Thursday, September 11, 2014

Road trip to the dinosaurs!

This blog will be a little different than the rest. We went out to Drumheller on Sunday and stopped for a beer and some lunch on the way home. It was such a bad experience that I filled out the pub's 'Concact Us" feedback form online. I didn't intend for it to be so large, but hey - it doubles as a blog entry! So without further ado...

Where do I start? This was probably one of the worst pub experiences I've ever had. I'll preface this by telling you that I am a server. I've been in this industry for 15 years. I've worked in everything from pubs to fine dining. So yes, I'm biased, but I'm also concerned. How can a restaurant operate like that? We were there about 215 on Sunday afternoon. The parking lot didn't indicate that it would be very busy, so we were surprised to walk in and see it nearly full. We assessed the "empty" tables and decided just to sit at the bar. I say "empty" because even though there weren't any customers the tables were still full of dirty dishes. What a horrible first impression. We get up to the bar and there’s a plate and a glass - not sure if anyone is still sitting there.... but I figure not so I move them out of the way. Oh wow, the bar is sticky… That’s great. At this point I’m finding it concerning.... where is the bartender? Why are there 3 trays of empty glassware sitting in the server station? Alright, maybe it’s the end of the lunch rush and they’re catching up. I get it. So we wait. Awkwardly watching the tv’s that are too high up for comfortable watching positions. And we wait. And we wait some more. I’m pretty sure paint dried. Oh, good, someone comes over who looks less than impressed with seeing us sitting there and asked what we want to drink. Ok, we’re making progress I think to myself. Oh look, she even got us menus. While she handed them to us she pointed out that they are only serving appy’s and pub fare. Hey that worked for me, but I wonder why. I look around and think I might have figured it out…. It’s either the salad guy didn’t show up for work – or because Tough Mudder was in town they are trying to “pair down” the menu to not crash the kitchen. Could have been a solid plan – except that it failed horribly. Our beer was fine, nothing wrong there. But by now we’re done our beers and haven’t seen our server (bartender?). The chaos in this pub is outstanding. I comment more than once to my husband that this place is a disaster. Why did you not have a bartender on????!! Mind Blown. There are systems in place that a restaurant needs to implement to run smoothly. You never should have 5 different servers on the floor and behind the bar – pouring their own drinks, making change for people…. I literally am shaking my head as I write this. I can’t wrap my head around this. Where is the manager?? There are people constantly walking in the doors and there are guests sitting there with no drinks, no menus. One lady was behind the bar and actually yelled – yelled! – At a table behind me “has anyone come over to you? What do you want to drink?” Are you serious? She interrupted my personal ear drum space, and those guests she was yelling at were probably a little embarrassed. 

 So at this point, we think it’s pretty humorous actually. We are watching people sit at empty tables and then get up and leave because no one has come over to them. I watch one guy come up and throw his money on the bar and say “I was tired of waiting for you”. Later, a different, older gentleman comes up and needs to pay and someone takes his money. But not before he gets in a snide “I’ve been waiting forever to pay you”. I look at my husband and shake my head. We FINALLY get our server to come back over and she takes our food order. (Side note: you really need to change the menu description of “nacho cheese” – that gives people the impression you are using packaged or canned cheese dipping sauce like what comes on your nachos at the movies or a ball game. Doesn’t make your food sound very appetizing). So she clarifies that it will be real shredded cheese and rings in our food. Guess what happened next? We got our food. In a timely manner and it was pretty tasty. Maybe a little on the greasy side, but its nachos with cheese and beef – I expect it to be greasy. But, and I just thought of this.. the portion was a little underwhelming. For $16 dollars including the beef this portion should have been at least 50% bigger. But hey, no matter. I have food and beer, I’m happy. So when we are eating we spot someone who looks like a manager type come around the bar, huffing and puffing and looking pretty stressed out. I try to remind myself that maybe the restaurant side was really busy, maybe the lunch rush was crazy because of Tough Mudder. But I can’t. That is no excuse for sure horrible service. You knew months in advance that this Tough Mudder competition was coming to your town and that there will be a huge increase in business. HUGE! You staff everyone you have. You have two bartenders and 5 servers. You have every cook, and busboy working. Unacceptable to have such staffing levels that your guests notice your deficiencies. 

 I went to the washroom, and while there was still toilet paper, the ladies’ was out of paper towels. I like to dry my hands on my jeans, its okay. So I stick my head into the restaurant side… I count 3 tables. So, if the restaurant is managing itself, where is the focus on the bar side? Someone take an extra-long smoke break? Maybe Bartender ran off with the cook? I went to the washroom at 3:40, this is important, trust me. We had finished our nachos around 330, and our beers were empty. When I got up to go my husband said do you want another drink? I didn’t know and said I’ll decide while I’m gone. He then said – what about food, are we staying? That was going to depend on how fast our server came back around to take our order. She sure was attentive to the three guys sitting at the end of the bar, but we were invisible to her. We decided that if she doesn’t come back to ask us about food by 4pm then we are leaving. That’s pretty generous, don’t you agree? 20 minutes for our server to come back over and ask… sure is to me. She lucked out, by coming by before 4 pm, but by now we’ve had enough. We just want to leave. She brought us our bill and wandered away. A new girl had just come on shift, and I’m thinking she might have been the elusive bartender. We got her to break our 20 dollar bill for us, as our server hasn’t been back around to take payment. I was thisclose to just walking out on our bill, but I couldn’t. It’s not her fault that this restaurant is run so poorly. 

 Your reviews online are atrocious. Do you ever read them? Take into consideration how your guests feel? I didn’t think so. You certainly aren’t winning any new business, and I’ll never darken your doorway again. Maybe this is the wakeup call that you need. There’s a Boston Pizza in the same parking lot as you and I was still thirsty. We gladly left your establishment and went immediately next door. We sat at the bar and were served instantly, by a smiling young gentleman who you could call a bartender. They had a buffet set out for any restaurant/bar guests as they had the forethought to do a set menu only. I saw the manager on the floor helping everyone out. They were busy and everyone was having a great time – the customers and the staff. Imagine that. Feel free to contact me, although I highly doubt that you will.
So in closing, no we will not go back ;)

O'Shea's (Drumheller) Eatery & Ale House on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 10, 2014

We need somewhere new

Over the past six months or so we have started a little tradition in our house. Thursdays are now Date Night. The premise is simple: we take turns cooking dinner at home, something new that we haven't made before, then we watch the 99c rental movie on iTunes. Sometime we cheat by watching a more expensive movie (because ninety-nine cent movies are just as bad as you imagine them to be). There are times when Date Night gets a little help though. An anniversary, or say, a promotion at work. This was one of those occasions.

If you live in Calgary, or have visited in your partying hayday, you'll probably know about The Back Alley.  An institution here, if you will, for rock music and mullets.  Bikers and teased blond hair.  But anyone who went always had a good time.   It was the alternative to the dance clubs downtown, but it was off the beaten path, and it had made a name for itself.   It rhymes with black but starts with "cr".   Time for a change the owners decided.  It was shut down and entirely renovated, new name, new atmosphere.  Let's check it out!

Marquee Beer Market & Stage is the destination this one Thursday night as my manager at work got the boot.  I, working directly under him, therefore got the good news that I'll be taking over his role.  Sounds like a good time to go celebrate and have a drink and some eats!    When The Back Alley closed they threw a raging party called "Drink The Alley Dry".  I did not attend, but I can only imagine the debauchery that occurred.  The new Marquee opened in to the current craft beer craze that this city is going through.  (If you aren't in Calgary, I only hope that your city is going through the same phase.  I hate it.  Why does every new bar opening have to be 'craft' ?! Ugh.  Over it.)

Take the dog for a walk, get the fur babies fed, and off we go.  It's getting late-ish, and we pull in the parking lot at 7:30.  We figure that's prime dinner time, verging on the start of the late night crowd so we imagined it would be busy.  Good lord were we surprised when we see that there are no other cars in the parking lot.  None.  Off to the right, near the other businesses, were maybe 6 more cars.   But no one in front of the restaurant itself.  Sweet! VIP parking, I'll take it.   Then a thought crosses our minds.

T: Is it open?
M: I don't know, I didn't think to check.
T: Uhhh....where is everyone?

Inside, looks great actually.  Dark browns, bright reds, a huge space where the bar is the focal point.  Alright, I'm ok with this, so far looks good even if it's short on guests.  We notice though that there is only one other table in the whole restaurant.  This concerns me.  Dinner time on a Thursday night should be pretty busy.  I'll bet any of the other restaurants south on MacLeod Trail are probably full, or close to.  So whats wrong with this place?  We sit at the bar, cuz that's how we do.  When the bartender comes over, she's a little strange.  Twitchy a bit, and doesn't seem to be focused on us.  She doesn't mention any of the specials but takes our drink order and is off to fix us up.  When she returns with the drinks we pin point why she's a bit distracting to us.  How can I word this politely....? Umm.... I can't.   She's got a glass eye.  An obvious one. Turns out though she was just covering for the bartender and isn't serving us.  When he arrives he goes over the food specials and what the happy hour menu is offering.  This usually makes us chuckle because as we are thinking about what to drink M will usually figure out the cost of the happy hour special versus the regular price.   In this case, it pays off.  The happy hour pricing is actually more expensive than the regular price.  It's sort of a bar trick, because most people assume it's a deal and just go for it.  But if you look at the drink menu and do some basic math it's pretty clear.

Happy Hour deal is 5 dollars for a 14oz pint, but it's 8.50 for a 20oz pint divided by 62 multiplied by the number of dogs in the park equals the train that left from Boston.  Or something.

When our appetizer comes it looks pretty tasty.  We ordered the spinach & artichoke dip, and for me these are always a crap shoot.  I've had great ones (Cactus Club, I'm lookin' at you) and I've had terrible ones.   This one is near the bottom of the pile.   It's served with housemade chips, which could be a nice twist, but it doesn't work.  The chips are way too thin, and for a dip like this you need something more solid - pita's or na'an.  The dip itself is just ok.  It's too artichoke-y, not cheesy enough.  M doesn't mind it, but I end up just eating the plain potato chips.  Meh, I have beer to drink, I'll be fine until dinner arrives.

When the bartender told us that the Steak Sandwich was the dinner feature I was all in.  Love me a steak sandwich.  More than a beef dip even.  Come to think of it, I might retire my beef dip quest and start a search for the best steak sandwich.   For tonights purposes I'm going to put this one in the middle of the pack.  Cooked perfectly, good toast portion.  That's always a big deal for me - the ratio of the bread to the meat, the flavour of the bread, buttered or not, etc.  The fries were good, not great, but I can live with that.  Overall the meal was good but not memorable.  Thinking back on this actually, I don't' remember what M had for dinner.  I usually write some notes in my phone when were are at the pub but I think I was distracted by our surroundings and didn't put anything down for him.  I asked him if he happened to remember and he doesn't.  I'm not saying anything bad about it necessarily, but if its not a memorable meal then what are the chances we'd go back?

By the end of our meal we had seen that other table leave, and two walk in.  4 tables the whole time we were there (and one of those was just 2 dudes having a quick beer at the bar).   By 9pm we are done our meal and we are the last people there.  The bartender actually did last call for the kitchen and we overheard a server expressing how surprised she is to be off work at 9pm as they were flipping chairs on to tables.  This is a universally known sign for get the F out, we're closing/closed.  Hint taken.

Reflecting on this as I write, I can say that yes, we'll go back.   We really had no issues with the food or the service and I think they need another chance.   But because they have this restaurant side, then the Stage side for concerts and bands, I think Marquee is confused.  Based on our one visit (and the online reviews I've seen- eek!) I can't see this place lasting very long.  It needs to chose if it wants to be a concert venue or a restaurant.  Until then they're only going to serve 4 tables on weeknights.   Not sure how you can afford to stay open on that.  Only time will tell.

Some cold beer, some good food always makes for a successful date night.  It's nothing if not an adventure!  Love you babe.

Marquee Beer Market and Stage on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 9, 2014

It's about time I get back to it.

"I logged in here today, and saw that my last post was over a year ago, June 13th.  It's time to back into this, I've missed writing and updating you all!  It's been a crazy year, we got married, we bought our first house, and I started a new job and we went to England and France!!!   Bear with me over the next few entries and I'll get you all caught up! I'll try to work backwards here, from one of our latest pub trips to our summer adventures as newlyweds.  I'm looking forward to doing a whole blog, or two even, dedicated to our Las Vegas travels and then a Europe version.

Here we go again!

It's another late spring evening, just like any other, we were on the hunt for dinner.   Preferably somewhere new, as M has mentioned to me that it's been a while since I wrote a blog.  Fine by me, anywhere new is a crap shoot, and usually entertaining, if nothing else.   The Horny Toad Saloon is no exception.  Probably, my first issue with this place is its name.   I actually have no idea if toads are regularly horny, or this is a euphemism for something else, but I do know it's a new name - this location has changed owners a bunch of times.  At the corner of Elbow Dr and 77th Ave - roughly behind Chinook Mall, it sits on a tiny square of land in the middle of a parking lot.  That gives you a good impression already hey?  I know.

When we get there M says something to the effect of  "if it's packed, we're leaving".  He can only assume it will be as it's wing night at 6pm.   I secretly hoped that would be the case, but no, it was empty.   3 other tables and 3 bored looking servers.   Funny though, because there were a couple of dirty tables.   Time to lean, time to clean, right ladies?  (Sorry, that's my inner server coming out).    Once we chose our seats, in big comfy looking leather chairs our server comes over.  She's quick to appear with menus and get our drink order, just as I am quick to get the hell out of these uncomfortable chairs.  What a bad idea I said to M, sorry to make him move.   But there has been years of random ass on these seats and the lumps are proof.   There's a booth across the way, looks good.  We relocate ourselves and apologize for moving when she comes back with some beers.  So far, so good, just an uncomfortable table, no big deal.  Oh, but wait.  There's ants.   Lots of ants, crawling up the back of the booth opposite us.    They're probably enjoying the find - the booth has a yellow substance running all the way from the top to the floor.  M is optimistic that its just spilled beer.  I am less so, and worried that its a bodily fluid.   Remember when I said the servers were all standing around and the place was messy...

Speaking of beer, Bud and Bud Light schooners are the drink of the day, no food specials.  I'm usually not one to order Bud for any reason, but when its the most beer for the least amount of money you can convince me.    An appetizer of Toad Chips with dill dip starts us off as we aren't starving.  For a basket of chips with dip, they are exactly what you expect.   The dip was pretty good actually, in hindsight I should have saved some for my fries.  

Should we take bets on what I ordered? :)  A classic beef dip.  Part of my ongoing quest to find the best one leads me to order one here.  It's usually a safe bet, pretty hard to mess up and I hardly ever have to modify it.   Okay, okay...that's not entirely true.  I always add mozzarella cheese to it, so that counts as modifying.  But also, so does taking off crap like Horseradish Mayo or saying no onions.  Hey, I said 'hardly', not never.   M orders the Hot N Spicy Burger, a huge concoction of Frank's Red Hot, jalapenos and Sriracha aioli.    When dinner arrives we are both kind of surprised by how good it looks.  The place has a bit of a sketchy vibe so you never know what to expect.   We are impressed and dig right in.  M's consensus is that its a pretty tasty burger, the Sriracha aioli makes it great.  He could do without the Frank's but that's a personal choice and still works with the burger overall.    My beef dip is just what I was after.  Tons of thick cut slices of beef and melt-y cheesy goodness. Yup, that's a good beef dip.  I don't think it was memorable enough to be named my favourite, but its gets my seal of approval.  The fries on the other hand...they were a solid lukewarm when they arrived and rather soggy.  I'm not going to say anything because, really, it's just a side dish.  I'm probably not going to eat much of them anyway.   But if they were fresh I would have gotten more of that dill dip.  That was tasty business.   As we wind down both of us comment on how the server hasn't came around to check on us (a pet peeve of mine) and we figure she probably just wants us to eat and leave.  We are happy to oblige her. We had noticed the posters all around advertising karaoke starts at 9pm on Thursdays.  It's about 815 when we are paying the bill and noticed them start setting up and testing the microphones.  Yup, let's just get outta here.
Plates cleared, bill paid and a good few mouthfuls of Bud remains in the glass.  Sure our food was tasty but that doesn't make up for lack of cleanliness and uninterested servers.  Maybe if the kitchen team served the tables too it would be a destination we'd return to.  Clearly they are the only ones who care.   Maybe they'll change owners in the future and we'll give it another shot.   There's other places to visit until that happens.

The Horny Toad Saloon on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Tilted What? Where?

If you're from Calgary you might remember Bob the Fish.  Or you may have lived here all your life and never even heard of the place.  Don't worry, you're not alone.  And besides, this isn't a blog about Bob the Fish, its about Tilted Kilt, the American chain that bought the building and renovated extensively .

I can't put my finger on what the company is going for... Hooters with plaid skirts and better food?  The girls who work there are pretty.  Pretty Stupid.   And I suppose I am using the term "work" loosely.  So its a lot of pretty girls standing around chatting while you get more and more frustrated about the lack of service.  Good start right??

We run in from the rain and at first, I'm very impressed by the renos.  It literally is a whole new place inside. (For those unaware, Bob the Fish would be in the bottom rung of our Dive Bar list... it was that ghetto).  We hover near the host stand, assuming someone would be up to seat us.  A few minutes later, we are thisclose to seating ourselves, when finally someone comes over "have you guys been helped?"   Oh, yes, we have a table, we just prefer to stand in the doorway people watching until our food arrives.   For god sake.   There were only a handful of tables left, most of them by the door (one oddly behind the host stand all alone) and she asked us if we had a preference.  I asked to have one over yonder and if she could clean it off.  She said yes, off she went.   Okay.  Oh.  Wait.  What?  What's happening?   She's cleaning a different table.  It's ALREADY clean.   She actually walked around in circles, made the effort to get a cloth, and then cleaned a clean table. Holy shit.    I can't even type this without laughing to myself.

Moving on.  We sat at the one she had made such an effort for, with no fuss.  Let's just get a beer and relax.
...many many minutes later...

M: 5 minutes and we're leaving.
T: Ya.  I felt that way 5 minutes ago.

Oh finally... I think our countdown was at 25 seconds and we had someone come over.  Again with the same question as the hostess asked.   What is wrong with this place??  I understand that I'm a bit sensitive, because I'm in the industry, but this is ridiculous.   Fortunately she's very quick with the beers and has some helpful answers about our menu questions.    Our beers are fast, cold, and on special.  Good deal.  We settled on Mozzarella Sticks and a pound of the " famous " grilled wings tossed in the special Tilted Kilt sauce.   Our food arrived in a timely fashion (which clearly I'm surprised by) and it was mediocre at best. The mozzarella sticks were of the frozen variety.  Now bear with me.  I wasn't expecting homemade mozza sticks, but the least you can do, is when they are cooking, separate them!   When you deep fry frozen food it clumps together unless you do some preventative shuffling.  Of my ten sticks, probably 6 of them were cooked together like conjoined twins.  And, they were tiny.  Gosh, so disappointed.  But because it's deep fried cheese I ate them anyway.  M's wings are just alright.  Not the best, not the worst.  Just average, but the special sauce was supposed to be the star.  It was 't, and if anything it was confusing.  Sort of like BBQ sauce, sort of sweet.  He can't put his finger on it.  I attempt to identify the mystery sauce and also come up short.  Who the hell knows?

My biggest beef with Tilted Kilt is the washrooms.  It's downstairs, and beautiful, but my issue is the staircase.  It is very narrow, and very steep.  The kind of scary that makes us high-heel wearing folk a little worried.  Especially if you're out on the town and have had a martini or 4.  With all of the other renovations they did, they maybe could have moved the washrooms to the main level.  Now, I'm in no position to give construction advice, but I wonder how easy that could have been.  What will happen when a girl falls down the stairs?

We go to 17th Ave pretty often, and we have many more places to try before coming back to Tilted Kilt.  Sorry. Your cold, cheap beers just aren't enough to keep us coming back.

Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery on Urbanspoon

Dive Bar Date Night

There aren't many things I love more than my dog and my husband.   See that?  Husband?  Yup, we tied the knot two weeks ago today, on the beach in Santa Monica, California!  So he gets upgraded from "bf" to "hubby" going forward :)
Focus, Tammy.

Okay, so we know I also love beer and deep fried food.  And you know who always has lots of that?  Dive bars.  The hole-in-the-wall, run down, neighbourhood strip mall type of place.   I am so excited when we check out a new place that M found, over in his old stompin' grounds.

Bally's Bar and Grill.  It is everything you expect from a dive bar, including the neon beer signs and the questionable entrance way.  Perfect for our Date Night :)

The area isn't bad, it's right on 14th street just north of the Bankview area, but the clientele is a bit less than desirable.  Works for us though, we're there for draft beer and deep fried cheese.  The other guests of the bar are just for our entertainment!  We like to count the mullets, make fun of cut off t-shirts and guess the age of the raggedy bartender.  Good fun I tell ya, but right now I need to take it all in.   The Flames are on TV and the nightly event is Karaoke at 9pm.  Sounds like a pretty fun night out!  A horrible lay out though I have to admit.  A lot of seats at the bar, a bunch of pool tables, and an upstairs level that has some arcade games and the karaoke set-up.  So we're left with a small group of tables a little squished together, but it will do.  Saturday night food specials (which are rare) is "most appy's 7 bucks".   Wicked deal!  I, presumably, get the Potato Skins, and M goes outside the box a bit with the "Chips with Apricot Aioli".    Ooohh fancy.

My skins are perfect... just what you expect when you order deep fried potato and cheese :D  Yummy.  And M's chips are awesome.   He cleaned the plate, devoured them.   He really loved them.  Or maybe he was just very hungry?   Nope, I've confirmed he loved them.   He actually keeps talking about them, even though we ate there three months ago!

Because we were doing a bit of a pub crawl, we had to move on from Bally's before the hockey game ended and before the karaoke began (shucks) so no clue how great the late night crowd is... I'd be willing to bet it's a bit questionable.  If you happen to be in the area and need a cold one, stop in.  You won't regret it.

However, heading down 14th street to Mugs Pub & Grill, you'd probably regret it.  Keep in mind this is Dive Bar Date Night so we are fully prepared for hilarity.  From the outside it looks just right, but inside you begin to question your decision.  The U-shaped bar in the middle holds some of the
sketchier people we've come across and the giant mirrors on the walls give the illusion of it being a much bigger place.  But also, they are deceiving because you don't notice that its a mirror until you run face first into it.  Damnit.

We were looking for a quiet-ish place to have some wings and a pint, and at 930pm on a Saturday night we were one of three tables in the bar.  No worries about too noisy here.    Our server takes a while to come over, and is seemingly quite nonchalant about her job.  Doesn't exactly know the answers to our questions (about parking in the lot out front/towing issues) and takes her sweet time bringing us our beers.  To her credit (?) she claimed she was new, but in this city, servers are a dime a dozen.  And I don't think Mugs is a decent enough place to keep staff long term.

Oh  I love beer in Honeycomb Mugs.   Not.   I don't know why, or what it is, I just hate them.  It's not 1989 anymore people, buy new glassware!   So our wings come, they're cheap and small, just right for this kind of dive bar.  But they're just gross really.   M has been adventurous tonight and also ordered a French Onion Soup.  Brave, I tell ya.   Surprisingly, he really likes it.   I don't think it's the best he's ever had, but he ate it all.  Couldn't have been horrible then!  We decide we can't handle the trashy atmosphere anymore and need to get out of here.  We settle up as fast as we can, but keep in mind our server is slow as all get out, so just paying the bill is a bit painful.

Overall, Date Night is a great success!   We found a new dive bar that isn't worth it, and one that totally is!  It won't be our last adventure to the Dive Bar theme, there's a hundred more in this city!  Can't wait to discover the next best one.  Right now Bally's is in the lead, cheap bear and apricot aioli!  Stop, you're making me hungry!!

Ballys Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Mugs Pub on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Finally, a new pub in the south!!

As we all know by now, I don't have a lot to do at work. This means I get to spend upwards of seven hours a day playing on the internet! Sounds amazing, right? It is. And it isn't. My eyes hurt by the end of the day, but more often then not I've found either a new recipe or a new pub. This past weekend we finally got to try out the newest member of the Mill Group Pub Company, Kildares Ale House.  MGPC also owns Barley Mill, Rose & Crown and Muldoons, and to be honest, I am not a fan of any of those restaurants, so I'm a bit leery. I am also being surprised by this outing! Our conversation that afternoon revolves around what food do we have in the fridge, what of those options do we feel like cooking, and where would we go if we decided against the comforts of home.

Well, my fabulous husband to be remembers that the new pub in our neighbouring community of Silverado has opened recently and we've both been wanting to go. I'm pretty sure it opened in the beginning of February and for some reason it has taken us this long to get over there for a pint...let's not make that mistake again! This place is great!!! From the outside it looks a big bigger than it is, and the parking lot looked sort of busy, so on a Sunday night at dinner time we expected it to be much busier than it was. Once inside we notice that it's much smaller than you would imagine, and significantly less busy than the cars would have you believe. I think we were the 8th table in the whole place and the longer we stayed the more it emptied out. But I think that made our experience even better to be honest.

We both recognized the bartender, but couldn't place where from, and once our "Flames Game Daily Special" beers were poured we say to him "you look really familiar" at nearly the exact moment he says the same thing to us! Good, we're not crazy! Turns out he was a bartender over at Windsor Rose (our very close to home and all too frequent hang out). We get to talking, catch his name, and then he regales us with his stories of being a Calgary Firefighter as his day job! That sure passes the time for us, and I hope it did for him too. We might have been one of his three tables all night.

I suppose I should get in to the reason we're Fairly big draft selection. Luckily for me they have Canadian and Keiths on tap! That doesn't happen often!  But for the more adventurous folk there's many more to chose from and also, a scotch menu that's probably 50 deep. Oddly enough M doesn't order a scotch and instead gets a tequila and  later on, an amaretto (pfffttsssshhhh, we're not drinking on a work night...).

We are taking our time ordering dinner, but we decide to start with an appy and this one practically calls our name. Garlic Truffle Frites: Shoestring fries drizzled with white truffle oil, slivered fresh garlic, cracked black pepper and Grana Padano Parmesan cheese.
This presentation is great!  Piled high in a tall metal tube-thingy.  Doesn't matter.  Just get the fries.   The huge chunks of shaved parmesan, oh the warm small chunks of garlic... ohhhh.  These are awesome.  I ask M what he thinks, and specifically, are they better than Palomino's Garlic Fries?   I say yes, they are better, he says sort of.    He's a man of few words.   I manage to get out of him that the taste isn't exactly better (even though it's still awesome), but they are much more realistic for an appetizer   The one from Palominos' are so huge and filling that it's a bit tricky to consider them an appy.

A beer or two later we go for the entree order and I, presumably, ask for a steak sandwich.
Black Angus Steak Sandwich:   A tender 7oz Certified Black Angus sirloin is grilled to your liking then topped with sautéed mushrooms and crisp onion strings. Served on garlic pan bread.
Now that sounds delicious! (Minus the onions and mushrooms)   When it comes out, I'm a little bit disappointed.  The steak looks good but it's much closer to med-well (I ordered it med-rare).   I have to try to forgive the kitchen because it looks like a striploin, and striploins seem to always be overcooked.   I guess I'm accustomed to a sirloin being a thicker, rounder, more ball shaped cut, and this one was long and flat.  Look, I'm not a butcher, I just eat a lot of steak.  It still tasted great (or I was just very hungry and was determined to finish it!).  Where I was lost even more though is on the fries.  They were a large, thick cut fry, and princess here doesn't like thick cut fries.  I actually was expecting them to be the same shoestring fries they used in the appy, just minus the good stuff.  In hindsight I will ask for the shoestrings, and happily pay the difference.  Hell I might just order the appetizer fries as my side dish!!  I will confess to not eating any of the sauteed mushrooms, and handed those all over to M.  He liked them so much that he says he will order the steak sandwich one day, and say no onions extra mushrooms.   That's great news, because I loved the crispy onion strings, so I'll take his portion on my plate!  Great team work there babe!!

M's dinner was the Hearty Beef & Barley Soup: A rich hearty broth of beef sirloin, carrot, onions and celery finished with pearl barley and Smokey chipotle peppers. Served with a sharp cheddar cheese stick.  Maybe I just didn't see it, but I don't remember a cheese stick.  Strange.  Anyway, the portion size is a little small for what we would consider a large soup (but we are also spoiled by Windsor Rose's soup, because it is ginormous!).  Next thing I know M is done his soup!  I am assuming he liked it and I get a very generic response.   I chuckle and jokingly ask for a better description than that.  I get "it was good, I'd give it an 8".  OK, Tam, that's the best you're gonna get on this one, so trust it.

Let me tell you a story about Kildares.
One time we went there for dinner on Sunday.  It was so great we returned on Tuesday night for dinner.
The end. :)

Kildares Ale House on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Burgers for Breakfast Round Two!

We went on a little burger bender the other month after our Clive Burger experience.  Hey, it's not our fault so many new burger joints have opened up!

This one has a bit of a different background to it though. 

Again, a Sunday and we are super lazy to get up and out of the house.  By the time we drop the dog off at daycare it's past noon and I'm starving!!  We're up in the 'hood (ahem, the North East I mean) and have time to kill.  We might as well try SmashBurger while we're up here, it's been on the list for a long time now, but both locations are in the far north ends of the city. 

An American chain that has moved north, SmashBurger had rave reviews when it first opened and friends were saying we have to go try it.  I remember the news covering this opening and all the hoopla surrounding it.  I can only pray the traffic has calmed down even though we arrive right at lunch time.   Luckily it has, we're the only people in line!  Sweet.  I hate lines. 

Anyway, they provide little take out style menus for you to read before approaching the counter, or look up on the giant wall menu behind the counter.  Same thing goes as Clive: figure it out, place your order, get your number to sit down and wait.  Phew - glad I've figured out the ordering process.  We both ordered a classic burger as we wanted this to be about the patty itself.   Because it felt like I wasn't really trying anything new, I did order the Chili Cheese fries, and M got the Smash Fries (rosemary, garlic and olive oil).   Turns out, I should have read the menu.  My fries are covered in chili and cheese - but also onions and jalapenos!  Shit.  So there I sit for the first five minutes trying to pick off any hint of yuckies, while M dives into his.

After all that effort, I am ready to eat my burger!  Ouch!  Damn it.  Burned my tongue on the burger grease.  That stuff is like napalm. (And, they are not licensed, so no beer to help with the sore tongue!)  Well I guess I have to resort to my fries now, and let my burger cool off.   Tasty stuff those fries.  Crispy and perfectly cooked.  Not even soggy considering all the toppings on them.  M says his garlic fries remind him a lot of the Fries & Dolls food truck.  They're good, they aren't great.  He loves his burger though.  A LOT.  It was at one point up for debate if this is his favourite one.  I think his consensus was he liked the patty itself better than Clive, but the toppings and atmosphere of Clive still make them the winner.  

Once mine cooled down enough to finish, I was pretty disappointed.  Not only did it fall apart in my hands, it didn't have that "je ne sais quois".   It was just a burger.  I've had way better, I've had way worse.

I can't say that I'll go back.  There's still a bunch more burger joints we haven't tried yet, and I'll for sure try those before giving SmashBurger another chance.

Smashburger on Urbanspoon