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Dinner with history

This post got so unwieldy that I’m splitting it into 2 parts, so bear with me.


Ever since I heard of The Mackay Place I wanted to go there. I was sold on the entire idea of a renovated farm house re-purposed as a restaurant, plus the house ketchup and steak they served at the Millarville Market were absolutely delicious. All summer long I drove around with their brochure in the car, and when a girlfriend suggested a Saturday night supper I and another friend jumped at the chance.


The farm house was built by a Scottish homesteader J.A. Turner 123 years ago, which for this neck of the woods is a very long time ago indeed.  He raised a family and imported Clydesdale horses from Scotland, got a valley named after him, and shortly after oil was found on the land, he sold the property. In 1916 the Mackay family bought the homestead and held it until 1988. Since then the property has underwent a couple of incarnations, becoming a tea house, a pub, a bed and breakfast, and most recently a restaurant, dubbed simply The Mackay Place.


Old buildings and places have a certain fascination for me that is at times hard to explain. There is a palpable mystery to inhabiting the same space as the people that came before us. Perhaps it is because so much of history is lost to us, the people that built those things and walked those same floors are unknowable in a way that their modern descendants will never be. Our lives are documented with tapes, movies, books and blogs in unprecedented ways. We record too much and those before us not nearly enough. So we imagine what life must have been like back then, how it would feel to actually use those museum-looking pieces of furniture, wear different clothing, feel a different rhythm to life. Or perhaps we react to the energy of the place, getting shivers in an abandoned asylum or dungeon, and walking straighter in a cathedral or theater.  Suffice it to say, that visiting a restored homestead was incredibly appealing to me.


The property is nestled behind tall trees just off highway 549, and contains the main house, a small cabin and some neat decorative touches with a country motif.

 M - property


A wheelbarrow of flowers:

 M - flowers


A rooster in a rim:

 M - rooster


And a cabin, which if I’m not mistaken dates back to the original settler’s time:

M - shack 

M - shack outside

M - shack closeup

M - shack interior


The restaurant itself is a well maintained farmhouse, where it looks like as little as possible was done, which kept many details alive. The original layout of the rooms was preserved, with the original kitchen, living room, master bedroom, and what was apparently Jenny’s bedroom – one of the four Mackay children’s room, where we dined.

 M - main house

M - verandah2


The menu is very much in keeping with the ranching theme befitting the area, ranging from a lamb burger to bison meatloaf, with a couple of choices of fish, wild salmon and halibut. All the meats are local and the farm or place of origin is specified, which is great since very few restaurants in the Calgary area make the effort. We each ordered an appetizer and an entrée so we got to sample a decent selection of the menu.  


I started with a loaded spinach salad that’s served with house smoked pork-belly bacon, herbed goat’s cheese, marinated portabella’s and crunchy fried onions, which is the only way to eat spinach in my opinion. It was fabulous. The bacon was absolutely outstanding, with a depth of flavor that store bacon will never have, golden crunchy, savory onions and (travesty) almost too much goat cheese. But it was a salty flavorful work of art and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

 M - spinach salad


My friend ordered the house-smoked steelhead trout antipasto with pickled asparagus and caper aioli, which for some reason I only got a crappy picture of, likely because I was drooling over my salad… It was an absolutely generous portion of tender trout, tangy greens and a dollop of sour cream.

 M - trout


My other friend got the soup of the day, which happened to be a mushroom soup. It was a lovely creamy soup, although not the best version I’ve had. The mushroom flavor was mild, and the mushrooms themselves were pureed a bit too fine for me, I personally prefer a more assertive soup with some mushroom bits. This was pureed more than Campbells, which should tell you something about its texture.

 M - mushroom soup


With our appetizers we had a very decent Caesar and house wine, but since I know nothing about wine, all I can tell you is that it was a bit thin bodied but with a fine flavor. I know, I suck.


 Stay tuned for entrees and a tour of the house tomorrow…

The MacKay Place Restaurant on Urbanspoon

8 comments to Dinner with history

  • What a fantastic place to visit. So peaceful and serene with beautiful surroundings. Nothing better than to eat a good meal with a great friend in a beautiful place! Thanks for the tour!

  • admin

    Thanks for stopping by – it was a truly beautiful place. And since food makes everything better, it was a great time all around.

  • Like Teena said “I love places like that!” They are a lot more interesting than the modern-type buildings. Well, at least for me!

  • Jean

    I actually didn’t enjoy the soup. Too bland for me as well. ;p BUT my meatloaf and accoutrements were very good. It would be nice to return their for a lunch.

  • Jean

    Ack! Return THERE for a lunch. (hate spelling/grammar mistakes)

  • admin

    @ Teena in TO – yep, me too. Fascinating histories.

    @ Water Roots – lol! Me three, I guess. Modern buildings can be very nice, but they never have that feel, that aura of an old structure.

    @ Jean – I loved your meatloaf too! For sure lets do lunch before the snow hits the roads. I’m a fair weather diner.

  • I noticed you put an Urbanspoon “spoonback” (spoon icon) in this post. We’re happy to have you join our list of Calgary bloggers!

    However, in order for the spoonback system to work properly and automatically detect your reviews, you need to put the spoonback for each specific restaurant in the blog post about that restaurant. The spoonback you used here is the one for the example restaurant. To grab the right code, go to the Urbanspoon page for the restaurant, and click the “Add your review to this page” link.

    As soon as you add the correct spoonback to your blog post, we can start linking to them from Urbanspoon. If you have any further questions, please let me know. Thanks!

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