The central Alberta town of Ponoka is definitely cattle country, with Canada’s biggest cattle auction market and its third-largest rodeo. So it’s rather surprising to walk into a busy Cilantro + Chive and gander at the lunchtime menu. Here I find duck breast poutine, smoked trout, elk sausage spaghettini and a brown eggs and lamb burger—with many of the provisions locally sourced. There’s also a fine selection of microbrew ales. What the red-neck heck have couple Kim and Rieley, a Red Seal chef, opened here?
I go really old school and order a bison (fenced in, mind you) Philly sandwich, given a thoroughly modern twist with an espresso crust, sautéed onions and a cherry porter reduction sauce. Old-time cowboys may be rolling in their graves. But I must say, this towering, $14 sandwich is delicious, with seemingly half the tender, thinly sliced critter stuffed between two slices of bread and accompanied by my choice of the day’s onion and spinach soup.
Beef lovers, don’t despair. There’s still a regular burger, a steak sandwich and a weekly prime rib night. But can it be long before a vegan, gluten-free restaurant invades this conservative bastion?
Cilantro + Chive
2, 4213 Highway 2A, Ponoka, Alberta
Monday to Thursday 11 am-9 pm, Friday 11 am-10 pm. Closed weekends