When I wasn’t cooking I managed to head out to a new gastropub that just opened up in Calgary for a drink and a bite to eat. I hate the word gastropub, it sounds pretentious and harsh and also like a snail with a case of indigestion. Besides, if you have good food, the word will spread and people will eat. But that pet peeve aside, I wasn’t going to hold it against them, since they’re clearly aiming to advertise that the food there is worth eating.
My girlfriend and I arrived as they were opening, and we were the first ones of the night ushered in to the clean, modern space, not overly lit up nor too dark. Grabbing a booth across from the lit up block of the bar we browsed the menu for something… pub-like. We were rather hungry and cold since guess what? it’s already snowing here. Going for pseudo-comfort food we went with an order of mixed wings (spicy hot and lemon and lime), and a burger with fries. Simple yes, but sometimes you just need simple.
The wings arrived in cute oval bowls with a ranch-type sauce and were great. Perfectly hot, crispy and delicious they hit the spot like only wings can. Way better than the generic hot sauce swimming wings that arrive tasting like Tabasco and oil, these were tangy and spicy and great.
The burger was also very good. A thick, juicy patty that was well seasoned with salt and tasting of good quality beef, it came with all the fixings and a bun that fell apart a bit as you ate. The fries were rather mediocre. They were on the dry and mealy side and didn’t have that crispy exterior and creamy interior that great double fried fries have. They could have also used a tiny bit more salt, a bit of a miss in my books since potatoes and salt go hand in hand.
But it’s the drinks that I really want to talk about. That’s the one area where for once, I lucked out, and ordered some excellent choices. (To explain that remark, I am not a born menu whisperer, and often my dining companions choices look and taste better than mine. But not always…) To start with I had a ‘dirty vegas’ caesar. (Canadian national cocktail for all you’s south of the border). Now, I’ve had me my share of caesars, and even when they’re bad they’re drinkable, which makes them a safe bet when booze is called for. I’ve had some pretty good caesars too, the kind that you really enjoy while they’re there, at least until you get to the end and end up with mostly melted ice water and Tabasco. But this was an epic caesar. It was a perfect blend of sweet, salty, savoury and spicy with a delicious shrimp and olive garnish to gild the lily. I am normally a slow drinker, and this one was gone before the appetizer arrived.
I really really wanted another one, but my girlfriend was looking at the cocktail menu and persuaded me that trying something sweet now would only be prudent. Since I was going to blog about this I agreed in the spirit of investigative ‘journalism’. And as I waffled between two choices I did what I often do, and asked the waitress to decide for me. Her eyes lit up when she mentioned the ‘spurito’ and people, when waitstaff’s eyes light up – order the dang drink. This was hands down the single best cocktail I’ve had since 2005 when my best friend masterminded a summery concoction in a dark bar one night. But that’s another story. You know the expression ‘better than the sum of its parts?’ Well this cocktail would be in the dictionary beside that entry. It’s hard to explain flavor, but it was a smooth creamy tasting blend of strawberries with the faintest trace of mint. It was not thick at all, but lightly bubbly from the soda, fragrant and perfectly refreshing. It’s my new favorite drink of the year. In fact I am now counting the days until I go back for a much needed post work libation and have at least two.
My deepest fear of the moment is that spur loses its momentum of newness and greatness. I’ve seen it happen before with restaurants and bars – they start out new and innovative and fresh with a great menu and awesome value, and slowly slide into a decline over the next few months. Spur, if you mess with the spurito, you’ll have me to answer to.
351 – 4th Avenue SW, Calgary