A savoury place to stop for a bite
Cilantro and Chive makes for a perfect pit stop between Calgary and Edmonton
There's a lot between Edmonton and Calgary.
There's a lot of traffic, fields and small towns that whiz by unless one has a good reason to stop. It's easy to think of this space as the interstitial fluid that separates Alberta's two nuclei, but if one heads east just before cresting Red Deer's infamous Gasoline Alley, the small city of Lacombe appears. Lacombe is a town of old buildings, tree-lined streets, the legendary Len Thompson fishing- lure factory and a hellishly good Italian coffee shop, Sweet Capone's.
It's also the home of Cilantro and Chive.
Cilantro and Chive sits just off the main drag in Lacombe, right next to the obligatory small-town Chinese restaurant and across the street from a vintage bowling alley.
It's a lot bigger inside than it appears from the street. There are communal tables, booths, a patio out back and a cozy bar well-stocked with Albertan spirits. The beer list alone might take hours to get through. Local talent is heavily represented, including beer from Blindman Brewing just across the tracks and from Troubled Monk in nearby Red Deer. Every demographic is here tonight, from hipsters to families with small children.
One might dig into a plate of braised duck wings ($13.75). It must be a central Alberta thing – duck wings seem to turn up on menus a fair bit in the Red Deer area. Larger and meatier than chicken wings, these generous morsels are simply dressed in salt and pepper. Cilantro and Chive has a knack for salads as well. Smoked trout and arugula ($14) is packed with flakes of subtle smoked trout, nudged into the realm of exquisite by a tangy apple-cider vinaigrette. Thin slices of apple work well with the arugula, although the bell peppers are superfluous. Grilled peach and prosciutto salad ($14.50) sings of late summer, thanks to juicy wedges of ripe peach that play with the lingering saltiness of prosciutto.
A Barn Owl lavender lemonade ($8.50), made with vodka from Edmonton's Hansen Distillery, or a Saskatoon Sour ($11.20), made with gin from Eau Claire in Calgary, round out the summery vibe.
A Brown Eggs and Lamb burger ($15) features lamb from, as its name suggests, Brown Eggs and Lamb farm just west of the QEII. The delicately gamey meat revels in the addition of blueberry goat cheese under the protective lid of a pretzel bun. Beef Wellington ($33) is less memorable, as the pastry is already soggy by the time it reaches the table. It's balanced on a small pile of very cheesy risotto – an odd pairing for quintessentially anglo fare. That little wobble in the road is easily forgiven, though.
Tempting as it is to complete the trip from Edmonton to Calgary as quickly as possible, it is well worth the time to take the side roads and meander through the towns along the way. You never know what you might find.