State & Main Kitchen|Bar

Southgate Shopping Centre (southwest corner)

5015 111 St.

587 524 3251

Food: 3.5 of 5 Suns

Ambience: 3 of 5 Suns

Service: 3 of 5 Suns

Dinner for two (not including drinks or tip): Basic, $25; Loaded, $60.

Just like Earl’s spawned Joey Tomatoes, Original Joe’s has spawned a new restaurant chain, State & Main.

Edmonton’s first State & Main recently opened on the south-west corner of Southgate Shopping Centre with no direct access to the mall itself. A State & Main has been open in Spruce Grove since mid-summer.

The corporate strategy is obvious.

Calgary headquartered, Original Joe’s has been very successful — some seven locations in Edmonton alone — as a bar with good food. This column gave the 109th Street Original Joe’s a four out of five Suns rating back in February.

State & Main has the same menu as Original Joe’s, transferred to an all-ages restaurant-lounge setting. They’re after casual family dining-out — the Southgate location is hardly a club/pub district — and it appears to be working. Certainly on a Saturday, plenty of families were having a bite to eat.

Décor-wise, State & Main is the same as the rest of the contemporary big box restaurants — vast windows, dark wood, glass-behind-the-bar, with the same young female servers in black skirts.

We really liked the food at Original Joe’s. We liked the food here, given it’s the same menu.

The jalapeno mac & cheese will be a State & Main signature dish. They do something special with the macaroni — it’s softer with better texture than most — cooked in cream and several melted cheeses through the interior, finished under the broiler to get a nice crunch to the panko breadcrumb/parmesan topping. It comes to the table in the same cute little cast-iron frying pan it was made in, ensuring nothing gets cold.

Don’t worry about the jalapeno being too hot — this is a chain, remember, so anything spicy stays middle of the road. There’s enough pepper for flavour, not enough to burn your mouth.

The flatbread with chorizo and peppers — the unhot variety, i.e. red and banana — was tasty and big enough to be a light lunch for two. Part of the Original Joe/State & Main formula is keeping food as fresh as possible. Obviously the peppers were fresh-cut, the chorizo sausage bounteous and high-quality, the multiple cheeses authentic. Even a Velveeta-looking cheese criss-crossing the top was more interesting than it appeared. On the crust was a delicious, baked-in crunch (the panko-parmesan?).

Given brunch was available, a third friend opted for the “State Scrambler”, another fry-pan concoction of hash browns, chopped everything (bacon, ham, onion, red peppers) scrambled into eggs and melted cheese. The portion was big, the food good enough to go back.

The soup special — asiago cheese bisque — wasn’t as good as it should have been. Not quite hot enough, lots of asiago cheese and cream, not much else.

State & Main still has work to do. The server forgot to bring a spoon with the soup. The Scrambler toast was dry, without butter and no butter was on the table. The Scrambler side fruit consisted of one strawberry and a bite of melon.

The name is odd. Whatever “State & Main” is supposed to evoke, it doesn’t stick in the memory.

In short, State & Main offers tasty, mainstream food, all good, nothing great — a good place to be rewarded with lunch or dinner after enduring a Southgate shopping trip with the wife/daughter/girlfriend.

*Koutouki Taverna at 10719 124 St. will be the host venue of Art of Conversation LXXXV on Wednesday, Oct. 2 from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. The gathering, hosted by myself and Capital FM’s Rob Christie and Audie Lynds, is an occasion to mingle and meet others who enjoy face-to-face conversation.Graham Hicks

780 707 6379