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Jul 28, 2008 10:03 AM

Some Edmonton restaurants - brief reviews

Short synopses of dining out in Edmonton last week:

Red Ox Inn, Sunday night. It was Original Fare Forkfest again, where you can get a 3 course meal at some of Edmonton’s finest for $35. Red Ox menu was choice of their spinach salad with fried goat cheese, or grape gazpacho; apple-brined pork chop or salmon with moroccan bbq sauce; bread pudding or chocolate cake. My wife had the first listed in each course, I had the second. Everything was, as expected, fantastic. The soup was pure heaven. Pork chop was a bit salty, but still tasty and tender. The white chocolate and blueberry bread pudding may be the best dessert in the city. Service impeccable as usual. Been to Red Ox 3 times this year, never disappointed, quickly becoming one of my favorites.

Jack’s Grill, Tuesday night. Another Forkfest menu. When I booked it, I was told it would be choice of soup or salad, fish or meat entrée of the day, and any dessert, but the menu didn’t mention soup. A big concern, as salad had calamari and wife is allergic to seafood (which is why I asked when I booked). But when asked, server said she could have soup. 3 of our party ordered the soup (minestrone), I had the spinach salad with calamari. Apps were quite good. Entrée choices were halibut or slow-roasted beef brisket. Halibut, according to the one person who had it, was fine. Brisket was boring, flavourless, fatty, tough…sides uninspired. Service was awful! Probably ½ hour after ordering until apps came – a cold salad and soup! Another 45 for entrees. Waiter was surly. Dribbled wine on the table every time he poured. Splashed water out of glasses. Desserts ranged from OK to great – 2 had peach and cherry crepes, one had blueberry crème brule and I had mediocre bread pudding. We also noticed that people not ordering Forkfest meals got far larger portions (and probably better food), which I don’t think is right: this is supposed to be a showcase, and they shouldn’t cheap out on the meals. This was my 5th trip to Jacks in the last 4 years and will definitely be my last. This place is far over-rated and resting on past reputation.

Skinny Legs and Cowgirls, Friday night. First time there. Party of 6, squeezed around a table for 4 in their ‘indoor patio’…not sure how to describe it really. Place was packed (was told over-booked) and they had to go next door to the guitar-maker to borrow a chair! Service was, to say the least, odd. One server had no idea what she was doing, and her manner was straight out of the movie Fargo – sort of a Scandinavian accent, ended every sentence with ‘yeah’, etc. At least she was personable and a source of entertainment. Came to take our drink orders, and when asked about beer rattled of what they had, getting the names close at least. One person orders a beer, and she leaves to go get it without seeing what others want! Other server (co-owner) was far better. Food was great, sort of a South American theme. Served family style on platters, we had 5 of the (I think) 7 choices. Table was so crowded we basically took a dish from the server, passed it around the table, and then gave her back the empty platter. Chorizos were a highlight. Wine…short but interesting list, heavy on malbecs (suits the food quite well) but the red wine was room temperature, and it was 26 degrees outside! For the second bottle we asked if it could be chilled. Server (good one/co-owner) lamented that she didn’t have room or money for good cool storage, but was working on getting a small fridge. One of our party is a certified sommelier, and he was giving her some quick, cheap and easy tips on wine service. Overall, service was pretty scattered (short on cutlery, hard time remembering who was drinking beer, who was drinking wine, etc) but at least it was jovial. And we were in no rush, just a fun night out, which I think they appreciated (as they kept apologizing for the slowness, and we assured them we didn’t care). We had humus (or at least that’s what they called it, but it was a black bean dip (and a very good one at that) and the mains, no dessert, and were there almost 3 hours. But much of that was our doing, lingering over the last bottle of wine. And owner brought us each some dessert wine on the house (a really good ice cider which I had tried before, but others were unaware of). Grand total with 6 beers and two bottles of wine, 20% tip included for party of 6, was $285, which we all thought was quite reasonable. Will definitely return, maybe just not on Indy race weekend.

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  1. thanks for this Dan...i avoided the 'fest' this year because of crowds and mediocre offerings. i agree that it should be a showcase, but so very often it is not. glad to hear about skinny legs - i've wondered about that place for awhile now. glad to hear red ox is still excellent.

    6 Replies
    1. re: ihatepickyeaters

      Yeah, I wondered how much of the bad service at Jacks I would attribute to it being very busy on a Tuesday night because of forkfest. But, really, we saw very few people eating that menu; most seemed to order off the regular menu. The place was full, not sure if that is normal for a Tuesday or not, but it was all reservations, not drop-ins, so they should have known how busy it would be and staffed accordingly.

      It's interesting that the service at SL&C was slower and more scattered, yet I have absolutely no complaint about that. The staff, despite being completely overwhelmed, were cheery and apologetic, and in that atmosphere - a fun and funky restaurant - it didn't bother us a bit. But in Jacks, which I find has a stuffy atmosphere and a sense of superiority, it came off as slow and rude and they didn't care.

      This wasn't a typical week, but we (our regular roster of dining companions) do eat out very often, easily putting $12k, maybe even $15k, into the restaurant economy of this city annually, and Jack's is out of the rotation. I didn't go there often, because I've never been thrilled with it, but the other couple that night were regulars who've watched it decline and are now fed up. This probably won't affect Jacks bottom line, negatively, as much as it will be a positive for the places we go instead.

      1. re: Dan G

        Dan, I've experienced similar at Jack's as well - and it is out of the rotation for me as well. However, I find it interesting that you are willing to excuse the poor service at SL&C - when i was there, i found the service to be the same. It doesnt appear to have improved at all. Handling it apologetically and cheerfully is definitely the right way for them to deal with it. But the fact that it's almost always a 2-3 hour experience, whether you want it to be or not, seems a bit, inexcusable, don't you think?

        1. re: yen

          I am willing to give SL&C a second chance - not sure if I would give them a third. I guess the difference is that 1) I wasn't expecting much from them and 2) the food was so much better that I am willing to give them more leeway. When I say we were there close to 3 hours (8:15 reservation, left a few minutes before 11) I'm sure that much of that was our own doing - we weren't too quick on deciding what we wanted, and probably the last 40-45 minutes was just finishing off the last bottle of wine. So really, we could have done it in closer to 1hr45.

          1. re: Dan G

            Fair enough - i guess it's just interesting how things like expectations, and how a place handles their errors play a role in how you perceive your restaurant experience.

            If you could've gotten out of there in an hour 45, then they have improved some. We were in a rush when we were there, and it took a lot longer, which was painful for me.

        2. re: Dan G

          just curious dan, but do you and your regulars consider tims, mcdonalds, montantas et al as places where you spend your $250 per week? or do you "dine out" once per week on average at what the rest of the world would call restaurants

          1. re: robgm

            Wow, robgm sounds like he knows a lot. Hope he posts some more.