This place is a bit of a mixed bag. Before I go any further, note that this review is composed of two experiences, one being back in August and the other about three weeks later in the middle of September.
The first time Gray and I went was right after climbing; we were both extremely thirsty and ravenous for food. Hoo boy. The place looked like a real homey place, something like a family-friendly saloon. Water came quick and both Gray and I thought the mason jars were a cute touch.
After some short consideration we ordered and our sandwiches came quickly enough. Gray’s was a southern melt (12.95) which was composed of brisket, red and yellow bell peppers, onions and plenty of cheese, all served on a hoagie (i.e. a split loaf of French bread). According to her, it was moist, quite delicious and filling. The southern melt comes with two sides; in this case Gray ordered coleslaw and the daily soup (cream of red pepper, nom). I had a taste of the soup myself and almost regretted not ordering it as well.
Almost. My plate of food more than made up for any regrets (and hunger) sustained. I ordered a catfish po boy (13.95) with sides of chili and burgoo, that is, lamb stew. Oh-nom. The catfish was fried so nicely with a hard non-doughy/-sticky crust, crunchy exterior and flaky fish inside with dill mustard drizzled over top. The extra mustard on the side was also appreciated; that sauce was so good. The chili was spicy and slightly sweet. Actually, the burgoo was also slightly sweet and had chunks of lamb meat. Oh-nom.
So that was that. Because of the awesome experience (or so we thought), Gray and I decided to come back a second time, this time with friends.
This second time around we were accompanied by a group of hungry-hungry men.
Axm and Gray both ordered a special burger (15; on a special menu). I can’t remember what exactly it was called (Big T’s Hickory?) but it was massive and super topped.
Yep, those are hickory sticks and an onion ring stacked on top of a butt-rub patty and brisket. And that was only half the burger. The one pictured here is with the burgoo (nommy lamb stew). Both Axm and Gray also seemed to really enjoy their burgers, but it was seriously so much meat that Gray only finished with J’s and my help, and Axm ended up packing away a bit of the burger to take home.
J, in the meantime, ordered the same southern melt (13.95) that Gray had ordered a few weeks ago.
Overall J thought it was… just okay. He thought the price was a little much for quality though.
The biggest disappointments of the meal were probably the sliced brisket (10.95) and the pulled pork (10.95) that Tang and I ordered, respectively. Tang got his brisket with a side of mashed potatoes, cornbread and baked beans, while I ordered my pulled pork with the daily soup (cream of potato!) and coleslaw. The bun, an ordinary supermarket hamburger bun, felt flimsy and soggy under the weight of a flat pile of meat. While slightly flavourful, the mouthful of wet bread pretty much ruined whatever taste either type of meat had. Again, I found the soup pretty tasty, but that was the only redeeming feature out of the food. Tang ranked the whole place pretty low according to his standards, citing comparisons to other grills down in the States.
Because of the great disparity in our experiences, I am wondering if my overwe’ening hunger granted the first experience a sort of halo effect on everything: taste, quality, cost, etc. The second time around I was pretty disappointed by the soppy bread; a dining establishment’s quality shouldn’t change per dish because of price. That catfish remains a bit of a daydream though, so maybe I’ll come around some other fair day.
Big T’s BBQ and Smokehouse
2138 Crowchild Trail NW
Calgary, AB T2M 4N5
Pros: Pleasant service and hospitable atmosphere. I loved the little touches like condiment bottles in metal pails and water served in mason jars. Food was okay-ish.
Cons: In the same breath, food was okay-ish. Quality seemed to vary pretty widely; Gray and Axm liked their burgers, Tang and I were pretty disappointed and J was only sorta okay with his, considering price. On the other hand Gray and I were pretty happy with our first experience, so I’ll conclude by saying that price isn’t great and food quality isn’t stable.
Maybe sometime down the road this Stampede favourite’ll win back our hearts (and our wallets) but it shan’t be anytime soon, unless they make their soup a major attraction.
Tender and flavourful meats accompany you always.