Before the Fort McMurray wildfire administered a jolt of perspective, there was a kerfuffle afoot over an announcement by the Earls restaurant chain that the company would be sourcing all its beef from a supplier in Kansas that offered product that was Certified Humane Raised. For the kneejerkers and the easily incensed out there, Earls might as well have lined up every rancher in Alberta and kicked them in the prairie oysters. The outrage created a social-media-fuelled backlash which spawned a rash of protective sentiment not seen since the French’s ketchup wars, when humble Ontarians and their allies across the country rose up against their Loblaws overlords, demanding their condimental rights.
Earls has since revised its position. But to those who gallantly came to the defense of Alberta beef, we would hope that this fervent championing of homegrown industry extends to the many locally owned, independently run restaurants that go about the business of serving Alberta beef, day in and day out. Here are six restaurants where defenders of the beef can put their money where their mouth is.
The Cattle Baron
This classic steakhouse with locations near the airport and in the far southeast serves AAA hand-cut Alberta beef aged for a minimum 28 days, in a range of cuts from a six-oz. top sirloin to the hearty 20-oz. “cowboy cut.” Order it straight up or in classic preparations – topped with blue-cheese butter or peppercorn-crusted with a brandy-peppercorn sauce.
3340 26 St. N.E., 403-250-2595 and 33 Sun Valley Blvd. S.E., 403-201-9000, cattlebaroncalgary.com
The style of cooking here is Argentinian-inspired, but the steaks that are licked by the flames on chef Jessica Pelland’s famous wood-fired grill are from a much-less exotic locale. The restaurant sources them from the 7K Panorama Ranch near Okotoks, an operation that raises grass-fed longhorn cattle.
618 Confluence Way S.E., 403-452-3115, charbar.ca
Caesar’s Steakhouse & Lounge
This old-school dining institution has a long tradition of serving Alberta beef. The ownership even went so far as to profess their loyalty to Alberta beef ranchers during the infamous mad-cow scare of 2003. Get yours charbroiled over open flames at the legendary downtown location, which has been doing its thing since 1972, or at the second location in Willow Park that’s been around since 1985.
514 4 Ave. S.W., 403-264-1222 and 10816 Macleod Tr. S.E., 403-278-3930, caesarssteakhouse.com
There’s a mandate to use local and sustainable products whenever possible at this rustic-mod restaurant at the heart of the 17th Avenue strip. That mandate includes Silver Sage Beef – a 100-year-old ranching operation where the cattle is raised in a natural open pasture environment on a grass diet free from synthetic hormones and therapeutic antibiotics. The cattle spend their “finishing period” on a farm near Gem, Alta. and are processed at Pure Country Meats in Strathmore. Home cooks take note: Silver Sage Beef also runs a full-service retail shop at the Calgary Farmers’ Market.
718 17 Ave. S.W., 403-474-4414, marketcalgary.ca
This contemporary-styled spot in Kensington has garnered serious buzz for its masterful steak program, ranking among the Top 10 Best New restaurants in Avenue’s 13th Annual Best Restaurants list. The beef here is Alberta-bred and ranch-specific and savvy servers are trained to guide guests to the ideal cut. Modern Steak’s menu also includes a “tartare bar” featuring five different preparations of hand-chopped-to-order Alberta tenderloin. Head there Tuesdays for the tartare bar special: $5 off large orders and $2.50 off small.
107 10A St. N.W., 403-670-6873, modernsteak.ca
Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse
The expertly grilled morsels of beef being served off the swords at this downtown Brazilian steakhouse are AAA Alberta rump steak. Pair it with a selection of fresh sides from the salad bar for a downtown dinner treat.
521 10 Ave. S.W., 587-354-3441, pampasteakhouse.com
With files from Elizabeth Chorney-Booth