While Mack’s dad was in town last weekend, we went for dinner at Montana’s. Part of the Cara Family of restaurants (which includes Harvey’s, Swiss Chalet, and Milestones), I’ve never really had the inclination to visit the chain disguised as rustic log cabins. At the same time, I was curious to see what they had to offer in terms of food – they’re aggressively promoting their new menu with television ads featuring talking moose and deer heads – a bit of whimsy for a restaurant I always considered to be more adult than family focused, at least by judging from the outside.
Because of this, I was surprised to find that the kitsch, as Mack described, was “off the wall” – literally. We walked inside to find a glaring red truck suspended from the roof, a wooden canoe raised above tables, and light fixtures made from “antlers” hung from the ceiling. It appeared the décor had some conflicting identities, however, as chalet posters and skis in one corner seemed out of place. Kim was looking forward to seeing the aforementioned moose and deer heads, and we were actually lucky enough to be seated directly beneath them.
Kim with mascots
The interior helped facilitate Montana’s casual, family-friendly atmosphere. Servers were dressed in the standard Kara uniform (button up shirt), decidedly pleasant, but necessarily breezy. Every table was overlaid with a fresh sheet of brown butcher paper, which seemed wasteful when the only apparent purpose of it was for our server to note her name down in black crayon.
The menus had just been redone (as indicated in the commercials), and were similar in build to the newer Swiss Chalet, leather-bound books. Improving the quality of the physical menu is a move that many in the restaurant industry are making in an attempt to elevate the value of the establishment in the customer’s eyes.
The feature sheet encapsulated the new items, including cedar roasted salmon and fire-grilled mushroom chicken. As a whole, the menu mirrors Outback Steakhouse and Tony Romas, with an emphasis on grilled entrees like ribs, burgers, and steak. Of course, diversity is the key to mass appeal, and a fair share of salads and pastas also make an appearance. I decided on the BBQ beef brisket with a side of seasonal vegetables ($11.79), while Mack chose one of the advertised specials, the Mediterranean goat cheese chicken ($16.99) and a side of Caesar salad.
The wait for our food wasn’t long and was well-paced between salad starters and mains. I have to admit my plate looked pretty bare – the single crown of broccoli side had me convinced I should have ordered fries instead. My sandwich wasn’t half bad, however – I liked the smoky barbecue sauce used, and for the most part, the brisket fulfilled its promised tenderness. Mack liked his chicken (especially the goat cheese), but thought it was nothing special.
BBQ Beef Brisket
Mediterranean Goat Cheese Chicken
As a whole, there was nothing off-putting about our experience at Montana’s, but then again, there was nothing particularly notable either. I was glad to have tried it to satisfy my curiosity, but I don’t think I’ll be back on my own accord.
3816 17 Street (2 other locations in Edmonton)