Tag Archives: Lacombe restaurants

Cilantro & Chive Tops Lacombe Hit List

Lacombe’s Cilantro & Chive combine’s a big-city menu with a small-town vibe

Whatever you do, don’t call Lacombe small town.

Sure, the population of 14,000 would suggest town status. But the central Alberta community is officially a city. And the excellence of its architecture, history, and eats and drinks suggest a place punching well above its weight, certainly in the midst of farmland.

Exihibit A is Blindman Brewing, one of the top craft breweries in Alberta, always willing to push the boundaries of what makes interesting beer.

Exhibit B is Cilantro & Chive, whose imaginative restaurant fare is the equal of most big-city heavyweights. Consider the weekly lunch special I recently ordered: three Yorkshire puddings, stuffed with prime rib and deep-fried onion. Or regular menu offerings like braised duck wings or beef brisket grilled cheese. Who else does that?

Prime rib stuffed Yorkshire pudding. Yum!

Certainly I haven’t seen any place in five years of touring western North America that offers some 200 types of canned or bottled beer. Most of it Alberta produced.

About half the beers, mostly Alberta brewed, on offer

So the next time you’re considering a day trip from, say, Calgary or Edmonton, put Lacombe on your list. It’s my favourite Alberta town. Oops, city.

Cilantro & Chive
5021 50 Street, Lacombe, Alberta (and now a Red Deer location, 1927 50 Avenue)
Opens at 11 am weekdays, 10 am weekends
403-782-2882

Restaurant Renaissance in Lacombe, Alberta

This classic flat-iron building is the showpiece of Lacombe's lovingly restored historic downtown

This classic flat-iron building is the showpiece of Lacombe’s lovingly restored historic downtown

Lacombe has long been my favourite Alberta town (it’s officially now a city, but with only 12,000 residents, it still has that small-town feel). What I particularly like is the preservation and restoration of many downtown brick buildings and stately Edwardian houses that line its wide, shady streets. You can read all about it in my Day Trips From Calgary book (new edition scheduled for 2017).

Now, there’s another reason for pulling off the frenetic Highway 2, halfway between Calgary and Edmonton. In the past couple of years, Lacombe has seriously stepped up its culinary scene, perhaps even surpassing the dining wilderness of the nearby, much larger Red Deer.

Want to know what the inside of those historic Lacombe houses looks like? Just step into Morrison House Café, where two rooms of a 1919 colonial-revival residence have been converted into an elegant space offering good soups and sandwiches on house-baked breads and croissants. Save room for some delectable oatmeal cake or bread pudding.

Morrison House Cafe is located in a stately, historic downtown Lacombe house

Morrison House Cafe is located in a stately, historic downtown Lacombe house

Speaking of elegant, Sweet Capone’s is a wee downtown shop specializing in Italian pastries such as cannoli, pesche dolci (peach cookies) and Florentines. Sound a bit fancy for a town built on farming? Would you believe there are lineups for these confections, which often sell out by early afternoon?

Sweet Capone's is on historic, brick row in downtown Lacombe

Sweet Capone’s is on historic, brick row in downtown Lacombe

This is what people line up for: cream-filled Italian cannolis

This is what people line up for: cream-filled Italian cannolis

Queues are also de rigueur for the big, oven-roasted turkey and beef sandwiches at Eastside Eatery, in a Lacombe industrial park. I wrote about this fast, affordable, fabulous place in last week’s post.

The sandwiches are big, fast and tasty at Eastside Eatery

The sandwiches are big, fast and tasty at Eastside Eatery

Cilantro and Chive is a recent transplant, moving to downtown Lacombe after its lease expired in Ponoka, to the near north. It features innovative, chef-driven takes on standards, witness the braised duck wings, pulled-pork mac ‘n cheese, bison burgers and smoked trout and kale spaghettini.

Lovely soup and sandwich at Cilantro and Chive

Lovely soup and sandwich at Cilantro and Chive

Here’s the clincher. Lacombe now boasts its own craft brewery, Blindman Brewing, cooking up things like cask-conditioned sour beers and Belgian-style saisons.

I wonder how much those Edwardian houses are selling for?

Morrison House Cafe
5331 51 Avenue, Lacombe, Alberta
Tuesday to Saturday 11 am-3:30 pm. Closed Sunday and Monday
403-789-1234

Sweet Capone’s
5010 50 Avenue
Tuesday to Saturday 10 am-4 pm. Closed Sunday and Monday
403-789-7778

Eastside Eatery
3, 4013 53 Avenue, Lacombe, Alberta
Weekdays 8 am-3 pm. Closed weekends
403-782-7435

Cilantro and Chive
5021 50 Street
Monday to Wednesday 11 am-9 pm, Thursday to Saturday 11 am-11 pm. Closed Sunday
403-782-2882

Blindman Brewing
Bay F, 3413 53 Avenue
Opens at 2 pm Tuesday to Friday and at noon Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday
403-786-2337

Can a Made-to-Order Sandwich be Quick? You Bet

The woman in black is the sandwich magician at Lacombe's Eastside Eatery, assembling this beauty in under a minute

The woman in black is the sandwich magician at Lacombe’s Eastside Eatery, assembling this beauty in under a minute

Anyone who says made-to-order sandwiches take too long to assemble in a busy lunch spot obviously hasn’t been to Eastside Eatery, in the central Alberta city of Lacombe.

If they had, they’d soon realize that, for efficiency’s sake, you don’t have to make all the sandwiches in the morning, wrap them in suffocating plastic and stack them in a refrigerated display case, where they slowly get soggy and invariably don’t taste all that fresh when unravelled for consumption several hours later.

When I pull up to Eastside, a somewhat spartan place in a Lacombe industrial park, it’s late in the lunch hour and thus the usual line is gone. In fact, I walk right up to the counter and, after a brief glance at the overhead menu, order a roasted turkey sandwich on whole wheat.

Forget the industrial look. The focus here is fast, fresh and affordable

Forget the industrial look. The focus here is fast, fresh and affordable

“Would you like mayo, mustard, cranberry sauce and lettuce with that?” asks the friendly cashier. “OK.”
“Cheese, peppers, tomatoes, onions, pickle?” “Sure, load her up.”
“Stuffing?” “Would you recommend it?” “Absolutely. It’s homemade.”

I then pull out my debit card and go through the prompts to pay for my sandwich. As the receipt is printed and passed to me—say, 45 seconds after I’ve ordered—the assembler hands me the sandwich on a plate.

“Where did you get that from?” I ask suspiciously. “It was already made, wasn’t it?”
“No, I just made it.”
“How could you make it that fast?”
“I have to be quick, for when it’s really busy.”

The sandwich—a sumptuous bargain at $7—is rather enormous; a veritable Thanksgiving dinner crammed between two pieces of fresh bread. And it isn’t just filled with fixings. There must be an entire, shredded turkey breast in there.

But true to its name, The Gobbler, it disappears in about the time it takes to make.

A jaw stretcher? Heck, I can hardly get my hand around this beast

A jaw stretcher? Heck, I can hardly get my hand around this beast

Eastside Eatery
3, 4013 53 Avenue, Lacombe, Alberta
Weekdays 8 am-3 pm. Closed weekends
403-782-7435