Business

Bullocks Bollocks

Last week a controversial article from the Toronto Star was brought to the attention of many local twitter users. The article was about this journalist’s experience at Yellowknife’s famous Old Town Bistro, Bullocks Bistro. The writer went on about how the service wasn’t that greats, the food wasn’t all that good and how the bill at the end of the night was atrocious. She closed the article by saying the sign going into the bistro should be taken seriously: “Hot Beer, Lousy Food, Bad Service: Welcome. Have a Nice Day.”

This article kind of bent me the wrong way. Obviously, I want to defend our own and tell this writer they are a complete wacko and don’t understand our northern ways, but maybe that would be just adding fuel to the fire. Maybe she’s right, maybe she has been the only one with a backbone to say something. I want to direct you for a second to another local blogger. This local blogger at the time (last summer) was rather knew to town and had a fresh perspective of the place. Well she went to Bullocks to try the place and went home questioning it. She published a blog post about how she was purely surprised at the service and the soggy fries, among other things.

When she published that post about her experience at Bullocks another local blogger (Most of us are friends) had some suggestions about how to dine at Bullocks and even offered to go with her. So they went to Bullocks, expect this time blogger 1 was in the hands a blogger 2, a life long Yellowknifer. Needless to say blogger 1 had a much better time and once again wrote about her experience, this time being a good one.

So lets look at what we have here. Two different people go to Bullocks who know little of the place and town. They both leave with the same experience, somewhat lousy. One goes back with an “experienced” Yellowknifer and has a wonderful time. I guess what I see here is that you need to know what you’re doing at Bullocks to have a good experience. Is this true Yellowknife? I don’t want to think so but…

I have been to Bullocks a couple times over the years, so before you jump down my throat keep that in mind, and quite honestly never found it all that bad, granted I’m a very relaxed customer at restaurants. The place has a real authentic “old town” feel to it, which I much enjoy and I think most others do as well.

That being said, what have your experiences at Bullocks Bistro been like? What would you change or keep the same? Do you think this Toronto Columnist is off her rocker? What advice would you give to a first time goer?

I’m definitely not trying to cut Bullocks down by any means, just trying to figure out where this article in the Toronto Star came from. Maybe she did just have a fluke of a bad time. What I do fear though is if we Yellowknifers have a different perspective on the bistro, than a visitor. Tourism is a big part of our economy and I would hate for an article, like The Star’s one, to be the beginning of the end for our beloved bistro’s reputation for having some of the best fish and chips in Canada.

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About the author

Kyle Thomas

Kyle grew up in Yellowknife and is a local entrepreneur, writer, baker, and Yellowknife Advocate who is addicted to learning as much as he can about the community and sharing it with anyone who'll listen. In 2009 he developed YkOnline.ca. A website all about living, working and thriving in Yellowknife for residents, newcomers, and visitors.

17 Comments

  • I think most Yellowknifers have been there. I don't intend to go back.

    Here's the link to my blog post about the TorStar story. It is mostly about the story itself, but there are several comments from readers about the restaurant.

  • well that other blog was from July 2009…. things can change, and I have heard that it has been going downhill recently. I refuse to give them my money for personal reasons.

  • I can see why people like Bullocks. It's definitely a unique place and if you're a regular you can sit there and laugh at first-timers trying to figure things out. Personally I do not.

    Granted, I only went there once, but I didn't find it to be mind-blowing.

    I went there on the recommendation of a lawyer who works in both YK and Hay River. My first mistake was ordering the grilled tilapia, which was market price.

    Fish was decent at best – not superb, but what really got me is when I went to the register to pay, the server rang it in first as $35, then looked up at me, cancelled that and put it in at $45.

    I'm sorry. My grilled tilapia and salad was not worth $45.

  • I almost posted a very scathing comment about the restaurant.. and then the power went out, which I take as a sign that I should hold back. so I'll just say that as a life long resident I won't be giving them my money either… and I think it's funny that they expect such special treatment for being local when I don't recall seeing them participating in or donating to local events and groups… and that I know a lot of other life long residents who also opt out of paying exorbitant amounts of money to be treated like crap and subjected to completely inappropriate behaviour and commentary while waiting ridiculous amounts of time to be fed and serving themselves.

    my pre-power outage post was a lot angrier…

  • Excellent food, the employees have some unique charisma but it's way too expensive.

    For the $85 lunch I had there last year with a friend, (both pickeral, we drank water) we may as well have rented a lund and had a shore lunch with our own catch. Far better experience too!

    Take your friends fishing, not to Bullocks.

  • We are new to Yellowknife, in fact, we will only actually be moving there next week. But about 6 weeks ago we were there on a visit before deciding to move and one of the places we were told we had to hit was Bullocks. However, we expected the quirkiness as we had read about the place online. The place was exactly as I expected, and we had a really good time. The service ain't the greatest, but thats part of its charm. I only have two real complaints I feel are important enough to address.

    1. Cost. Even by northern standards, 80 dollars for two orders of fish and chips with no alcohol is ridiculous.

    2. Water. Water should be a staple at every meal. When I asked for water, I was pointed to the tap and told to help myself. No biggie, I kinda like that. However, the tap water never got cold, and there was no ice to be had. I can serve myself but at least have some ice so I can make a nice cold glass.

    Thats about it, overall a great experience, wrote my name on the wall, and enjoyed dinner with friends. I can see myself bringing family when they come visit, but I doubt at those prices it will become one of my regular haunts.

  • I would have to agree with most people here. My family and I have been here for 2 years now, and we have enjoyed Bullocks but once. It was a decent meal, one that I would have been quite happy to spend $30-40 on. Couple of deep fried pieces of fish, iceberg “salad”, and a beer. Times that by 2 and you end up with an $80 experience that made me immediately decide I would never again cough up $80 at Bullocks. It's a once-and-never-doing-that-again experience. Need I say more…

  • I would have to agree with most people here. My family and I have been here for 2 years now, and we have enjoyed Bullocks but once. It was a decent meal, one that I would have been quite happy to spend $30-40 on. Couple of deep fried pieces of fish, iceberg “salad”, and a beer. Times that by 2 and you end up with an $80 experience that made me immediately decide I would never again cough up $80 at Bullocks. It's a once-and-never-doing-that-again experience. Need I say more…

  • I was born in YK, I’ve been to Bullocks,..once,…and the service wasn’t good. I order fish and chips all the time, personally I think their fish and chips are not that great, I could do better at home and I have. Their business is typical in YK, if you don’t like it, leave. Unfortunately that’s how it is in the Knife.

  • I LOVED IT! Though I do have to say didn’t feel overly welcomed upon first arriving! lol…( we were early and snuck in the back door )We decided to let the cook make us whatever he wanted and…It was beautiful 😉 I would most def go back and do it the same way! only this time maybe bring a little something to add to the fun walls and or maybe a pen to write my presence down 😉 I loved everything about it and Thank you so much for the experience 😉

  • I went there about 5 years ago.  Crazy expensive but I thought pretty good.  I’m going there next month: Can anyone suggest a better place?

    • I still enjoy going to Bullocks every once and a while. Note I wrote the post two years ago.

      Other options are Fuegos, Thortons Wine and Tapas, Le Frolic. Enjoy!

      •  Which would you recommend as the best place in YK that you would most want to bring friends to?

        Honestly, I’m a pub guy so that’s why I liked Bollocks but, although excellent, I did feel pretty ripped off after the fact. ($50 for lunch and a pint?).

        Thanks for the pointers.

        • Le Frolic is pub style with northern food options. Fuego is fine dinning, but upstairs from there is a retro lounge which might have some northern dishes as well but I can’t remember.

          • I’m a life long northerner, living in YK for 12 yrs. My 1st visit to Bullock’s was not enjoyable and I refuse to pay those prices for that food. Fish @ the bistro is better & way cheaper. The service is awesome too, Mary’s a delight.
            Could also make my own much better.
            I’ve been back to Bullock’s once since but only to have tea with family.

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