Fabulous Food Finds on the Cowboy Trail
I, like many other Calgarians, often find myself heading south on Hwy 22 for a scenic drive, a hike, a bike ride, or a camping trip. Just a few minutes past Calgary’s city limits is an entirely different world of endless skies, rolling foothills, breathing space, and a direct connection to Alberta’s western roots. Lately I’ve been making the trip to visit one of the many outstanding restaurants of the area. What follows is an unapologetically biased introduction to just a few of the many fantastic eateries well worth the visit.
Corner House Cafe
JCN Highway 22 & Highway 549, Millarville
For years I drove by this tiny bungalow before finally noticing that, firstly, it’s indeed a restaurant, and secondly, its parking lot is nearly always full of vehicles. On a rainy Saturday last fall, it was time to investigate.
A visit to the Corner House Cafe has the feel of stopping by the home of a welcoming friend—the kind of friend who can whip up a frothy espresso, and always has something bubbling on the stove and an abundance of fresh baking at hand.
The service here is fast and friendly, and you may find yourself sharing a table with complete strangers, who instantly don’t feel like strangers at all. Best of all, the food is delicious and fresh. Their soups, especially Hungarian mushroom, deserve special mention—perhaps it was due to the rain, but I noticed that everyone who saw the soup had to have some. And its flavour fully lives up to the promise. I can’t wait to return for breakfast or some yummy baking and a latte.
105 Sunset Boulevard NW, Turner Valley
The Chuckwagon is also a recent find for me, although I’ll never know how I missed out on this local treasure for so long. Once featured on an episode of Food Network Canada’s You Gotta Eat Here, this red barn restaurant is the real deal when it comes to a cowboy experience and hearty, wholesome food. A friend has raved about the ‘Home Burger’ for years (after 12 years he still can’t bring himself to order anything else) and it’s no wonder—it’s a messy, juicy beauty. Every element is homemade, right down to the bun and relish, but it’s really the superior quality of the beef (sourced from the owner/chef’s very own ranch) where it delivers its greatest punch. You’ll be doing yourself a big favour if you arrive hungry!
I’ve been to the Chuckwagon a good many times in the past six months, and always I find a happy din from the friendly banter of the staff and a whole lot of happy patrons digging into a savoury meal. This busy spot usually has a lineup, but your patience will be well rewarded.
Highway 22, Longview
I’m not sure I can do justice to my deep affection for the Longview Steakhouse. Hope it is okay to have a crush on a restaurant? – I confess I do. This is my favourite restaurant in the world and I find it hard to do anything but gush about it.
The Longview Steakhouse is family run. Their new location is a short drive east up the hill from Hwy 22. It offers far more space than the old, yet the same intimate atmosphere prevails. The added bonus is an outstanding view of the Rockies.
As for the food—if you want to experience the very best that western Canada has to offer this is your place. I’ve never had a better steak, and we Albertans tend to be particular about such things. Uniquely prepared fish, bison, venison, lamb, and chicken are also on offer, depending on the specials of the day. Your meal will come with a superb soup or salad, and don’t be fooled by the humble sound of “house dressing” or parsnip apple soup, these two dishes are exceptionally flavourful and delicious. Bon Appetit!
Little New York Bistro
108 Morrison Road, Longview
This gem of a restaurant was my first introduction to Cowboy Trail eating. Like many a weary traveller who neglects to pack
snacks or a lunch, I was desperate to find a place to eat for my young family. “Bistro” certainly sounded appealing, and hinted of a kid-friendly item or two. As it turned out, this warm inviting restaurant was the happiest surprise of my long and checkered family dining life.
The Little New York Bistro’s name is perhaps a bit misleading as their food is created with a definite European flair. But I won’t quibble! Their burgers, sandwiches, fries, and salads rise to a level far beyond what you would experience at the most popular chain restaurants. And I’d defy you to find a better Croque Monsieur anywhere. Trust me, I’ve researched the matter extensively. (Sorry France, not even close!)
I’ve enjoyed many repeat visits to the Little New York Bistro over the years, sometimes escaping a cold winter day in its cozy log interior, and other times sipping a cold beer or glass of wine on the sunny patio. I think you get the picture; you simply can’t go wrong here.
By Kristine Buffel