Entertaining Photo Credit: Julie Van Rosendaal

Calgary’s New Historic Vegetarian Streetcar Restaurant

Calgary restaurant darlings revamp an old gas station (and streetcar) into the vegetarian-smoke-house-hybrid of their dreams.

Two of Calgary’s best-known chefs and restaurateurs, Dwayne and Alberta Ennest, have recently transformed a 1950s gas station into a vegetarian restaurant: White Rose Vegetarian Kitchen.

To keep the carnivores happy, they’ve turned a shipping container into a takeout barbecue joint—complete with a smoker Dwayne can control by phone—and parked it out front, in the ample space that would have once accommodated cars pulling in to gas up. One side of the extensive patio is bordered by the iconic Bowness Streetcar, which between 1913 and 1950 shuttled Calgarians the 13 kilometres out from city centre. Bowness was formerly a town in west Calgary that amalgamated with the big city in 1964.

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The duo calls this latest venture their retirement business, the last hurrah after a career that started when they met working at the iconic River Cafe back in 2000 (Dwayne was executive chef and Alberta managed the front of house); they went on to open one of Calgary’s best known breakfast joints, Diner Deluxe, as well as Big Fish and Open Range, all on Edmonton Trail. (They’ve since sold Diner Deluxe, but still own Open Range and Big Fish.) After a decade-long stretch, they decided to make the move to Bowness, a unique and vibrant area of the city’s northwest that for them, is also close to home.

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White Rose Vegetarian owners Dwayne and Alberta Ennest.

From a construction standpoint it was a major undertaking, the building and surrounding property saturated with decades’ worth of oil and grime. They stripped it down and started from scratch, keeping the garage doors in the front and painting them bright red, and decorating with art and vintage furniture from Alberta’s mother, gallery owner Virginia Christopher, who passed away last year. They kept the name of the original gas station, the White Rose, along with some artifacts that bear its original logo.

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As for the menu, it’s a leap from Open Range, which specializes in beef, lamb and game; their vegetarian offerings are divided into $12 and $18 plates, all designed for sharing.

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Things like crispy halloumi cheese with three-onion marmalade, yuzu oil and whole-grain crisps, crispy yellow beet risotto cakes with radicchio, pluot plums, goat cheese, and almond harissa; braised giant beans with fennel, roma tomatoes, zucchini, sheep’s milk feta and fresh mint; and Sylvan Star Gouda scalloped Yukon gold potatoes with chiles, roasted fennel, kale and charred bell peppers. There is a short (but sweet) dessert menu—think goat cheese cake with ginger bread cookies and tonka bean panna cotta with fireweed honey—and they offer a simple Sunday brunch.

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And if you step outside, the Coal Shed churns out brisket, pulled pork sandwiches, ribs and burgers, with sides like yam sage cornbread and jalapeño jack mac and cheese. None of the meat will make its way into the White Rose kitchen, but a communal table on the Coal Shed side of the kitchen will offer space for those who want to come inside; there will also be space to sit on the streetcar. It’s an innovative new addition to the neighbourhood, another creative out-of-downtown dining option, and the perfect way to honour the city’s past by bringing people together around the table.

For more information about White Rose Vegetarian Kitchen (6512 Bowness Rd. NW) and Coal Shed Smoke House, visit whiterosekitchen.ca.

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