Adventure-a-Day

Eau Claire BBQ-fest and Meeting a Friend by Surprise: Adventure-a-Day #2

Two young women walk in front of two old-style western buildings on a bright sunny day

Eau Claire 1886 Cafe in Calgary (Photo credit Jill Browne)

After all the excitement of the Trans-Canada road trip and seeing the Moose Jaw moose and all, I wasn’t sure I could rouse myself for another adventure today. Yes, every day is an adventure but today the adventure really needed some high-test caffeine.

So off we trundled, I by car and my family by bicycles. (The inequity is not lost on us.)

We agreed to meet at noon at the Good Earth in Eau Claire, and all went smoothly.

Earlier today I had thought of watching the Gay Pride Parade, but it conflicted with my coffee time, so had to give it a miss.

The picture above shows the Barley Mill, a new building made to look old, and the 1886 Cafe, an old building allowed to look old.

Eau Claire is a neighbourhood in downtown Calgary, snug by the Bow River, where once there was a lumber company owned by Mr. Peter Prince, for whom Prince’s Island is named.

Today, Eau Claire is where you are likely to end up if you’re staying at a downtown hotel and you go for a stroll.

When we finished our coffee and the cyclists had run off to burn some more calories, I wandered out and followed my nose and the smokey smell of 50 barbeques. The annual BBQ event (I don’t even know what it’s called, but I stumbled upon it last year) was in full flight. People pulling pork and chowing down on beef on a bun, everywhere. And dogs! All on leashes, all nicely controlled.

Red-framed blackboard with BBQ menu, a lady and a small white dog beside it

Bring your dog to the Meat Fest
(Photo credit Jill Browne)

My dogs if taken to a meat fest like this one would be slaves to their inner carnivores. They will never be invited.

Anyway, I inhaled the scent of cooking meat for a while (it was enticing), but what I really wanted was to get up high and take more pictures from above. No problem, up the stairs and clickety-click.

Almost done, I went into the main Eau Claire shopping centre building and what do you know, bumped into Dom Venturo, a long-time friend and former classmate. We had one of those continuing conversations that bridges the years, the kind you pick up wherever you left off last time. He’s doing well on all the fronts that matter, and that’s exactly what you want to hear from an old friend.

I went downtown thinking my big adventure would be coffee. Very glad to report it was something more.

For Tourists and Visitors to Calgary:

Eau Claire is worth your time if you want to enjoy a stroll and munch on something. There are restaurants and cafes in the main Eau Claire building (the big white one) and in the surrounding neighbourhood. My top pick for a casual meal is breakfast (which can be lunch) at the 1886 Cafe. For something more upscale, a lot of people like Prego, on the second level of the main building.

I like Joey Tomato’s, am indifferent to the Barley Mill, and haven’t tried a lot of the other places inside the Eau Claire centre. Chinatown is pretty close, if you go to the east. On the west, just past Joey Tomato’s is the Sheraton Suites hotel. Nice hotel but if you eat there, I’d suggest sticking to Fionn MacCool’s pub and not trying the restaurant at the north end of the main floor. I’ve had consistently good meals at the pub and really hit and miss results at the restaurant. Of course, things change and I haven’t eaten at the restaurant for a while, so I guess it would be good to keep an open mind.

But if you really want a great meal in the best setting Calgary has to offer, make a reservation at the River Cafe, which is on Prince’s Island itself, just a short walk across the bridge. It’s in a class by itself as far as I’m concerned. Yes, there are some other top restaurants in Calgary, but in this part of town, River Cafe is the winner.

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