Calgary·FOOD AND THE CITY

Canadian cuisine and a cozy vibe at the Elbow Room

A new Canadian-focused restaurant in Britannia is giving area residents another reason to stick around their own neighbourhood when they go out to eat.

You seriously need to try these Brussels sprouts

Two dishes to die for at Elbow Room in Britannia. The wood-fired burger is served with Sylvan Star gouda, and the crispy fried brussels sprouts come in a pool of serrano pepper crema with sharp cheddar and lemon. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

A new Canadian-focused restaurant in Britannia is giving area residents another reason to stick around their own neighbourhood when they go out to eat.

"We're trying to focus on local the best we can, going for simple and delicious," says restaurant director Josh Brennand, who grew up in Drumheller and has worked in the restaurant industry since he was 13. 

He started off bussing tables and washing dishes at Roman's for $3.80 an hour, and has since gone on to manage restaurants like Catch, NOtaBLE and the Nash.

Executive chef Ryan Blackwell, left, studied culinary arts at SAIT before moving to Vancouver and becoming the executive sous chef at Glowbal Grill at the age of 23. Elbow Room Restaurant director Josh Brennand, who grew up in Drumheller, has worked in the restaurant industry since he was 13-years-old. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

On its website, the Elbow Room is described as a "mingled-menu experience — where you can share plates or indulge on your own. It's a reflection of our country and its diverse groups with unique cultures — our menu is cherry-picked from the best of that Canada."

Executive chef Ryan Blackwell studied culinary arts at SAIT before moving to Vancouver and becoming the executive sous chef at Glowbal Grill at the age of 23. Blackwell co-owns the Elbow Room with his cousin Mark, a silent partner, and runs day-to-day operations with Brennand.

The name is a nod to its location at the corner of 49th Avenue and Elbow Drive S.W., as well as the bustle they anticipated inside.

"We wanted that elbow room feel," says Brennand. "We knew it was going to be small and busy, Once someone suggested Elbow Room, we knew it was the name."

There are 55 seats on the main level, 37 upstairs at the bar and a 42-seat patio that's currently hibernating until the weather improves.

The space was designed by Sarah Ward Interiors, her signature blues and greens brightened with rays of sunlight through floor-to-ceiling windows and the occasional mirror.

North African lamb meatballs on a Moroccan vegetable stew, left, and fried chicken on a Liege waffle, right. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

"We gave her the name before she started designing," Brennand says. "That's why you see all the angles in the design — in the tiles, on the walls and in the light fixtures."

Every day they make Liege-style waffles — sweet, chewy yeast-raised waffles cooked with crunchy pearl sugar to caramelize the exterior and little pots of salted caramel, black cherry compote, white chocolate rosewater and other sweet toppings.

Breakfast offerings range from avocado toast to a Croque Madame made with Hillview roasted pork loin, fior di latte (a semi-soft fresh cheese) and white truffle honey, and Merguez (north African lamb) meatballs on a Moroccan vegetable stew, or even fried chicken on a Liege waffle with bacon relish, acorn squash, wasabi maple gravy. There is  th an even broader brunch menu that includes Benedicts on the weekends.

More than just a clever name, there is plenty of seating available at Elbow Room. The main level has 55 seats with another 37 upstairs and at the bar. There's also a second-floor patio with 42 seats that's currently closed until the weather improves. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

For lunch there's a spectacular wood-fired burger with Sylvan Star gouda, flatbreads, jerk chicken, croquettes and even surf & turf (a petite tender with Atlantic lobster).

The dinner menu includes more substantial dishes like bison short rib and a seven-ounce Angus beef tenderloin or 10-ounce striploin cooked sous-vide in clarified butter to 118 F before being finished over the open-fire grill.

You'll find chicken, steelhead trout and Icelandic cod, and a tasty-looking vegetarian rigatoni in a spicy vodka sauce with local chèvre, and crispy fried Brussels sprouts in a pool of serrano pepper crema with sharp cheddar and lemon that may make you weep with joy.

The Liege waffles at the Elbow Room is served with bacon relish, acorn squash, wasabi maple gravy. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

They do a fine happy hour, and offer a take-out menu that features a Cluck Bucket — four, eight or 12 pieces of boneless buttermilk fried chicken with the option of gochujang sauce and other sides. 

Bar manager Steph Jewett has created a unique and interesting cocktail menu — Blueberry Pancakes is made with butter and bacon-infused bourbon, blueberry maple syrup and fig. They also have local beer offerings, including Annex, Dandy, Banded Peak, Common Crown and Cold Garden.

But seriously, just go for the Brussels sprouts.

The Elbow Room is lcoated at 802 49 Ave SW

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