Food Travel

1888 Chophouse – Alberta Beef is Better Outside Alberta?

On a recent trip to Banff, I was surprised to see promising restaurants come up while doing research on where to eat. Although I have been in Canada for a long time, I had never been to Banff as an adult, and did not know what to expect. I thought it was a sleepy national park town. However, the town was quite alive, and this was during COVID.

Back to food. I did know I wanted steak. Banff is in Alberta and Alberta is known for its beef. According to Statistic Canada, “Alberta once again reported the largest cattle herd in Canada in 2016, accounting for just over two-fifths of the national total”. Also, I have had Alberta beef before outside of Alberta, at places like Elisa, and it was excellent. So I was looking forward to actually having steak in its province of origin.

A search for restaurants brought up a few options in Banff. I decided on 1888 for our first night’s dinner. It is located inside the Fairmont Banff Springs so was convenient to where we were staying (another thing I learned during this trip, is that people believe this hotel is haunted, but you can Google that for the stories).

Upon our arrival the table was not ready as the restaurant was short staff due to COVID. We had a drink at the bar while waiting and the bartender was fantastic. Very knowledgeable about different alcohol and even provided samples. This continued even as we moved to our table.

The restaurant also has a good wine list. We started off with some PEI oysters.

For our main we had the Benchmark Farms Dry Aged Porterhouse. I wanted something that was aged.

While is was not bad, it was not outstanding. A few issues:

  • I do not know how long the steaks were aged, but they did not have the flavor that ageing develops
  • The two sauces it came with were bland. The bearnaise lacked acidity and tarragon and was more like ranch; the beef marrow sauce was not well seasoned
  • The steak could of had a better crust; and more seasoning; it was cooked to the correct doneness however (med rare)

The sides were mixed. The mash potato was good, but the fresh market vegetables were a play on beef wellington – beet wellington. I would of preferred more a traditional side like creamed spinach or corn.

The dessert was a banana pie.

Overall, what stood out most about this meal was the service. The bartender and our server were outstanding. The food was not bad in any way and the meal was still enjoyable. I just think that if you are in Alberta, the steak at a steakhouse serving beef from that province, should be better than the same beef served outside the province. Disappointingly, this was not the case here. I would say that if you want to have a nice dinner and you are staying at the hotel, it would not be a bad option, just don’t expect the best Alberta beef experience of all time.

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