By Richard White, March 10, 2014
For Calgarians and tourists alike, exploring Calgary’s urban “street life” all too often means we head to the same places – 17th Avenue, Inglewood, 4th Street, Kensington, the Design District or maybe Stephen Avenue. This is the second of a three-part look at “street life” on the fringe of Calgary’s city centre.
19th Avenue NW from Nose Hill Park to the Bow River is a popular bike route from the northwest into the downtown. Along this corridor are two urban hubs, one in West Hillhurst from 1st Ave to 3rd Ave NW and another at 20th Avenue in Capitol Hill. Neither are presently on the radar of urbanists, but they should be.
Main Street West Hillhurst, (aka 19th Street NW)
West Hillhurst is one of Calgary’s most active infill communities with construction of new homes on almost every avenue. And now the under construction four-storey Savoy condos at Kensington Road and 19th St corner will bring urban living a step closer to reality for this community. Rumour has it the Savoy developers are courting Phil & Sebastian for one of its retail spaces. Another rumour has Starbucks moving into a former restaurant space on 19th Street. Even without these cafes, Main Street West Hillhurst has all the makings of a great community hub with its dry cleaners, hair salon, florist and hardware store and office spaces.
Dairy Lane (391 - 19th St NW)
Dairy Lane has been a fixture on 19th Street since 1950. If you like omelettes, burgers and milkshakes, this is the place to go. Dairy Lane has strong connections to 20 different farm-to-table suppliers. A very popular breakfast spot; don’t be surprised if people are eating on the patio even in winter as they provide heaters and blanket. They also provide coffee to those who have to wait in line to get a table either inside or out. Dairy Lane proves that good things really do come in small places – seating capacity inside is about 20 people.
Central Blends (203 - 19th St NW)
This is my favourite place in the city for muffins – they are chock full of fruit and fresh out of the oven every morning at 7 am. And Central Blends is more than just a café; it is also an art gallery with revolving exhibitions of local artists/artisans - you never know what you are going to find here. This is where both hipsters and GABEters chill in West Hillhurst.
Amato Gelato Café (2104 Kensington Rd NW)
The local retailer for Mario’s Gelati traditional Italian ice cream, Amato Gelato offers over 50 varieties of gelato, sorbetto, yogurt, tofulati and specialty desserts. Open year round, it becomes especially animated in the summer, when it becomes one of the city’s best places for people and dog watching.
SA Meat Shops (106 - 2120 Kensington Rd. NW)
Located in the strip mall next door to Amato Gelato, it offers authentic home-cured South African sausages, dried meats and groceries. Its Piri Piri chicken was cited in Avenue Magazine’s top 25 things to eat in Calgary. Looking for a snack? Try the dried beef or buffalo sausage sticks or chewy dried beef biltong (a cured meat that was originated in South Africa, similar to beef jerky but thicker).
West Hillhurst Recreation Centre (1940 - 6th Ave NW)
For those into vintage, you may want to slip into the West Hillhurst Recreation Centre. This recreation block dates back to the ‘40s when “The Grand Trunk Hot Shot League” needed some playing fields. In 1951, a clubhouse was built on this corner, the arena followed in 1971. On hot summer days, the adjacent family- friendly outdoor Bowview Pool is a welcome throwback to the ‘50s.
Capitol Hill Corner, (aka 20th Avenue at 19th Street NW)
Just up the hill from West Hillhurst, across the TransCanada Highway (aka 16th Avenue North) at 19th Street and 20th Avenue is Capitol Hill Corner – a collection of old and new shops and small offices buildings for various professional services and a drug store.
Edelweiss Village (1921 - 20th Ave NW)
Edelweiss is like entering a little European village complete with café, cheese shop, butcher shop, bakery, grocery and gift shop all under one roof. Though not very big, it packs a lot of product on it shelves with food and home accessories from Swiss, German, Ukrainian and Scandinavian suppliers – only in Canada!
Weeds Café (1902 - 20th Ave NW)
Established in 1964, this bohemian corner café serves a wide selection of handcrafted food, beer, wine and 49th Parallel coffee. The walls are covered with local art and there is live music on weekends. It is a “chill space” for many students from University of Calgary, SAIT and Alberta College of Art & Design.
Ruberto Ostberg Gallery (2108 - 18th Street NW)
It’s one of Calgary’s best-kept secrets with its eclectic exhibition schedule of local artists’ work on the main floor and artists’ studios in the basement. Exhibitions change monthly featuring everything from glass and ceramics in various genres realism and expressionism. Kitty-corner to Weeds and just a block east of Edelweiss, it’s worth checking out.
While the City of Calgary officially considers Calgary’s City Centre to be on the south side of the Bow River i.e. downtown and the beltline I think it is time to rethink those boundaries.
In reality our City Centre should encompass the north side from 20th Avenue south to the Bow River and from 19th Street NW east to at least 11th Street NE in Bridgeland.
Doing so would include Kensington, Edmonton Trail, Centre Street and Bridgeland, all of whom offer local residents a walkable urban living experience with their cafes, restaurants and shops.
Calgary's urban experience is more than just downtown and the Beltline.