High River Cafes Fully Back in Business

Evelyn’s Memory Lane Cafe is a busy High River diner

Other than Fort McMurray and its devastating wildfires, it’s hard to think of an Alberta community that’s suffered more over the past decade than High River.

First, there were the devastating floods of 2013, which for weeks swamped the aptly named town of 14,000, a 40-minute drive south of Calgary. Then the pandemic hit, with the Cargill meat-packing plant, on the town’s doorstep, recording 950 Covid cases, the worst outbreak in Canada.

So it was nice to recently visit High River and see a bustling downtown, with lunchtime lineups at a couple of landmark cafes.

Evelyn’s Memory Lane Café is a hopping 1950s-style diner, complete with swiveling stools and a menu that features thick sandwiches, interesting salads, house-made ice cream and deep-dish pies.

How’s this for a loaded roast chicken sandwich?

I went for an Evelyn’s classic, a roasted Hutterite chicken sandwich with cranberries and mayo on house-made bread. It’s an outstanding meal—they certainly don’t skimp on the chicken—which at $8 would rival any of my Calgary cheap-eats sandwiches. For another $6, I could have added a generous broccoli or beet salad, but the sandwich alone was certainly a sufficient lunch.

Colossi’s Coffee House next door

Next door, the graffiti-clad Colossi’s Coffee House was serving good hot beverages along with paninis, loaded bagels and baked treats. Not far away, the Whistle Stop Diner offers a unique dining experience: lunch in a historic, refurbished rail car.

The historic Whistle Stop Diner

Unfortunately, it wasn’t open this day. But it was great to see so many long-time High River restaurants (including the Hitchin Post Drive In) still chugging along.

Evelyn’s Memory Lane Cafe
118 4 Avenue SW, High River, Alberta
Weekdays 10 am-3 pm, Saturday 11 am-3 pm. Closed SundayH

Colossi’s Coffee House
114 4 Avenue SW, High River
Weekdays 7 am-6 pm, Saturday 8 am-5 pm, Sunday 9 am-5 pm

Scenes From a Southern B.C. Road Trip

Lake of the Woods campsite in Cathedral Provincial Park

Time to dodge some smoke and do some hiking, eating and driving on a road trip along the Crowsnest Highway (3) in south-central B.C. Here are some images.

First stop for coffee and muffin at Bacchus Books Cafe in Golden, now owned by Katie Mitzel, author of The Skoki Cookbook
Historic Studebaker and trailer at Grist Mill campground in Keremeos
Playing in the attached garden, the one and only Valdy
Samosa Garden fruit stand and restaurant in Keremeos, the “Fruit Stand Capital of Canada.” Benja Thai also recommended
Cathedral Provincial Park, just north of the U.S. border. Land of lupins
And mountain goats
And ridge walks
And lakes
And artistic cairns. Who built these?
Final days of clear skies
Eric and daughters in Nelson municipal campground
Requisite patio dogs at Oso Negro Coffee in Nelson
The smoke rolled in at Kokanee Lake
But the late-stage anenomes were superb
The Kokanee Glacier “Cabin”
So you think you’re tough
Best beer, and label, of the trip: Penticton’s Bad Tattoo Brewing
Best Bakery: Au Soleil Levant in Nelson
Best coffee: Deadwood Junction in Greenwood. Second best (pictured) Humble Bean in Castlegar

Calgary Lunch Under $10: Meat & Bread

Eggplant parmesan sandwich at Calgary’s Meat & Bread

I know, at a place called Meat & Bread, you should be ordering meat. But all the delicious meat sandwiches on offer at this downtown Calgary location—crackling porchetta, meatball, corn beef and chicken—weigh in at about $12.50.

For the quality and quantity, it’s still a great deal, at one of my favourite sandwich shops in Calgary, located in the historic Grain Exchange Building. But for the purpose of this series—Calgary lunch for less than $10—I have to go for the one vegetarian option on the menu, an eggplant Parmesan sandwich, for $9.

It features roasted, organic eggplant, kale, marinara sauce and Parmesan aioli, all crammed into a fresh ciabatta bun. Even if you’re not normally a fan of eggplant and kale, you should like this soft, flavourful blend. You can add a dip, such as a habanero cilantro cream, for $1.50, but it’s not essential and does push the tab over $10.

Meat & Bread is located in a historic sandstone building in downtown Calgary

The eggplant sandwich makes for a light lunch, which if you’re famished, can be complemented with a fine soup or salad, but again it adds $5 to the cost.

Meat & Bread
821 1 Street SW, Calgary
Weekdays 11 am-4 pm. Closed weekends

Okotoks Bakery Crosses a Croissant and a Muffin to Create a Fabulous “Cruffin”

French 50 Bakery is an Okotoks micro bakery open only on Saturdays

Every now and then, I encounter a food invention that blows my mind. Like the wood-fired garlic knot at Milo & Olive in Santa Monica. Or the healthy toast at La Baguette in Revelstoke.

All the better when this discovery is completely serendipitous, at a place I don’t know exists until I walk in the front door.

Welcome to French 50 Bakery, at the edge of downtown Okotoks in southern Alberta. It’s attached to Bistro 1882 French restaurant, in an historic former post office, its exterior clad in pressed tin.

The bakery is attached to a French restaurant in an historic Okotoks building

French 50 is kind of like a pop-up restaurant, open only on Saturdays, although doing a brisk online, pick-up business. Owners Marie and Brad bake a range of fabulous, crusty sourdough breads, such as the pain campagne, a whole wheat naturally raised loaf that I order.

The pain campagne is a round, crusty sourdough loaf

What catches my eye is a display case of delectable sweet treats: a chocolate ginger scone, a pain au chocolate and various pandans and caneles. Just look at the mouth-watering picture below.

So many sweet treats to choose from

But then my decision is instantly made for me. It’s a mixed-berry cross between a croissant and a muffin, quite naturally called a cruffin. Why have I never seen this before?

The mixed-berry “cruffin” is outstanding

The taste lives up to the visual promise: the shattering lightness of a croissant, the moist density of a muffin and the sweet flavour burst of berries. Worth every penny of the $4.50 cost.

After I wolf the cruffin down on the spot, my server picks up a napkin and gently asks, “Would you like to me to wipe those spots off your face?”

A line of bakery beauties waiting to be picked up

French 50 Bakery
52 North Railway Street, Okotoks, Alberta
Saturdays only 8 am-1 pm

Calgary Lunch No Longer Under $10: ATCO Blue Flame Cafe

The spectacular ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen Cafe

The good news: The Atco Blue Flame Kitchen Café, the most architecturally spectacular dining space in Calgary, has finally reopened to the public.

The bad news: The menu is minuscule and prices (at least for now) are significantly higher than the bargain pre-pandemic fare.

Gone is the $10 steak BLT sandwich, replaced by this slim, rather pricy menu
The only thing under $10 was this $8 broccoli cheddar soup, with a nice slab of bread

Perhaps as a result, the vast space was almost deserted during an early lunch hour.

ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen Cafe
Commons Building, 5302 Forand Street SW, Calgary
Weekdays 8 am-2 pm. Closed weekends

Calgary Lunch Under $10: Cravings Bagels

Lovely potato samosa at Cravings Bagels

I’ve had an itch lately for samosas, those South Asian fried triangle pastries, filled with spicy meats or vegetables.

The problem is one of my go-to shawarma places no longer makes them. And an East Indian grocery store that sells them for an absurdly low price is hell and gone across sprawling Calgary.

But thanks to a friend’s tip, I found some tasty samosas at Foothills Hospital of all places. Cravings Bagels is a tiny café tucked into the medical centre’s North Tower/Grace Women’s Health Centre. The eclectic menu includes bagels, grilled cheese sandwiches and Greek salads, alongside Middle Eastern specialties such as falafels, shawarmas and donairs, the latter three ranging in price from $6.50 to $8.

Cravings is a tiny cafe tucked into Foothills Hospital

But on this day, I headed straight for the samosas, ordering one beef and one potato (my favourite), devouring them on a bench outside the hospital’s emergency entrance. It was a perfect, nice-sized snack for $5, bumped up to $7.50 for a light lunch of three.

Lots of under-$10 lunches here

My only challenge was getting past a screener who wondered why I was going (only a few steps) into the hospital without a medical appointment during a Covid outbreak. Fair enough. Picking up takeout samosas just wouldn’t have cut it, had I not agreed to some questions and a temperature check.

I’m sure the samosas were hotter than my forehead.

Cravings Bagels
1441 29 Street NW, Calgary (Foothills Hospital North Tower)
Weekdays 7 am-3 pm