I was all prepared not to like District. The reason for this was threefold – one – a vaguely negative review by one of my favorite food blogs, the fact that I didn’t really like their samples at the Rocky Mountain Food and Wine Festival (not once, but twice!), and finally because most hyped restaurants disappoint me, some bitterly, others less so. They had a lot stacked against them.
The situation didn’t improve when I arrived, and burst out laughing upon recognizing that they occupy a former bar (Fox and Firkin) for those that recall those days. There I spent at least a couple of years of my youth drinking questionable drinks. I even have pictures, somewhere, (no doubt in a folder called ‘Evidence’), to be used by my future children.
The bar closed down several years ago and was something else before becoming District, so the space was renovated to unrecognizable, with a lovely wooden bar, fall-ish décor with copper, brick and gourds, and steel brewing tanks. I was also impressed by the fridge full of canned goods, which promised good things to come.
Many people have posted about slow to non-existent service at District, and they proceeded to oblige. While waiting fifteen minutes or so for my friend, I was not approached for a drink order, and after my friend arrived, we were promptly ignored by every passing waitress, studiously avoiding eye contact, for about 20 minutes. It was not just us, since ALL the tables in our area were left to look around for someone, anyone. Finally my friend got fed up and spoke to the bartender about sending someone over, at which point we proceeded to get good, congenial service from a gal who just started her shift.
So. District was on notice at this point, and not knowing whether the food would justify the rest, we proceeded to order a decent sample of dishes so as not to come back if it wasn’t worth it.
We started off with a charcuterie platter, served on the ubiquitous wooden cutting board. Ordering is done on a piece of paper, sushi-style, that contains all manner of delicacies, and we agreed on duck bacon, dry salami, olives and Riopelle cheese from Quebec. Served with awesome seed crackers, house chutney, pickles and something sweet that I can’t recall, it was a very good charcuterie plate. The salami was full of meaty flavor, not too smoky, properly salty, and in general far superior to the Elk Salami (which I tried on my second visit). The duck bacon was about as delicious as it sounds, and went oh so well with that berry concoction. The cheese was sublime and a treat in its own right. The pickles were perfectly crunchy, blissfully not sweet, not as good as mine, but not bad at all, and the relish was fantastic with the salty meats.
Another major win were the Guinness braised shortribs. Fall off the bone tender, deep mahogany in color, with beefy taste and a subtly sweet sauce they were absolutely divine, and I already crave them in anticipation for the winter ahead.
The poutine was a shade below sublime. On the plus side, the fries were hot, well cooked, fresh and the portion size just right. On the minus side, I prefer a more subtle gravy than the dark, concentrated one District uses, and I also prefer peeled, thicker cut fries. Would I order the poutine again? Absolutely, because when one is craving poutine this one will do nicely.
The burger was the least exciting, not the least because by then we were stuffed. But in the interest of scientific research, we dutifully eat most of our halves, and declared it – just fine. Not disappointing by any stretch, and no revelation either. Did I mention we were stuffed? It was fine, a decent burger. I’d choose shortribs anytime.
Stuffed to the brim with pretty rich dishes, (the lonely salad notwithstanding), we didn’t even contemplate dessert. Barely finishing my Creemore Springs took about all remaining energy, and a siesta seemed in order. Food coma would not be an inappropriate term to use.
So, given the pluses of the food and the service issues would I be back? I sure would. The food is everything it’s hyped up to be, local, seasonal, house-made with love and respect for the ingredients. Do they need to reconsider service? Yes, simply because it’s not a one-off.
Too many people online have mentioned it, and the second time I went back, our main dishes arrived before the charcuterie board. And we could see it sitting on the bar, lonely and abandoned for at least fifteen minutes. By the time it arrived, we were busy eating the hot food so it doesn’t get cold, and let’s face it, charcuterie has no appeal once you’re full. But the food is still worth it.
607 11 Ave SW