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Why are so many people driving 100 clicks to eat at this rural steakhouse?

They started a steakhouse for love, and it became an Alberta icon

Sep 29, 2015

by Elizabeth Hames

bruceThe results of our “Alberta’s Best Barbecue” bracket surprised us here at Alberta Venture. The Bruce Hotel beat out 31 other restaurants from around the province, hands-down, despite being the only joint in the running with almost no social media presence (apart from an unofficial Facebook group). But if the Bruce, Alberta gem appeared to us the underdog, it’s only because we hadn’t had their steak yet. For those in the know, the Bruce Hotel’s sell-out, buffet-style dinners are unforgettable.

Owners Debbie Boyd and Karl Pickup feed about 200 people nearly every Friday night — most from Edmonton — with Boyd cooking all the steaks herself on her dual grill. During the rest of the week, they do prep work for the buffet of countless salads and desserts.

It’s not a particularly profitable enterprise, but for Boyd and Pickup, the Bruce Hotel isn’t about money — it’s about love.

In 1998, the couple decided they wanted to spend more time together, so they quit their day jobs and bought the old hotel in the hamlet of Bruce, population 71.

“We wanted to build something together and that’s what we did,” Boyd says.

But the Bruce Hotel is proving to be more than just a lifestyle — it’s a lifeline. When Pickup was diagnosed with cancer two years ago, Boyd says the business helped keep the couple grounded through the trial of chemotherapy, tests, and doctor and hospital visits.

“When we were going through all those treatments, people would ask, ‘Why don’t you guys just quit [the restaurant]? Why do you keep going?’” Boyd says. “And both of us said, ‘That’s what happens to people. A partner gets sick and they get so wrapped up in the illness that they forget about living.’”

Pickup is doing well now, but the couple have decided to slow down a bit and take more vacation time. “After this happened, we said, ‘Life is short.’ You don’t realize it until something like that happens. Now every time we [get the all-clear from] the doctors … we do the happy dance and book a holiday.”

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9 Responses to Why are so many people driving 100 clicks to eat at this rural steakhouse?

  1. Rex murphy says:

    Way to mention where it is in the article

  2. Debra Lefebvre says:

    The Bruce Hotel is for sure Special. As are Deb and Karl and the whole staff and atmosphere. Might not be particularly profitable, but it provides a living and a life. Wonderful place, people and food.

  3. Barb Lambert says:

    Miss the best steak in the world as I’ve moved to Kelowna. Miss you Bev and Karl all the very best to you!!! B

  4. Barb Lambert says:

    Sorry Deb memory is fading!! Love B

  5. Cheryl Laxdal says:

    The very best of the best! These 2 wonderful people are the epitome of respect and love! The are gifted individuals that honor hard work and boundless fun. Always a joy to be around and the food is the “icing on the cake” here’s wishing you another 20 years of the very best life can offer!

  6. Wallace Calkins says:

    Deb and Karl always make you feel like family and the food is better than most of the fine dining Edmonton has to offer

  7. Ernie & Sonia Hunka says:

    All the hard work and the love of what you give to your business shines and appreciated

  8. George & Helen Austin says:

    We love our home town girl and Carl.We live in Kelowna now but make an effort to visit the Bruce Hotel for the best steak ever.