Red Ox Inn
By Caroline Barlott

Rich History

Frank Olson, co-owner of the Red Ox Inn, says that when he travels, and people ask about his restaurant, they’re often surprised that they’re already familiar with it. They might not have actually stepped into the small and cozy, yet sophisticated space in the Strathearn area of Edmonton, just off Connors Road. But they often recognize it from television.

That’s because in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, the Red Ox Inn was known to SCTV viewers as the Beef and Booze. Many skits featuring John Candy as Johnny LaRue or Joe Flaherty as Count Floyd were filmed inside the restaurant and in the area. That’s because the Beef and Booze was part of downtown Melonville, the fictional small-town setting of the seminal comedy show. “That street back then had a barber shop, anantique store and an upholstery shop. It was a little bit different,” says Frank.

I wanted to show people different types of dishes. Showing them that their tuna could be raw, and that that’s OK. - Frank Olson, co-owner
Red Ox Inn, Fine dining, wine, dinner service
Frank Olson, co-owner of Red Ox Inn. Photo by Caroline Barlott.

Casual and Sophisticated

During those days, the Red Ox Inn had different owners. But Andrea Olson, Frank’s wife, who is the other current owner of the restaurant, was working there as a waitress. The Red Ox Inn’s history spans even further back — before it starred in SCTV, it was a burger joint with blue vinyl booths that would today look very out-of-place in the upscale atmosphere with dim lighting and fine linens.

Now, the restaurant is sophisticated and elegant — not really what you’d expect from a place that was once known as the Beef and Booze. As the restaurant’s website says, they serve “serious food in a casual room.”

Red Ox Inn, Fine dining, wine, dinner service
The menu features modern, and unique dishes often made with local ingredients. Photo provided.

Modern Menu

In 1995, Frank and Andrea bought the restaurant and got to work creating a modern menu, combining ideas from their travels to many different parts of the world. Frank, who has a background in engineering and architecture, was excited to learn a whole other industry. He threw himself into studying the culinary arts, and did all of the cooking at the restaurant until 2012, when he decided to bring in a new chef and open a sister restaurant, Canteen, on 124 street.

Frank learned so much, he wanted to share his knowledge at the restaurant, introducing dishes that had never been served at the Red Ox Inn before. “This was 20 years ago, so I wanted to show people different types of dishes. Showing them that their tuna could be raw, and that that’s OK,” says Frank.

While the restaurant has a rich history, the menu is anything but dated. Frank wants to keep it fresh, while still honouring it's past. “And people still send us little video clips of John Candy walking up to the door, and that kind of thing,” says Frank.

Red Ox Inn, Fine dining, wine, dinner service
Red Ox Inn, located in Strathearn, is a small and sophisticated restaurant. Photo provided.
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