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Brunchaholics rejoice: packed with calories, Sawmill really satisfies

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Let’s go back in time. Travel back to before Zones or the South Beach
diet. Before Atkins, Tae Bo and Jazzercise. In a time before a plague of
spandex descended upon our nation, the best Sunday brunch was measured in
sheer volume.

By this standard, the south side Sawmill has been a winner since it opened in
1976. In quality, quantity, selection and service, Sawmill’s success is
measured in stuffed, satisfied smiles.
As I walked through the restaurant, I suspected that nothing has changed
since this humble steakhouse began an Edmonton empire. The exterior remained
clad in dark cedar boards that framed a snazzy, glassed-in patio and their
huge wooden logo still graced its huge wooden doors.

We followed our hostess through the restaurant, along a winding path that
passed tables of families in every nook and cranny. The layout provided
privacy to more tables than the average barn-like, server-friendly, single
open room concept favoured by many of today’s restaurants. Coloured
glass lampshades and high-backed, comfy booths encouraged me to relax and
enjoy my brunch in this retro mecca.

The friendly waitress welcomed our double-dating foursome. She showered
attention on our matched set of blonde toddlers and served up some coffee
before inviting us to help ourselves to the buffet. As gentlemen, my friend
and I waved our wives on first. We attended to our daughters as we got
hungrier and more impatient. When the wives returned, eyes round and plates
heaping, it was the husbands’ turn to load up.

Wow.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but even for a restaurant
reviewer, words could not do justice to this buffet. To my left were the
entrées: a row of chafing dishes that held everything from eggs
Benedict and waffles to prime rib and a lemon pepper mixed grill. To my right
was a panorama of desserts that stretched from the drinks station to the
chocolate fountain. I spotted cinnamon buns, danishes, squares and fruit.
There were even marshmallows and graham crackers to dunk your own
s’mores into the splashing tribute to chocoholism.

I was just turning to the cooking station, where the lone chef offered
slices of roast beef, roast pork or omelettes on demand, when my friend
tapped my shoulder. He pointed me downstairs, where I had missed an entire
room! Overloaded buffet tables lined the smaller room, stacked with
everything from fresh salads and fruit to cheese platters and mounds of
seafood on ice. We staggered back to our table, eyes as wide as our
brides’, and dove in.

We nodded in agreement every time our sweet server offered to top up our
complimentary coffees or complimented our sweet daughters. By the end of our
second rounds, even the insatiable toddlers were slowing down. We each
lingered over favourite tidbits and returned occasionally to refill juice
glasses. The family-friendly crowds looked on indulgently as our little girls
started to chase each other around. Quite simply, we were stuffed and
happy.

Including tax and tip, we paid $25 per adult for the bi-level Sunday brunch
buffet, while the girls nibbled for free.

Trendy 20-somethings beware: the authentic retro vibe of the Sawmill is only
for the most unpretentiously cool. Otherwise, this sprawling restaurant is
terrific for multi-family, multi-generational get-togethers or groups of
friends. The only thing I regretted was not bringing a bag full of Tupperware
for “leftovers.” V

Sundays 11 am – 2 pm
Sawmill Restaurant
4745 Gateway Boulevard
436.1950

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