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Who remembers Moffat's on Main's comfort food menu?

A hearty steak pot pie topped with mashed potatoes brings back memories of Main Street in Galt, writes Wayne Conrad Serbu

Most of my childhood was spent growing up in downtown Galt. 

During the 1950 and '60s, commerce on Main Street was booming and new modern storefront signage with all those neon lights gave the downtown core a colourful ambience.

I recall personally liking Moffat's Restaurant's Gentleman Jim's Steak House sign, with that huge silhouetted neon-lit southern gentleman projecting a rainbow of colours over that section of Main Street.

Lots of us would meet here before or after crossing the street from the Palace Theater to sit at a booth with friends sharing a cherry coke with fries and gravy while digging the latest tunes selected from the jukebox on Saturday afternoons.

The many familiar stores and the user-friendly Galt Farmers' Market, along with a good selection of great bars, restaurants and movie theaters drew many folks to the downtown area for decades.

One of the best was a very familiar family run restaurant called Moffat's on Main. Moffat's operated the first Galt Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise and Moffat's Groceteria next to the restaurant.

Some of our moms and friends worked shifts as store workers, kitchen help, waitresses and banquet servers.

It was the place to meet and many families would celebrate special events like proms, social events and wedding banquets held in the upper dining hall and the lower blue room diner. The restaurant's interior and exterior took on several cosmetic changes over the years keeping up with the times.

It was always a busy eatery at lunch because of the hand crafted comfort menu choices.

My mom would meet her friends here on Wednesdays after the market or shopping to catch up on the local gossip and happenings while enjoying the tuna melt, or the daily feature soup and sandwich.

I loved the made-to-order ham salad on the fresh Mammy's bread with fries and gravy.

I have so many good memories of all the great meals consumed at Moffat's; BBQ steaks, burgers, fried chicken, hot and cold sandwiches with soups, salads, scratch baked dessert scones, muffins, cookies cakes and pies. 

When having dinner with my family, my favourite besides the fries and gravy was the Gentleman Jim's caramelized beef onion and mashed potato topped steak pot pie. It was the perfect meal and came with a crisp garden salad or coleslaw. My dad told me it was a great way for the cooks to use up all the beef steak trim.

Here is my version of that dish; a tasty beef pot pie.

pot pie

Moffat's Steak Pot Pie

In this recipe, I like using the traditional steak trimmings from the butcher which usually is a mixture of different cuts of beef including stewing beef which should have some fat marbling to add flavour and a more tender beef.

2 large cooking onions

2 large cloves of garlic

2 chunky carrots

3 stalks of celery

2 fresh bay leaves

½ a bunch of fresh thyme or a tsp of ground to taste

2 tbsp cooking oil

1.5 lbs. stewing beef 1/2 inch diced

3 tablespoons flour

600 ml Guinness beer or your favourite stout

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 lb. potatoes 

75 ml whole milk

2 tablespoon butter

Peel and roughly chop the onions, garlic and carrots, then trim and roughly chop the celery. Tie the bay and thyme sprigs together with string.

Heat two tablespoons of oil in a large casserole pan over a medium heat and add the vegetables and herbs. Mix everything in the oil to coat, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cook, covered, for 10 minutes, or until the veg is softening, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a plate.

Hand toss the beef in the flour and season, then add to the pan and cook until browned all over (you may need to do this in batches).

Deglaze the pan with the Guinness or chosen beer.  Now add the veg and herbs, then top up with water if needed, to just cover the meat and veg.

Stir in the brown sugar. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for about 2 hours, or until the meat is tender.

Cook the potatoes in a large pan of boiling salted water, then drain.

Mash with the milk, butter and a pinch of sea salt and black pepper.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Put the meat in an ovenproof dish, top with the mash and drizzle with the olive oil.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until a golden crust crisps up. Enjoy with a fresh garden salad, coleslaw or vegetable sticks. Great to make ahead and freezes well.

Let's Eat!

Chef Wayne Conrad Serbu writes monthly for CambridgeToday. The former executive chef also shares recipes and memories from his more than five decades in the hospitality industry on his blog, the kitchenman.