On The Road Again

by Mary Bailey

Wandering around Alberta checking out this little town for the best pie or that hamlet for a hidden u-pick patch or visiting the newest cheese makers continues to be one of my favourite pastimes.

Last year when Travel Alberta asked Judy Schultz and me to put together a foodie media tour in southern Alberta, we jumped in the car and buried ourselves in maps and notebooks, ready to explore new ventures and check in on old faves. Here are some of the highlights of the tour.


Marv’s Soda Shop

121 Centre Avenue Black Diamond 403-933-7001

Peanut butter and dill pickle burger anyone? Only if you can wash it down with a true ice cream soda in every flavour imaginable, lime, black cherry, you get the drill. If you’re lucky, Marv will break out his guitar and play a rockabilly version of Hound Dog. This ode to the ‚Äò50s soda shop somehow pulls it off without seeming trite or pastiche. We think the secret may be Marv himself, a true delight. Plus, the French fries are second to none. Worth a stop.

Longview Jerky Shop

148 Morrison Road Longview, 403-558-3960


This shop makes their high-quality jerky in a large oven contraption behind the shop. Look for several flavours of jerky, and outstanding bacon, too.

Twin Butte General Store

Twin Butte, 403-627-4035

The historic local bar, store, post office and nightspot is a gathering place for the surrounding countryside. Look for the leaning cactus and cowboy (an example of southern Alberta’s predeliction for metal cowboy cutout art) and stop in for music, brews, thirst-quenching margaritas and excellent, fully-loaded nachos.


Bel Lago Ristorante


Italian-inspired, accomplished cooking, Bel Lago is impressive all the more so for the fact that it’s open only for the summer season (Waterton is a seasonal park). The beef is from a ranch up the road; somebody’s sister grows the vegetables; the mozzarella di bufala is from Mountainview. Chef Kris Spencer knows when to dazzle and when to get out of the way of stellar ingredients. A word of warning: Do watch out for the singing bus driver, and try to make your exit before he gets to his third number.

Wieners of Waterton


This hot dog and fries joint is more in keeping with what you might expect from park food but hold on, they do it really well. The dogs are Nathan’s Finest, the all beef kosher dog, and a Pinche Creek-made smokie; the toppings are fresh, inventive and tasty; the sweet potato fries worth a detour. Friendly, efficient service, open late.

Ye Olde Lick and Nibble


It’s a Waterton institution. How can you not like a place with a name like that? Enjoy every sort of flavour of ice cream, shakes and sundaes.


360 Inspired Cuisine

100 5th Street South, 403-329-3609

Picture this: lemon thyme scented leg of fresh roasted Picture Butte rabbit served with asparagus risotto. Well-made food, a handsome room, and efficient friendly service make this contemporary bistro a standout in the sea of chain restaurants that dominate Lethbridge.

Nakagama Japanese Foods & Giftware

322 2 Avenue South, 403-327-5337

Ken Nakagama’s shop is chock full of sushi-making supplies, Japanese tableware and fun Japanese foods. It’s in the area that’s now called Chinatown, a haunting and historic block of tong houses and shops that date back to the turn of the century and the first wave of Japanese and Chinese immigration. Ken Nakagama is one of many who are trying to preserve the area in a meaningful way.

Lighthouse Japanese Restaurant

703 3rd Avenue South 403-328-4828

This smaller restaurant in a quiet part of downtown is worth searching out. The food is tasty, beautifully prepared and inventively presented. Expect sushi, sashimi, several selections of tempura including yam and potato, udon, katsu.

Broxburn Vegetables & Café

Broxburn Road, 403 327-0909

Famous for red peppers and red pepper cream soup. Take a tour of the gardens, buy some vegetables and herbs and have a homey lunch in the café.

Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden

9th Avenue South and Mayor Magrath Drive, 403-328-3511

The tranquil gardens provide a respite in every season.


The Wine Station

21 North Railway Street 403-995-0371

A very good shop operated by Frank Kennedy and certified sommelier Karen Patterson. Choose from a superbly curated, well organized selection including spirits and beer in every price range.

Café Divine

42 McRae Street, 403-938-0000

Chef/owner Darren Nixon and sous chef Adrienne Penny’s menu reflects their close collaboration with area ranchers and farmers ‚Äî juicy Driview Farms lamb burger, toothsome Sudo Farms squash gnocchi or a delicious braised shoulder of Olson’s High Country bison.

Heartland Café

46 McRae Street, 403-3995-4623

The Heartland is an offshoot of the café of the same name in Calgary. Ron and Cecille Swartz remodelled a church to provide atmospheric dining in Okotok’s old town. Try any of the really good pies.

Chinook Meadery

Box 12, Site 14, RR1, 403-995-0830

Beekeepers Cherie and Art Andrews pioneered mead in Alberta and now also make highquality vinegars. Visit the tasting room for liquid honey, honey products and answers to all your bee questions.

Kayben Farms

314064 32 St East, 403 938-2857 (seasonal)

The Kolk Family operates a landscaping business, tree farm and berry u-pick along with a café and shop. Daughters, chef Stephanie and baker Jolene, work in the family’s JoJo’s Café. Stephanie’s garden produces most of the salad greens, herbs and tomatoes used in the café while Jolene uses the home berry patch for her pies. The black currant syrup is deliciously tasty with sparkling wine, or have it on your pancakes.

Celadonna Kitchen Shop

22 North Railway Street 403-995-6599.

This well-equipped spot for tabletop, kitchenware, tools and glassware offers expert service and cooking classes. Find all the notable brands such as Le Crueset.