Our wave of new restaurants in Calgary has seemed to slow down a bit over the past few months, which has been great. Just gives our city’s foodies some time to catch up on their dining out. Whether it’s a new brunch spot in Mission or National’s second location on 10th Avenue, here’s a few of the restaurant features I’ve done recently for Avenue Magazine.
Calgarians seem to have an undying love for the brunching hour. From greasy spoons to some of the finest restaurants in the city, if there’s an eggs Benedict being whipped up on a Saturday or Sunday morning, people will — and do — line up for it. Blondes Diner is the newest addition to our city’s ever-growing list of breakfast hot spots, dishing out some interesting takes on the standard breakfast in a casual setting.
Located in Mission, this a.m. eatery opened its doors in the early spring. While the decor is rather minimal, the seating is generously spaced out, with a small patio out front for the (hopefully) many sunny days Calgary may be graced with this summer. As with most of the city’s diners, Blondes has a first-come, first-served set-up, which means you may be waiting a little while for a table if you sleep in on a Saturday.
The diner’s executive chef and “Top Chef Canada” alumnus, Chris Shaften, takes simple breakfast classics like omelettes and French toast and adds his creative spins. The 1912 Flap Jack is an homage to the city’s first Stampede breakfast in the form of a skillet hot cake, beef sausage, fried eggs and maple syrup. On the side, you’ll find Shaften’s homemade hot sauce and ketchup, which is nice and smokey, making for a nice departure from the classic Heinz (which is also available, should you want to keep with the regular red). If that doesn’t sound quite filling enough, then kick it up a notch with the indulgent Foie Gras Flap Jack, a cast iron pancake with maple-glazed apples, compote and foie gras torchon.
The heritage house-turned-restaurant on 7th Street S.W., between 11th and 12th Avenues has always been a fantastic place for an intimate gathering with friends.
Now open for coffee and breakfast, as well as regular lunch service throughout the week (closed Mondays), the restaurant recently brought a third partner, Ryan O’Flynn, on to lend some new culinary expertise. Martin Maheux (one of the original owners), will handle the morning and lunch operations while the other partner Luc Renaudet and O’Flynn focus on the evening.
Chef Ryan O’Flynn, who grew up in Canada but has worked at restaurants in Ireland, Monaco and London, is working to make the menu more contemporary. Laurier Lounge, best known as a place for its poutine and fondues (although both will stay on the menu), has placed a stronger focus on refined, French cooking. Yes, some change can be a good thing.
Local originally opened in 2009 in the Kitsilano area of Vancouver. It has since been making its way east, opening second and third locations in Medicine Hat and Edmonton. Now, the gastro pub chain has taken over the space formerly known as Dakota’s on Stephen Avenue and is serving up food and drink to the always thirsty, always hungry downtown work crowd.
(Note: So as to not confuse this new establishment with the Local pub chain owned by Concorde Group, this small chain is run by Joey Restaurants, taking a more casual approach to its style of dining.)
If you are anything like me and had never been to Dakota’s before, this is a welcome new inhabitant and it was quite surprising to see how large the space is. The long room is lined with booths all down the left-hand side, with a large central bar on the right. Worn wood-paneled walls are adorned with vintage-looking items — think small town gas station chic. Dim tavern lighting tops it off for a low key, unpretentious environment.
When it comes to the food, the establishment is not looking to reinvent the wheel. Rather, it’s keeping it simple and keeping it good. The Local menu is definitely a “something for everyone” kind of menu with appetizers like crispy calamari, gyoza and yam fries. The tuna poke is a great summer starter with chunks of tuna tossed with soy, avocado, jalapeno and ginger and served with chips and best enjoyed on the patio on a sunny afternoon.
With Briggs Kitchen and Bar set to open in early July and the elusive work in progress that is currently taking place in the former 355 Mansion space on the corner of 4th St. S.W., 10th Avenue just seems to be getting livelier with each passing month. The newest kid on the block, National on 10th, opened its doors in late April and hit the ground running.
The design of this new pub takes the concept of its original 17th Avenue location, but kicks it up a notch with high celings, lines of overhanging light bulbs in the back area and a large, glowing Good Times sign, and a ping pong paddle accent wall upstairs.
When it comes to the food, the menu at this location is relatively the same with a couple of exceptions. 1) The buck-a-shuck oyster night happens on Mondays, and 2) It unfortuantely does not offer daily lunch and dinner specials.
National makes up for it in activities, though. Grab a couple of paddles and play ping pong while enjoying some pints, or wait your turn for a free foosball table. As well, the downstairs bowling alley is nearing completition and the rooftop patio, though still in progress, could see patrons soaking up the sunshine by August.
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