Location: 730 17 Ave S.W., Calgary
Cuisine: Global mish-mash
Atmosphere: Contemporary Southwestern vibes, bright and airy-feeling during the day.
Drinks on offer: Beer, wine, cocktails, low-alcoholic and non-alcoholic options available as well.
Best bets: lemon and pepper chips, chicken liver pâté, grilled broccolini, cod fritters, chocolate torte
Vegetarian friendly? Yes.
Additional info: Half of the restaurant is an enclosed “all-season” patio that utilizes outdoor heaters, it results in uneven heating in this portion of the room (i.e. too hot or too cold).
Aside from the sky-high Major Tom, is there a hotter place to grab a bite and drink in Calgary right now than Porch?
The restaurant is one of the newest additions to the overpopulated 17th Avenue. Competition is as fierce as ever on this strip as things have more or less returned to “normal,” and to stand out, you’ve got to do something to get folks talking.
As you walk through the door for the first time, there’s plenty at this relatively new eatery that happily draws your eye. The vaulted skylight on the right side of the dining room, the slotted warm red bricks that line the front and sides of the central bar, the tall trees and tropical plants peppered throughout. Most notably, perhaps, are the thick-roped leather upholstered swings along the west side of the bar.
It is the odd spectacle of these swing seats that have got Calgarians talking and popping into Porch.
Now, I have sat on vintage horse saddles at the iconic Last Chance Saloon, just a short drive from Drumheller, but I have never swung while eating and drinking. I ponder how functional and/or enjoyable this may be.
A meal at Porch might best be summed up as “surprisingly pleasant.” Over the lunch hour as natural light pours into the room, it is bright and inviting and by night, it boasts a warm, slightly intimate vibe – making it ideal for a date night or quality catch-up with friends without too much noise from surrounding diners. Given its 200+ seating size, that is no easy feat.
Equally attentive and bubbly service on two occasions helps to reinforce that there is consistency to be found here as well.
When it comes to the food and drink, there isn’t much of a culinary identity here, a global mish-mash of sorts, but there are a variety of menu items that legitimately hit the spot.
A recent lunch saw a friend and I especially enamoured with the grilled broccolini and halloumi salad. Tossed with shallots, shaved fennel, greens and minced sun-dried tomatoes in a simple vinaigrette, it was truly a textural delight and a must-order.
Vegetables continued to reign supreme with a roasted winter squash dish, seasoned beautifully and cooked to a lovely fork-tender texture. A little yogurt and za’atar help things really pop in this unassuming dish.
After washing things down with the Rising Sun – Porch’s take on a michelada with their house light lager, Clamato and togarashi – we dived into the flourless chocolate torte. More or less a cake-slice-shaped brownie with a touch of orange and topped with chantilly cream and chocolate, we had no qualms fighting over the last couple bites of the rich dessert.
As mentioned, there is a notable atmosphere difference from day to night here, but it’s a welcoming one. That moody lighting though!
The homemade onion dip, a lightly seasoned lemon-and-pepper chips appetizer with the aforementioned dip makes for a perfect shareable way to start off the night.
The chicken liver mousse proves appropriately indulgent. Schmeared across crostini with a touch of persimmon jam, candied cashews and thin slices of radish studded on top (a bit peculiar in presentation), is definitely worth a try.
Next arrive the cod fritters. Small, golden-fried balls of cod and potato are topped with candied jalapeno and nestled into plenty of tartar sauce, finished with a fine grating of Parmesan.
A great balance of all things spicy, tangy, sweet and salty, this is easily the dish of the night.
The bland take on Caesar salad, infiltrated with oddly soggy fried black kale, doesn’t land well. Nor does the lobster mac ‘n’ cheese, being overly salty and offering a minimal amount of lobster meat.
For dessert, the key lime pie brightens up the end of the meal, though its filling is a touch mealy.
With more hits than misses, but not a ton of home runs, Porch makes for a nice dinner spot where you don’t need to overthink the dishes that arrive at your table, but still leave feeling satisfied.
And wouldn’t you know it, after my mocking of the swings, my friend and I did get a chance to hop on them after eating to make an Instagram Reel after all.
Plan your weekend with our Good Taste newsletter, offering wine advice and reviews, recipes, restaurant news and more. Sign up today.