CLINTON — Jeff Hadlock loves boats, the fast ones with the big rooster tails.
Hadlock loves hydroplanes so much that when he named his new family dining restaurant in Clinton, he called it Speedboat Family Dining.
“The name puts my own stamp on the place,” Hadlock said. “It reflects my own interests.”
Hadlock and his wife Judy bought the former Saucy’s Pizza — tucked behind the Chevron station on Highway 525 — in April of this year, but didn’t want to concentrate on just the familiar Italian specialty pies.
“I wanted to run a place with a warm, casual family atmosphere featuring home-cooked food,” Hadlock said. “We hope folks can come here and relax.”
Hadlock smokes, slow-cooks and hand-pulls his own beef, pork and chicken destined for his signature man-sized sandwiches. He fuses sweet-and-tangy sauce with the chicken, but favors a dark-and-smoky version with beef.
Speedboat offers breakfast on the weekends, lunch and dinner every day. And pizza remains on the menu along with a salad bar.
“Folks love my pizza,” he said.
The Hadlocks have lived on Whidbey since 1979. He worked at the old Madrona restaurant in Clinton for several years, then sold heating and air conditioning equipment.
All the while, he was dreaming of opening his own family dining place.
“I’m having a blast, meeting new customers — that’s the best part of this job — and experimenting with new ideas.”
Like casseroles. “I want to be the casserole king of Clinton,” he said. “I’m doing teriyaki and potatoes today and I’ve a chicken noodle dish with a special crust that’s been really popular.”
Another innovative concept is a microbrewery. About 15 years ago he was involved with the Whidbey Island Brewing Company and wants to recapture the magic of home brew.
“I make 10-gallon batches that lets me keep control over the quality,” he explained. “My license to sell beer should be here any day and I plan to be up and running by the spring.”
His crew is made up of mostly local high school kids — Justin Dunsmore, Robert Boenish, Stephanie Raymond, Kailei Roberts, Briana Pinckert and Danyelle Leggett — and he’s proud of them.
“They have great attitude and energy. Plus they’re learning that when you smile at a customer, chances are good they’ll smile back,” he said.
If he can convince his landlord of the advertising value, he hopes to display one of his three 17-foot vintage hydrofoils on the roof.
Hadlock began with radio-controlled models of boats and planes until he realized he wanted the real thing.
“I travel around the Northwest to compete in the vintage inboard limited class,” Hadlock said. “It’s a kick.”
Currently about 75 percent of his business is take-out. “Lots of working people and construction guys come in ‘cause they get a lot of food at a fair price,” he said.
And while he knows individual-serving casseroles are perfect for picking up on the way home from the ferry, he wants people to return.
“If they like the food, and they will, they’ll bring their families back and spend some quality time together, right here at the Speedboat.”
Speedboat Family Dining is open Monday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Fridays 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturdays 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sundays 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The restaurant is located at 6315 Storkson Drive; call 341-5787 for information.
Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or jvanderford@south