Eating the bizarre in Czar, Alberta

Owners of a restaurant in Czar, Alta. have watched their business grow after putting ostrich and other exotic meats on the menu.

Turtle is 'the weird one,' co-owner says

Cooking up some exotic business

6 years ago
Duration 1:55
Python and other bizarre burgers are being served up during the lunch rush at this restaurant in rural Alberta.

"I am eating snake — python — it's very, very good," says Lloyd Hoff, a regular at the Fireside Grill in Czar, Alta.

Adds Selena Redel, another regular customer: "I have tried the wild boar one time, and the kangaroo."

Four years ago, when Chris and Beverly Van Hoek decided to build an addition onto their roadside diner, they also thought they would expand the menu.

Standing at his grill in the restaurant's hot kitchen on a busy lunch hour, Chris explained how the unusual business approach came about.

"Anybody can flip burgers," he said, "so I thought, 'Why not try some of this weirder stuff?'

"Sold out of kangaroo the first day. Second day I tried alligator, sold out of it that day. I had people phoning me asking if I could save some for them for the next day."

Chris Van Hoek, co-owner of Fireside Grill in Czar, Alta., says ostrich, turtle and other exotic meats have been a hit with customers. (Rick Bremness/CBC)

The Van Hoeks have since added turtle, yak, shark and other exotic burgers to the menu and the Fireside Grill has become a big draw for the village along Highway 41, 45 kilometres south of Wainwright.

Tyson Motley has tried everything except for the ostrich.

"My favourite is python," he said. Asked to describe the taste, he drew a blank.

"I don't have any idea, it just tastes like python burger."

Regular diner Mckenzie Berry said the restaurant is "special and good for a small area" like Czar, population 170.

"I've done the camel burger, I've done frog legs — and the turtle soup once. They were all very delicious."

Some of the food is local. The yak, for instance, is from Lloydminster. But most of the exotic meat is from suppliers in Edmonton and British Columbia.

Crocodile? Yak? The menu board at the Fireside Grill. (Rick Bremness/CBC)

Co-owner Beverly Van Hoek said business is good.

"We sell a lot, some people just ordered python and shark, those ones are good," she said.

"But the weird one is turtle. I will admit, I haven't tried that one, It scares me."  She walks away laughing,

"It scares me!"