Smuggler’s Inn has been around since 1973 and is one of the long standing favorites along McLeod Trail. Specializing in Prime Rib and known for their tasty salad bar, fresh in-house baked buns and home-made soups all of which are included with your dinner, they seem as popular today as ever. Nancy has dined there on a number of occasions, but for some reason I’d never done so despite living in Calgary my entire life. I looked forward to the chance to sample what is one of my personal favorite cuts of beef in a place that is known for it.
I had the opportunity to visit when going to dinner with my parents on Father’s Day. Upon arrival we found the parking lot to be very full since it was used by patrons of 3 restaurants, those being Smuggler’s Inn, Open Sesame and Bolero Fire Grill, all of which are housed in the same building and also owned by one company. We’d not made any reservations and found that the wait for the dining room would be 1.5 hours so we chose to be seated in the lounge.
Smuggler’s is a rather dark place and a bit crowded for my liking, the tables in the lounge are small and the seats quite low with over soft cushions, all of which made it somewhat difficult for the four of us to dine in comfort, I’m guessing the dining room would have been better. Moving around is not easy due to the small and narrow halls that connect different parts of the restaurant.
Our server was very courteous and efficient in her job, she came by several times throughout the meal clearing plates as they needed to be, offering refills of drinks when they glasses were low and asking if we needed anything. She made it much easier to dine at a small table and for this we were thankful.
The menu while not large offered a good selection of entrees and starters. Aside from the included salad bar we also ordered a plate of Crab Stuffed Mushroom Caps ($8.50) to sample. they came with a slice of garlic bread and a lemon wedge. The mushrooms were quite small and the order looked odd in the large serving dish, numbering only 6 pieces but they were quite tasty and the sauce was good mopped up with the garlic bread.
Going to the salad bar is a chore since it is located in a small room and one must squeeze past other patrons, many of whom are carrying food. The selection is not very large but the salads I tried were tasty and everything looked fresh. The fresh baked-in-house buns were very nice and complimented the meal well. Having heard much about the home-made soups that are at the salad bar and looking forward to trying them I was very disappointed to find the pots nearly empty and what was there had been picked clean of meat and other chunky bits leaving only broth sitting in the bottom. I did manage to scrape up a half bowl of the Steak soup with a few pieces of meat and I did enjoy it although Nancy found the “zippy” flavor not to her liking. My step Father tried the Butternut Squash and after being sampled by the table it was voted bland and not very good. The most disappointing part of this was that after appies and salad the soups were still empty and remained so even when Nancy went up for some jello after dinner.
We ordered 4 different entrees, the house specialty Smuggler’s Cut Prime Rib($25.95), Prime Rib Neptune ($22.95), BBQ Baby Back Ribs ($22.95) and the Country Style Roast Beef Dinner ($18.95). I’ve found over time that when ordering Prime Rib one must often request rare if you want Med. rare and having done so here I discovered they really mean RARE when they say it (my Bad). The meat was a little tough despite being rare and lacked the flavor I love in my prime rib, the stuffed potato was good and although a tad dry I enjoyed it. Nancy found that hers was also lacking and while they did uses real crab in the Neptune sauce and the veggies were cooked just right she was disappointed. My parents seemed to enjoy their meals but never made any comments as to really liking them. All in all we didn’t feel overly impressed with what we had ordered.
I was surprised at how mediocre the food was at Smuggler’s Inn given the long lasting popularity of the place. My Step Father said that he’d been several times before and had enjoyed the food. Given all this and current reviews I’m hoping we caught them on an off night and since I’ve no other experiences from which to draw an average I’ll just say that with the good I’ve heard you should perhaps give them a try and maybe you’ll do better than we did. Just make a reservation and sit in the dining room if you can.