Review by Erika Toker, student writer in the University of Alberta WRITE 297 program.
I went to Earl’s Kitchen and Bar on Jasper Ave for my first time with eight other friends on a Saturday night at 9pm for happy hour. We had just spent the day at the Expo Centre where the snowmobile show takes place. The boys always drag us girlfriends to this show so that we can pretend to have a good time and watch them buy overpriced gear, and the only reason we agree to go is for happy hour at Earl’s afterwards.
We walked into a bustling restaurant with soft lighting and neutral colours. They made good use of string lights and leather furniture to make the atmosphere chic and cozy. The lack of harsh lighting and bright colours actually did this place good, and created the effect that I could happily find myself five $3.50 highballs deep without embarrassment.
The hostess seated us around a large round table that offered enough elbow room for all nine of us, and which allowed us to converse without anyone feeling left out. The chairs were comfortable, but it was almost too easy to sink into your seat, which could be a problem if you’re trying to enjoy a meal. Luckily we were just there for a few drinks and some good conversation, which is kind of the point of happy hour here.
There was music playing throughout the restaurant that I found to be unnecessarily loud and somewhat obnoxious. It was hard to hear the waitress when she took our order, and since we were around such a large table it was hard to hear anyone who wasn’t within a 3-foot radius of your seat. The music was just a random playlist of trending songs, no matter the genre, so it wasn’t the worst thing to listen to which is great since it was basically all I could hear.
The menu for happy hour has a list of appetizers ranging from $4.00 to $19.00, including pizza, spinach dip, Cajun chicken, and then some. Drinks ranged from $3.50 highballs to $11.00 glasses of wine, with plenty of variety in between. If you can get an 8” pizza and your favourite highball for less than $9.00 then why not give it a try?
I ordered a lime mojito, although raspberry was also available, and I don’t regret my decision one bit. The mojito was great, very refreshing and bubbly, and the bartender managed to create the drink with a perfect balance of lime and mint so I was more than happy.
The only problem with the mojito was that it took 20 minutes to get to the table, which was much longer than I expected. We all sipped on our drinks until they were dry, waiting for the waitress to come back and take our order. After 30 minutes she came back and some of us ordered another drink and an appetizer. I chose the sweet potato fries served with a side of garlic aioli.
Another 20 minutes passed and those who ordered a second drink finally got it, so they ordered their third before she left. Needless to say, the service was pretty bad. She was nice enough but not overly personable, and considering that the restaurant wasn’t overly busy she took much longer than she should have for drinks as simple as a rum and coke. None of us were happy with how long it took, and the poor service kind of ruined our time. We all went in with simple demands. We wanted some drinks, some appetizers, and a comfortable place to sit, so it says a lot about the service when they can’t even do that right.
The appetizers arrived, and they all looked great. The sweet potato fries came in a stainless steel pail about two cups deep on a plate, with the garlic aioli in another small stainless steel container. The fries were medium cut, the outside was crispy and salty and the inside soft and full of flavour just as they should be. They were a natural orange, and the salt on top added a little extra texture that was probably necessary.
I finished my food and left for the washroom with some of the girls while the guys continued waiting for another drink. The aesthetics in the washroom were better than those of the restaurant, which was quite surprising. There was some fancy soap that smelled like fruit, and the stalls all had fancy, large black doors. The design on the stall doors matched the design on the frame of the mirror, but you could barely notice due to the poor lighting. I thought they would have brighter lights in a women’s washroom considering half the time we go in there to fix our makeup or check our hair. I guess I could argue that they made up for this with the full length mirrors that covered an entire wall, which were perfect for checking your outfit.
The place itself was quite enjoyable and the atmosphere was great for happy hour. The food and drinks were good as well, once the server finally got them to us. The music made it difficult to enjoy the company of those you’re with, and although I love a good mojito I don’t think I would go back to this specific Earl’s for happy hour based on the poor service, and none of my friends would either.
Appetizer for one, including a drink and service, $21.00
11830 Jasper Ave