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The ever controversial "The Keg"

w
wontonfm Sep 26, 2007 01:53 PM

Hello all --

I'm born and raised in Toronto and have never been to The Keg. Never really had a desire to go either. But all of the talk (good and bad) on these boards makes me want to check it out.

I went to their website and they don't list prices (I'm guessing because it's a chain and prices vary by region). What's the price range for appetizers and a small steak?

I was thinking of going to the Keg Mansion, is that more expensive than other locations?

Any guidance is appreciated... and any recommendations for apps or entrees too.

Thanks!

  1. c
    cocolou Nov 28, 2007 01:53 PM

    The Keg in TO is a perfect copy of The Keg in MTL. The prime rib is the best bet. It gets served exactly as you ordered it, and the waitresses are very nice. The plate of fried calamari is best ignored. Prices are very reasonable.

    2 Replies
    1. re: cocolou
      jayt90 Nov 28, 2007 01:56 PM

      Don't know about Montreal; the head office is in Vancouver.

      1. re: cocolou
        d
        DAB Nov 29, 2007 03:51 AM

        Aren't most Kegs a copy of most Kegs? Isn't that the point of chains?

      2. g
        ganman Nov 13, 2007 07:19 AM

        I've had good experiences in Toronto area Kegs. Not so down here in Kingston. Service is brutal. No sense of timing. You could wait forever for attention from wait staff, wait for a drink....ignored by server. Waiting on wine. Appetizer shows up. A minute later brain dead server shows up with entree and wine. This is a fairly typical. Your experience could slightly differ in the sequence of events.

        I HATE restaurants like this.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ganman
          rayrayray Nov 30, 2007 08:50 AM

          surprised to hear you say that. i loved the kingston keg.......yes, it does not have the ambiance of the keg mansion in toronto but it made up for it in eager young servers who treated me like gold. sorry you had that experience, you should give it a second try.

        2. c
          cybergod Nov 12, 2007 08:02 PM

          I have to dissent a bit here... We went to the Granville Island Keg in Vancouver last week while visiting family. We figured it would be a safe bet: many people, some less adventurous food-wise than others. It was atrocious. The only decent piece of meat our table of eight was served was the baseball sirloin. The quality of the meat was generally awful, and the rest of the food was mediocre at best. The prime rib had very little flavour and nearly no marbling (except for large chunks of fat). My NY striploin was truly the worst steak I have had in years. I ordered it rare and it came out well-done but completely grey on the outside, with no char on the exterior at all. I sent it back and got a second steak that was literally raw, wet and grey, with no grill marks.

          I think part of the problem was that their grill was probably not hot enough to properly sear the steaks, which may also explain why the baseball sirloin was the only steak served to our table that had any colour on the outside while still being pink on the inside. All in all, a bad experience, even by The Keg's own standards.

          However, besides that, my real complaint with The Keg (based also on other past experiences) is that the food and food preparation is barely above that of pre-packaged grocery store product. The quality of the meat just isn't very good when compared to meat from quality butchers like Cumbrae's, The Healthy Butcher, even a place like Whitehouse Meats in SLM that serves comparable AAA Canadian beef. I've found the beef at The Keg typically has very little flavour, and is sometimes tough and stringy, even when cooked below medium (hence the reason why the Prime Rib really needs the horseradish and the sauce, for example). The best cuts at The Keg are those that either have a lot of fat in them naturally (even if it isn't well distributed throughout the meat), like the prime rib, or those that are so thick it would require total neglect to completely mess them up (i.e,. the baseball sirloin). And nearly everything else besides the steak is essentially reheated from a can, a plastic portion-size container, or (literally) squeezed from a tube (I know people that have worked at The Keg and that's exactly how many of the sauces, dressings and toppings are shipped to the restaurants). Much of the food is pre-made at a central processing facility and shipped to the various locations to be heated, assembled and served.

          On top of all that, The Keg isn't actually that inexpensive. For the same price (or in some cases a dollar or two more or less) you could go to a great neighbourhood bistro and have a much superior dinner: one made with care, and from ingredients that are actually fresh. For example, my $28 NY striploin at the Keg (served with rubbery mashed potatoes and tasteless veg), versus a $30 Cumbrae Farms ribeye with homemade frites at Starfish (yeah, sounds weird, but Starfish makes one of the best steak-frites in the city!); or for $28, a NY striploin with sweet potato frites and grilled veg at our local bistro (Sauvignon); the steak-frites at Batifole; or in Vancouver at Rob Feenie's (well, former!) casual restaurant next door to Lumière: Marinated and Grilled Top Sirloin with buttermilk mashed potatoes, green beans with lardons, roquefort cheese and bordelaise sauce ($27!). And a few bucks more will get you a really good steak at somewhere like Globe Bistro or Cowbell...

          Our dinner in Vancouver was even by Keg standards pretty bad, so don't interpret this post as me suggesting that one can't get an ok steak at the Keg (or that one should expect much more than that in the first place). It's just that in the spirit of chowhounding, why we can't and don't we do much better (without even necessarily spending more money) by going elsewhere when we have a craving for a good piece of grilled beef?

          1. l
            LTL Nov 12, 2007 11:22 AM

            nvm..

            1. b
              beany Oct 31, 2007 05:24 PM

              Does anyone know the parking situation at the Keg mansion? Planning to go somewhere this weekend, but I think because its a group, parking may be an issue.

              Thanks!

              3 Replies
              1. re: beany
                3
                325i Oct 31, 2007 10:50 PM

                Parking is free after 6 at the lot next to it. Willing to be corrected : )

                1. re: beany
                  orangewasabi Nov 1, 2007 09:40 AM

                  parking after 6 IS provided but it's a very small tight lot and often there are no spots available. If your group is big you may want to plan on a little extra time to find street parking in the area - the rush actually starts pretty early there too..

                  1. re: orangewasabi
                    Googs Nov 1, 2007 10:17 AM

                    Yes, the front lot fills quickly. There are more spots behind the mansion.

                2. jayt90 Oct 14, 2007 12:15 PM

                  The Keg is opening soon in Ajax, where I work, and I know it will be a destination for co-workers. Better than Montana's, Boston Pizza, Casey's, or maybe even the $18 crab buffet (Imperial).
                  The website says the steaks are aged 4 weeks. Is that dry aged? I also wonder if the prime rib is dry aged or wet aged.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: jayt90
                    e
                    embee Oct 14, 2007 03:28 PM

                    Dry aged is extremely unlikely. Even places like Mortons and Ruth's Chris seem to wet age.

                    1. re: embee
                      TdotFoodKing Oct 15, 2007 11:19 AM

                      Most likely wet aged. Dry aged cost about 25% more, its unlikely the would spend that money, when the average person wouldn't notice.

                    2. re: jayt90
                      pescatarian Oct 15, 2007 10:30 AM

                      Ugh, Boston Pizza. I don't understand how a place like that stays in business. I went to a movie last week at the Sheppard Centre and the (bubs and zaids) I were with didn't feel like going to far after the movie for dinner, so we ended up at Boston Pizza in the Sheppard Centre. The vegetarian pizza I ordered tasted like a McCain's frozen pizza (that's an insult to McCain's frozen pizza). The salad was the hospital cafeteria style salad - cold iceberg and cold out of season tomato with a couple sorry shards of carrots. One of my dinner companions order the spaghetti and meatballs. Huge portion of mushy tastless noodles (even after dousing it with tobasco and chili flakes). Why do people go to these places on a regular basis and waste their money?

                      p.s. if you read this thread, I think it's safe to say that there is nothing "controversial" about the Keg

                      1. re: pescatarian
                        b
                        Bigtigger Oct 15, 2007 02:19 PM

                        SUGGEST A KEG GET-TOGETHER
                        Since so many have such strong opinions about the Keg, how about a get-together there (Mansion ? York Street ?) some weekday evening to garner opinions from the discerning critics on this Board ? I can't organize it but would attend if schedule permits.

                    3. Davwud Sep 29, 2007 09:52 AM

                      Look, it's a chain. You're gonna get a certain level of "Ready to go" food. That said, it's a chain done right. They do make sure they have good beef and for the most part, they try not to mess it up.
                      I've had some of the other dishes and have been quite satisfied as well.

                      The mansion is great and certainly the place to go.

                      DT

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: Davwud
                        jayt90 Sep 29, 2007 08:25 PM

                        In its early days the Keg had a reputation for barely adequate cooking, and airheaded servers. Maybe undeserved, but encouraged by early reviews. There was even a story that the cooks had to work from photos of plates of food; no chance of a chef in this place!
                        They have come a long way since then, and seem to do what they set out to do, very well.

                        1. re: jayt90
                          v
                          VP of Feeling Groovy Oct 3, 2007 08:02 PM

                          I agree with the general opinion - the Keg is a good place for a decent steak and drinks with friends. But be sure to avoid the garlic mashed potatoes at all costs. Last time I visited a Keg (not the Keg Mansion), two of us out of 5 ordered the mashed potatoes and they were horrific, inedible, lumpy, starchy messes. Stick with the baked potato, much safer.

                          I like the Keg's Caesars - spicy and tasty. I think they use horseradish which is a nice touch.

                          1. re: VP of Feeling Groovy
                            a
                            artificialard Oct 4, 2007 10:36 PM

                            Yes I've found that oddly the mashed potatoes just haven't been that good. I do really enjoy the twice-baked potato though, which is a baked potato with it's contents scooped out, mashed and mixed with herbs, butter and piped back in and baked.

                            I'm usually happy with the filet mignon and the dinners are a decent all-around meal, nice serving of vegetables and such.

                            The York St location is a nicer location with the sleek and modern interior but the Keg Mansion is homier...

                            1. re: artificialard
                              e
                              EPIcureanTO Oct 11, 2007 03:29 PM

                              ...agreed, never really had a bad meal there, and it's a good place to take the less adventurous friends & relatives-which is likely where I'm going to be taking mine when we go to the sony centre next month..

                              sigh.

                              Also wanted to mention how fantastic the location in Niagara Falls is.

                              Glad to hear positive things from those previously employed there in this thread too- good sign!

                              1. re: EPIcureanTO
                                e
                                embee Oct 13, 2007 10:46 AM

                                Thanks for the Keg Niagara Falls info.

                                This isn't exactly a culinary hotspot, and we once ate at the TGIF there. It's across the hotel lobby from the Keg, and has the same owners/management. They served the us worst meal I have ever eaten - so bad that we were not even tempted to use $80.00 coupon they sent when we complained to corporate.

                                Lots of us (me included) criticize franchises, and how franchising tends to wreck the great little places that attract franchisor attention. And, of course, the Keg was never a "little" place and never great. But the contrast with that TGIF is an interesting lesson about how a franchisor can also help keep standards up.

                                1. re: embee
                                  h
                                  hungryabbey Oct 13, 2007 11:16 AM

                                  uh I too have had a HORRIBLE experience at the tgif.. First of all the prices were discusting, so for 30$ I had some pasta dish which had to be sent back because it arrived drowned in cheese even though the menu didnt mention any cheese at all (Im lactose intolerant), it finally arrived so long after everyone else had finished their mains I had completelty lost my appetite which was fine because it was terrible, but not fine because they didnt remove it from the bill or even apologise. Uh never ever again.

                                  1. re: hungryabbey
                                    e
                                    embee Oct 13, 2007 01:55 PM

                                    I posted the details previously, can't find the post to link, and don't remember all of the details. Too bad, since this was an incredible experience. The gist:

                                    - They "forgot" to tell us we were entitled to free parking
                                    - They sat us in a section where no server was assigned
                                    - There was a multi-hour wait for food in a nearly empty restaurant
                                    - They didn't tell us to, shall we say, not order wine - the only available one, said to be dry, was some US dreck with a sugar code of, perhaps, 20
                                    - We chose the place because they advertised a low carb menu - this location didn't know about it or have the ingredients
                                    - The hamburger was literally too tough to eat. So was the steak, but that isn't quite so bizarre
                                    - The prices were unbelievable. The Keg seemed to have standard Keg prices - TGIF had a tourist trap menu. We were floored to learn that management was the same.
                                    - When apologizing as we left, the duty hostess mentioned in passing that they had no cook in the house that night! Apparently various managers and servers were cooking the food.

                                    I wish I could remember more! They did take everything but the alcohol (a couple of expensive bottles of basic beer and a glass of the ghastly wine) off the bill and they did send the coupons (unfortunately invalidated for use at the Keg). Yes, never, ever again.

                                    1. re: embee
                                      d
                                      DAB Oct 13, 2007 02:16 PM

                                      Sorry embee are you talking about the Keg or about TGIF?

                                      1. re: DAB
                                        e
                                        embee Oct 13, 2007 03:16 PM

                                        TGIF!

                                  2. re: embee
                                    e
                                    EPIcureanTO Oct 21, 2007 09:09 AM

                                    that's odd-the location we went to has the falls across from it-hmm- *goes to google maps* in the Embassy Hotel

                                    ....aaand I've just discovered there's more than one Keg in Niagara Falls- !

                                    www.fallsviewrestaurant.com

                                    Embee is this the same location you are speaking of? ( we entered off the street-up that looong set of stairs ;))

                                    1. re: EPIcureanTO
                                      e
                                      embee Oct 21, 2007 10:28 AM

                                      A Keg and a TGIF are on opposite sides of the Embassy hotel lobby (or, at least, were three years ago). The hotel is at the top of an incline railway - more or less facing the falls.

                        2. NoFixedAddress Sep 28, 2007 05:10 PM

                          The Keg has been around a long time for a reason....starts with Management and the food is very good. A while back they used to have 1/2 price appetizer nights, not sure if they do this or not anymore, but always consistent in service and steaks!

                          1. j
                            Jean Anthelme Sep 28, 2007 12:07 PM

                            Meat - not bad; it won't kill you, but there is certainly a lot better. Typically cooked a little more than requested.
                            Baked potato - fine; it's hard to f-up a baked potato.
                            Caesar salad - avoid; always over dressed in a really pedestrian dressing.
                            Servers - generally just great; perky and fun.
                            To me, it's "steak house lite."

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Jean Anthelme
                              c
                              czthemmnt Sep 28, 2007 12:35 PM

                              I'm a regular visitor to the Keg (either at the Mansion or the Lower Jarvis & Esplanade location). I've brought friends from the US there and they love it. I always order the same thing, though, I don't even open the menu anymore- the escargot as my appetizer, and the Steak Oscar. Don't even get me started on that warm, soft, delicious bread ***drools***

                              I'm also very, very impressed with the service. Very friendly and funny wait staff, and when something isn't right they've always been good with returning it and taking it off the bill or trying to remedy the situation as much as possible.

                            2. w
                              wontonfm Sep 27, 2007 08:05 AM

                              Thanks everyone for the info. I'm thinking that a visit to The Keg may be in order this weekend.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: wontonfm
                                c
                                c_snapper Sep 27, 2007 08:20 AM

                                i want to go to the keg now!!!
                                if you're gonna go, as mentioned, hit up the mansion or the york street location for the MOST unchainlike chain experience ever.

                                prime rib + horseradish = deliciousness

                                1. re: c_snapper
                                  o
                                  obstructionist Sep 27, 2007 08:37 AM

                                  Also try the Leslie St. (near 401) location. They have recently done renovation work and the decor is very nice.

                              2. h
                                hungry_pangolin Sep 27, 2007 07:43 AM

                                A friend of mine calls the Keg (approvingly) "fast food for adults", in the sense that it's reliably predictable. It's a great place to bring my father, and I'll fess up... yep, it's good, and pretty good value. I was a bit shocked at the York St location, though... very spiffy.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: hungry_pangolin
                                  orangewasabi Sep 28, 2007 04:46 PM

                                  York St for sure. And get there before 9pm if you want to be sure they have prime rib -- which is the best thing on the menu. I actually quite like their beefeater martini too -- huge olives, I like 3

                                  Personally, I can't stand the Mansion, it's full of 3 generations of families out for their once a year restaurant meal for grannie's b-day with kids running around everywhere squealing. I'm too scroogy for such familial bliss.

                                  My husband loves the after dinner chocolate / mint hard candies and loves York St as he can grab a handful.

                                2. h
                                  hungryabbey Sep 26, 2007 05:45 PM

                                  Im pretty sure that last time I was there and got the "dinner" prime rib meal that comes with a ceasar salad and baked potato it was about 30$.. Really good deal in my opinion for so much food. For desserts I think I have tried the cheesecake and the panna cotta , both which were delcious, but I reallly had to force myself to finish it because with the steak, bread they serve, and the huge salad, its alot of food!

                                  1. JamieK Sep 26, 2007 03:12 PM

                                    I agree with everyone, you will enjoy the ambience of the Keg Mansion, beautiful old heritage mansion. When I was a student many years ago, I used to hang out in the smaller rooms and drink and play backgammon on the table boards there. Don't know if they still have them, but many fond memories.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: JamieK
                                      JamieK Sep 26, 2007 03:13 PM

                                      Oops, meant to add a Place link -

                                      -----
                                      Keg Mansion
                                      515 Jarvis St, Toronto, ON M4Y2H7, CA

                                      1. re: JamieK
                                        c
                                        callitasicit Sep 26, 2007 05:27 PM

                                        Keg is a pretty good restaurant for the value. I really think the star of the show is their caesar salad and their incredible desserts!!

                                    2. deelicious Sep 26, 2007 02:40 PM

                                      I agree with the posters and enjoy the baseball steak. If you are going once, enjoy the mansion, but for a second visit you should try York St as it is a great spot too - completely different atmosphere and non-chainlike.

                                      If you enjoy pork chops - hit Canyon Creek!

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: deelicious
                                        skylineR33 Sep 26, 2007 03:36 PM

                                        Depends on location, the pork chop at Canyon Creek Mississauga is pretty bad, it is dry and has not much taste.

                                        1. re: skylineR33
                                          deelicious Sep 26, 2007 04:50 PM

                                          Considering the chop is 'always' served medium with some pink, you must have come across a bad cook that day.

                                          1. re: deelicious
                                            j
                                            Jean Anthelme Sep 28, 2007 12:27 PM

                                            I, too, have found the pork chop at Canyon Creek to be quite juicy and flavourful. Now I want one!

                                      2. TorontoJo Sep 26, 2007 02:20 PM

                                        My (limited) experience with The Keg indicates that you should stick with the "pure" steaks and prime rib. Everything else I've had there was not good -- fish, crab cakes, a steak "special" that had the saltiest 3-pepper (as in bell peppers) I've ever tasted. It absolutely ruined the steak. So I just avoid the place altogether as I can make a great steak at home quite easily. :o)

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: TorontoJo
                                          m
                                          Mila Sep 27, 2007 07:41 AM

                                          Agreed TorontoJo, we are stating the obvious to Chowhounds, but stick with the meat. I am often there for company events and sometimes a steak for lunch is a bit much. I tried fish, chicken and salads which were all mediocre at best.

                                          Have the steak or prime rib and sneak a little nap in at work in the afternoon.

                                        2. j
                                          jinxed Sep 26, 2007 02:07 PM

                                          The Keg isn't all that bad, and the Keg Mansion in particular doesn't have that "chain restaurant" feel. I think it turns out a good value meal, and the prices are more than reasonable.

                                          It's been a while so I can't remember the prices, but I think you can expect get an entree+sides for $20-30. I usually get the filet mignon, just because of the smaller size -- I don't like to eat a lot of meat in a sitting. I've also enjoyed the mushrooms with crab and cheese ("Mushrooms Neptune"?), and I've had good and not-so-good ribs.

                                          1. vorpal Sep 26, 2007 02:07 PM

                                            I love the Keg; as a graduate student, it's one of the few steakhouses that's affordable to me. I find that the service is generally very good and professional, and the quality of the food is high and consistent. Portion sizes are very generous and I usually have leftovers to take home to snack on the next day. I've always wanted to try their beautiful desserts but I never have the appetite left.

                                            I think that appetizers generally range in price from about $5 to $12 or so, and a small steak would probably cost you $16 - $24. I tend to stick to the prime rib, which is excellent, and the largest portion available of that with garlic roasted mashed potatoes runs me approximately $28, I believe.

                                            For appetizers, I get the Caesar salad. I'm typically not a huge Caesar salad fan and generally find them disappointing at restaurants, but the Keg makes an excellent one that I love. My partner typically starts with the french onion soup and then follows that up with the steak with the blue cheese, IIRC. When it comes to entrees, though, for me, it's all about the prime rib. Order extra onion strings on the side! Oh... and they also start you off with a lovely hot round of bread with whipped butter. Fantastic!

                                            We typically pig out royally and bring a third of the food home, and for two people with a drink each, things tend to run us about $80 with tax but before tip.

                                            1. c
                                              childofthestorm Sep 26, 2007 02:04 PM

                                              I like The Keg. It certainly doesn't break the bank and serves a pretty good steak and very good prime rib. And the Mansion is a really unique environment (and the same price as the others).

                                              1. p
                                                pouletsecret Sep 26, 2007 01:58 PM

                                                I am a firm believer in the Keg. I have no issues with chains, with friendly servers (I find their servers amazing, actually) or the other issues that appear here, and I ADORE their prime rib. As far as I remember, the mansion is the same price, but either way, definitely make that your Keg experience.
                                                Have the prime rib. Make sure they have some before you take a seat at the bar. If you need apps in addition, I'm sure you'll be able to find something you like, but you probably won't need much.
                                                Enjoy.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: pouletsecret
                                                  Poorboy Oct 21, 2007 12:32 PM

                                                  The Keg is what it is.
                                                  A safe bet.
                                                  I prefer The Mansion but the other downtown locations are also quite nice.
                                                  I go for the Prime Rib and a few appetizers. Service at the mansion is also very, very good. They try to turn as many covers as possible in a night so you may find it a bit rushed on a busy evening, which is why I try for a later res if I can get it. They have been known to run out of prime rib if you leave it too late, be warned.
                                                  And oh....... did you know The Mansion location is haunted?
                                                  Enjoy.
                                                  History
                                                  In 1853, Lord William McMaster (founder of McMaster University) built himself a mansion on Jarvis St.

                                                  Seven years later, he sold it to Hart Massey (founder of Massey Ferguson and Massey Hall). Other Masseys who lived in the house included Raymond Massey (actor) and Vincent Massey (Governor-General).

                                                  During the early half of the twentieth century, young Lillian Massey passed away. Soon after, one of the family maids hanged herself from the oval vestibule over the main foyer, presumably out of grief.

                                                  Since the Masseys moved on, the building has served as an art gallery, radio station, convalescent home, and a bar before becoming the Keg in 1976.

                                                  Hauntings
                                                  Two apparitions have been seen within the mansion. One is that of a grisly spectre, dangling from a noose above the oval vestibule in the main foyer. The other is that of a small boy bounding up the staircase.

                                                  Sounds of laughter have been heard from the upper floors, along with the boisterous sounds of children playing.

                                                  Lights throughout the mansion have also been known to turn on and off by themselves.

                                                  1. re: Poorboy
                                                    h
                                                    hungryabbey Oct 21, 2007 01:21 PM

                                                    thanks for the history poorboy, next time I go I'll do a little investigating lol

                                                    1. re: Poorboy
                                                      l
                                                      lamaranthe Nov 30, 2007 09:27 AM

                                                      Can you tell me at what time are the 'shows' ? I can't wait...

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