Browns Socialhouse describes itself as an upscale casual dining restaurant. It’s a largely western Canada chain. According to their website there is one location in Ontario.
By and large it’s a glorified sports bar. Sort of like Underdogs, but with better furniture. That is to say there are TVs all over the place including a giant screen one over the bar that consists of several smaller large screens (if that’s not an onxymoron). There are three locations here in Winnipeg, but my visits were all made to the one on Portage Avenue, downtown, across Portage Avenue from the highest bidder naming rights arena.
If you come from the corner of Donald and Portage, you walk past the outdoor patio (which for some reason is empty this time of year). It’s a bit odd as you enter the building. You don’t enter the restaurant directly, but enter the building it’s situated in, and then hang a right at the security desk to get into the restaurant itself.
The restaurant is quite large and open, with high ceilings. It’s divided into different sections. There is a large bar. Another large seating area with tables and chairs, and then another section where the seating is padded benches and dark wood, giving it a bit of a dining room feel.
One of the advantages of the restaurant being so large, is that it’s generally easy to get a seat. On each of my three visits I was able to get a table. The first and third visits were when the restaurant wasn’t overly full, but my second visit was on the evening of a Jets game, and I still managed to get myself a spot at a table.
Quick meal at Browns Socialhouse
My first stop at Browns was for a quick meal. I was given a seat in the dining area. I looked at the menu, and the notices that prices were on the high-ish side, so I decided on this occasion I would go with just one dish.
Of the dishes I’ve tried at Browns this is probably the most complete. By that I mean that all the elements of the dish come together quite well. The egg was well cooked, and the yolks ran nice and yellow when you cut into it. They weren’t quite as good as the 1958 bennies, but still really enjoyable. The only disappointment was that I didn’t really fell like I had eaten a meal when I was finished. It was a little light on portion side.
Browns Socialhouse on Jets Game Night
My next visit, I showed up on a night when the Jets were playing. This certainly brings a different vibe to the location. The place was quite full, and there was a general buzz of conversation and excitement to the place. There was more staff on for the evening, but on this occasion the service was a little bit slower and disjointed, but still pretty good on the whole.
Since there was a game on, and I figured I would stay for a bit longer I decided I would order a couple of items to eat during the course of the game. I started off with the salt and pepper dried ribs. The ribs were pretty good, but not exceptional.
The game night also meant that Browns was also offering a drink special. In this case it was Highballs. I’ve never been much of a cocktail drinker, so I wasn’t sure exactly what a Highball was. I received an explanation from my server and decided to order the cranberry-vodka. I went for a refill later in the evening and ordered the cranberry-gin. To be perfectly honest I couldn’t tell any difference between the two, and neither tasted like anything much other than watered down cranberry juice. I think I need to attend some of the tasting events put on by the Manitoba Bartenders Guild.
My second dish was the Fettuccine Carbonara, half order. It’s a half an order but it’s actually 75% of the full order. This dish was actually quite disappointing. First, the portion size seemed quite small. Second, an more important was the the chicken. The chicken had the texture of the chicken you find in a typical frozen dinner of the Lean Cuisine variety. Worse than that, it gave me the impression of having been pumped full of water to increase the volume.
NFL Playoff Visit to Browns
My third trip to Browns was towards the end of last night’s Saints-Viking game. This time I was situated in the dining room area close to the kitchen service window. This gave me a good view of the television, while giving me a nice bit of solitude.
I started off with the General Tao Chicken. This was another pretty good dish. These dishes are called shareables, but you wouldn’t want to have to share them with anymore than one other person. The chicken in this one was better prepared and tasting than in the Fettuccine dish, and the wontons were quite crispy. The one thing I really liked with this dish was the fact that the Sweet Chili sauce was both sweet and had a good deal of heat in the dish.
My beer choice was from the rotating tap selection. I forgot what the server said the name was. I chose it because it was one I hadn’t tried before. It’s an enjoyable beer, but I prefer lighter beers when I’m having a meal.
To go with the beer, and appetizer. I chose one of the burgers. I went with the Pub Burger, because I liked the fact that it was served with Havarti Cheese. This is not a bad burger, but on the whole it’s rather nondescript. The fries were a bit of a disappointment. I may have just had bad luck, but my order consisted of all the tiny bits and pieces. There wasn’t a single full-sized fry in the order.