G I LC H R I ST
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