Fort McMurray Food Fight
The Best Patios in Town
SUMMERS IN FORT MCMURRAY IMPRESS AND INSPIRE EVERYONE WHO LIVES HERE. As the nights grow long and the days warm up, we are drawn out of our hibernation to congregate along the rivers, parks, and patios that dot our small town in a big forest. Each year we average a mere seventy-two days without frost. That’s a short 10 weekends, or two and a half months to get out and sip some libations with friends in the great outdoors. This Fort McMurray Food Fight is about the patio time we all love; time to be cherished with friends and family, and so with friends and family in tow, I ventured off to pit Alexander’s Pub against the Fox Den.
Round 1: The Patio.
Alexander’s Pub is a jazzy looking appendage to the popular Pantry Restaurant on King and Franklin. Often overlooked as a patio spot, these adjoined establishments share a small wooden boardwalk across from Mucho Burrito. With Keyano College nearby and the bustle of the traffic into the Tide Centre, the patio is a fine spot for people watching. A full flavour of our community can be seen strolling along Franklin Avenue. The noise of Franklin Avenue makes for occasional interruptions in conversation as motorcycles and trucks roar by, but the eclectic character of our city makes this a very enjoyable spot. The patio seems to have been an afterthought in design as one must venture out through the restaurant and into the hotel to find the restrooms. Nevertheless, this is a pretty cool spot.
The Fox Den is well known to seasoned residents and golfers, but may escape the notice of people who don’t venture to the Golf-Side of MacDonald Island. With a huge wrap-around wooden patio that overlooks the Miskanaw Golf Course, the Fox Den sits nestled between some historic waterways. Across from the patio lies greens of manicured grass, a water fountain, and further still the rivers and forest, it is hard to find a more picturesque patio in Fort McMurray and, perhaps, Northern Alberta. While the people-watching at the Fox Den is less exciting than Franklin Avenue, the distant “tink” of a good golf stroke adds its own ambiance.
Winner: The Fox Den for raw beauty.
Round 2: Drinks and service.
Alexander’s hosts an impressive selection of beers on tap, a full menu of cocktails and a predictable choice of table wines. My companions ordered some summer drinks, a Singapore Sling and a Cosmopolitan while I had a pint of Stella Artois. The beer was excellent but by the second round of cocktails my friends noticed some consistency problems. For high-balls and beer, Alexander’s is solid but for summer drinks they may need to practice some more. Drinks aside, the service at Alexander’s never misses a beat and matches the fast and friendly nature of our community.
At the Fox Den it seems that beer is king with the Golf crowd, especially the bottled kind. They also offer high-balls and cocktails to quench the thirst and combat the heat. Their Singapore Slings were more consistent and their vodka caesars were excellent. During this visit, early in the season, they seemed to be working out the kinks in service, but there were no major issues.
Winner: At the time of writing it is still early in patio season so it is tough to evaluate drinks and service. With many more repeated visits required, I am forced to call this a draw for now.
Round 3: Food.
Shared plates of finger-food and pub grub are a necessary part of patio time. We ordered Spring Rolls, Chicken Tikka Bites, and Potato Skins at Alexander’s. While all the plates were decent, the Chicken Tikka bites, served with yogurt and a mango salsa were the most noteworthy. The spring rolls were adequate and the potato skins were good, though predictable. Solid “pub food” for a good pub. No complaints.
The Fox Den’s menu has become quite interesting. We enjoyed the Foursome Platter, a play on words for a common golfer’s menage. Consisting of Chicken Wings, Onion Rings, Bam-Bam Shrimp, and Pork Belly Lollipops served in a trio of sauces, it is certainly enough food to share with a group of friends. The onion rings were fine and the chicken wings were nicely done; solid pub quality. The bam bam shrimp were fresh, flavourful, and addictive, but the Pork Belly Lollipops stole the show. They were like a “hole in one” and they make it to the coveted “Go here, Eat this” list.
Winner: With Pork Belly Lollipops popping with layers of flavours that melt in the mouth with butter-like goodness, The Fox Den wins this round with a truly unexpected treat.
THE FOX DEN. While a well fought battle between two really cool places to spend some patio time, this is the YMM Food Fight, and the pork belly lollipops at The Fox Den are a true knock-out.