Edmonton Restaurant Review: MEAT

Our shared platter of food at MEAT.

I’ll be the first to admit that, with all of the restaurant offerings in Edmonton, it often takes me a while before I revisit places. Even if I absolutely loved it, I’m more prone to try something new (that’s how I keep this blog going) rather than returning to the same spot over and over again, especially when I have to watch my spending.

For that reason, I hadn’t been back to MEAT for a few years. Yet, when a friend of Kirk’s was in town last week and he had this on his list, I jumped at the chance to go there. I’m a big fan of barbecue and it turns out he was, too. Although, I’d go so far as to say that he’s a connoisseur and I am not.

The interior of MEAT.

When we arrived on the Wednesday night, the eatery was jam packed with people, and even with rain storms brewing, patrons were willing to take tables on the (covered) outdoor patio. The wait was probably about thirty minutes, but it went by pretty quickly.

My Beets by Sinden Sour from Town Square Brewing.

Upon being seated at one of the longer communal tables, one of the managers actually came over to inform us that our server was a bit behind with the crowd that evening, so he offered to grab our drinks himself. We appreciated that all hands were on deck with their staff to ensure that service was still smooth and as prompt as possible. The guys each ordered pints of Blindman IPA ($8) and I opted for a can of the Beets by Sinden Sour from Town Square Brewing ($9.50).

The MEAT menus.

For our food, we shared several items between us: one pound of Beef Brisket ($26), a full rack of pork BBQ Ribs ($18), their featured Beef Ribs ($20), small Garlic Fries ($6), large Brussels Sprouts ($12), small Mac & Cheese ($7), and a Pickle ($1). Sadly, we were told that the Cornbread Skillet was sold out when we put in our order; however, later in the evening, we saw that they did have them available once the kitchen was able to make more.

Brussels Sprouts

I’m really not a traditional pickle person, so I didn’t eat it myself. Nevertheless, the guys seemed to enjoy it a lot. The pickle was also quite massive considering it was just a dollar, so that was a decent value. Our other veggie dish of Brussels Sprouts was alright. Personally, I love the miniature cabbage-like greens, but I find that they’re best when pan-fried or roasted to get that crunchy outer char. Here at MEAT, they shred the Brussels sprouts to turn it into more of a slaw and it has a sort of buttery flavour. It kind of became a bit one note after a few mouthfuls.

Garlic Fries

The Mac & Cheese was good though. The spiral cavatappi noodles were well-coated in a creamy, mild cheese sauce. I only wish that we had gone with the large over the small because the latter is pretty tiny, at least when splitting between a trio. Hands down the best side we tried ended up being the Garlic Fries. These were awesomely crispy and every bite was infused with the pungent herb. I rued the fact that we only ordered a small for that as well.

When it came to the meat, there was certainly no shortage. Our server nodded feverishly when we asked if the amount of protein we’d selected would be enough for the three of us, and she was right.

Beginning with the Beef Ribs, these were my least favourite. The meat itself was cooked to a nice medium finish and was relatively tender while retaining a delicate balance with a simple seasoning of salt, but there was fat that hadn’t fully rendered and not enough meat on the bone. It also didn’t have much burn or char on the edges to give it that smoky taste that you hope for with barbecued beef.

The larger Beef Ribs on top.

The smaller pork BBQ Ribs fared much better. I still didn’t think there was enough meat on them either, but there were certainly no large pieces of fat remaining. Every bone could be polished off clean and the char was superb. I probably could have eaten two whole racks of just the BBQ ribs. Messy, but worth it.

Slices of Beef Brisket hidden beneath all the ribs.

If you want straight up meat, the Beef Brisket is the way to go. The pink smoke ring on the outer edge of the brisket wasn’t extremely deep, but it was very even all the way through and the beef was succulent. Flavourwise, the smokiness wasn’t as pronounced as we would have expected, but that’s what their sauces are for. The guys particularly liked the spicy and bourbon sauces. I went for the mustard and cherry ones, which added some heat and sweetness.

Pecan Pie

To finish off our meal, we shared the Pecan Pie ($10) for dessert. It tasted freshly baked with crunchy pecans and a smooth, buttery filling. I really would have preferred a cold scoop of maple ice cream to go with it instead the lighter whipped cream. But, overall, this was a pleasant way to complete our time at MEAT.

The venue gets rather loud when it’s full, yet with a number of gluten-free options for diners and excellent service, it’s a prime spot for group gatherings. There’s such a communal spirit at MEAT. Everyone there seemed to be having a fantastic time catching up with friends and family, and there’s nothing better than convening over good food.

Edmonton Restaurant Review: TW’s BBQ Smoke House

Beef brisket, Montreal smoked meat, Caesar salad and mac & cheese

Beef brisket, Montreal smoked meat, Caesar salad and mac & cheese

Southern barbecue has become a favourite meal of mine over the last few years. It’s homestyle cooking at its finest, and while I’m not that hard to please – give me pulled pork doused in sauce and slapped on a bun any day – you know good BBQ when you taste it. Down south dishes are becoming more and more pervasive on restaurant menus around Edmonton. Chicken and waffles are almost a staple nowadays. But, what’s the best way to experience true southern food? I’d argue it’d be without the need to batter or deep fry the meat.

This city doesn’t really come to mind when you think of Texan food or smoked meat. Montreal maybe, Edmonton likely not. However, my love of a deal led me to Groupon where I found a voucher for a restaurant called TW’s BBQ Smoke House. This is a place that wasn’t anywhere near my radar. Located in High Park just east of the Mayfield area at 152 Street and 111 Avenue, it never really occurred to me that there would be a restaurant there for me to try. So, feeling adventurous, I clicked on the “Buy!” button and planned for a new dining excursion.

My parents joined me there at the end of June. As we drove down 111 Avenue, it was pouring rain as we kept our eyes peeled for a sign of the establishment. I spotted it a short distance away tucked between Tumbleweeds Texan & Latin Grill (same ownership) and a liquor store. An old strip mall, the outside isn’t that appealing. However, we parked the car across from the door and dashed inside to get out of the rain and I was pleasantly surprised by the interior. Decorated in neutral browns and taupes, it was simple. Clearly, it had been renovated and painted, and the upkeep looked good. Some metal cutouts in the shape of flames provided a slightly stylish flair and separation from the kitchen.

Their entree menu.

Their entree menu.

We were greeted quickly by a very friendly server who guided us to a booth by the windows. She was great with the recommendations throughout our decision making process and she was attentive during our entire stay. Being me, I opted to go with the Pulled Pork sandwich. My parents decided to share a half chicken with one additional meat and two sides.

My pulled pork sandwich was delicious. The meat had shed itself from the bone while cooking and was tender and succulent. It came on a garlic toasted kaiser bun with the pork smothered in their signature hickory mesquite smoked BBQ sauce (apparently it goes with anything). A side of coleslaw was provided as well, which I added to my sandwich for a little extra tang and texture. I chose the cornbread muffin as my side and that was slightly disappointing. It tasted quite nice, but it was a bit dry and kind of small compared to everything else included with dinner.

The half chicken my parents ordered was roasted to perfection; the meat was incredibly juicy and melt-in-your-mouth. My only qualm is that there wasn’t enough hickory apple smoked BBQ sauce to go with it. Any chicken not covered by crispy skin lacked a bit of flavour that would have been compensated with just a bit more sauce. For the additional meat, the choice was beef brisket. Again, the meat was prepared so that it fell apart easily without the use of a knife. The portion size was huge with the slabs of meat each almost an inch thick. On top of all that, they also received a side of caesar salad and five cheese baked mac and cheese. The caesar salad was kind of run-of-the-mill, but pretty tasty nonetheless, and the mac and cheese was better than I expected, especially when it’s piping hot as the sauce is creamier and the cheese melty the way it should be.

All-in-all, I would say that the meal was a home run. The food was savoury and the service was excellent. I even went back again in July and, this time, with a couple more people, we managed to try a few more things including their slow smoked St. Louis ribs and Montreal smoked meat – I’m not usually a fan of Montreal-style smoked meat, but this was fantastic. The beef brisket on this occasion was, unfortunately, a little dry, but still flavourful, and the leftovers were yummy when put into my noodles and soup at home the next day. We also tried each of their desserts including crème brûlée, apple pie and deep fried cheesecake. Between the five of us, we polished off each plate, but we all agreed that the cheesecake was the best.

Having never been to the deep southern states, I can’t truly give a good comparison of Edmonton Texan barbecue versus actual Texan barbecue, but I can say that I enjoyed both of my visits to TW’s BBQ Smoke House. If anything, you should go and form your own opinion of the restaurant. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.