Summary: Simply put, the next Tubby Dog. Due its awkward location and limited hours, its popularity will never reach the mythical proportions of Tubby Dog. Good, ‘cause that will keep the fuckin’ hipsters out.
The thing I love most about writing a food blog is discovering hidden gems that no one else’s heard of or knows about. And once in a while, a series of serendipitous events conspire together to bring you to such a place and completely blows you away.
Well, today was that day. Walking home from work, I walked past That Schnitzel Place (TSP). I had walked past this establishment quite a few times, but never had had the time or inclination to check it out. Luckily, my plans for post-work drinks and dinner with Kent and Richard fell through, so I needed a place to grab dinner. That Schnitzel Place satisfied that gaping hole.
The first thing that caught my attention was the big, bold “That Schnitzel Place” on red background. The next thing that catches your attention is “BIG, HOT, JUICY.” Enough said.
To the uninitiated, schnitzel’s are essentially breaded boneless meat that is tenderized and friend until crispy, golden brown. Technically, you can pound, bread, and fry anything and call it a schnitzel. I was quite surprised by how vegetarian-friendly TSP is. Pretty much every item of their menu can be made into a vegetarian version using Portobello mushrooms. In addition, there were some pre-existing “vegetarian-friendly” items on their menu already.
After chatting with the proprietor and his son (the cook), I decided to go with the Mexican-inspired Daily Special “Poncho Villa.” The latter consisted of Raspberry chipotle sauce; Havarti cheese; chilli-lime pico de gallo (with avocado, tomato, roasted corn, onion, red and green peppers); and topped with pea sprouts. I could have just as easily gone with the other vegetarian-friendly offerings, but this one just appealed to me the most.
Dave, who is one of the co-owners, decided I should also try his mushroom soup. This turned out to be the best decision of the day: I have never had better-tasting mushroom soup. I generally enjoy the earthy, neutral taste of mushroom soups, but this one had a delicious peppery kick to it. I was instantly sold. The bar was already set pretty high, and I hadn’t even seen the schnitzel sandwich yet!
Finally, it arrived. I bit into it with anticipation and instantly heard the satisfying crunch of the breaded Portobello. I love that sound. The sweetness of the raspberry-chipotle combined with the pico de gallo to produce a combined sweet-tangy taste that was very pleasing. I loved how all the flavours combined to produce a harmonious effect overall. This Schnitzel’s Delicious (= “TSD”…This Sh*t’s Delicious…get it? ;D)! The cherry on top of the icing is the fact that TSP sells beer and wine!
Now for the behind the scenes look at the team behind TSP. I usually do this at the beginning, but elected to do it after reviewing the food once I realized how much material I had.
Dave (one of the co-owner’s) is local Calgarian born and raised here since 1951 when the population was only 89000 (wtf!). He’s truly seen Calgary grow from a small dusty, little prairie town to the hip, urban, multicultural town that it is now in a span of slightly more than half a century. His family is originally from Europe and was in the garment industry making FR oilfield clothing until competition from overseas made it uneconomical for them to operate the garment factory. Dave then went over to the company that makes polar fleece as a consultant.
Dave’s Calgarian roots are clearly reflected in the large very hip, urban posters that adorn TSP’s walls. I didn’t notice this initially, but each poster has TSP branding overlaid on Calgary landmarks like the Calgary Tower or the iconic Saddledome. Very cool.
The point of the above personal history is that Dave & co actually have purportedly no prior food industry experience. They essentially knew the previous owner of the place who no longer wanted to own or run the place once his wife took ill. Dave and his co-owner saw an opportunity to own a restaurant and decided to buy the place from him. Just like that.
What makes this whole story even more amazing is how well put together this whole enterprise is. TSP is very well branded for a couple of retirees with no prior food industry experience (to be fair, maybe the co-owner does – I didn’t ask). From the matching t-shirts at the front counter to the website design, everything screams “meticulous” – branding is clearly at the forefront of the owners’ mind (intentionally or not). In fact, TSP reminded me a bit about Jelly Modern in that when you walk into JM, it is quite clear everything has been thought about twice and is a labour of love. This is no fuckin’ mom-and-pop operation, that’s for sure.
My only nitpick would be that I was hoping that menu was home grown considering family has European roots, but it appears that the menu was designed by a chef who also comes up with ideas for Daily Specials regularly. The chef (external, 3rd party) is the brains behind the menu and does the daily prep work, leaving the actual cooking and assembly to Dave’s son. But does this really matter? This sh*t’s delicious, so who gives a fuck?
It’s not often that I come across a hidden jewel that none of the bloggers have heard of before. Most of the traditional blogs wouldn’t cover a place like this anyway as they mostly focus on the big-name restaurants. But TSD’s always held the opinion that it’s the small and hole-in-the-wall establishments like Canada Dosa Corner, Tu Tierra, and now TSP, that truly define the very fabric of a city. I am truly honored to be the
first second yyc food blogger to review this place. Miss Foodie’s Gourmet Adventures has the honour of being the first.
||29/36 = 81%