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Desperate-please help LA hound 1 nite Edmonton

Dear Edmonton Hounds,

Looks like the posts for your city are not very recent. I will be in Edmonton (Westend, but will drive) and have only one night for a wonderful dinner. It's my birthday so something special, but great food is most important. I prefer warm "old school" as opposed to trendy, hip ambiance. Comfort foods over fancy sauces. All the posts seem to have such mixed reviews., Hardware Grill, Nourmands. Jackson's Cafe, Il Portico, Ric's, Jack's. Desperately need some current input. HELP!

Thanks in advance.

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  1. Fresser:

    "...I prefer warm "old school" as opposed to trendy...Comfort foods over fancy sauces...." IMHO cries out for Hardware Grill over the others.

    That having been said we have not been dining out of late in the evenings and since Hardware has not been serving lunch for a number of months....another victim of the Alberta boom and the difficulty in competing for servers and indeed line kitchen staff...I was speaking with a chef on Friday who was lamenting the difficulty in keeping kitchen staff with the allure of the big bucks being offered by the oilfield "camps"...I cannot speak from recent personal experience but Larry Stewart usually features "stick to your ribs", large portions, good solid comfort food.

    My brother-in-law enjoyed his anniversary dinner at Jack's last week-end but I have heard good and mediocre.

    Il Portico I have not been to in years and years more due to the fact that to go there one has to return to downtown.

    Ric's? Not sure which one was mentioned as I think that there are at least three in the city, Downtown Metals Building, St. Alberta and Riverbend. Pretty standard "chop house" fare. I have not been particularly impressed. There are better chop/steakhouse options in my view.

    If you are out in the west end in any event I have read good things about the Saege Restaurant in the Casino Resort built on the Enoch Reserve immediately west of the city southwest of Lewis Estates. I think the operators took back control of it from the Marriott Hotel chain. Just head immediately west on the Whitemud freeway. You cannot miss it.

    I am in the minority I am sure but I have never understood Edmonton's fascination with Normand's. For me, it is at best ok and most of the time I have left disappointed. However, others, particularly those who enjoy wild game have "raved" about it.

    Blue Pear might not be what you are looking for if dining alone. Red Ox Inn is quite a drive and tiny. Culina is one of my favourites but you should check out the menu on line first. Blue cheese and chocolate with your beef may not be what you are looking for on your birthday.

    Hope you enjoy your meal and visit. Let us know what you liked...or didn't.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Bob Mac

      Bob has it nailed pretty much dead on. Hardware Grill is warm old school, not hip and trendy. The food is consistent, and consistently excellent. It's main drawbacks are that it's expensive (for Edmonton anyway), and that the menu doesnt really change. If you havent eaten your way through the menu yet, you'll have a great experience here. They also have a WS award-winning wine list. Lots of Big Red's - Bordeaux's, Burgundy's, Grange's and Super Tuscans. The restaurant is well appointed, the service is excellent. You'll enjoy it.

      Other options you may want to consider (since options are good) are Blue Pear- 5 course prix fixe ($75), with excellent, innovative food. The atmosphere is a bit sterile in my opinion (it's not very warm), but the service is excellent and well paced, and you will enjoy your meal there. I've dined for one with the wine pairings, and had an enjoyable time. It's a small room though, so if you arent one comfortable having people glance at you occasionally, it might not be the place for you. Hardware grill is much warmer, and better situated for solo diners. And there's lots of action (open kitchen, other tables) for you to always be watching.

      Red Ox Inn would fit too... but it is very small. I've enjoyed the food there as well.
      Culina, imo, wouldnt be a good fit. The food would fit, but the atmosphere is more eclectic neighbourhood bistro. There's local art hanging on the wall, spacing is cozy, it's a bit dark.

      Other restuarants that don't get a lot of mention that may work for you include Unheardof, Harvest Room (Fairmont Hotel MacDonald), Madisons, Characters, La Ronde. These would all meet the atmosphere criteria... the food has mixed reviews.

      In terms of the rest, I am one of those that has had bad experiences at Jacks in the past couple years. It's also in a strip mall in the southside, so the frontage to the restaurant isnt all that "special occasion". Rics is a chain offering mediocre food. Sage, i enjoyed the food immensely, but it's more hip and trendy atmosphere. It's frontage is also through a casino, which doesnt sound like it would work for you. Normands is average food in my mind as well. And non-average prices.

      Anyway, I suggest Hardware and only Hardware. It's no Providence or Spago, but they serve excellent food featuring fresh Canadian ingredients. You'd enjoy it imo. If you need other options, try for them list above. Good luck!

    2. Culina or Hardware Grill for sure.

      1 Reply
      1. re: alau2

        RED OX INN! I love it there, warm small welcoming, a fabulous spread!
        Hardware Grill is my Very close second!

      2. Thank you all so much for the excellent input. BTW, not dining alone, but with my man. He's letting me pick :) Sounds like the consensus is Hardware Grill is the place to go!
        I'll be sure and report back.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Fresser

          Fresser:

          "Sorry about that Chief" [insert appropriate Maxwell Smart accent]

          [smile] I reread your original post and clearly nowhere did you indicate that you dining solo but for some reason that is how I took it....

        2. Has anyone tried Moxie's new place CHOP?

          1 Reply
          1. re: Fresser

            Fresser:

            Tried to reply but I do not think that my post went through. If it did, forgive the repost.

            We [my wife and I] have been to Chop about a dozen or so times whether for lunch, a late lunch/early dinner or dinner.

            We have eaten in the dining room on the first occasion and the lounge, out of choice, on the balance of the occasions. It is a nice room, decent service, typical chop house menu and pretty good wine list and atmosphere. Obviously, the dining room is more sedate and without the televisions and louder music of the lounge.

            It competes well with its west end "competition"..."mother" Moxies, Earls', dreary Dantes, The Keg, Sawmill, the Outback and the like.

            Their menu is typical chop house. Various cuts of beef with some stuffed chicken and tuna and the like.

            I personally like it but that perhaps is more because I am tired of the competition where it seems we inevitably end up at Earls' more out of default and their excellent well priced wine list than because we just had to have this or that off their menu.

            The barely seared tuna on Chop's list is terrific but of course that is maybe an overworked standard offering on most steak house menus for many others.

            It would not be my first choice for a birthday dinner but that having been said I could very easily end up there tomorrow for their prime rib beef dip sandwich at lunch.

          2. Have to butt in here and respectfully disagree with some of the previous replies. The original poster specified "comfort foods over fancy sauces" and in this area I think Hardware Grill leans more towards the fancy side. Their menu is delicious but has loads of elk, foie gras, etc. on it. Hardly stuff that would classify as "comfort food" for most. Last time I was there I had lobster risotto and sea bass....nuff said.

            I would suggest Sicilian Pasta Kitchen on Jasper Ave. Might be a little "down market" for a special dinner....but finding a spot that's both "special" but has a non-trendy atmosphere and "comfort food" might be tough, in any city.

            Does anybody know if Hy's has re-opened on Rice Howard Way? There you'd get classic old school steakhouse, but the meat is grilled over real charcoal and they do all the "special" stuff like preparing caesar salads right at your table, etc. That might fit the bill of what the OP is asking for. Haven't been there in some time myself though.

            If anything, I'd suggest you throw the decor issue out the window and just focus on getting some tasty food. I second the earlier suggestions of Culina and I actually posted some more info about it on these boards the other day.

            P.S. I'd strongly urge you to drive out of the west end and at least go downtown. Out west by 170th St. all you find are chains like Olive Garden etc.

            2 Replies
            1. re: egon61

              You make a good point, but im guessing the phrase "comfort food over fancy sauces" depends on the interpretation of what the OP said.

              When i saw the words "wonderful meal", "something special", it interpreted it to mean a more upscale meal. Ingredients like elk and foie gras don't necessarily mean fancy sauce in my interpretation. Something like Braised Elk Short Rib is a simple preparation. I took fancy sauces to mean a place that focuses more on presentation than on substance and taste. In which case, Hardware Grill still delivers.

              Guess it's up to the OP to clarify what they meant. If it's straight up comfort food - go to The Dish. But im guessing that isnt what she meant.

              Oh, and my eco-pitch for the day: everyone, please reconsider eating non-sustainable food stocks like Sea Bass. There are plenty other fish that are tasty and fresh.

              1. re: egon61

                LOL...chacun a son gout I guess egon61.

                As fine dining spots go, I think Hardware fits the "comfort food" label better than most despite as you point out the fact that foie gras [goodness gracious what would the good folks in Chicago think?] and to a lesser degree elk appears on the menu. That latter I concede probably does come with a rye or other whisky type sauce.

                Larry features local produce, poultry and game and I have never thought that the sauce overwhelms the featured course. However, I do concede the foie gras observation as someone who does not particularly enjoy nor as my cardiologist would advise require any more fat in my diet. That having been said the best foie gras course I ever had was as dessert years ago when I requested it at lunch off their dinner menu. A baked blue potato topped with a piece of seared foie gras with a sprinkle of fleur de sel and some veal jus....killer!

                Again, I guess it is a matter of taste. I would not ever think of spending my birthday at Sicilian Pasta ... to be fair you have already noted that...or any other of the "red sauce" Italian places in town like Sorrentino's out of downtown, Piccolino's, Tasty Tomato. I can do that cooking myself with a skillet, some hot Italian sausage and bottled tomato sauce from Spinelli's.

                I do not think that Hy's ever in fact closed down. Sol bought or re-bought it from the Hy's chain and changed the awning to read like its former incarnation the Steak Loft. The Steak Loft used to be on the top floor on Jasper above the Old Bailey and the basement Lucifers. Yes it certainly does get you "old school steakhouse". Personally I would emphasize the old and eliminate the classic. Not a fan.