The Northwest quadrant of Calgary suffers from a dearth of decent restaurants. There are a couple of worthwhile exceptions such as Bears Den and Notable but generally there are simply the typical chain restaurants. On any given Friday night these factory food outlets benefit from crowds of hungry, bored and well-heeled patrons who deserve better. The latest entry into the restaurant game is the new Keg at 130 Crowfoot Terrace in Crowfoot Centre.
The Crowfoot Keg was built on the site where an Outback Steakhouse was torn down some time ago. The new building attempts to look like Modernist architecture inside and out but ends up feeling more like something designed to come out of an IKEA box. It is especially unfortunate that the entrance to this supposed steak house herds people in using a manner similar to cattle forced through chutes at the feedlot.
Looking for a change from driving to parts of the city where dining offers greater variety, a decision was made to take a chance on the Keg. Arriving at 7:15 we struggled through a packed parking lot and crowds in the aforementioned entrance. Giving up on the possibility of getting a table in any reasonable time frame we made our way into the adjoining bar area. A bartender named Diana very kindly found us two stools so we could sit at the bar. Learning that we could order dinner right there we elected to stay put.
The bar itself was very noisy making conversation a little awkward at times as well as putting some difficulty in talking with the bartenders to place orders. Unfortunately Diana, our first bartender moved on to other duties and we ended up with two young men who tag-teamed service around the bar. As the night progressed we could see and hear that they recited the “daily specials” from the current corporately-designed specials sheet using the scripted patter taught to them. In fact, with us, they were somewhat pushy about trying to get us to order a starter course that we didn’t want. When each bartender couldn’t make his pitch work for us they returned to chatting up the girls at the end of the bar who were clearly co-workers who had returned after their own shifts.
Our beverage orders weren’t that complicated, white wine and a virgin Caesar, but getting the bartenders to look into the matter of refills was problematic. This should have been a clear sign of what was to come. We placed orders for a top sirloin and a filet with blue cheese. The sirloin had an iceberg lettuce wedge salad while the filet was to be served with fries. Neither order was unusual. We avoided asking for the extra vegetables that also brought extra charges.
Forty-five minutes later we were still waiting for our dinner when one of the bartenders bothered himself enough to look over and say it would be “just a few more minutes”. Waiting a while longer we finally got our plates. The French fries were warm but so was the iceberg lettuce salad. Unfortunately the steaks were cold and served with sad, wrinkled sections of red pepper and two asparagus that were barely larger than juice box straws. A complaint brought redone beef but even then there was nothing special about the preparation of the steaks that warranted the delay or the very high prices.
Pulling themselves away from socializing with off-duty co-workers one of the bartenders made a half-hearted attempt to remedy the problems with dinner by offering up a free desert (which costs a corporate outlet like the Keg mere pennies). We declined. In order to make amends the bartender then took off the cost of a couple of drinks – the non-alcoholic ones. Essentially for delivering poor food with bad service it seems compensation comes in the form of two glasses of Clamato juice.
Without the apologizing discount, our meal came to approximately $105.00. For that price you get a crowded, noisy atmosphere, terrible service and poor food. For the same money one can have an excellent experience at Michael Noble’s restaurant Notable or enjoy a lovely bistro meal and live jazz at the Bears Den. Hungry, unthinking people will continue to fill the bank accounts of the Keg’s head office in Richmond, B.C. but we hope that some people will have the good sense to refuse to patronize better establishments where people care or simply cook a far better steak on their own barbecue at home.
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