One of the ten commandments of an “everyday tourist” is “thou shalt always look for an independent restaurant, retailer or café.” Recently, while driving back from Edmonton to Calgary and needing a pitstop at Alberta’s famous “gasoline alley,” we looked for a local place to eat.
And, we were justly rewarded with a “too much fun” experience.
Glenn’s Family Restaurant
Just to be clear, for those who don’t know halfway between Calgary and Edmonton (distance 300 km) is a cluster of gas stations, fast food places and hotels that has been called “gasoline alley” for as long as anyone can remember. There are probably a dozen gas stations, more than a dozen fast food restaurants and probably a baker’s dozen budget motels. Amongst the mostly chains, you can find a few unique gems.
As a good “everyday tourist” we looked for an independent restaurant where we thought we might find a heartier meal and eat amongst some locals. Without knowing what we were in for, we stumbled upon Glenn’s Family Restaurant at the south end of the alley.
It was a lively place on Saturday at about 10:30 am, but we were seated quickly. I immediately noticed that true to its name, this place had the feeling of an authentic “family” restaurant. In fact, it looked like a “grandma’s house” with knickknacks everywhere. Looking more closely, I realized it was a collection of very eclectic or some might say kitschy teapots. For me they were simply “too much fun,” so I got out the phone and started taking pictures.
Soon, the manager came over and asked “can I help you?” Explaining that I was the “everyday tourist” he quickly offered to get any of the teapots down for me to see more closely. I took a few more pics, then sat down to enjoy my Western Skillet meal with a huge tasty biscuit with Saskatoon berry syrup for dipping on the side (take that you grit-loving Southerners).
After the meal, I decided to take more photos and the manager came up to me and said “do you want to see the really old ones in storage?” Yes, I did! But we were on a tight schedule so I said reluctantly “next time.”
But not before, noticing the wall of teas, I asked if he had any Lapsang Souchong tea and he said of course. What was I thinking, they have 200+ varieties of tea – the biggest selection in Alberta they claim. I asked about Tea Traders in Calgary, my favourite place to buy lapsang souchong and he said we probably have twice the selection.
Turns out the Manager was also the owner, Glenn Simon, the son of the original owner who opened the restaurant in 1986. I also learned, the family owns the gift shop next door that was established by his Aunt Cindy (it use to be called Cindy’s Teapot Gallery & Gift shop). And, the Donut Mill two doors down (most Albertans living along the “Edmonton-Calgary Corridor” know it as the place with the huge windmill) is operated by Glenn’s son-in-law Parry Dyck, and daughter Michelle Dyck. There is truly a family affair happening on this stretch of gasoline alley!
Cindy’s Teapot Gallery & Gift Shop
When I heard there were more teapots in the gift shop I had to check them out. Luckily my travel companions were also willing to come along for the fun.
Wowsers! The place was packed from floor to ceiling with not only teapots, cups and saucers but everything from kitschy animal sculptures to Lug travel accessories. It was a kaleidoscope of the colours and shapes that almost hurt the eye.
But it was fun….
Always look for the independent restaurant or retailer when you are travelling. You will almost always be rewarded with a fun experience.