When we entered the doors of the new National Beer Hall in Westhills, at five minutes before 5p on a Friday, I wasn’t expecting a 20 minute wait – but there it was.
Sure, Happy Hour is everyday from 3-6 where you can grab pints and cocktails for $5, but we were deep in the burbs, 15k from the center of the city, with nary a business district to be found. Still, the joint was packed.
The National Beer Hall Westhills room is gorgeous. Who knew an old Blockbuster Video shop could be made to look like a vintage warehouse?
If you try, though, you can piece together some snacks among the sliders, fish n chips, popcorn bowl, and flatbreads. That’s what we did along with some wings, maui ribs, and a cheesesteak special.
The room is fabulous and fresh. The beer menu is deep and varied. The food isn’t all that special.
The fish and chips were exceptionally fishy tasting. The dry rub for the maui ribs was grainy and ended up being more gloopy on the ribs than anything that had been rubbed in and then dusted off. The wings were okay. The cheesesteak was a sliced steak sandwich with melted cheese. Nothing special. The Clive Burger sliders, however, were perfect. Clive Burger is a shop on 17th Ave and these mini versions were right on point.
I’m not going to go into details on the service, but let’s just say it wasn’t acceptable. My wife couldn’t let it go, so she brought it up with management. They weren’t impressed. “We have a lot of ‘I’m pretty so I get away with it’ here,” she admitted.
“I hope you didn’t tip,” she added. Which shocked us. I told my wife not to tip (yes it was that bad) but she felt bad for the kitchen and bar staff, so she left $15. “How is she going to learn that she didn’t do a good job, if you leave a tip?,” the manager responded. “Even if you left a lousy tip, she’d just think you were cheap. Leaving nothing sends a message, and they have to learn.”
Will we be back? Yes. Once they work the kinks out and streamline the staff. The room is gorgeous, laid back, and the big huge west facing windows bring in buckets of light. There’s a large patio out front and the windows all have levers on them to open wide once any shred of spring arrives.
The only bizarre thing about it all is the view from the patio – it’s the parking lot of a mall. There’s a Safeway to your left, a big box movie plex right in front of you. After all, it’s the parking lot of a mall.
But, in Calgary, you will relish any warmth you can find, and considering the suburban mall culture that defines this city, dropping a hipster beer hall and patio in the middle of one sort of makes sense.
2 beers, 1 wine, 2 entrees, 3 appies – $92 + $15 tip.