Say Uncle10184 104 St.780-540-5369sayuncle.caReservations by phoneNo listed deliveryMon. to Sun. 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. (earlier on Sundays)Food: 3.5 of 5 SunsAmbience: 3.5 of 5 SunsService: 3.5 of 5 SunsDinner for two, excluding beverages, tips and taxes: Basic, $25; loaded, $40By GRAHAM HICKSI can see what Say Uncle’s culinary team is trying to get at, but they are not quite there.It’s about creating a dual identity: a comfy restaurant with an extensive craft-beer selection by day, a funky, bright, clean bar with deliberately rustic snack food by night.The food is interesting and quite adventurous. Think of your grandmother’s cooking made contemporary, highlighting root and leafy veggies, lots of fermentation, tenderized cheaper beef cuts, sours and pickles … including pickled eggs like the ones that sat in the big glass urns on the counters of old bars.Say Uncle’s veggie small plates can be a meal unto themselves – the eating part of this equation. Or served as unusual snacks whilst drinking beer.
Roasted broccoli smothered in nacho cheese, with a nice spicy kick.
I’ve rarely seen roasted cabbage wedge – with sausage slices and pearl onions – on a menu before. Nor roast broccoli smothered in melted cheese and dusted with hot paprika. Nor sliced root veggie (parsnips? carrots? rutabagas?) roasted chips, sprinkled over feta and arugula. It’s a raid on gramma’s root cellar!The cabbage deserves special mention, steeped in something interesting with tasty sour flavours thanks to a sprinkling of pearl onions.
An intriguing dish: Marinated/roasted cabbage with pearl onions and Andouille sausage.
Also retro was an iceberg wedge salad, the kind that once sat next to the lime-green Jell-O salad rings on the salad buffet. The salad oozed Thousand Island dressing like iceberg salads of yesteryear – except this kitchen-made version of the venerable dressing was far more interesting than Mr. Kraft’s.The chef may like vegetarian, but by no means is he/she ready to give up on meat.Say Uncle’s meats are pleasingly coarse. The ground beef is deliberately rough ground, creating a pleasing sensation of brisket beef strands within the patty. The chopped Andouille sausage with the cabbage had diced seasoned fat and meat within the filling – delicious, but not often used in this part of the world.
Arugula salad adorned with root veggie treats.
It was in Say Uncle’s mains that things went awry. The prawns in cheese curd grits were a disappointment – a few prawns floating in a bowl of tasteless guck with the texture of mashed potatoes and undercooked rice. The prawns were bathed in a tablespoon of another bland liquid, allegedly lobster bisque.
It sounded good but the shrimp and lobster bisque on curd grits was disappointing.
The beef stroganoff special of the day – a cute featured entitled What’s Uncle Making? – was okay, but the beef strips were a tough chew, a distraction easily corrected by better tenderization or better beef. The macaroni was so-so too, but hey, the special only cost $10 for an entrée sized bowl.Good, refreshing, retro-ideas give Say Uncle a distinctive food personality. But more experimentation is needed to find those final flourishes. Poutine, roast beef sandwiches and hot chicken are also on the menu. We were in search of the unusual.Our server mentioned a revised menu was in the works. Given that Say Uncle is a partnership between individuals involved in Northern Chicken, Sandwich & Sons and Prairie Catering, there should be no shortage of ideas. The evolution of this menu will be intriguing.Say Uncle also has one of those cute 104th Street patios, so pleasant in the late afternoon summer sun, until the latest rain squall rolls in. Parking on 104 Street is near impossible, but street parking can usually be found a few blocks west.FOOD NOTES• The Pechet family, owners of the Mayfield Inn in its famous food days, has shrunk its Edmonton-area footprint down to real estate, the Camrose Casino, and the classy Violino Ristorante. Expected shortly from the family company is an announcement regarding another first-class Edmonton eatery.• When tipping gets greedy: Suggested tipping options on the Chili’s Edmonton International Airport debit/credit card system … 18%, 20%, 22%. Not even a 15% option. Good grief!• Opening this coming Friday, Aug. 16, at 3803 Calgary Trail is Jollibee, the Filipino equivalent of McDonald’s.