bits and pieces

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Reviews: Slow Food Pub, Regina

As you may know, I am new to Regina. That said I'd done a pretty thorough culinary tour-de-force last summer when I was being courted and visiting Sask on the regular.

I've been to most restaurants worth going to save the Boston Pizza-s, Moxies and Earls of the world. I do actually legitimately enjoy Earls, but if I'm going to spend $80 for two on a night out, I'd rather NOT go to a chain. Don't get me wrong - the Boston Pizza here and the Earls are actually really good franchise locations. Maybe I'm a snob but chain restaurants just aren't my thing. I don't know if I've ever even been to the Keg. For serious. Share the laugh? NOT LIKELY.

For the masses of you who DON’T live in Regina – let me fill you in. It’s small. Really small. But like all small-ish towns there are hidden gems and Regina has its fair share. However, it’s fair share is probably no more than a dozen at best. Ergo, concordantly, subsequently and so forth – it is very easy to get bored. As such I was excited to see the Slow Food Pub open up on Albert. Slow food is right up my alley. Local ingredients, local producers and local talent = spot on. Sometimes I wish local ingredients didn't always equate to comfort food, but that's neither here nor there. This place is also self declared pub so pub fare is whatcha get. 

That said, I had heard the predecessor to the Slow Food Pub, the Abbey, referred to as the "ScAbbey". Not the most appetizing. Additionally, despite the nice things I'll say about the SFP, their sign is really tragic. Whomever they contracted their branding and advertising out to failed them. The sign is amateurish and sincerely lacking. It honestly looks like a 15 year old with a pork-fetish was defeated by Adobe. Why would a pig with wings be the sign for a rustic brew pub that's covered with sexy pinup art all over the inside? Invest in a stylish sign that makes you look legitimate and is consistent with your brand! COME ON. 

As you can tell, nothing I had previously heard about the 'ScAbbey' nor the shoddy signage made me remotely inclined to test out the Slow Food Pub. Nevertheless I got dragged there for the first time by my significant other on Father's Day. We’ve gone back a few times, even for a birthday party. After a good half a dozen visits I feel like we’ve gotten enough of a handle on the place that I can judge with wanton abandon. 

Here are my wanton judgments. 
  1. They might have the best French Fries in town. Salty and dusted with something (season salt, paprika and cumin?) I CAN'T TELL WHAT IT IS! They’re just great shoestring, crispy, short, tasty, salty fries. They're basically everything you'd want in a french fry.
  2. The food is pretty consistently good. While I wonder how committed to slow-food they are (kalamari? Locally sourced? Where is this mystical Saskatchewanese lake of squid and breading?), the food is solid. It’s a well known fact that I generally hate veggie burgers, but their veggie burger rocks my world.
  3. The menu changes it up. The first few times we went there the menu was different every time. Recently, it seems to have settled into a consistent 10 items with a rotating 5. Fine, whatever, give me my French Fries and we’re fine.
  4. The food is appropriately priced and sized. It’s not ‘cheap’. It’s also not expensive. The food is fresh and well prepared and costed accordingly. I imagine they’re making a tidy profit, but you don’t feel like you’re eating a shitty 12 dollar salad. It’s a good 12 dollar salad.  
  5. see, naked girls!
  6. They have naked pin up girls on the walls. I like this. I wish they’d committed a little more ambitiously. I get that Regina isn’t the most liberal town in the world but if you’re going to have pin up girls on the walls then commit to the motif! Be bold and brazen innovators of burlesque-cuisine! (I might patent the idea of burlesque cuisine).
  7.  Their beer is alright. It’s nothing revelatory, but it’s well made, it’s light (which I like, although I’ve been shamed for it), it’s clean and it drinks easy. Which I imagine is the idea. The only negative here is that there is an inconsistency in name and taste. For example, they had a ‘wheat beer’ on tap which they’d describe as a wheat beer. This beer was excellent. Lovely. Served with an orange. However, it didn’t taste anything like a wheat beer. That said, I still drank 2.
  8. Most of their waitresses are great. They know the menu, they’re attentive and they can actually speak about the food + philosophy of the restaurant. A couple of their waitresses I have huge lady crushes on. If I had stopped going to SFP a month ago I would have nothing but glowing things to say. Sadly though...
  9.   Some of their staff are terrible and their manager doesn’t appear to do anything managerial.
Unfortunately the last 2 times I’ve been we’ve had bad, bad service. I’ve waitressed. You’ve waitressed. Everyone’s worked in some sort of service industry (probably). So everyone knows once in awhile you have a bad day... If it’s someone’s first night serving – don’t have them serving a birthday party of 10 who is going to order a bunch of different things, on different tabs, with various rounds of beer. If it’s your first night waitressing, pay attention to the party of 10 your manager stuck you with instead of standing on the patio smoking and kissing your boyfriend in full view of the party while they wait for shots they ordered 15 minutes ago. No one wants to wait for shots. They’re an impulse buy. It’s not something you want to dwell on (on which note their shots menu is TERRIBLE).

The other terrible instance we had 3 waitresses, the first was bitchy, the second darling, the third just totally clueless (‘you want ketchup?... with a burger and fries...?’ ‘yes, yes I do’. ‘oh. Oh ok. Uh. Right. I’ll bring you the.. ketchup?’). Whatever, not a big deal. But the SFP manager is ever present. HE’S ALWAYS THERE. He ALWAYS makes eye contact but it’s never explicitly friendly. Does he recognize you? Is he glad you’re back? Is he mad because you’re sitting in his favourite chair? Weeping because the riders lost (AGAIN)? YOU CAN’T TELL.

This mystery-manager stands behind the bar, pours drinks, hangs out, watches the sports and talks to the people sitting at the bar. I get it, the manager is a manager-cum-bartender. But still – if you have a table of 10 surly looking people STARING at the bar (and at you coincidentally, manager-cum-bartender), and the waitress has been AWOL for 15 minutes, maybe you could manage to figure something out. If there’s a group of friends watching baseball waiting for food with empty glasses, and there is no waitress ANYWHERE on the floor and no one sitting at the bar, maybe you should meander over and see if anyone needs a drink. Just saying – you’re in the business of selling beer. You should try and sell more of it as opposed to less.

I recently discovered that SFP is owned by the same owner as La Bodega. La Bodega has gone steeply downhill (in my opinion) in the last year, and a large part of this has to do with how it is managed (La Bodega review forthcoming). This makes me really nervous for the sweet SFP. Such promising beginnings. Such easy easy drinking beer. Such nice staff. Such consistently decent food.

That said – the food is good. The service is mostly great. The beer goes down easy. Check it out. Get the fries.

Food – 3.5/5 or 4/5 for pub food
Service –  either a 5/5 or a 1/5
Value – 4/5
Beer – 4/5
Manager– mysterious/5

Note: I heard a rumour that SFP was going to do Sat/Sun brunch, beers, and blue jays. For the love of the God of Brunch, PLEASE do this. If anyone from SFP reads this – carpe diem. Seize the carp! There is no where to get laid back, awesome brunch in Regina. I find it hard to believe no one wants to catch that market.


6 comments:

  1. I'm also new to Regina and have been making the rounds. I used to hang out at Slow Food a lot more than I do now. I used to get great service sitting at the bar and bloody terrible service at the tables. I could sit for what seemed like forever with waitresses studiously ignoring the patrons as they talked to their friends and disappeared out back. The food was solid but I was much less impressed with the beer. If they had good beer I could overlook everything else, but all of them are comparatively thin one note offerings. Whisper of hops but no malt, malt but no hops, bitter but no sweet and so on. It's not that I won't go back, in fact I could go there tonight, but there hasn't really been a reason to.

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  2. Yeah.. SFP has gone even MORE downhill since I wrote this.. we used to hang out a lot more and even went there for a birthday but now.. the menu (food + beer) barely changes and the staff seem to have settled into a rut. The beer isn't what I'd classify as typical microbrew beer, but I'm OK with a bar making light LIGHT beer as long as it's marketed honestly.

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  3. Yes, I agree with everything said. It is very ordinary, there is really nothing slow, am not sure they even brew their own beer and I suspect it is just a mix and mash concoction like Brewsters... They really need to pick up their game... Why is there not a single decent bisto in Regina.....

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  4. I don't know! It's clearly a developing market, and I understand the risks of starting a small business but come on! The demand is there! That said, I've heard 'The Creek' is quite good but haven't gone yet. Thoughts?

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  5. Thanks for your review of SFP. My husband and I used to run the restaurant circuit (I agree with you on the chains), but now that we have a little one, we only get out occasionally. We went to La Bodega and were EXTREMELY disappointed. When you never get out, you don't want it to be a bad experience. Overpriced and generic. Why would you deep-fry noodles inside of spring rolls? They were not good and expensive. I might follow your blog, being a fellow foodie. I mostly prepare better meals at home though. Have you tried the fries at Beer Brothers? They're fantastic.

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  6. I honestly have no feelings about their friends alone - HOWEVER, topped with that beet ketchup? Perfection.

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