Poleiro BBQ over seven years ago. The couple continued their courtship with several ‘date nights’ held at Poleiro which led to their union in Innisfil which Garcia catered to.
“I love the community and I believe the community needs to work together to make it great,” he says.
Garcia made social media headlines last summer after a large brawl erupted one afternoon among students in the parking lot in front of his restaurant.
“I knew them all,” he explains. “By offering them all (free) French fries, they agreed and came to the store… and they all shook hands.”
Poleiro BBQ has sponsored and provided catering to several local sports teams including the Bradford Rattlers and Bulldogs minor hockey leagues. He also created a Poleiro’s Attendance Award for both Bradford District High School and Holy Trinity High School.
“Poleiro’s believes and supports our Legion and any group that needs assistance,” he says, adding Poleiro BBQ donated over 100 meals to the victims of the Bradford apartment fire on Holland street back in March. “We support all churches and organizations [and the] Town of Bradford events.”
After many years in business, Poleiro BBQ eventually franchised and three other locations opened in Barrie and Aurora; however, those locations have been closed since the pandemic.
Garcia loves soccer, golf, and watching NFL hockey and plans to relax while spending more time with his family once he shuts down the Bradford restaurant.
He wishes to thank all the high school students for their continued support over the years, as well as local residents and businesses at West Park Plaza. And a special thank you to Peter Reali, owner of Bradford’s No Frills grocery store who carries Poleiro BBQ brands.
“The Poleiro brand will continue in Bradford with its… spices, seasonings, and sauces,” he shares, adding his products have expanded as far as Arizona and Florida, US. “Poleiro will remain in Bradford, but in a different way.”
In addition, Garcia would like to thank all town officials, team members with BradfordToday and the Topic, and expresses a big thank you from ‘Big T’ his chicken mascot at the restaurant.
“I am looking forward to a well deserved vacation soon (after I close) with my son and daughter,” he concludes. “It’s been over 10 years without a vacation.”
On behalf of BradfordToday and the community, we thank Tony Garcia for all his time and service in the community and look forward to enjoying his catering in future.