This summer has taken me, and I’m sure many of you, on road trips you weren’t planning. Not to be a total glutton, but I think the best part of any travel both far and near is the food. (With shopping coming in a close second!) Because of this, I spent last weekend hitting up as many Lethbridge restaurants, coffee shops and gourmet food shops as I could.
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I’ve been coming to Lethbridge to visit The Huz’s family for almost two decades. The dining scene has certainly changed over the years, and one big improvement at Lethbridge restaurants is sourcing more locally. Another is the gentrification of downtown and all the lovely little coffee shops popping up. Here’s a look at the Lethbridge eateries, pubs and food shops that I think should be on your radar.
Mocha Cabana Bistro
A beloved local’s favourite, don’t let the coffee shop ambiance at Mocha Cabana fool you. Head to their outdoor space – a tranquil, flower-filled patio behind the restaurant. On my sister-in-law’s suggestion, I had the loaded smashbrowns, roasted baby potatoes smashed and smothered in sour cream, bacon, cheese and green onions. Take that, nachos!
Their salads and sandwiches are fresh and hearty. Their homemade cheesecake will happily transport you back to the 80s when flavoured cheesecakes were having a moment. My only compliant would be that you can’t get their weekend sangria special by the glass, and my nephew wasn’t as keen on splitting a pitcher as I was. First world problems, am I right?
Two Guys and a Pizza Place
Named Canada’s Best Pizza in 2012 by Canadian Pizza Magazine, Two Guys and a Pizza Place was also featured on Food Network Canada’s You Gotta Eat Here. Why all the attention?
They serve up 40 different kinds of pizza, and while all your favourite classics are dished out, most of their pizzas are pretty pimped out. If you like Hawaiian, you’ll want to try their honey almond chicken pizza. There’s taco salad in a bag… on a pizza and a hot Nashville chicken jalapeno popper pizza that’s even tastier as a calzone.
Speaking of calzones, Sunday’s feature is discounted calzones, and you can score a beer in a paper bag (you won’t know what it is until it’s served!) for only $4. While I’ve never tried their lasagne, one of my friends raves about it.
Broxburn Vegetables & Cafe
Situated on the edge of town, this lovely farm, produce store and cafe is worth the visit. In fact, I’m annoyed I didn’t know about this little slice of heaven years earlier when my daughter was younger. It’s the perfect family spot with a u-pick operation, playground and this massive three-person-wide slide.
Nip into the cafe for farm fresh salads and sandwiches or have a light bite of just picked berries with ice cream. Don’t leave without snagging your own fruit and veggies from their market or u-pick.
I always thought the Umami Shop was an Asian grocery, but it’s so much more than that. A global food emporium, kitchen and cafe, there are actually three little eateries inside. I snapped up some fantastic avocado salsa, furikake (fun Japanese flakes to jazz up your rice), plus some Italian antipasti.
This is the spot to scarf back a Vietnamese sub, but if you’re into any kind of Asian cuisine, you’ll be in heaven. The menu crisscrosses the continent with Thai lamb stir fry, poke bowls, bibimbap, butter chicken, ramen and bao buns.
Another fun food shop is the Wooden Shoe, a European food grocer sporting what has to be the province’s largest selection of black liquorice. Their bakery has loads of cakes by the slice, the deli is chock full of all manner of sausage and cheese. Wheels and wheels of cheese! Naturally, you can buy real wooden shoes here, too.
Best Restaurants Lethbridge
One question I get asked all the time is: What are the best restaurants in Lethbridge? Obviously it’s a matter of personal preference but the three restaurants below are family faves.
Italian Table Lethbridge
If you’re a fan of big, jovial gatherings centred around food, you’ll want to visit this lively restaurant situated in the Sandman Signature Lethbridge Lodge. At the Italian Table Lethbridge, start with the meatballs, smothered in a zesty tomato sauce and best mopped up with herby focaccia.
Lobster and crab deep fried ravioli bites are also popular, but aren’t my fave. I like to share their antipasto platter and scarf back one of their comforting pastas with some easy drinking Italian wine. For a heartier main, the beef short rib ragu polenta may not look all that Instagram-able, but it’s as authentic as it gets.
Water Tower Grill Lethbridge
I wasn’t expecting the menu at Water Tower Grill Lethbridge to be all over the map, literally. But their site clearly states international cuisine, so I shouldn’t have been surprised to see the greatest hits from India, Mexico, France, the Ukraine, Thailand and Italy on the menu.
Being surprised by the menu, I didn’t have high hopes for my Carne Asada, marinated Angus steak served up with rice, refried beans, tortillas and salsas. Actually, it was cooked perfectly. I don’t often luck out with this dish north of the border, but here it was both tender and flavourful. I’d come back for it again. The Huz’s beef dip (something he’s ordered at I’m guessing over 100 restaurants) was also a winner.
Before dining here, I thought the big draw at the Water Tower Grill was its views. Situated in an actual, old water tower, you’re treated to sweeping vistas of Lethbridge, its green spaces and the prairie beyond. There’s not a bad seat in the house.
Mango Tree Lethbridge
If you’re hankering for a good curry, The Mango Tree Lethbridge is arguably the city’s best. It’s got all your favourites from butter chicken to coconut curries to tikka masala and fiery vindaloo. They also have a wide variety of rice dishes and grilled meat – either kebab or tandoori.
Lethbridge coffee shops
If you’re doing a weekend trip, you’ll probably want to start with breakfast and for that you’ll want to hit up one of the cities many delightful cafes.
Situated in a century-old brick building, now a designated historic city site on the north side, the space Jonny Bean occupies has been a pharmacy, post office, dance hall, and always, a community hub. Inside it’s all bright, white and modern with tables well spaced out and an Escape Room in the basement.
Quality barista coffees are made from beans roasted by Calgary’s Monogram Coffee and Victoria’s Bows & Arrows. Those with a sweet tooth will want to throw back their cold brew float or london fog + caramel milkshake. What I’ll be coming back for though, is their breakfast sandwich – an organic egg, with local Broek ham on a house-made buttermilk biscuit. The biscuits can sell out fast, so get here first thing if you fancy one.
Also of note are their vegan, gluten-free and keto (Nanaimo bar!) bakery items. Head here on a Friday night for vinyl and seasonal cocktails from 5-9pm.
The Penny Coffee House
My nephew insisted we dash into The Penny Coffee House even though I was all jacked up on caffeine. Apparently all his friends think they have THE BEST lemonade, and you know what? His friends were right!
Concoctions change every few days, but I was quite happy with our rosemary, mint, basil lemonade and an orange pomegranate ice tea while perusing the menu. A chalkboard near the entry lists their daily baking – over a dozen mouthwatering options from muffins to pretzels to scones, sausage rolls and cinnamon buns. But it doesn’t end there. Sandwiches are served on homemade bread, there’s homemade soup as well, plus gluten-free and vegan options. If you’re looking for from-scratch, wholesome goodness and a welcoming atmosphere, you’ll want to pop in.
Sonder Coffee Bar
Powered by Lethbridge’s own Red Engine Coffee Roasters, Sonder Coffee Bar also serves up a fantastic chai. When a cafe makes their own almond, coconut and oak milk, plus their own ice cream, you know they know their stuff. But aside from all the lovely drink options, the thing to get here is a waffle.
It’s hard to find real Belgian-style liege waffles anywhere outside of Europe, but they’ve got them here – both savoury and sweet. The sweet ones aren’t all that sweet (I could’ve used a bit more pearl sugar in mine), so don’t worry about topping with Nutella, lemon curd or cherries and ice cream. Go for it! I ate a significant amount of my brother-in-law’s waffle benny, so I suppose it’s only right I go the savoury route next time.
Bread Milk Honey Cafe
This fun, downtown coffee shop sports one of the largest selections of barista beverages in the city. Even if you’re not a coffee drinker, you’ll find loads of tea lattes and smoothies (some vegan). Besides the bevvies, you can fuel up with gourmet sandwiches, wraps and baked goods from early morning until late afternoon.
For this section, I couldn’t rely on my research alone. I also had to tap my relatives and their mates, who visit these Lethbridge bars on a much more frequent basis than I do.
This downtown pub has over 30 rotating beers on tap that only last until the last pint is poured. With decades old luggage being used as decor and old beer taps strung up from ceiling, it’s got that quintessential quirky pub feel. Outside, they have half an entire street block to themselves. Set up with tables under canopied trees, it’s quite lovely in summer.
The global pub food menu ranges from bacon wrapped perogies to poutine with grilled beef strips to kimchi dumplings (less spicy than you think). My favourite was the house-made potato chips with an old school sour cream dip that took me back to when we all used to make our own.
Sister’s Pub & Grill
If you want to meet some of The Huz’s family, drop by Sister’s any weekend. I’m always impressed with their crowd and their daily specials – especially on weekends. (Double Caesars for $10 on Saturday!) Back to the crowd, you’ll find everyone from college students to their parents hanging out. Sister’s also sports an extensive craft beer menu and a decent steak sandwich.
One of the city’s go-to bars, you’ll find the cheapest pool in town at Backstreet. Food-wise, they do a lot with pizza shells. (As sandwich bread! In place of nachos!) Backstreet doesn’t have a deep fryer, so all that pub grub you’d normally get fried is baked in their super hot pizza oven, producing way better flavour.
If you’re into sports, Legends has 40 HDTV’s, plus games, VLT’s and pool tables. Happy hour is daily from 3-7pm and lasts all day on Sunday. While I’m not sure who’d order chicken cordon bleu at a bar, their menu is extensive and filled with pub favourites.
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Have you ever been to Lethbridge? Where are your favourite places to eat here?