I will be back from my mom's b-day in feb and want to take her to a nice b-day dinner with my dad. i am thinking of some of these restaurants as options:
*the red ox inn
any updates if any of these places have gone downhill recently? i have not dined at them in years, but i know my parents would enjoy the type of food they offer. also wondering if there have been any new standout places that have opened the past year or two that i may have missed. i have read about that skinny legs and cowgirls? place. seems interesting, but my dad would not like waiting an hour for his meal to arrive...so i hear about the service anyways.
Let me make another recommendation for Culina, on 99th St. and around 89th Ave.
Prices and quality are more on a par with Packrat Louie's than Hardware Grill.
I've also had a very nice experience at Flavours on Whyte Ave. They tend to be quiet, and the food and service are good. Again, not quite the level of "fine dining" of Hardware, but would still count as a nice dinner out. Search for "Flavours Modern Bistro" and you'll find some reviews, although I didn't see a date on any of them, and the last time I was here was at least 6 months ago.
After an absence of several years we were at Jack's Grill the week prior to Christmas.
Let me stress that the absence was unintentional, it just seems that we do not dine out as well in our own city, making up for it during visits to Calgary, Vancouver, Victoria, Ottawa,Montreal and the like.
I blame it on too many good meals at lunch before heading back to suburbia and "box store" chain lunches....Chop on Friday, Earl's today..........sigh....
I have seen a number of decidedly "lukewarm" reviews of Jack's and was interested to see what had or had not happened since our last visit. We did see a number of faces we remembered and were served by the two "Marks" and ample quantities of burgundy followed.
I had the oyster appetizer of six east coast [PEI I think] specimens on the half shell complemented by a cucumber mignonette. I cannot tolerate cucumber in virtually any form but love east coast oysters. Unfortunately the mignonette was a creamy texture with a dollop on each of the fresh oysters. I could not manage more than two but when I explained my "problem", the remaining 4 were whisked away and replaced with six more without the "offending" cucumber. I normally am pretty good at insuring nothing vaguely tasting of cucumber comes on my plate but this time I forgot. My mistake was deftly taken care of. Very nice, very good.
I also tried the foie appetizer. I had remembered that Jack's had previously done foie in an Alsatian salt cured style. This was very simply done. A small hamburger like silver dollar size bun within which were some greens, a small beautifully seared slice of foie topped with some tomatoe and crisp bacon. I ate the bacon and savoured the foie. Nothing wrong at all with the presentation, I just wanted the foie and did not need the extra bread. Quite good again.
My wife [whose birthday we were celebrating...which might tempt one to quaere why I was the one eating the oysters, foie and "hogging" the burgundy] enoyed her roast beet and chevre salad.
We both enjoyed the duck breast dinner. Perfectly cooked. My wife ordered it medium - rare, myself rare. Peter has always done duck extremely well. He was not cooking that evening and we missed the spicy duck sausage that has come with the duck main course on other visits but this was, nevertheless, terrific.
We had a wonderful meal. No hitches. Have vowed to go back more often. You get spoiled when you taste food this good. None of the "attitude" nor negative comments I have seen perhaps here or at other "foodie" web-sites. Not rushed. Not too busy nor fussy. Nice mix of suits and relaxed diners.
We spend a fair amount because we were splurging on the wine but you certainly did not have to nor were we "steered" or "upsold" to higher priced wines than what we inquired about. Pretty fair pricing as compared with the type of restaurant you inquired about.
The rest of the spots you mentioned are all second hand info.
I have not been to Red Ox Inn since I lived in those "pill box apartments" in Strathearn when Bernie Peck still owned it. I would get off the bus at the corner and have to decide, "do I go into the little grocery store and buy something to make for dinner or head to the Red Ox"...more often than not I chose the latter.
That having been said, I have the thoroughly undeserved reputation around work and amongst friends of being "da restaurant guy" when people are stuck for a new idea. I have sent 3 sets of people to the Red Ox in the past 4 or 5 months and they have all come back with rave reviews.
Same problem with Packrat Louie's. I was only there the one time for lunch after Peter Johner sold it and I think Desrosiers was still the chef. I was not impressed enough to make a special effort to get back in the evening. I am not sure who the chef is now.
Well, the Hardware Grill is the Hardware Grill. Some people do not like it but it remains a favourite albeit a "heavy hit" but you usually know that going in and the portions almost match the prices. Great ambience. Superior service. It is often a recommendation. I have not been in a while particularly since they closed for lunch quite some time ago.
Skinny Legs and Cowgirls, Bacon, Sofra [sp?], the new...ok, at least "newer" Italian spot where La Spiga used to be beside the Manor Cafe are all other places you might consider. I know Yen who posts here has said good things about Sage...especially the quality of the meat...at the River Cree Casino which I keep meaning to try more out of the fact that it is close by the western fringes of the city rather than driving downtown.
Another old favourite is the Harvest Room at the Macdonald Hotel. People often roll their eyes when a hotel dining room is mentioned but when friends could not get into the Red Ox Inn prior to Christmas I suggested the Harvest Room and although they had the same trepidation commented after that it was a very good meal and wondered why they had not been back before their meal.
I like Culina and the people who work there. Not sure that it is the kind of place I would take my mother and father to but check out their menu.
Let us know where you end up going and your "verdict".
re: Bob Mac
All the hardwork has already been done by Bob (thanks Bob!). I havent been back to Jack's for several years now after 2 consecutive bad experiences, but it doesnt surprise me that they are still turning out good-great meals. I have many friends who still go and have a wonderful time. My expectations may be too high after years of perfect experiences on Saddleback Rd.
I agree with Bob on Packrat, Red Ox, and Hardware Grill.
I would not go to Flavours. A good friend of mine loved it when it first opened, and after having gone 6 or 7 times, i can unequivocally say it's ok, nothing special.
If you're looking for a "nice" atmosphere, i would skip Sofra, Culina, CGASKL, etc... They don't have the same kind atmosphere (food is good...atmosphere doesnt fit the other 4 locations you've mentioned). Sage is good too, but i don't think the atmosphere is quite right for a parental birthday either.
I've been to Jacks about once a year for the past 5 years or so, and am not overly impressed with it. It is good, but I find it to be a bit unimaginative. It's what I consider good Alberta comfort food, but nothing special. I would put Unheardof in the same cateogory, but prefer the latter.
Hardware...I'm one of the detractors here. Only been twice, and neither experience blew me away. Service both times was very disappointing (servers had no idea about wine, and seemed very rushed, one time brought bill without asking if we wanted dessert...). On one occassion the gnocchi that came with my main was slightly burnt on the bottom, as though they had heated it in a very hot saute pan, but I couldn't find server to complain to. I don't know if I would return.
Packrat Louies: I have several friends who eat there regularly and love it. My first and only time so far was just this past New Year's Eve and I thought it was very good. I had a perfectly done beef tenderloin, and the other 5 people I was with all raved about their meals. I have a hard time judging it really, because December was a very busy and decadent: in a 3 week period, I ate at Hardware, Blue Pear, Madison's, Packrat Louie in Edmonton, Fuze and Maple Leaf Grill in Banff, and Capo and Teatro in Calgary. Simply on food, it wasn't the best of the month, but doing a price-to-quality comparison, I would put that meal in the top 5.
Red Ox: haven't tried yet, but have reservations for early February and am expecting greatness :)
Have you thought about Unheardof? For 'old style' comfort food/fine dining, I think it ranks up there with the best in town.
Blue Pear is my favorite in town, and if you want more a modern casual fine dining experience, it is worth the money
re: Dan G
Thanks for all the suggestions. I think right now I am tempted to try the Red Ox Inn. I have never been, and I don't think parents have either. I would like to try something new for them...they have been to Hardware, Blue Pear, and Jacks. I am also still debating Packrat Louies. But just from research alone and reviews, I have heard nothing bad yet about Red Ox Inn.
re: rafer madness
Went to Red Ox Inn just this past weekend. It was as good as I remember from 2 yrs ago. Although no changes to the menu. I had the chicken and it was succulent and delicious. I rarely order chicken at a high end resto thinking I can cook it the same at home....boy am I wrong! My husband had the daily soup of seafood chowder, creamy and delicious. Overall pricing not too bad, very reasonable wine list. I like the new decor, updated nicely, however it is not the cozy romantic place it used to be, more bistroesque now.
Went to Jack's a week ago, always consistently great meals, very enjoyable. Their grilled ceaser salad is a favorite of mine on the menu. Always good service too.
We are heading back out to Sage in a couple of weeks, I have been craving their truffled Mac & cheese side....I wonder if I can just have it for a full meal?? ;)
enjoy Hardware, I will have to give that another try sometime!