Hicks Weekly Dish: The Situation needs a service upgrade BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, AUGUST 29, 2017
Situation Brewing Co.
10308 81 Avenue
Dinner for two, excluding tip and beverage: basic, $30; loaded $60.
At what point does “not snobby” morph into sloppiness and indifference?
At what point does a deliberately casual attitude – as befits Situation Brewing Company’s brew-pub location in the heart of the Old Strathcona – become too casual?
I can’t say I was enamoured with the view of my server’s hairy armpits. He was wearing a tank-top, a backward ball-cap and shorts.
Situation Brewing has been open for about a year. It was the first of the new generation of gastro-brew pubs to open in town. (Brewsters has long brewed good beers on site at its three Edmonton locations, but is roundly ignored by the trend-setters.)
Situation was followed by Biera restaurant, which opened last spring with on-site brewed Blind Enthusiasm beer. Biera was glowingly reviewed in this column last week. Polar Park Brew Pub is soon to open (we hope, it’s long overdue) in the former Old Strathcona Bee Bell Bakery building.
Comparing Situation Brewing to Biera is a stretch, but both start with the premise of small-batch beer brews, made-on-site exclusively for restaurant patrons. Both have menus ranging well beyond boring basic bar food.
The difference is Biera, under the guidance of chef Christine Sandford, has already jumped to the top rung of casual, high-quality Edmonton restaurants. Her food offerings are unusual, and beautifully paired with brew master Rob Monk’s four brewed beers, all sharing a tart quality.
In its advertising, Situation doesn’t disclose the names/reputations of either a head chef of a brew master … which is telling.
As far as pairing food to beer, Situation’s kitchen thinks that making foods with beer ingredients will do the trick. Well, no, it’s more complex than that.
From the items tried at two lunch-times – pretzels, sour beer ceviche, bison and wild boar hamburger, a bread pudding dessert – Situation is much better at old-fashioned bar food than anything attempting to make a special beer connection.
Good bar food: Offering three good-sized soft and salty pretzels with dips is quite inspired. The pretzels were oven-warmed, light and billowy, with a tasty melted beer cheese dip and a soft, creamy buttermilk and dill aioli.
Bad attempts at being cool with beer: A sour beer ceviche – a chopped-up snapper filet cured in beer – was so sour as to be almost inedible, plus the avocado slices were tooth-chipping hard. Its only relationship to a small (a five-ounce sampler for $2.50 – great idea) Mexican-style lager was the lager helped kill the sourness.
Excellent bar food: It took 20 to 25 minutes, at a quiet lunch-time, to arrive but the “Untamed” burger – mixed ground bison and wild boar – was worth the wait. It’s a great burger! The bison/boar combo is inspired. The boar gives the bison moisture, the bison moderates the boar’s gaminess.
Within the warm brioche bun, a few slices of crisped smoked bacon and a healthy layer of properly-melted, good-quality, smoked cheddar added to the flavour wave. So did an excellent spicy fig ketchup. A single onion-ring within the burger completed the crispiness in the bite. Plus the fries were good-quality, kitchen-cut rustic.
Bad attempts at cooking with beer: The bread pudding dessert was made with Irish stout – all it did was make the pudding heavy, dull and plodding.
Situation’s service is a sore point. Surely servers should have some training - how to properly greet guests, make them feel special, explain and be excited about the menu and the beers.
This is after all, a brew-pub purporting to have style, with dozens of beer choices. The front-of-house gang was going through the motions. We did not feel particularly welcome. For a senior server to work in beach clothes takes casualness to new heights of sloppiness.
At the same time, the ambience and cleanliness of the room – spacious, with floor-to-ceiling exterior glass walls, a warm wood interior and a large outdoor patio – is pleasing.
At the two lunches I took in, both had several tables of dads, and sometimes grandads, with pre-school kids. The room is comfortable for the little’uns, at least at that time of day. We are slowly becoming more Europe-like. Beer is no longer an instrument of the intoxicated Devil!
If owner Wayne Sheridan imposes professionalism on his servers and upgrades the kitchen, the Situation brew pub could make for a well-rounded, informal dining experience ... meanwhile, avoid anything with beer actually in the food.
Food: 3 of 5 Suns
Ambience: 3.5 of 5 Suns
Service: 2.5 of 5 Suns
Mon-Tues: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Wed-Thurs: 11 a.m. to midnight
Fri: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Sat: 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Sun: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.