It's 5:30pm on Wednesday when we make it through the bumper-to-bumper traffic in the Burnside Business Park to the Rodeo Lounge on Ilsley Avenue. It's freezing cold and the wind is howling enough to give me a chill. When we step inside, I'm hoping for a nice rush of warmth, but there isn't any: neither in the temperature or the atmosphere.
The Rodeo Lounge is part of the many warehouse-like buildings that encompass the business park. It's a huge, sprawling space with high ceilings and a variety of seating areas. We sit in a booth, but the table is so decrepit that it's about to topple over, so we move on to a freestanding table. I take a good look around to discover a variety of spaces: a bar area, dance floor, a section made up of several leather sofas, et cetera.
The decor looks as though it hasn't been updated in 20 years. I estimate that the space could seat over 100 people, but there's only one table occupied. It's dark in here too---barely any of the lights are on and I wonder if it's an aesthetic choice, or if they're broken.
Once we're settled at our new location, the friendly server returns to take a drink order. My aunt orders a small Coors Light draught ($5.50), while my uncle chooses a pint of Rickard's Red for $6.75. Not really in the mood for beer, I go with a soda for $2.50--- after the long day I've had, I need the bubbles to perk me up and booze would just put me to sleep.
We're here on Wednesday and it's wing night, when wings are 40 cents each. My uncle orders 10, but my aunt and I up it to a baker's dozen so that I can try one; she wants two for herself. He also orders a small fries for $2.89. My aunt, ever the fish and chips fan, orders a two-piece meal for $9.95.
I choose the steak sandwich, an eight ounce rib-eye steak on a multigrain ciabatta bun with melted cheddar and mozzarella cheeses, onions and mushrooms. The sandwich comes with "fresh cut fries" for $11.95. I also ask the server for a side of mayo for my fries and I'm happy later when it doesn't end up on the bill.
I'm confused when I request to have my steak cooked rare---the server agrees, but then doubles back to add that it might end up overcooked. Awkward.
Our food arrives about 10 minutes later--- not too long a wait. My aunt's meal is a nice platter: two medium-sized pieces of haddock in a crunchy batter, served on a pile of french fries. My uncle's order of wings is really good, too. The meat is juicy, and the coating is just how I like it: very crisp and with a heavier batter than the fish. The fries on the side arrive in a cute little pail and are a nice-sized order for one person.
When my sandwich arrives, it looks delicious---the cheese and mushrooms are oozing out of the bun. It's so big that I have to cut it in half and when I do, I don't notice that the steak is all one piece instead of in slices. I take a bite and practically pull the whole steak out of the bun; this is definitely a knife-and-fork kind of sandwich. It's hard to eat, but it's still really good.
I'm skeptical about the fries being "fresh cut." They seem as though they came from a box to me.
I'll likely never make a trip back to the Rodeo---it isn't a spot that gives me the warm fuzzies. The food is typical pub food; most of it is deep-fried and the items that we tried were good, but I wouldn't exactly call it a pleasant space to enjoy a meal.
That said, when you're faced with the dire circumstances of finding something to eat in Burnside, it's an OK place to rustle up some grub.