Let There Be Poutine

And I ate the pulled pork, and it was good

by Aidan Morgan

leopolds

Leopold’s Tavern
2330 Albert Street
306-525-5367
3.5 out of 5

When I was a child my father taught English lit at a university in the Maritimes. From time to time I would end up at one his classes, my feet dangling over the seat, as he would read and lecture, a cigarette in one hand and a marked-up paperback in the other. It was nice.

Growing up in that environment taught me that nearly every question in life could be answered with a course of careful reading, studious thinking, and a pack and a half of smokes per day (13 years quit, thank you).

Now that I’m hitting middle age (more than a decade older than the man who taught Harold Pinter to a lecture hall of shaggy undergrads), I’ve started to think about the line between existence and nothingness. At first I wondered how the universe existed — did God crack his whip over the waters and galvanize the firmament into being? Or did a blip of energy tunnel its way out of nothingness into a zero-radius closed sphere of spacetime? — but soon I realized that it was more useful to ask why and for whose sake the universe came into being.

A universe without purpose, I thought, would be a zone of pure mediocrity, with no given object more significant than any other — and you, no more significant than a dead leaf or a dust ball in that cluttered field of objects. You, stumbling from one meaningless moment to the next until the last one, when, your body winding down, you puff out your last breath with a grateful sigh and fall over into a puddle.

A stupid insignificant puddle.

So you need something to live for. For example, the pulled pork poutine at Leopold’s Tavern.

Occupying the space that once housed the Fainting Goat (and Mojo, and Passionate Pizza, and the Saje Cafe), Leopold’s is a drastic change from previous efforts. Instead of offering a bistro-style or fine dining experience, Leopold’s styled itself as a neighbourhood pub and sports bar, with memorabilia everywhere (the last 40 years of Regina history can probably be traced from the photos, t-shirts, ticket stubs and random objects sprayed across the walls and ceiling) and light bulbs in Mason jars lighting the interior. A divider by the entrance has been torn out, which opens up the space and makes the small room feel a great deal larger than it actually is. Despite the crowds and sometimes uncomfortable noise level, the place feels remarkably homey and relaxed.

Leopold’s excels at pub grub. Take the Bucket O’ Bacon ($10). It’s a tin bucket with house-smoked bacon strips drooping over the edges like delicious petals of meat. For something sturdier and less disturbing looking but still bucket-based, the Beef Jerky ($10) makes for a good snack. My favourite choice from the snack menu, though, is the smoked oysters ($8). They bring them out in the tin with old white cheddar and Triscuits. It sounds like something you could have at home. And you can! But Leopold’s brings the crowds and the atmosphere.

Leopold’s also brings pints and pints of beer, including Leo’s Signature Brew, a light lager that will only set you back $5.50 per pint. You can also buy a bottle of Dom Perignon for $280, so now you know what to buy when the Riders win their next Grey Cup.

The menu is compact but has quite a few dishes. The burger section contains some fine achievements (the spicy Leopold’s Burger and classic cheeseburger for $13.50) and grave mistakes (the veggie burger for $13.50, which felt like mush). The ‘sammies’ section has a Leo’s Style Grilled Cheese ($13), which will make you call your mother and tearfully tell her that you found a better grilled cheese than the one she made you on Saturday mornings. And then there’s the Brisket Sandwich ($13), which I’ve only sampled but sometimes dream about.

The best thing on the menu are the desserts. Want a deep-fried Mars Bar or Bounty Bar ($6) covered in Guinness chocolate sauce? Yes. Yes you do. You also want the drunken ice cream sundae ($7) with the kind of passion that frightens you a little.

Sunday brunch runs from 10:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. It was a little hit and miss but enjoyable overall. The unanimous winner of the Brunch Battle (I guess that’s a thing now) was the Avocado Eggs ($10) — an avocado split in two with an egg dropped into each half, then baked with cheese. The dish is topped with a reasonable pico de gallo and served with hash browns on the side.

(No verdict could be reached on the hash browns. “Too salty,” whined one Knight of Appetite. “Too greasy,” moaned another. “Shredded for awesomeness!” said some dudebro, possibly about his pecs.)

I only had a bite of the Eggs Bennie ($13) and can’t really tell you much about it, but my fellow Knight of Appetite (Sir Steve of Prairie Dog) ate the whole damn thing and pronounced it good, with a nice bite to the Hollandaise sauce. He had smoked salmon; it also comes in ham and tomato.

The chicken and waffles ($13) tasted okay but was a bit of a misfire, with a slightly dry Belgian waffle and a fried chicken breast placed politely next to each other on a large plate. Wrong. The dish should look like the exhausted outcome of a battle between chicken and waffle, each clawing for their bit of space on the plate, until they collapse atop each other in mutual exhaustion. No one wins but you. The syrup comes in a little cup.

Don’t forget, the pulled pork poutine is only $14 and it’s a real standout in an indifferent universe. If you’re looking for a reason to go on, I highly recommend it.

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WHAT IS IT? Leopolds Tavern

WHEN IS IT? 11:00 a.m.-close, 7 days a week

WHAT’S IT FOR? lunch, brunch, pub grub and drinking beer from a giant glass boot

THE WINNERS? avocado eggs, bucket of bacon, any of their poutines

IS LEOPOLDS PROOF OF DIVINE PURPOSE IN THE UNIVERSE? Maybe you should have another beer before asking that.

2013-10-03