Aviv Fried's Sidewalk Citizen nourishes minds and stomachs

Some of Calgaryʼs best-loved bread is baked by a self-taught baker who learned and honed his craft just by doing it.

Self-taught baker launches cultural salons featuring guest speakers and tasty food

Self-taught baker Aviv Fried launches a series of cultural salons beginning with local filmmaker Cam Christiansen. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

Some of Calgaryʼs best-loved bread is baked by a self-taught baker who learned and honed his craft just by doing it.

Having never baked before, Aviv Fried taught himself to craft the perfect loaf.

He went on to deliver his creations by bike to customersʼ homes, wrapped in paper and nestled on blankets in a kidsʻ trailer for $5 a piece.

As he learned and fine-tuned his technique, proceeds for his loaves went to CODE, a Canadian organization that supports literacy in Africa. 

Fried grew up just outside Tel Aviv on the other side of the city from his partner, Michal Lavi.

The pair met and moved to Calgary in 1999, after fulfilling two years of mandatory Israeli military service. 

"It was terrible. We were really lame soldiers," joked Fried.

A biomedical engineer turned baker

All of the goods served at the Sidewalk Citizen Bakery are made from scratch using quality ingredients including organic produce, eggs, grains, flour, herbs and non GMO oils. (Sidewalk Citizen Bakery)

Fried came to the University of Calgary where he earned his master's degree in biomedical engineering and an undergraduate degree with honours in applied math and physics.

A job offer to become a financial analyst at a Toronto bank made him realize the career path he was on wasnʼt in line with his ideals.

And so after completing his thesis in 2009, Fried started a stint at Janice Beaton Fine Cheese and began teaching himself to bake. 

This new trajectory was a better fit, and Fried began his quest to mastering the art of the perfect loaf.

He travelled the world to learn from like-minded artisanal bread bakers before coming home to Calgary to experiment with locally grown and milled organic flours.

He and his small team became one of the first to use red fife, the oldest variety of heritage wheat in Canada, which disappeared for generations and was brought back about a decade ago.

What's on the menu

Some of the savoury artisanal offerings at the Sidewalk Citizen, co-owned by Aviv Fried and Michal Lavi. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

Fried and Lavi's goal with Sidewalk Citizen was to become a part of the fabric of the city — to engage with the community and contribute to its vibrancy, making the streets more interesting, as Aviv did with his custom-made bike and one-man baked goods delivery system.

The crackly artisan loaves and rich, buttery scones that followed led to a small bakery just off Macleod Trail that was jammed on the few mornings it was open each week.

They opened a second location in Sunnyside Market in Kensington, and have now evolved into a new space in the hip Simmons Building in the East Village, where they serve a broader offering of made-from-scratch meals, interesting salads, sandwiches, pizzas and the very best grilled cheese in the city.

The sandwiches at Sidewalk Citizen are paired with different types of bread, from brioche to sourdough to pita. (Sidewalk Citizen Bakery)

The bread itself is a three-day process, and everything else is made in-house, from the spicy shakshuka (eggs poached in a thick sauce of tomatoes, chilies and cumin) to the burekas (puff pastry baked with cheddar and feta, stuffed with poached egg and their own green or red harissa) to the ambah (an intense, rust-coloured fermented mango chutney) thatʼs delicious on everything. 

Their latest menu addition consists of long-simmered stews, inspired by the tiny tin-roofed kerosene kitchens that are so common in Israel, where giant pots of flavourful stews bubble on the stove all night long, to be served up with thick slabs of bread to hungry workers for lunch and dinner the next day.

Cultural salons series to launch 

This month, Fried and Lavi plan to start nourishing minds as well as stomachs.

The duo will launch a series of cultural salons in the small seating area overlooking the river with a curated list of artists and interesting speakers.

Small groups of attendees will spend a few hours with the guests and partake in intellectually stimulating conversations over supper. 

The first event will feature local filmmaker Cam Christiansen, but watch for more interesting Calgarians to come.

The events will take place at the Sidewalk Citizen's East Village location in the Simmons Building at 618 Confluence Way S.E. Calgary.


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