Two Christmases ago, Mack’s parents gave us a gift card to Hardware Grill. It was particularly thoughtful because the four of us had shared a wonderful meal there a few months prior. We had always intended on putting the gift card towards lunch at the restaurant, but didn’t work to sync our schedules until last week (it helped that I had a meeting in the same neighbourhood right after lunch).
Hardware Grill, for many reasons, has the distinction of being Edmonton’s finest restaurant. It is also the only restaurant in recent memory that Mack and I had to think twice about before deciding on what to wear – jeans or no jeans? Even though it was daytime on a Friday, we opted against denim. We discovered upon arrival that casual attire was acceptable; the suits were few, and there were numerous parties dressed in their Friday best.
The warmth of the dining room is apparent, regardless of the time of day, but I think I might actually like the room better at lunch, if not only because of the natural light, and the almost buoyant atmosphere.
We don’t normally order starters for lunch, but armed with a gift card, we threw caution to the wind. It’s always difficult for me to pass up French onion soup ($8) when I see it on the menu, and I was glad I gave in. The most amazing thing about the rich, subtly sweet dish was the bread – though submerged for the better part of the fifteen minutes it took for me to finish the soup, it did not dissolve into a soggy mess, and instead, retained its chewy, dense texture. The portion size could have also easily made this a light lunch in itself.
French onion soup
Mack’s romaine a la Caesar ($10) was equally well received, plated with care, and robed with a garlicky smooth dressing that could convince anyone that Caesar dressing from a bottle should not be tolerated.
Romaine a la Caesar
It was a wonder I was able to finish any part of my main at all, but I did my best, especially because the beef bourguignon ($20) was well worth the effort. The short ribs were fork tender (it was a definite sign when our server did not replace my butter knife with a steak knife), and the black coffee BBQ sauce hit all the right notes (and if the recipe isn’t a guarded secret, it should be). At first, I wasn’t sure about the inclusion of roasted corn kernels in the mashed potatoes, but it won me over in the end – the sweetness and unexpected pop cut through the richness. Mack also enjoyed helping himself to the slices of crispy pork belly off my plate.
Mack had been waiting all week for the truffled mac ‘n cheese with baby lobster and shiitakes ($16). It was definitely not your diner mac ‘n cheese, baked and bubbling in a muted ceramic dish – this was its elegant, refined older sister, down to the use of ribbed shells. The sauce was much thinner than Mack had expected, but he enjoyed it all the same, and thought it was the perfect size.
Truffled mac ‘n cheese
It was a very pleasant meal – everything was well paced, and our server was professional but gracious. The prices are also quite reasonable, and would be a great option for those wanting to try Hardware Grill on more inexpensive terms.
Though I can’t see myself visiting Hardware Grill for lunch all that often, I could see myself returning now and again – especially for the beef bourguignon. Thanks again to Martin and Patti for the gift certificate!
9698 Jasper Avenue
Lunch: Monday-Friday, 11:30am-2pm; Dinner: Monday-Friday 5-10pm, Saturday 5-10:30pm, closed Sundays