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Stately But Mainstream

sandm logoLast night I attended a media “Menu Tasting” event for the opening of the Jasper Avenue location of State & Main, the growing chain of casual restaurants owned by Franworks, a culinary company that also operates Original Joe’s. I rarely attend such food-oriented events (in part because I am not often invited and when I am my schedule usually conflicts), but had an available evening so thought I would go and give it a try.

The restaurant, located on the prime corner of Jasper and 101 Street (kind of our State and Main when you think of it), is open, bright and airy. The decor is relaxed and low key with a nice patio for the warmer days.

We were offered a series of dishes from their menu, ranging from pretzels and chicken wings to Asian inspired salads to their signature steak dish. The fare was well prepared and nicely presented. Highlights for me included the Dragon Boat Lettuce Wraps, the Jalepeno Mac & Cheese and the Ice Cream Sandwich (made with house-baked chocolate chip cookies). The Empire State steak looked very good, although I did not partake myself (as I don’t eat beef).

sandm tacosThe menu is designed for a casual, pleasant, accessible dining experience. There are a range of culinary styles available and I found most of the dishes had a light, summery character to them. Not the Mac & Cheese though, but who would want a summery macaroni and cheese? The approach is not dissimilar to a host of these middle-range restaurant chains, including OJ’s, Cactus Club, Moxie’s and Joey Tomatoes and others.

However this is a beer website, so I should focus on the beer. On that front State & Main gets a hearty “meh”. They have 18 beer on tap, but nothing that jumps out as particularly interesting. It has a house pale lager and red ale, which I assume are the as the OJ’s versions. It has a couple Big Rock, including a rotating tap (currently their Dunkelweizen), but then it is mostly a parade of standard macro-owned beer. They have Goose Island IPA (now an ABInbev property) and one or two craftish offerings but not much else.

Nothing local. Nothing that would make a craft beer drinker get exciting, or even mildly interested.

There is nothing particularly wrong with the tap selections – I tried the dunkelweizen and the Goose Island, meaning there was something for me to go to – but given the rapid changes in the beer world, I would have expected some of these regional chains, like Earl’s and OJ’s, to be upping their game a little bit. I know beer is not their primary selling point, but a growing portion of their customers will be looking for something more interesting than Stella and Guinness.

I am particularly surprised at the pedestrian offerings given that The Underground and Craft Beer Market are just down the block and offer substantially superior beer options. Even pubby mainstay Sherlock Holmes on Rice Howard Way has a bit more to offer. Soon that area of downtown could be a craft beer neighbourhood and State & Main risks being left behind.

I have no doubt the folks at Franworks have done their market research and determined that this particular selection will be popular among their customers. I also quietly wonder if some contracts with the chosen providers might also be at play. I have no evidence such an arrangement exists but the list was heavy with a couple of corporations, which often raises suspicions, warranted or otherwise.

I enjoyed myself at State & Main. It is an inviting, friendly atmosphere with good food that can go down easy after a hard day’s work in the office towers. I just wish they would up their beer game a bit.

3 comments to Stately But Mainstream

  • Brady

    Yeah, I’ve been to the Southgate Mall location a couple of times now, and it really feels like a hookup or ‘meet your insurance or financial advisor for lunch’ kind of place. The beer? Big Rock house brews should be a sign to walk, or rather run, right out of the place upon conclusion of whatever business you might have had there.

  • An Albertan who doesn’t eat beef?

    I never knew there was such a person! 🙂

  • Chad

    The Soithgate location has one rotating tap… that never rotates. Ever since that location opened that rotating tap has served Alley Kat’s Aprikat.

    I think you’re right about the market research and possible big beer shenanigans… but I think an Alberta restaurant chain could easily inspire loyalty in its customers if they themselves showed some loyalty to Alberta craft brewers. I’d like to see a business policy where half the taps in a restaurant are Alberta craft brewer taps. I’m looking at you: Original Joes, Century Group, Earls, and Famoso.

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