The growing trend in Edmonton of hipster-styled pubs trying to be social gathering places continues, as Browns has now moved into the ever-expanding Windermere neighbourhood. The idea of being a social hall, or social club, or social hall, or place to meet new people and have a good time is all the rage right now in the city, but it can already be seen that the idea is getting severely watered down, and this is no more evident than it is at Browns Socialhouse.
The idea of the Socialhouse is to have long tables, where you are sitting next to people you have just met, affording the opportunity to meet new people, and make new friends. It is about the intermingling of people from all different walks of life, brought together over food and drinks.
Browns Socialhouse makes an attempt at this, with a couple of larger tables in the picnic-style tradition of a social hall, but they are only made for about 10 people, making it ideal for a large group of people that already know one another. Not for the mixing idea that these pubs are based on. The rest of the restaurant is the usual selection of booths and individual tables, which are oddly spaced out, leaving large gaps in the floor plan, and keeping patrons away from one another, as with any other restaurant.
The social aspect of this Socialhouse is missing right off the bat.
Browns comes across as much more of a chain than these other places do (even if they themselves are chains as well). It reeks of a normal, suburban restaurant, and misses the eclectic mix of patrons that a social hall should have.
It also has many elements of a new restaurant, glitches that need to be worked out in order to improve the customer experience, in my opinion.
Here are some of the good things about Browns:
- The food is good. It is not unlike anything you can get at pretty much any new restaurant in Edmonton, but it tastes good. The fries are tasty, and the sandwich that I had was quite good. But, like I said, it is barely different than the fare found at so many other places now.
- Their lager is quite good, and is only $5 a pint. This is a good price, considering the astronomical beer prices at places like Craft.
- There is a spacious patio, which is semi-enclosed, making it usable during all types of weather.
That is about it for the positive side of things. As mentioned before, Browns seems like a new restaurant, and there are many things that they could improve on in order to make it a better place, and help it gain a foothold as a good neighbourhood restaurant and bar.
- The menu is nothing special, and doesn’t really offer anything too original. It could easily be swapped out for the menu at Craft, Original Joe’s, or even an Earl’s, and nobody would be able to tell the difference. Some places in this style of restaurant, such as the Next Act or the Sugarbowl, pride themselves on an interesting and original menu. Browns has a good selection of pub grub, that was tasty, but ordinary.
- The beer menu is severely lacking. On tap, they have only a few standards. There is nothing unique or original about what they serve. One main point about these craft style beer houses is to have a great selection of beers, isn’t it? Getting a pint of Stella doesn’t really count as something new and interesting.
- The wait staff needs to calm down. My friend and I were, no joke, asked if we were ready to order food six times before we had even looked at the menus. Every couple of minutes. I guess they don’t offer the luxury of hanging out and talking with friends for a while before getting food. Simply put, it was extremely annoying. I get the attention to the needs of the customer, but asking that often is simply ridiculous. We can order when we are looking for a refill on our drinks. In the end, we ordered our meals with barely looking at the menu, simply because we felt rushed and inconvenienced by the incessant asking. While they clearly wanted us to eat, there was oddly a wait for getting drink refills. Once the food was served, we were asked another six times, by more than one staff member, if everything was alright.
- The waitress seemed extremely surprised, or confused, that we ordered water with our beers.
- The waitress demonstrated an alarming lack of knowledge regarding the beer selection. She was not aware of what an IPA was. Now, neither my friend nor I are big snobs when it comes to this kind of stuff, but we figured that a Socialhouse would have a staff that is well versed in what they have on tap, and would be able to show a knowledge of the variety of beers they served. This could have been the one waitress, and not common to the rest of the staff. I don’t want to generalize the entire group of employees. It could also be due to the newness of the place. But it was strange that she didn’t know the beers. She also struggled with remembering what was on tap. I don’t blame her, and in the end she was a good waitress, but this is something that could be worked on a little bit.
- The decor looks like pretty much every other restaurant in Edmonton at this point. Very little stands out.
- The half-patio is kind of odd. It would be really nice if it was fully open, but it is understandable why it isn’t, with the strange weather in this city. It had an odd vibe, and the acoustics made it sound hollow, like you were eating in a hallway.
Browns Socialhouse could become a very good option in the far south of the city. Windermere sometimes feels to me as though it is in the middle of nowhere, far away from downtown or Whyte Avenue. Browns is unique to that area. But there are far better options in the city if one is looking for this kind of environment, that would offer a highly knowledgeable staff, a great selection of beers, and a social atmosphere: Next Act, Underground, Central Social Hall, Craft, Local, The Common, to name a few.
With a little work, Browns could vastly improve itself and perhaps make it worth the drive out there. For now, it is a place that comes across as too common, and too ordinary, to warrant a trip out to the Windermere area, when there are so many similar options closer to the heart of the city. I didn’t hate Browns in the least. It offers beer and food, so I am generally happy. However, it is not my favourite place, and it is not a place that is on my list of places I simply must go back to. If I’m in the area, sure, it is an option. But that’s about it.