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.