First Impressions: “A place to see and be seen.”
Years ago, Brava Bistro was my favorite restaurant on 17th Avenue in Calgary. They had a gourmet mac and cheese before it became a cliché menu item everywhere. They did theirs with a braised beef that I still dream about. So when I heard that the newly opened Bridgette Bar is managed by Calgary hospitality veteran, Dewey Noordhof, who spent 15 years as Brava Bistro’s Managing Partner, I nabbed the very last reservation available on a Friday night; 5:15 pm. The place recently received the “buzzworthy” stamp of approval from two of Calgary’s most influential food writers; John Gilchrist and Dan Clapson, so it is unsurprising that Bridgette Bar is serving a full house these days. It’s a place to see and be seen.
Ambiance: “A vibrant, youthful energy in an artfully designed space.”
An artfully designed space in Calgary’s Design District, Bridgette Bar wowed from the minute I walked in the door. With its exposed brick and old charm, the building is remarkable. The décor is equally impressive with a mix of vintage furniture and stylish pieces curated for the space.
There are different seating areas for different experiences: a bar area for drinks and quick bites; an informal kind of lounge area with large bright windows and a view of the bar action; and a more traditional dining area at the back. With so many options you could easily transition from after work drinks to dinner and feel like you were getting a complete change of scenery.
When we arrived for our early reservation shortly after 5pm, every section was already bustling. It felt like a Friday night.
What We Got: “I love a menu designed for sharing.”
We were informed the plates are designed for sharing, which is great for me because I like tasting many different dishes but my absolute pet peeve is wasting food. A menu designed for sharing is perfect for me.
I’m also a sucker for anything on a menu that masquerades as a healthy version of something that is really terrible for you. So Bridgette Bar’s Eggplant Fries with Harrisa Yogurt jumped off the menu at me. Not healthy, I know. But delicious nevertheless.
My favorite plate was the Grilled Lamb Sirloin with a zucchini, mint and hazelnut vinaigrette. The lamb was cooked perfectly and the mixture of unique flavors made it very memorable. Plus, it was the right amount to share between two people.
I was slightly surprised by the short cocktail list considering the “bar” namesake. The beer and wine selection is great though. I was thirsty so I ordered the Tokyo Drift: IPA, a beer local to Alberta.
Midway through our meal and without looking at the menu, I asked our server for a red wine. She brought me the perfect glass; a testament to the knowledgeable service staff.
Last Say: “Perfect spot for a date night or get together with friends. I loved it.”
First Impressions: “Happening, busy spot.”
When we first walked into Bridgette Bar, I was surprised to see that it was completely packed. It’s located in an unassuming spot on 10th Avenue, uncommonly known as the “Design District.” The bar area was shoulder to shoulder on Friday night. It seems to be a very happening after work spot for the 30-something crowd.
Ambiance: “Really great interactive social atmosphere.”
As we got seated I couldn’t help but notice a vintage BMW café racer motorbike hoisted up on the wall. It’s a very interesting piece to add to the very cool space that Bridgette Bar has created. But for me, I’m less concerned about the décor and more interested in having a good time with the people I’m with. The area that they created is great for groups of all sizes with long tables and benches, it’s a perfect spot for a date night with someone special or a group friends going out for a night on the town. The space is set up for both those combinations and everything in between. The bar area was completely full of people mingling which created a really great interactive social atmosphere.
What We Got: “There is something for everyone and it’s all fantastic.”
I personally love places that have a sharing style menu. I have a fear about never getting enough food or missing out on something better on the menu. Luckily both of those were non-issues here. With the family-style plating, we were able to get a taste of a handful of offerings available at Bridgette Bar. We ordered the Lobster Fusilli, the Grilled Lamb Sirloin, the Eggplant Fries, and the Grilled Octopus. These dished were all perfect for sharing. All those dishes were absolutely fantastic, with the lamb being a total highlight (the mint and hazelnut vinaigrette it’s served with are very unique). The other three plates we ordered were served quickly and were prepared well.
I’m a bit of a simpleton when it comes to drinks. Beer and wine are typically my go-to. The beer list is just enough variety that there’s something for everyone as is the wine list. I also found that the red pilsner paired wonderfully with the Lamb, which leads to believe that some of choices of beverages to include on the menu were no accident.
Last Say: “I’ll be back for sure.”
Contributors: Angela Joyce and Sheldon Uhrich are a couple of working professionals born and raised in Calgary who eat out often.