Once it was Scholars, then Hudsons and, more recently, Devaney’s, but now the forever-a-pub located just off the University of Alberta campus is the Writers Room—a name that would seem to harken back to the academic vibes of its earliest predecessor.
The bar is owned by David Husereau, who is also the chef, and Steven Sachse. Husereau previously owned restaurants in Hawaii, which has had some influence on the Writers Room’s menu, and was the corporate executive chef of Bearhill Brewing Co. and owner of Tekarra Restaurant in Jasper. He was also a contestant on an episode of Chopped Canada.
Franco Camminatore, the bar’s general manager, explains that the name of this latest venture comes in part from the intellectual feel of the area, but also from a shared love of Saturday Night Live.
“The two owners and I are actually big fans of comedy and SNL, and if you hear interviews with those guys [from SNL], they always talk about what happened in the writers’ room,” Camminatore explains.
The bar opened on April 17 and Camminatore says that so far things are going even better than expected.
Asked about the many times the location has changed hands, he says it’s the Writers Room’s food program that has allowed it to thrive so far. He also thinks previous tenants catered too much toward the student population.
“The students are still a big part of what we do, but we also want to cater to the professionals in the area and people who live around this area,” he says.
The Writers Room’s tagline, displayed prominently on the sign outside, is “A bar with surprisingly good food,” and Camminatore further describes the cuisine as “high-end comfort food.” Both statements ring true.
The food menu is divided by price point with sections for dishes priced at $5, $7, $10, $12, $17 and $20. The $5 section includes things like a cup of fries, which you can then pair with a burger from the $10 section if that’s what you’re looking for. A great lunch option is the Alberta Wedding Midnight Lunch—a sandwich with sous vide sirloin tip and fixin’s served on a soft bun—from the $5 menu paired with a bowl of the cheesy broccoli cheddar soup from the $7 menu.
On the higher end of the price spectrum, at $20, are the spaghetti and lamb meatballs, and Hemingway’s meatloaf—a slab of wonderfully seasoned meatloaf served on top of fresh veggies and creamy mashed potatoes, topped with a fried egg and all slathered in beef gravy.
The menu also features Kraft Dinner ($17), which is literally a box of KD elevated by adding house-made cheese sauce to the provided powder, stirring in morsels of east coast lobster and dill pickle, and then topping the whole thing off with a strip of salty, crispy prosciutto and fresh dill.
The drink menu offers a mix of beer selections, and cocktails named after famous writers. Many of the wordsmiths also have their photos on the walls. Camminatore says some of the writers were definitely chosen because they were personal favourites.
“I know Bukowski is a big favourite of David’s, I’m a big fan of Hunter S. Thompson, [and] I read Roots as a kid, from Alex Haley, so that was a big influence as well,” he says. “In the basement, we actually added a bit of a portrait of Anthony Bourdain as well because of Kitchen Confidential, which is a great book.”
The literary decor is even carried into the bathrooms, where the stall doors are decorated as book covers. Both men’s bathrooms have covers of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the women’s upstairs bathroom has Stephen King covers, and the women’s downstairs has Dr. Seuss.
Of course, the obviously absent grammatical touch is the apostrophe that should follow writers, and Camminatore laughs when it’s brought up, saying he and the owners honestly just didn’t think about it.
“All the English literature majors definitely bust us on that one, for sure,” he says.
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