Alberta King of Subs
22-7196 Temple Drive NE
Calgary, AB T1Y 4E8
In many discussions with my friends regarding our first visits to Montreal after the age of majority, I have found a startling number of similarities. Drinking on Crescent street, bagels, drunkenly stumbling down St. Catherines, St. Denis, late night sausage and demi baguette, and of course, the institutions of Schwartz’s, Dunn’s, and the now deceased Ben’s. While i’ve heard many an impassioned argument regarding the best of smoked meat, let’s be honest. Fueled by liberal drinking laws, late night forays, and a slightly questionable (read: young) palette, there really was no going wrong. Smoked meat was pretty good at all of these establishments. Future visits have been clouded with the strong memories of the past. This was where i passed out, this was where X stumbled, this is where she ate 7 kosher pickles on a dare. Good times, but it might not be the most objective view of smoked meat.
In all these discussions, somewhere along the way, purists seemed to feel that Montreal Smoked Meat only tastes good in Montreal. Alberta King of Subs would disagree with that assertion.
Located in a small strip mall in the NE on Temple Drive, far away from the urban centre is Alberta King of Subs. I know they are ostensibly a sub shop, but i’ve tried their subs. Soggy bland sub buns, flavourless tomatos and lettuce, i’d give them a pass. The hidden gem here is the Montreal Smoked Meat. Imported from Montreal, this is pretty good quality stuff. They also carry two other authentic Quebec products that are worth trying – the poutine, and spruce beer.
Poutine ($6.25), voted by the BBC as the unhealthiest food on the planet, is served traditional style. Fresh cut fries, gravy made from beef drippings, and cheese curds. The fries are a great fresh cut fry – and the cheese curds are fairly fresh. Not squeaky fresh mind you, but i never liked them that way anyway. They have a great flavour and melt well. The gravy is definitely made from beef, but i find it a touch salty. Finishing a regular poutine requires some serious effort here. I usually finish anything that touched cheese, and leave a few soggy fries, and copious quantities of gravy on the bottom of the tin.
As for the smoked meat itself, it has some great qualities. I typically order the King’s Smoked Meat Platter ($13.75), which is a smoked meat sandwich, kosher pickle, coleslaw, fries, and a drink, and upgrade the fries to a poutine for a few extra dollars. In terms of the sandwich, the meat is freshly steamed, and hand cut, you definitely get a great mouthfeel. I’d prefer it cut a touch thinner, but there is always a bit of inconsistency with something done by hand. The meat itself has a wonderful flavour, and is served appropriately on rye, with mustard. One option i wish they did have was the choice of fatty or lean (I definitely prefer cuts off the point of the brisket, which is the richest, fattiest end).
Im really not sure if Alberta King of Subs can compare with Schwartz’s or Ben’s (RIP!), as my memory is clouded with good memories. Looking at it as objectively as possible, I would agree with the purists and say that the smoked meat isnt quite as good. However, what Alberta King of Subs does do is present a good Montreal Smoked Meat sandwich in Calgary, something most other cities outside of Montreal fail to do. Atmosphere, which is part of the overall experience, just doesnt match up to the history and the legends that surround Montreal’s best. But when you have a craving for Montreal Smoked Meat and some good ol fashion poutine, and Calgary is your location, Alberta King of Subs is worth the trip.