Chorney-Booth: Local vegetarian favourites come together under the new Nourish banner

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This last year has seen a lot of restaurant doors closing, but even as many businesses struggle, others have been able to embrace new opportunities. One sector that has been doing well (or more accurately, “well-ish”) over the last year has been Calgary’s vegan and vegetarian eateries. Plant-based eaters yearn for pandemic-time comfort food as much as meat-lovers do and restaurants like VBurger, Nan’s Noodle House, and Vegan Street have been more than happy to serve up fresh and tasty meat-free takeout.

That said, a couple of Calgary’s favourite veggie spots have hit some bumps over the last while. Towards the end of 2019, The Coup, which has been serving up delicious dips, bowls, and sandwiches for 15 years and had just brought on some new talent in the form of chef Adam Ryan, announced it was planning to move from its 17th Avenue S.W. location to re-open in a “re-invented” form (which is rarely good news in the restaurant biz). Then, this November, The Dandelion, a popular vegan cafe in Ramsay broke the news that it wouldn’t be making it through the pandemic. Vegetarian eaters worried — while we certainly have more vegetarian options in the city now than we did 10 years ago, losing two of them would be a huge blow. But then, seemingly out of nowhere, both restaurants were resurrected by a fairly quiet, new vegetarian restaurant group.

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The whimsical interior of the Dandelion Cafe. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia
The whimsical interior of the Dandelion Cafe. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia Photo by Azin Ghaffari /Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia

Both The Coup and The Dandelion were purchased by a small group of restaurateurs who own and operate Nourish Bistro in Banff. When the group took over The Coup just before the pandemic hit, they managed to avoid the previously announced move and kept most things the same as they were before the sale. It’s proven to be a smart move: after 15 years, regulars wanted to find comfort in their favourite dishes and Ryan was still making his mark as the relatively new head chef. Over at The Dandelion (which has been rebranded as The Dandelion by Nourish Bistro), which doesn’t have the same history, there have been more substantial tweaks.

The Boss Burger at The Dandelion Cafe. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia
The Boss Burger at The Dandelion Cafe. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia Photo by Azin Ghaffari /Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia

The Dandelion by Nourish Bistro opened in its current form earlier this year for takeout, adding dine-in options once regulations allowed and will continue to expand its reach as patio weather takes hold. Overseeing the kitchen is chef Stephanie O’Brian, a former sous chef at The Coup. The Dandelion’s eclectic menu is a mix of well-crafted vegan brunch and lunch items, with selections like a vegan chickpea omelette ($14), Southern-fried Chicktan with waffles ($18), and spicy Aloo Paratha potato pancakes. There’s a fair bit of overlap with the Banff bistro menu, which is good news for vegans who don’t’ want to drive out to Banff to get a taste of Nourish’s much-heralded mushroom ravioli ($19).

Vegan Benedict at The Dandelion Cafe. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia
Vegan Benedict at The Dandelion Cafe. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia Photo by Azin Ghaffari /Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia

“I would sum up what we’re doing here as a miniature and more playful version of Nourish,” says co-owner Caleb Olney, who is also the company’s head of food development. “We’re a small restaurant in a tight-knit community with a lot of outdoor seating potential. You’re really going to see us blossom in the summer with our outdoor seating and our gardens and lots of things that will be geared towards involving the community.”

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The group’s growth has been fairly organic, so it is still deciding on a formalized name and contemplating plans for further expansion. The Dandelion by Nourish is located at 1048 8th St. S.E. and can be reached at 403-475-2772 or thedandelionyyc.ca.

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In other news, continuing on the trend of established downtown/Beltline restaurants setting up shop (slightly) farther afield, three prominent Calgary businesses have found new homes in Bridgeland. The General Block building by real estate developers RNDSQR has just welcomed its three commercial food vendors: Village Ice Cream, Phil and Sebastian Coffee, and Una Pizza and Wine, the latter of which just opened. It’s the seventh Calgary location for Phil and Sebastian, the fourth for Village and the third for Una.

Bridgeland is really shaping up to be a foodie destination — the new trio of businesses joins satellite locations of Made by Marcus and Lil’ Empire (which opened in the old Tazza Deli location over the summer) as well as standbys like Shiki Menya, Bridgeland Market, and Blue Star Diner. The General Block is located at 65 7a St. N.E.

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And finally, Bow Valley Ranche has announced the theme for its next round of Foodies in the Park dome dinners after the winter session had to be cancelled because of renewed COVID-19 restrictions. While in-person dining was closed over the holiday months, many of us hunkered down to watch the very steamy Victorian-era teen soap Bridgerton and that show has provided some inspiration for the new dome décor and menu.

The pop-up in the Ranche’s Artisan Gardens takes place April 15 to May 16 and will feature a four-course dinner by chef Daryl Kerr, served in private domes for four to six people. As with last year’s Alice in Wonderland-themed pop-up, diners can also opt for an afternoon tea instead of dinner. For more information or to book a reservation, visit foodiesinthepark.com.

Elizabeth Chorney-Booth can be reached at elizabooth@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter at @elizaboothy or Instagram at @elizabooth

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