Monthly Archives: July 2011

A standing O for The Next Act Pub and Rapid Fire Theatre

I’m old.

Not Betty White old, but definitely “that-guy-is -too-old-for-nightclubs” old.

But lately my wife and I have been thumbing our noses at the rowdy young-uns and stepping out after dark around Whyte avenue, and we’re lovin’ it!

Friday nights start with an endless scouring of the Whyte ave area for a free parking spot. I’ll be damned if I’m paying for something I could possibly get for free- (there’s a joke about my Scottish heritage there somewhere).

Then it’s out of the car and over to The Next Act Pub.

Recently renovated, this well known hangout for the theatre crowd has a casual, energetic vibe. Gone is the worn, dated carpet; replaced by laminate. An unfortunate side effect of the reno’s is that in removing the carpet, a lot of the noise absorbing surface was eliminated. This means when it’s busy it can be quite noisy. It’s not a place for a romantic dinner, but I suspect most people would be ok with it.

New owners, new paint, and a new attitude.

A lot of work went into remaking the appearance, but the most impressive renovation was to the menu.

The kitchen is run by Nathan, one of the owners. It’s pretty clear that one of their mandates upon taking over was to make The Next Act a destination for it’s food.

Mission accomplished.

The menu is small for a pub, but that’s the way I like it. The burgers remind me of the way I’d make them at home: you know, if I had awesome stuff around the house like blue cheese, pancetta, or stewed green chilies. The Next Act recently added a rotating feature burger- The Cameo Burger- recently I tried the first, topped with bourbon soaked apples, caramelized onions, and brie. Fantastic. The house made brioche buns are nice and soft and are perfect for burgers… or pulled pork.

Pulled Pork Sandwich w/ housemade BBQ sauce and crispy onions on a brioche bun

Aaahhh, the pulled pork sandwich.  Slathered in a sweet, tangy bbq sauce. Tender and delicious. I love it. It’s now my go-to pulled pork sandwich in Edmonton.

But I probably just wasted a couple hundred words, because what you’re probably going to end up ordering anyways is this….

Pulled pork nachos!

Served with fresh guacamole, salsa, and sour cream, you’ll need at least 2 people if you intend to finish them… most likely 3. Cheese, pork, and vegetables layered nicely with no neglected areas baron of toppings. I can sum up eating these for the first time as follows:

Ladies: It’s like finding that perfect pair of shoes. The ones that don’t pinch, rub, or scratch in any way and look fantastic. And are on sale. Or it’s like finding that pair of jeans that doesn’t make your butt look fat, or weird, or flat. And are on sale.

Men: It’s like touching a boob.

Ok, so maybe that’s a little exaggeration, but they’re pretty darn good.

The Next Act also puts on a family style dinner on the third Sunday of each month that has proven to be popular. My wife and I went to the last one and I will share that with you in an upcoming post.

Pulled Chix w/ sundried tomato pesto and brie on a homemade brioche bun

The brilliant serving staff, led by owners Saylish and Mike, are always very efficient and hard working. The staff here aren’t just standing around filing their nails, texting, and telling themselves how hot they look in their belt sized mini-skirts like in some other places I can think of… they actually care about providing good service.

After eating and having a beer at the Act, we walk across the street to the Varscona Theatre for Friday night TheatreSports.

Put on by the talented performers at Rapid Fire Theatre, the 11pm improv show is a lively, highly entertaining couple of hours that is maybe the best entertainment value in the city at $10.00.

Led by veterans Amy, Arlen, Jamie, Julian, and the Mullet Guy,* scenes of improvised comedy mayhem are produced from audience suggestions. The better the suggestions, the better the scene. Remember that when yelling out idiotic things and laughing to yourself like an idiot. (yeah I’m talking to you, guy who when asked for a suggestion of something cute yells out “dead babies!” and laughed like a drunken surfer. No-one else was laughing and you are stupid).

For the most part, the comedy is not crude or offensive in any way. In fact, the cast seems to go out of their way to avoid the barrage of sex themed suggestions and pick something more random. I love that they can make an extremely funny scene without taking the easy route.

The crowd is heavily weighted to the late teens/ early twenties age range, but there is a mix of folks in their 30’s and 40’s too. This is not the rowdy Whyte avenue drunken imbecile crowd here. Usually very respectful and well behaved, the audience is here to have a great time and participate when asked to.

The key being “when asked to”.

The one pet peeve of mine is that once in a while you get someone in the audience that doesn’t understand that after the crowd is polled for scene suggestions, it’s time to shut your beer hole and watch the hilarity ensue. Shouting out stuff during the scene is disruptive, rude, and no more appreciated than it would be at any other style of theatre. Thankfully, Jamie will have none of that crap and will call you out on it in a most prick-ish manor.

To a thundering applause I might ad.

So there you go, your Friday night is planned for you. For less than the cost of a movie w/ concession you can load up on pulled pork nachos, and have a couple hours of laughter and feel good about supporting some great local talent…both in the kitchen, and on the stage.

* Yeah, I know his real name is Kory, but he’ll always be Mullet Guy to me.

The Next Act on Urbanspoon


Epic Vacation Eats- Founding Farmers, Washington, D.C.

I love to travel.

And I love to eat.

So what could be better than travelling to eat?

With that in mind, I thought I’d share with you all (or y’all for my American friends) one of my favorite restaurants from holidays, in May of 2009.  Founding Farmers in the Foggy Bottom neighbourhood of Washington, D.C.


We first tried FF on a recommendation from front desk staff at Hotel Lombardy, our home base for the week. “Give us a great place for dinner in the area” we said. “And if you point at the TGI Fridays across the street there’s gonna be trouble”.

Lucky for us, this recent European transplant had no trouble telling us that one of his pet peeves since arriving in the U.S.A. is American “fast food”, and compared it to something you would scold your dog for doing on the rug.

“This is our kind of guy”, we think as he continues his rant.

And then he pauses, “But THAT place…” he says as he points excitedly down the block a ways, “that place is great!”

“And I don’t even get anything to refer you to them;” he continued, “I just really like it. It’s just about the only place I eat around here anymore.”

I look over at my wife and I can tell we’re thinking the same thing; “This guy thinks the only place worth eating at in this whole country is just 2 blocks away”? How can we NOT take this recommendation? Or at least let’s walk by and check out the menu.

So off we go excited at the thought of trying this new restaurant, but as we get to the front door of the hotel we can hear some familiar rumbling.


And not just rain, a torrential downpour! Huge drops blowing sideways.

Yeah, that looks about right.

We join the crowds of people huddled under the hotel awning, and try to wait it out. After about 10 minutes and a failed attempt to borrow an umbrella from the front desk we decide even walking a couple blocks in this downpour is not appealing. People are getting out of cabs in front of the hotel and are drenched before they get inside. No thanks.

People, start your judging, because what happened next defies everything Fojoy and I stand for; especially on a holiday.

Fojoy and I, we… oh man this is hard to admit. We uh, well we went across the street to TGI Fridays.

A national chain restaurant.

On our holidays.

To understand what a big deal this is, you need to understand us a bit:

We love to find restaurants that are steeped in local flavour. We want quality food, made by a chef; not assembled from a chart by a 17 year old “cook” working part time for extra drug money. (Because all teenagers are on drugs you know). We want somewhere non- touristy. Somewhere locals go.

Bubba Gump’s? No thanks. Applebee’s? Keep it. McDonald’s? Are you kidding me?

Founding Farmers may not fit the bill on all accounts, but it certainly hit the mark on some important ones… It’s independent, cooking from fresh, and has a great upbeat feel.

By the time we left Fridays the rain had given way to beautiful sunshine. (Because what a crazy hot day really needs is 100% humidity)  We decided to walk a bit and headed down the street to check out Founding Farmers menu.

Stopping out front, I pressed my now frizzy fro’ to the glass and peered inside. “looks really nice, let’s check out the menu”.

We stepped inside for a closer look. Immediately we were hit with the smell of the popcorn of the day being served at the bar.

Mmmm, popcorn

Seriously, you’re making a different gourmet popcorn every day? I love you! (insert awkward silence)

Being severely snack deprived from the holiday, this really sealed the deal for us.

“We are definitely having breakfast here” Fojoy demanded, as if she was going to get an argument.

We were told that FF is owned by a collective of 40,000 American family farmers. Most of the ingredients are organic, and pretty much everything on the menu is made here. The restaurant operates at “Carbon neutral” and is considered the “greenest” restaurant in D.C.

Cool, I love the concept. Don’t disappoint me tomorrow.

Now excited for breakfast, we continued on our walk. We stopped a few blocks down at the White House for some pictures, and headed back to the hotel. “The sooner we get to sleep, the sooner we can have breakfast” I reasoned. Plus, I can’t tell if this shirt is still drenched with rain, or sweat; so I want to get it off.

Up early the next morning, we dashed over to FF and sat down to go over the menu in more detail. I went with the Founding Farmers Breakfast: Sausage and eggs served with a homemade english muffin.

A mouthwatering, toasted english muffin.

I know what you’re thinking, “What’s the big deal about an english muffin”? But let me tell you, this was nothing like what you buy at a grocery store. It was light, fluffy, and delicious.

I still rave about that english muffin to this day. And the sausage was the best I’ve had anywhere. I couldn’t believe that this was, at least on paper, the same thing I order at home all the time.

We loved it so much that we ate there 3 times for breakfast.

And twice for dinner.

The dinner items that stand out in our memories were the Chicken and waffles, and the Prime Rib sandwich.

We had never had chicken and waffles before and were sceptical of the combination; and I have to say I still don’t care for it together. However, I ate them separately, saving the waffles for a kind of dessert. The chicken was definitely the star of the show. Crispy, and full of flavour. Not dripping with grease like a certain southern gentlemans place who for the purposes of anonymity I’ll call “The Corporal.”

The prime rib sandwich was fall apart tender, with caramalized onion and an au jus for dipping. The inappropriate sounding moans heard in the dining room that night may or may not have been coming from us while eating this.

It’s not the prime rib sandwich, but this pot roast was pretty darn good too.

Being a tomato soup junkie, Fojoy also devoured a grilled cheese with fresh made tomato soup. I don’t ever really like tomato soup, but even I had to marvel at how tasty this soup was. And since all the breads are made in house, the grilled cheese was crunchy and fantastic as well.
Fojoy also tested the Mint Lemonade (all the beverages are also fresh, made-to-order, in house), which started an ongoing infatuation at our house with it, and it’s distant minty cousin: the Mojito.

Simple foodand drink, done well. This is my kind of place.

Founding Farmers on Urbanspoon

Addictions, Baconhound style.

My name is Baconhound, and I am a recovering fast food junkie. The last time I “used” was 3 weeks ago.

It was a Friday; I was in my work van and had no prepared lunch. I survived the morning fuelled by coffee and granola bars, but I could feel the beast in my belly growing restless.

And I had been so good up to that point; eating lots of salads, grilled vegetables, juices, soups. No alley burgers, no fried chicken, no deliciously naughty french fries, no rain barrel of cola.

But on that fateful day, I happily made my way from appointment to appointment; chatting with customers, sipping my coffee, and singing along with my iPod’s warped sense of “shuffle”.*  I’d pass a local drive-thru “restaurant” and pretend to yell out at the slobbish, sweaty patrons (for some reason in a weird Russian/ Polish accent- which I suggest you try right now) “WHY FOR YOU ARE EATING ZEES CRRRRAP, ZEES EES  FOOD FOR DOGS!” Then continue on my way, proud of my newfound will power and finding myself extremely hilarious.

And then out of the blue it happened.

Through some evil twist of fate or karma, (or some mix of the two henceforth known as fatarma) I got dispatched to a place that would test my resolve like no other.

I sat motionless in the van, staring at my work screen; I pondered how I was going to get through this situation and maintain the same belt notch. Unable to stall anymore, I slowly put the van in drive and head out.

Pulling up to the front door, I frantically look at my phone like a convict in the electric chair; hoping for that last minute phone call that could save me.

It lay there silent.

I summon some courage, gather my tools, and head inside.

Then I came face to face with the evil temptress.

Her name?


Her weapon?

A powerfully seductive scent that lures in her victims.

I stand tall, resisting any and all attacks on my senses.

“I can beat this”, I tell myself; secretly knowing I cannot.

Instead I concentrate on my work, diligently completing task after task like an un-hungry robot. Finally having completed my work, I quickly pack up my tools and head for the door, marvelling at my self control.

Reaching for the door handle, I hear a voice call out to me.

“Would you like a free donair?”

Just like that,  I succumb.

I quickly grab that foil wrapped saucy wench and dash back to the van.

Devouring the sweet, seared mystery meat I think to myself  “I don’t care who can see me”, while the tangy, delicious donair sauce drips from my chin.

Pushing the last morsel into my mouth,  junkies’ remorse sets in, and a cloud of shame decends as I realize I have undone all my hard work for a few moments of bliss.

I share this story with you in the hope that it will inspire just one person to succeed where I have failed.

But more than that, there is a moral to this story:

Donairs are awesome, and I love free stuff.

* 5 consecutive songs- as shuffled by my iPod.

Bust a Move- Young MC

We’re not going to take it- Twisted Sister

A case of you- Joni Mitchell

Looks that Kill- Motley Crue

The Logdrivers Waltz (non Canadians, you tube it)

Tres Carnales

Owners Chris, Edgar, and Daniel flung open the doors to the hotly anticipated new Mexican Taqueria Tres Carnales on Thursday night. Announcing their opening on Twitter (@TresCarnales) earlier in the day, my wife, Fojoy and I decided to head down and check it out.

The name, Tres Carnales, inspired some conversation on the drive. What could it mean? I guessed it meant 3 Carnies, but after arriving it became obvious that nobody was going to get on the microphone and yell “DOES ANYONE WANT TO GO FASTERRRRRRRR??” Plus there were no opportunities to win a giant stuffed armadillo through games of chance. A more experienced blogger might have remembered to simply ask what it meant, but I got distracted by the smell of roasting pork.

Now I know what you’re thinking…. what kind of evil S.O.B. reviews a new restaurant on their opening night, when they’re trying to iron out the kinks and feel their way around an entirely new space, menu, staff, and equipment?

This jerk, that’s who.

I love good tacos, and with less than a handful of places in town making authentic, home-made Mexican favorites, it was a given that I’d be trying this spot out in a hurry. We finished up the little projects we were doing around the house and set a course for downtown, Rice Howard Way to the exact.

For those readers outside of Canada, especially those in the south-western United States, you may be a little confused as to the excitement at a simple Mexican Taqueria opening. You know how there is a great little Taqueria on every street corner and street middle in the USA? Well, I remember a few years ago one of our local free news rags printed a “Best of Edmonton” list and the winner for best Mexican was……… TACO BELL! How embarrassing. So getting some authentic choices is exciting.

With the soft opening obviously being designed to avoid getting completely overwhelmed the first few nights while they figure out a routine, we tempered our expectations and prepared ourselves for slow service, confusion, and long waits.

To our surprise, things went quite smoothly. Although when I asked Chris – one of the owners – he said it sure didn’t feel like it.

The menu required Daniel to do a little explanation – no fries supreme or tater tots here – then we ordered (more on the ordering system later) and sat to take in the atmosphere. In the expected Mexican fashion, we were greeted by loud music, loud colors, and loud flavours.

The system for ordering may take some getting used to for Edmontonians. It was very similar to a Mexican restaurant we visited in Chicago recently, celebrity chef Rick Bayless‘ XOCO.

Upon entering, you line up at the front till and order. You can pay now for take-out, or if eating in, you can run a tab in case you order more food/ drinks. You’re given a card to identify your order and you head to your table.

After only a couple of minutes our starter of guacamole with fresh made tortilla chips arrived. The guacamole was very good; a little chunky with a bit of tomato and not too heavy on the garlic. Just the way I like it. In fact, Fojoy commented that it’s very much like my own version of guac. The real difference maker was the fresh tortilla chips though. Warm, crispy, salty, and delicious.

Shortly thereafter, our mains arrived. Fojoy devoured the Al Pastor Torta; a slow roasted pork sandwich with tomato, cilantro, and guacamole. The bun was soft and perfect for a sandwich, and the cheese was grilled right onto the bread. The pork, marinated and spicy, was a standout. The little bit of cilantro added an enjoyable freshness. Definitely a twice a week kind of sandwich. Great Tortas at Tres Carnales, along with fantastic Bahn Mi sandwiches at V’s up the block makes Rice Howard Way the go to spot for sandwiches.

I went with Daniel’s recommendation of the Pollo Asado quesadillas. They were very tasty and satisfying. Marinated and grilled chicken melted with cheese on a fresh made tortilla. It was served with an ounce of salsa and both entrees came with a shot glass of beans.

All three dishes we sampled tasted fresh and were quite well prepared, especially considering they had only been open about an hour when we stopped in.

The only complaint was that with the size of the dishes, we both walked away still a little bit hungry. Three dishes plus a Mexican soda came to over $33 with taxes. Maybe a little something on the side of the mains to even out the meal (rice, bigger portion of beans) would be nice.

Overall there are a lot of positives and lots of promise for the future in this new eatery. Here’s hoping these Carnies expand to offer breakfast in the future; I’m sure the chilaquiles will be great.


Return visit on Thursday July 7th, 2011:

We’re back!

I was interested to have a second look/ taste after the Carnales have had a week to settle in. And what a week it was! Word of line-ups out the door at lunch and being so busy they ran out of food one day! Nice problem for a 1 week old eatery to have.

I am very happy to report that after evaluating feedback from customers, the owners have made a change to the taco plates. They have increased the meal to 4 tacos instead of 3. There was no leaving a bit hungry this time. You have to love a business that listens to their customers and makes changes to address any concerns. That is commendable.

My wife Fojoy had another Torta, this time Carnitas. Fantastic again… even better than the Al Pastor. I went with the homemade chorizo tacos. Exceptional. It’s obvious quality is not going to be a problem here.

The 2 dishes, again with guacamole y totopos (i could eat that every day), and an agua de jamaica (hibiscus fruit punch) came to $30+ change including taxes. Pretty solid deal.

Do yourself a favour and check out this great bunch of guys serving up a fantastic, fresh meal. Tell them the Baconhound sent you.
Tres Carnales Taqueria on Urbanspoon