The ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen Café in southwest Calgary is one of my favourite eating spaces. I say space, instead of restaurant, because that’s what it is: an architecturally gorgeous building with high, vaulted wood ceilings, tables scattered throughout its 100-metre length and light streaming in the side windows.
It’s a terrific place to just savour a cappuccino by a fireplace on a snowy December day, surrounded by tall Christmas trees. The breakfasts and lunches are also first rate and inexpensive, such as the voluminous steak BLT, a bargain $10 when last offered.
I say all this with more than a pang of nostalgia, because this splendid spot has been closed for more than a year’s worth of pandemic restrictions. Unlike other Calgary restaurants, the cafe didn’t reopen even temporarily, in large part to protect ATCO workers in the attached office buildings.
Well, the good news is the Blue Flame café is once again in operation. True, the splendid space is still closed, but the kitchen is offering takeaway meals from a somewhat different menu.
Here’s how it works. You order and pay online, show up at the appointed hour, announce your arrival by cell phone and then wait a minute or so for someone to emerge from the building and deliver the meal to your vehicle. You then take said meal home, heat and eat. It’s like a meal kit, without all the chopping, sautéing and cleaning. The café also offers delivery within 10 kilometres.
I ordered a $12 vegetarian green Thai curry (heated in a home microwave) and a spicy, hamburger-filled Jamaican patty (a snack-sized $5, heated in the oven). Both were nicely spiced and flavourfully sauced, though the curry’s rice was a little dry.
Larger meals, like braised beef meatballs with pasta ($24 for two-plus) or Peking duck for two ($25), are also available, perhaps chased with a four-pack of local craft beer or bottle of wine.
I certainly miss being inside and chowing down on a fresh sandwich. But for now, this is a pretty good substitute.
ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen Cafe
5302 Forand Street SW, Calgary
Takeaway Hours: Weekdays 9 am-6 pm, Saturday 10 am-6 pm. Closed Sunday
I love the ambiance of the place. It is very unusual, and inviting.