Margarita’s Dishes @ Calgary Farmers Market
Quesnay Wood Drive Southwest
Home cooking. Something about those two simple words evokes a lot of thoughts and feelings. It’s a funny term in the world of food. Simple, unadorned fare made with care and attention. Served in the trappings of a fine dining restaurant, it would be boring, uninspired, and disappointing. But serve it in a rustic kitchen, with a smiling mother in an apron, and you have comfort, soothing, and tasty fare.
Margarita’s Dishes is one of several “food court” options at the Calgary Farmers’ Market, serving what I would classify as home cooking. In their location, you definitely have a rustic kitchen. Instead of a smiling mother in an apron, you have the smiling proprietor, Danny, in an apron. His friendly demeanor, razor sharp memory, and enthusiasm make you feel instantly comfortable. And don’t underestimate it, it’s an important part of the charm.
Margarita’s Dishes serves Ukrainian and German fare – but really, in Alberta, the food it serves mostly just qualifies as home cooking. Good gut sticking fare like blintzes, pyrohy, cabbage rolls, bratwurst, and stuffed peppers. As the sign clearly states, they sell fresh and frozen products. I’ve only ever had their fresh – preferring to eat whatever they’ve made that day.
The lineups at Margarita’s are always long, yet, they efficiently deliver food to hundreds of customers each day. A steam table under heat lamps keeps the food warm – i’d obviously prefer these cooked to order, but the turnover is high enough, and the food that is being made doesn’t seem to suffer, it’s a reasonable way to handle the volume. After the steam table is a tray of their popular freshly squeezed juices. These are a nice, cost effective way to get your vitamins. Your mother would approve!
My go-to order here is a blintz. These come in sweet and savory versions, but at Margarita’s, it’s generally just the savory. A crepe made with a yeasted/risen batter, stuffed with some precooked filling, and pan fried.
The best i’ve had there is the spinach and feta. For the price (either $2.50 or $3.00), it is a great deal. A great, soft blin that has been sauteed to crispy, with a warm, gooey, heart-warming filling of cheese and spinach. It is rich, yet not heavy all at the same time. The ladle of sour cream is a nice Ukrainian touch, lending a touch of calm – cool and sour – to a warm and rich bite.
The bratwurst and sauerkraut is another popular item. Served on a baguette. a warm, juicy bratwurst is generously covered in sauerkraut. Try one of their fridge pickles if they have them – the crunchy sourness goes great with the hot grease of the bratwurst.
Margarita’s Dishes is neither fancy, nor inspired. It is good solid home cooking, and im just fine with that. Their soul-satisfying food really warms a place in the stomach, reminding you of some of the simple foods from days gone by. Before things like molecular gastronomy, locavore, GMO, and other modern day labels and trappings existed, meals like Margarita’s were just food, or Sunday lunch. For me, it’s important to remember these times – because back then, all that mattered when it came right down to it was that you were happy and satisfied. The essence of what home cooking is all about.