Is the Social Hall’s secret weapon also its weakness? Nah.

Restaurants | by Aidan Morgan

Cathedral Social Hall
2062 Albert Street
3 out of 5

Dear chorizo sausage,

How are you? I am fine thanks. I am a Regina resident in his mid-40s who enjoys hats, quality science fiction and spicy meats. You are the greatest sausage ever made. Cold or smoked, you’re the best. “If it’s not chor-izo, it’s BORE-izo!” I say to my wife when she goes grocery shopping and picks up farmer’s sausage or whatever. My wife, she enjoys my sense of humour.

Anyway, I noticed that you’ve taken your presence to crazy extremes at the Cathedral Social Hall, which opened in July in the space where the Cathedral Village Freehouse used to sling pizzas and cocktails. Chorizo, you’re in the appetizers, soups, pizzas, snacks and mains. Even in the dishes with no chorizo added, you still hover over the plate (figuratively), a foundational ingredient in a menu dedicated to richness and comfort.

On my first visit I tried the Chorizo Social Dog ($15). You were a little dry, but not so much as to make chewing you a slog. The sous chef and charcuterie keeper (Justin Craigen, soon to be leaving the country as of this writing) came out to see whether you were too dry and promised that further batches of you would have a little more moisture. Note that he didn’t say you’d be a moist sausage, because that doesn’t sound great.

Also, I’d like to apologize for my dining companion and fellow Knight of Appetite for ordering the Cathedral Steak Sammy ($19), which comes with drunken onions and no chorizo (I know, right?). I sampled the sandwich despite its obvious non-chorizoness. Despite the crowds and chaos that night, it was cooked to my friend’s liking (medium rare), which is no small feat in a steak sandwich.

Bretzels, Wings And Chorizo

On my second or third visit I showed up in the evening and tried the pared-down late night menu, which features plenty of appetizers and comfort food. We went, pardon the expression, hog wild, ordering the Bretzels ($10), a pair of pretzel-dough buns with several dips and jalapeno slices tethered to the buns with a layer of baked cheese. The flavour changes monthly but the pretzel dough goodness persists. We also went for the House-Cut Fries ($6), which were cut in and not by a house (messy) and served spilling out of the basket onto a waxed sheet like some potato-focused cornucopia. And of course, the Pickle Spears ($9): deep-fried, breaded and necessary.

One of the Knights at the table tried the Franks ‘n’ Lime “Heat” Chicken Wings ($13), which were a little too sharp for my taste, even with the buttermilk ranch dip. They come in four flavours: Sweet (Dijon Maple); Heat; Neat (a “house rub”); and Buffalo. I’ve tried to come up with a name for the Buffalo wings that fits the rhyme scheme but have so far been unsuccessful (Skeet? Buffalo ranch may be actor Skeet Ulrich’s favourite wing flavour). The buttermilk ranch is a nice twist on the formula.

You probably know this already, but you’re all over the Chorizo & Portobella Pizza ($16). There you were, all snug under mozzarella and generously sharing space with mushrooms and cherry tomatoes. The cherry tomatoes were pure magma, so anyone who orders this dish should wait a few minutes before taking a bite.

(I see that you’re all cozy in the appetizer section with your Hog in the Sheets ($12), a spicy take on pigs in a blanket. I haven’t tried you yet. Should I? Does it bother you that you’re a hog in one part of the menu and a dog in another part? Do you secretly envision yourself as some other animal, neither hog nor dog, but a magnificent stallion galloping across the Mongolian steppe beneath a full and glabrous moon? You don’t have to answer if you’re uncomfortable with the question.)

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s Chorizo

Can I tell you something, chorizo? I admire how cool you are for not showing up on the Charcuterie & Cheese Plate ($24) with all those other meats (not to mention the pickled onions, marinated olives and baguette). Some sausages would get all insecure in the company of capicolla and Genoa salami and prosciutto and try to get all up in their faces, but you hung back and let them do their work.

The menu’s chorizo apotheosis (or “apochorizosis”) is the Chorizo and Drunken Onions ($19), a stomach-challenging mound of cheesy mashed potatoes with two sizeable chorizos and a slurry of onions sauteed in thyme and garlic and reduced in Guinness. But I have some bad news for you, chorizo: you’re being upstaged by the onions. Don’t get me wrong — you’re great! Really! But those onions? Man, are they good. The texture is a little slippery, but the combination of sugars and esters and whatever else gives them an umami kick with more churn than a No Means No bass line.

I’m sorry for all the times I ignored you, chorizo. Like the evening I tried the Smoky Mac n Cheese ($15), an extravagantly creamy pot of pasta. Or that lunch when I had the Pulled Hogwich ($15): braised pork shoulder served on a bun with barbecue sauce and apple-cucumber coleslaw. Both were initially tasty but emblematic of the issue which dogs much of the menu — the dishes tend to pile one rich element on top of another until you end up with something on your plate that pleases your tongue but can weigh down your stomach.

This strategy is great for a beery evening with friends, but it limits people’s options when you’re looking for a lighter lunch or supper. Even salads get the Social Hall treatment. The tasty but rich buttermilk ranch dressing gives a regular plate of greens (the Social Salad) the unctuous texture of a caesar. One of the other salads on the menu, such as the Southwest Pulse Salad ($15), may be the light fare I’m looking for.

The best unchorizoed aspect of the Cathedral Social Hall is the beer. They even have a Mike Tate, who is a Certified Beer Server, or Cicerone. They also keep a supply of local beer on hand, with four tasting menus.

But whatever: they have Nokomis Brown Ale on tap. When Nokomis Brown shows up at the party, other beers shrug their shoulders and go home, leaving a trail of dejected foam behind them. It is simple, delicious, dark and dry, and wherever it goes, I will drink it.

Why am I telling you about the greatness of Nokomis Brown Ale, chorizo? You two have already met in the form of the Chorizo Brown Ale Soup ($4/8), an earthy, spicy-sweet soup with a tomato-and-ale base. I’m not sure that I could eat a large bowl of the stuff, but a small bowl feels like perfect cool weather food. It should come with a nice wool sweater and a roaring hearth fire.

Anyway, I’m glad you found such a welcoming home, chorizo. Please write back soon. Or follow me on Instagram.

The Round Table

WHAT IS IT: The Cathedral Social Hall.

WHAT’S IT FOR: Lunch, supper, snacks, beer. Chorizo.

DINNER WINNERS: Chorizo & Drunken Onions, Chicken Fingers

DINNER SINNERS: Pulled Hogwich, Smoky Mac & Cheese

WHEN’S IT OPEN: Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m.-12 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 11 – 2 a.m.; Sunday 11 a.m.-11 p.m.