Mavericks Dining Room and Lounge
Calgary Stampede Grounds
Large scale gatherings and events of the commercial variety are usually an impersonal affair. Interacting with strangers, in big crowds amid long hours of making introductions and face-to-face networking result in meals being forgotten about until your stomach growls in protest. Fortunately (or perhaps not) often tied to these shows and meetings are facilities to feed countless individuals on-site, mainly latching onto the captive audience who is seeking out convenience in order to get back to the work at hand. At a recent one, I was faced with this dilemma of being shepherded into the closest and easily accessible mass feeding zone on the Calgary Stampede Grounds. For $21.95, the lunch buffet at Mavericks drew a long lineup through the 11am – 1pm time period, resulting in at least a ten minute wait time just to get to the front of the line and seated.
On this particular day, the all-you-can-eat menu was: soup, salad, AAA carved Alberta roast beef, penne chicken alfredo, barbecue beef ribs, Swedish meatballs, teriyaki chicken, and baked lasagna. After being led to our table and announcing that we were all-in with the buffet, we made our way down to the main floor and got into yet another queue for the feast. Given the huge dining contingent, I would have figured they would have expanded to accommodate at least a pair of routes through the heated-up food pans, but alas it looked like how it is set up on a normal capacity day. I think this helped explain why there was a lineup to just get in, despite the obvious sight of unoccupied tables.
As the menu so obviously showed, this lunch was all about the meats. A few pasta-based salads and the low nutritious plain Jane greens, and the rest was all protein. Figuring it fit with the Alberta cowboy mold, I dug right into the buffet section that housed the beef ribs, chicken drumettes and the carved roast beef station. I added a bowl of a salty, dubbed “Italian” soup. Of the lot, the beef ribs were the most satisfying, fall-of-the-bone and a touch on the sweet side with the glaze, which I think helped prevent it from drying out. Speaking of lacking moisture, that would be how I’d describe the roast beef that was sliced for me by one of the kitchen staff. It had a nice dry rub crust on the exterior, but when thin cut like this, you don’t get much of that flavor imparted as the larger surface area of the meat didn’t intake any of that roasted goodness. The accompanying jus was pretty weak and I didn’t dollop any of the visually unappealing gravy on my plate.
The also sweet profile of the chicken matched the beef ribs to a T. I chose the legs figuring the other parts of the chicken meat would be less tender and juicy inside. On that count, I think I guessed right. So to sum, in order of approval, it would be the beef ribs, chicken and then the roast beef. Lastly, I should mention that there was a dessert table that was mainly a bunch of pastries and cut up fruit, the latter not particularly fresh or exceedingly sweet.
There really isn’t much you can do when you are practically forced to dine in the single large restaurant available when you are busy attending a big function. The balance of convenience and food satisfaction is one that usually tilts (at least for me) at these kinds of business events and attached eateries, on the don’t-waste-time-and-just-eat-anything side. On this occasion, I didn’t get ill from average food but thought the price point was a bit high for someone not going back for seconds and the relative lack of imagination and singular focus on just meats at Mavericks. In that regard, I think this place fails to live up to one accepted definition of its namesake:
“one that refuses to abide by the dictates of, or resists adherence to a group mentality”
I guess in southern Alberta, beef is king.