Calgary food

Simmons Building Calgary East Village

The Simmons Building – Calgary’s Cool New Dining Destination

The historic Simmons Building just opened as a unique dining destination in Calgary’s East Village. It brings together three of Calgary’s food favourites: Charbar (an offspring of Charcut), Sidewalk Citizen Bakery, and Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters.

The Simmons Building is right next to the Bow River Pathway, and we just happened to be riding our bikes past and noticed it had opened. Time for some research!

A great East Village location next to the Bow River Pathway

With the development along the Bow River Pathway and the opening of the Simmons Building, the vision for Calgary’s East Village is beginning to take shape.

Before entering we noticed Charbar’s outdoor seating area, and others sitting on the nearby benches with food and drinks from Sidewalk Citizen and Phil & Sebastion.

Simmons building in Calgary East Village

Inside, it is a beautiful building with an industrial modern feel, and the restaurants flow easily within the open space. It is an upscale casual place, but as it was a warm Saturday afternoon we saw several others in their biking clothes like us.

Charbar

Although it was opening day, service was good, with only a few minor hiccups. Charbar is a Canadian/Argentinian inspired restaurant with a large dining space on the main floor as well as a raw bar for seafood. There is more dining space on the second floor including space for private dining. Since we were there they received their liquor license, and so their rooftop terrace should be open too. It will no doubt be a popular nice weather destination, with its great views of downtown and the river.

It was Saturday noon and Charbar was serving their weekend brunch. We already had our eggs earlier in the morning, so we decided to try their famous burger. We were sharing as we planned to have dessert and still had to bike home.  The server offered us a choice of still or sparkling water, and it is FREE!! 🙂   Yay!!  The trend of upscale restaurants charging for water is a pet peeve of ours, as Calgary has excellent tap water.

Charbar burger and fries

This is their Gaucho Burger, with provoleta (an Argentinean cheese), crushed avocado, and chorizo bacon. It was delicious, with two beef patties and a generous amount of avocado. We would normally ask for ketchup with our fries, but once we tried them we didn’t even ask because they were so tasty! We asked our server the secret of the fries, and he told us when they cook their beef, they reserve the drippings, and use a little to flavor them after they’ve been fried.

The burger was $18, which is not cheap, but Charbar uses top quality ingredients and the portion is generous. (and they don’t charge for water!)

We planned to have their peach bourbon sundae for dessert, but sadly it wasn’t yet available. So we each had a cappuccino and decided to pop over to Sidewalk Citizen Bakery for a sweet fix.

Sidewalk Citizen Bakery

Sidewalk Citizen Bakery

Sidewalk Citizen Bakery features fresh-baked croissants, decadent desserts, and more. They also have a full menu of sandwiches, savory pastries, salads and pizza. The items can be packed up to go, or eaten at their lunch counter or tables. We picked up a couple dessert items to go.

Sidewalk Citizen Savarin Cake

This is savarin, a brioche cake soaked with rum syrup, and topped with creme chantilly.  It was light, fresh and delicious.

 

Rosetta & Pistachio Cheesecake from Sidewalk Citizen

Rosetta & Pistachio Cheesecake

Next we tried the Rosetta & Pistachio Cheesecake, with whipped cream & almond syrup. I’m actually not sure what Rosetta is (should have asked), but I can assure you it was delicious and quickly devoured.

 

Old School soft drinks at Sidewalk Citizen

Old school soft drinks at Sidewalk Citizen to go with your picnic sandwiches

With its location next to the Bow River, Sidewalk Citizen Bakery is bound to be a popular place to pick up picnic items to enjoy in the nearby parks.

Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters

Phil & Sebastion Coffee

Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters was started by two engineers turned coffee nerds. I’ve been a fan since they started up at the Calgary Farmer’s Market in 2007, and they’ve had a lot of success since then. In 2012 they brought together the people of Charcut and Sidewalk Citizen to check out the East Village Simmons building. They all immediately saw the potential of creating a unique culinary experience with collaboration between all three partners. As an example of this, Charbar uses Phil & Sebastian to supply their coffees, and Sidewalk Citizen Bakery to provide fresh bread.

Coffee from Phil & Sebastion

The cappuccinos we ordered at Charbar were provided by Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters.

The historic Simmons Building is a great location and concept. When you are in town I recommend checking out Calgary’s cool new dining destination.

Vero Bistro Moderne Calgary

I recently had a really great brunch at Vero Bistro Moderne, a Calgary restaurant on 10 St. NW, just off Kensington Rd. So last night we decided to give it a try for dinner.

Vero Bistro features modern interpretations of Italian & French cuisine, and executive chef Jenny believes in sourcing fresh, healthy food from local producers and suppliers. It has a cozy atmosphere, modern but romantic, with black & red decor.

A Wonderful Start

To start our server brought out fresh baked focaccia, served with olive oil and 25 year aged balsamic vinegar. The bread was delicious, with bits of roasted peppers, crusty on the outside and delicate on the inside. (For brunch their croissants are also fresh baked, so don’t skip the bread at Vero!)

Fresh baked focaccia with olive oil and a reduction of 25-year aged balsamic vinegar

Next we shared Vero’s signature hand rolled sweet potato gnocchi, with wild boar bacon, gorgonzola, walnuts, maple syrup, and 25 year aged balsamic vinegar. The dumplings were flavourful, and a generous portion, plenty to share for a first course. Although I would have been happy to have leftovers for breakfast this morning.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

The Main Course

For my main course I had pan roasted fresh wild halibut, as recommended by our server, being the freshest time for halibut (for Calgary). I love fish but hate it overcooked, so I was hoping for the best. It was cooked perfectly, and was fresh tasting and yummy, served with manilla clams, asparagus, carrots, mashed potatoes, and piccata sauce. There was a nice balance of fish to vegetables in the meal.

Pan Roasted Fresh Wild Halibut

Darrell had seafood risotto “paella”, with mussels, clams, prawns, scallops, calamari, fish and saffron. It was flavourful and the seafood well-cooked…more risotto than paella. For Darrell it was a little too rich, and the flavour overpowered the delicate taste of the seafood. It would have been more enjoyable with a lighter starter such as a salad.

Seafood Risotto “Paella”

Save Room for Dessert

Even though we were pretty full already, I couldn’t resist a little dessert to finish the meal. So we decided to share the chef’s dessert of the day, which was mango cheesecake, with white chocolate balls and raspberries. This balance of rich but light cheesecake and tart fruitiness was a perfect ending, and disappeared in a flash.

Mango Cheesecake

Overview of Vero Bistro

Overall I would easily recommend Vero Bistro for a special dinner, or their excellent brunch. Chef Jenny’s dishes are creative, with quality ingredients, and well-presented. The diners next to us really enjoyed the seafood for two, and it looked spectacular if you want something really special.

Dinner at Vero Bistro Moderne is not cheap, but in line with Calgary restaurant prices. A pet peeve of mine is paying for tap water–when asked if we preferred still or sparkling we requested tap ($1.50 each). However, the serving size is generous, and it looked like the chef often included fresh bread or a small appetizer to compliment the diner’s meal. Reservations are recommended, and available even for brunch, which is a welcome change from the usual long lineups for weekend brunch in Calgary.

Vero Bistro Moderne

209 10th street NW. Calgary, Alberta T2N 1V5 | (403) 283-8988

www.verobistro.ca

 

Vero Bistro Menu Sample

Montreal bagels

Sorry New York, Montreal has the Best Bagels

…and they’re here in Calgary.

Tension was building as we made our way through Calgary’s Friday afternoon traffic. We didn’t have to say what we were both thinking, “Would we get there in time?”

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We’ve faced disappointment before when we arrived too late and the owner, Siva, told us ‘sorry bagels are sold out today’.

Once you’ve tried Montreal Bagel’s hand-shaped gems, boiled in honey water and baked in a wood-fired oven, there is no turning back to the more bread-like New York style bagels. Siva, himself from Montreal, uses the traditional methods of that city to achieve the chewy, dense texture and slightly sweet taste.

If you are lucky enough to get these bagels when they are still warm from the oven, it’s impossible to resist eating one on the way home.  But we always get a dozen at least as they freeze really well and when toasted with butter, it’s chewy, crispy, carb heaven.

We arrived at Montreal Bagels and opened the door in anticipation. Siva looked up with a tray of sesame bagels fresh from the oven, and we exhaled. Today we would not be disappointed.

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Montreal Bagels

8408 Elbow Dr SW, Calgary
Bagels (sesame, plain, poppyseed, multigrain
$1/each, $5/half dozen, $9/dozen

We also recommend trying their Montreal smoked meat. Great with your bagel.

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