Monday, September 3, 2007

Restaurant Review - Wildfire (in Niagara Falls)

This weekend I went to visit Niagara Falls for a family get-together, and ended up at a newly renovated restaurant called Wildfire Grill House & Lounge. (6788 Thorold Stone Road, Niagara Falls, Ontario, 905-356-3473). Apparently this is somewhat of a restaurant chain (with another location in St. Catherines), but I don't think is associated with a chain of restaurants by the same name in the United States.

Their menu is fairly broad - from pizzas all the way to steak and seafood. I'd rate the atmosphere and menu along the lines of The Keg. It's definitely not fancy dining, but upscale in terms of chain restaurants and prices.

We went on a Sunday night at around 6 pm and the restaurant was nearly empty. We also had a party of 3 children. There was no kids menu but they did have kiddie pizzas or kiddie pasta as options.

Since more of the lower end menu choices involved gluten (pizzas, pastas, etc.) I ended up asking about the Prime Rib with Crab Legs. It was $42.95 - yes, quite steep. (It was really the crab that pushed it up into the 40's, since the Prime Rib alone was much less...but I'm a sucker for good crab).

It was obvious that the waitress had never heard of Celiac disease, but she did apparently talk to the chef to make sure my meal would be safe. As I expected, it turns out that the jus for the prime rib was not gluten-free so she recommended against the whole dish. I ended up with a filet mignon, which cost more money. I wasn't willing to give up on the crab - so my dish was $47.95. Right out - yes, that's expensive. For a high end restaurant with a unique atmosphere...maybe. But for a restaurant somewhat equivalent to The Keg, it was quite over the top for price.

The waitress asked me if I wanted rice or baked potato, and since I always end up with potato, I thought I'd inquire about the rice dish. The waitress said it was wild rice and probably would be fine, but I asked if she could check with the chef anyway in case it was cooked in non-GF chicken broth, which is common in restaurants. I said if rice wasn't gluten-free, then the potato would do.

Because of the price and my worry for such a big meal (steak & seafood), I bowed out gracefully on appetizers.

When the meal came I ended up getting the potato, meaning the rice was likely not gluten-free, or the waitress forgot. The meal wasn't as large as expected, but still was plenty of food. Although the food was decent, the crab was not worth the money. It wasn't really fishy, but it didn't really have that sweet taste that good crab can have. In a way, it really didn't taste like anything. I guess it's hard to expect much from a restaurant chain claiming to be a 'grill house', but like I mentioned, I am a sucker for good carb.

The 8 oz steak was good, but its bacon wrapping (almost the best part!) wasn't superb. The potato came with just butter, and a selection of toppings served table-side.

All in all, the food was decent, but not for the price. An equivalent meal at The Keg would have probably been about $10 less; or I would have expected much better preparation. And even though the waitress hadn't heard of Celiac disease, she did seem to do her homework with the chef.

Would I return? Perhaps. But no seafood next time.

Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5
Celiac friendly: 3 out of 5
Value: 2 out of 5


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