Dairy Lane Cafe – Calgary, AB
Dairy Lane Cafe
319 19 St NW
Nestled on a quiet street situated close to a residential neighborhood (from what I could see behind the parking lot of the building where the car I arrived in was parked), the Dairy Lane Cafe was our choice for an impromptu lunch just ahead of the madness which is the start of Stampede. As such, I was quite surprised to find a packed inside seating area, as well as all the available spots being taken up on the uncovered tables situated on the sidewalk in front of the building.
It didn’t seem like it was anywhere near any walk up traffic from the office worker crowd, but yet still busy at the noon hour. Scanning the relaxed attire of those eating already, it was clear to me that this was a casual, homey spot for clean honest grub for those who might more often than not, just live around the corner – some younger ladies who seemed to be out for a bite to eat with their girlfriends, to some guys who obviously fell into the hipster genre given their tight fitting attire and attitude, as well as strangely enough, some rougher dressed fellows who if I were to assume from the paint on their overalls, were some tradesmen on break for something to eat while on the day job.
The spot came recommended by locals and was described to me as a throwback to simpler times and with operators very keen on the whole “produced local” attitude, and knowing where their ingredients came from. The space was not very large inside and staffed seemingly by just two busy servers. Some large framed pictures hung on the wall reminded me of a by-gone era in rural Alberta, catching my eye enough to snap a photo myself. If I were to compare the looks and feel of this place to anywhere in Vancouver, I would say something like Aphrodite’s Organic Cafe & Pie Shop in Kits comes to mind.
The lunchtime menu that was given to me by our server featured a front page dedicated strictly to breakfast items, heavy on the omelettes. The secondary page for lunch was just as simple: soups, salads and burgers. With a premium coming from aspects such as organic, chemical-free meats and vegetables, prices were on the upper end of what most people might consider good value. This didn’t seem to deter customers though, judging from the packed room. Take for instance, the Chicken Club I had for $15.
Albeit, it came advertised as a breast of free range chicken and included assorted toppings like smoked bacon, avocado, butter leaf lettuce, tomato, pickled red onions and a homemade pesto mayo. I suppose I can stomach burgers better at a higher ticket price if all these kinds of things are added from the get-go, rather than the “for $1 more…” kind of approach other places use to get you to add a slice of cheese, some mushrooms, etc.
So what do you get for that fifteen bucks? A pretty hearty package I must admit. On a delicately soft bun topped with what I believe are poppy seeds, the layers (seen below) were noticeable and generous. The char-grilled chicken breast was ample as well, perhaps on the dry side for my tastes but flavorful for what it was. The side of french fries was a bigger disappointment however. Soggy and limp and under-seasoned. It was like they were sitting in a neglected pile and not well fried. I suppose a victim of the lunch rush pressure and trying to make a huge batch to give time to making other items. Its a side yes, but no reason to let it slide I say.
In summary, I applaud yet another local business holding some higher standards for themselves and trying to educate the public on the importance (some might say necessity) of sustainable, responsible, local food production and offering it all up in a comfortable neighborhood-friendly setting. Good things are worth waiting for (lineups I understand are commonplace here) as well as the need to perhaps pay a few more dollars for better ingredients. While it may not be for all, for those that are in tune with these intangibles and willing to rewards those who provide them, then Dairy Lane Cafe may be right for you.