G I LC H R I ST

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Weekend Life -

Road­house cui­sine is some­thing that’s been lack­ing around town since the Mecca Cafe burned down a few years ago. A road­house should be a lowslung, slightly de­crepit build­ing on a stretch of lonely high­way, fronted by a big gravel park­ing lot and a hitch­ing rail or two. Blues or clas­sic coun­try should vi­brate into your body the minute you step out of your car or off your mo­tor­cy­cle and the sweet, smoky scent of bar­be­cue should hang in the air. (Note: You usu­ally have to drive to a road­house; typ­i­cally no tran­sit ser­vice will be avail­able.) The food should be fall­ing-off-the­p­late big and the beer should be abun­dant and cold.

One place that’s been a road­house-in-wait­ing for decades is the for­mer Sy­mons Val­ley Ranch ban­quet hall at 14555 Sy­mons Val­ley Road N.W., at­tached to what is now the Sy­mons Val­ley Ranch Farm­ers’ Mar­ket. Own­ers Du­rum Prop­er­ties, led by Jay Sim­mons, have seen that po­ten­tial and re­cently part­nered with chef Kevin Turner to open Sy­mons Road­house (587-2964986).

Sy­mons meets all the above re­quire­ments and adds to them with a worn, red-painted ex­te­rior, raw wood plank­ing on the in­te­rior walls, rough-hewn wood ta­bles and creaky wood floors. A bar — wood, of course — takes over one cor­ner of the 65-seat room.

Sy­mons’ look is bang-on for a road­house — open, airy and, with new doors and win­dows, at last the space has some nat­u­ral light in it. (Sy­mons passed one of the key road­house tests by hav­ing Hoyt Ax­ton play­ing on the sound sys­tem.) Out­side, a pa­tio will pro­vide room for an additional 100 pa­trons.

Turner, ex­ec­u­tive chef at Brava Bistro for more than 10 years, has al­ways wanted a place of his own, a joint that serves con­tem­po­rary com­fort food dishes such as lob­ster pou­tine and beef short ribs with mac’n’cheese.

Turner in­stalled a new kitchen at Sy­mons, added sous chef Dale Neisz, for­merly of Vagabond, the Stam­pede and Brava, and de­signed a menu that com­bines mar­ket in­gre­di­ents with road­house ideas. So, you’ll find smoked chicken wings, a pulled pork sun­dae and a bi­son burger on the menu along with a warm goat cheese salad, lin­guine car­bonara and steel­head trout.

Wed­nes­day night is wing night (the wings are rubbed with a Mem­phis-style blend of spices and slow-smoked over cherry and oak wood), week­ends fea­ture a brunch and live mu­sic will fill Sy­mons on Fri­day and Satur­day nights.

Help­ing out with the look is sea­soned restau­ra­teur Wi­told Twar­dowski whose job, ac­cord­ing to Twar­dowski, is to “beau­tify” Sy­mons Val­ley. In ad­di­tion to cre­at­ing the look for the road­house, he and Turner and Du­rum Prop­er­ties are work­ing on a wine bar for the mar­ket it­self and on a small cafe to be built in a house which sits on the property. Vis­i­tors to Sy­mons Road­house may see fa­mil­iar pieces from Twar­dowski’s past restaurant­s, such as Mescalero. It’s a look that fits the old build­ings per­fectly. And a fine ad­di­tion to din­ing in the city’s north­west.

Fans of Flat­lands Cafe, the pop­u­lar Belt­line break­fast and lunch joint at 550 11th Ave. S.W. (403-265-7144), are see­ing a new face be­hind the counter these days. Al Jetha has taken over Flat­lands from Brent Robin­son (the tall one) and Andrew Blevins (the shorter one), who have moved on to other ven­tures. Jetha, who pre­vi­ously owned Bagels and Buns and then the Planet Cof­fee House on Bow­fort Road N.W., is keep­ing Flat­lands’ menu the same for now while see­ing if there are

One of Cochrane’s fine In­dian restaurant­s — Me­htab — is host­ing a cus­tomer ap­pre­ci­a­tion event May 21 to 25 to cel­e­brate its third birth­day. Lo­cated at 120 5th Ave. W (403-851-0100), Me­htab will of­fer daily food and drink spe­cials, re­duced prices and spe­cial events through­out the week. And in­stead of a lunch buf­fet, owner Jaggs Thind says that he’ll be serv­ing a va­ri­ety of thali combo plat­ters through­out the week, in­clud­ing veg­e­tar­ian and gluten-free op­tions. For more info, check out mehtabrest­au­rant.com

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