The Palomino – It’s fallen and it can’t giddy-up

3.1/5 Foodie Foursome Index
3.9/5 on the BBQ Scale

Mike’s Review:
The Palomino is a foot stomping, calf wrangling, tobacco spitting, kind of place that I have spent many a day longing to enter from the safety of my 1st Street Station Ctrain stop holding my non-fat soy latte extra hazelnut with whip. It is the kind of place where, as one hears coarse voice beginning to elevate, one averts his gaze down the line hoping the CTrain arrives… so when Ally and Carrie decided we should give it a shot, I knew it was my chance to wear my (a bit too tight) cowboy jeans typically reserved for Stampede or Ranchman’s.

The food was decent enough, but as some of our more avid readers know, I am fairly easy to please in this category… and I would hate to speak bad about the Calgary landmark, where I would certainly face the full wrath of the internet equal to that launched upon Alexis Frulling. The food is most definitely BBQ, exceptional BBQ at that! Our waitress was good but I was a bit confused when half the orders came out wrong. However, the professionalism, and apologetic tone she admitted her mistake with, was more than enough to make up for that.FullSizeRender[2] FullSizeRender[1]

Honestly, everything about the place was cool. However, as soon as those live musicians jumped on stage, I knew this was not the place to enjoy a meal and catch up with Ally and Carrie… although the signs on the wall hit the tone the singers could not.

If you love BBQ joints it is definitely worth checking out, however, if you haven’t been to one and are just looking to dust off your cowboy boots, I would suggest Bookers.

Jenna’s Review:
When I found out we were going to the Palamino, the place I so often gazed upon as I waited for the ol’ Tuscany train to arrive back in the day, my first thought was that I don’t have a weapon to defend myself if someone tries to start a knife fight with me. Luckily with all my mental preparation we made it into the restaurant without too much of a ruckus.

SMOKEY, that’s the smell that hits you the moment you get in. It’s almost like you are in a campfire. A savoury, meaty campfire. It definitely made me feel slightly more rugged like I was in a cabin somewhere about to have a showdown. I would say the overall ambiance was eclectic as there was something random as heck on each and every wall for you to look at.

The appetizers were delicious! We had deep fried pickles (a personal favourite of mine) that were seasoned well with a nice chipotle mayo dip. We also found out that we stumbled in on rib night which was awesome because the ribs were $1 each, well seasoned and reasonably lean. I would say I prefer their ribs way more than the ones from Bookers, but that is just me. My main dish was less satisfying. I went for the burger thinking it was a smokehouse staple but it was dry, the bun was over crisped and it was generally flavourless. One very American thing about it was you get two side dishes or “fixin’s” as they are aptly named. I had their garlic fries and caesar salad and one thing is for sure, I still smell like garlic.

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Now the music gets its own little blurb because my ears are still bleeding. They had a “live artist” and I am no Sinatra but it was as if the two artists didn’t even know what a tune was. It was quite aggressive and very very loud. Like “please god make it stop” loud.

The service was kind of like double bubble gum. It’s started off good but then it got not so good. Our waitress got 50% of the orders right for the mains, but she was a kind soul, she tried. If you were to go on a non-live music night just for ribs and appetizers I would say do it, but it’s no prize winning horse.

Ally and Carrie’s Review:
The Palomino looks very unassuming (read: sketchy) from the outside, the kind of place we probably would never think about actually going into as a mother-daughter duo for a Tuesday night dinner.  The location on the C-train line on 7th Ave maybe has something to do with that. We walked in 20 minutes before we were scheduled to meet Mike & Jenna to have a glass of wine. Good thing we did, the place was PACKED. The hockey game was on, the place smelled like smoked meat and garlic, and all surface areas were plastered with posters, signs, and other random memorabilia. It reminded me of the type of place I probably would have gone to see a punk band play when I was younger and thoroughly enjoyed those kinds of eclectic, dirty dive bars. Kind of a “throwback” for me. Now I was here with my mom. Cool!

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Our red wine came in small glass cups… is this hobo chic? I think Carrie let out a small sigh of disappointment when the server set those in front of us (she’s kind of a wine snob!). But really, made sense “dive bar” atmosphere.  Mike & Jenna showed up and we moved to a small rickety table just big enough for the 4 of us, with mis-matched chairs. Because it was a Tuesday night, we had the “buck-a-rib” special and got 20 ribs. We also got deep fried pickles because Carrie hadn’t had them before, and how can you live your life without having eaten deep-fried pickles? It would have been rude not to order them. The appetizers were awesome. You can’t be Canadian and not love cheap ribs. If that was our whole meal, the place would have probably had a higher score.

The mains came out, I got that feeling of “YES! FOOD!” as I saw the server walking towards us with plates. Cheeseburger – Jenna’s, Pulled Pork Sandwich – Mike’s… Cheeseburger – silence, Pulled Pork Sandwich – silence… “So sorry guys, I made a mistake, I put in the order wrong, the food will be up in 5 minutes!” My excited feeling turned into sadness so quickly. So Mike and Jenna started eating and we waited. And waited. And waited. Finally it came! Mac’n’cheese with bacon for myself, Chicken club with side garlic fries and corn cob wrapped in bacon for Carrie. The Mac’n’cheese was amazing. How can you go wrong with pasta covered in cheese baked with more cheese and BACON? Carrie’s chicken club was marginal at best, and the corn lacked any flavour which was surprising because …bacon. The garlic fries were so potent that I think I can still taste them a couple days later (not that that’s bad, just noteworthy).
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Near the end of our meal some live music started in the back corner, and we were reminded that we are more “adult-y” than we give ourselves credit for. I found myself thinking “Oh my, this is a bit loud isn’t it? Can’t they play a little more quietly?”. My younger, punk-music loving self would have been horrified! By the time we paid our bills it’s safe to say we were annoyed by the music and not being able to hear each other talk.
Overall, the Palomino was a cool place, you can’t really have high expectations for the food and wine when walking in there. The ribs were good, the Mac’n’cheese was amazing, and the atmosphere was excellent. The service could have been better, our meals could have all come out at the same time, and I was shocked at how expensive the bill actually was in the end for the place. It’s going for that “dive bar” feel but has more of an “upscale” budget. Just goes to show that in a city with a healthy hipster scene, there’s a market for over-priced pub fare.
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