In the four decades I’ve been driving between Calgary and Edmonton, there’s been little incentive to pull over in Red Deer for a coffee or a bite to eat. That’s because the choices have been uninspired, to say the least, both along Highway 2’s Gasoline Alley and within the city. You know it’s a bad sign when the nearby community of Lacombe (population 14,000) has better cheap-eat options than a city of 100,000.
But maybe things are looking up. The Gasoline Alley Farmers’ Market recently opened, boasting more than 50 vendors. And there’s enough going on here to make me figure out the rather circuitous approach for drivers heading north along said Highway 2.
It’s an indoor market, kind of a mini Calgary Farmers’ Market in appearance, albeit with smaller crowds to date. It shares at least a couple of things with its more famous southern counterpart: fabulous Beck’s carrots (Innisfail Growers) and Luc’s fine cheeses.
But it’s the local food and drink vendors I’m interested in, and there’s a number that grab my attention. In the Market Kitchen, at the building’s north end, is a wall of beer taps, mainly showcasing a collective of central Alberta craft breweries, under the name Craft Beer Commonwealth. Indeed, it’s the only farmers’ market in Alberta with an in-house brewery and taproom.
Sharing the space is Birdy Coffee Co., pulling shots from beans roasted in a wee machine around the corner. The bird illustrations on its bean packages are the most beautiful I’ve seen.
In the two times I’ve stopped at the market, I’ve also sampled a nice focaccia at Dovganyuk’s organic bakery and dug into a delightful, bountiful sirloin burger and fries (a bargain $13) from Ponoka-based Longhorn Eatery.
Something tells me, I’ll be stopping in Red Deer more often in the future.
Gasoline Alley Farmers’ Market
558 Laura Avenue, Red Deer (I’d use Google maps to figure out directions; it’s a few blocks southwest of Costco)
Friday to Sunday 9 am-5 pm, Market Kitchen open every day except Monday