MOONLIGHT AND ELI APPEALS TO ROMANTICS
Champagne, fondue and an enchanting backstory bring big charm to tiny bar
If you’ve walked or driven through Bridgeland you’ve probably seen it: a bright pink building that looks too small to be a house, but probably also too small to be a restaurant. The charming little structure has always been designated as a commercial space — most recently it was Grate and Barrel, a sassy little grilled cheese restaurant. But the building perhaps finally found its destiny when it recently opened as Moonlight and Eli, a uniquely specific fondue and champagne bar.
Owned and operated by Mhairi O’Donnell (who was also behind Grate and Barrel as well as the now-defunct Mission Diner and The Loop) and her husband, musician Russell Broom, Moonlight and Eli quietly opened this July. After finding old photographs of her then- 20-something late grandmother with an unidentified young man that were all carefully labelled “Moonlight and Eli,” O’Donnell fantasized about one day opening a champagne bar to pay tribute to what had become an enchanting family mystery.
“It was the most atmospheric and romantic thing I’ve ever seen,” O’Donnell says. “I knew that one day I wanted to open a champagne bar and call it Moonlight and Eli.”
O’Donnell’s grandmother’s handwriting from one of those photos makes up the restaurant’s logo and one of the photos of her and the enigmatic Eli takes up considerable real estate in the tiny restaurant. And it is indeed as tiny as it appears on the street — there are a handful of tables within, a back room that’s big enough for a group of eight, and a long(ish) bar to sit at. The kitchen is a small strip that runs along the west wall of the building, just big enough to prep bread and other small items to dip and a stove to get the vintage Le Crueset pots of fondue going before they get placed on small candle-powered burners at the table.
As for Moonlight and Eli’s menu, it is literally just champagne and fondue. O’Donnell wanted to pick one dish that she could do well, that worked within the restaurant’s tight quarters.
Customers can choose from an always-available house fondue with emmental and gruyere cheeses ($25 per person), bread cubes, green apples and pickles, with optional add-ons like meatballs ($10), grape tomatoes ($4) and steamed new potatoes ($4). O’Donnell also comes up with a special each week, always with an emphasis on alpine cheese. The restaurant also serves a few bar snacks and a chocolate dessert fondue ($20 for two people).
As for the drinks, when O’Donnell says Champagne, she actually means Champagne: there are half a dozen legitimate Champagnes on the menu, with both bottles and glass pours available. Since the real stuff doesn’t come cheap, Moonlight and Eli also offers a nice selection of non-champagne sparkling wines and some sparkling cocktails.
Moonlight and Eli is located at 627 1st Ave. N.E. (look for that little pink house) and can be contacted at 587-907-8316 (text only) or moonlightandeli.com.
Nights and Weekends, the popup restaurant that’s been operating out of the downtown Meat and Bread sandwich shop during off-hours, has moved. Nights and Weekenders can now get their fix at Shiki Menya in Bridgeland (827 1st Ave. N.E.), a restaurant that is typically only open at lunch. To celebrate the new host restaurant, chef Nick Berenyi’s first menu focuses on Japanese drinking food and small plates, with yakitori skewers served over rice or in a bao bun (prices vary), an incredibly flavourful kohlrabi salad with mint and daikon ($10), and a wagyu skirt steak with sesame crème and vanilla ($38). There’s also a new collection of cocktails made with ingredients like Japanese whiskey, plum wine, and matcha.
As with the old location, the menu concept changes every few months. Nights and Weekends is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. For more information or to make reservations, visit nightsandweekends.ca.
For something a little bit different, food lovers can celebrate friends and family while supporting a good cause next month by participating in The Big Social, a cross-Canada food party that will benefit Community Food Centres, including the local centre run by The Alex here in Calgary. The Alex is inviting Calgarians to host their own parties in their homes or offices from Nov. 1 to 10, asking guests to bring a donation rather than a bottle of wine or a gift. Participants get to break bread with their favourite people, and all funds go toward helping Canadians who are struggling with food insecurity. To register and learn more, visit bigsocial.ca.
Local farm-to-table delivery service CultivatR is partnering with three local breweries to launch a dining series dubbed The Future of Food. Each dinner will see the brewery’s chef creating a meal with CultivatR’s farm partners’ products, then pairing them with their drinks. The first one is Wednesday, Oct. 23 at the Dandy Brewing Company with subsequent dinners on Nov. 14 at Citizen Brewing and Nov. 28 at SunnyCider. For tickets and more information visit cultivatr.ca. email@example.com. twitter.com/elizaboothy Instagram.com/elizabooth
It was the most … romantic thing I’ve ever seen. I knew that one day I wanted to open a champagne bar and call it Moonlight and Eli.
O’Donnell’s grandmother’s handwriting makes up the logo of the Champagne and fondue bar in Bridgeland.
Owners Russell Broom and Mhairi O’Donnell of Moonlight and Eli, which was inspired by old photographs of O’Donnell’s late grandmother. PHOTOS: JIM WELLS