by Elizabeth Chorney-Booth
How to eat your way through the Music Mile
It’s a familiar predicament for anyone who loves to haunt music clubs: you show up to a venue to catch a full night of music and find yourself feeling peckish, but there’s nothing of substance to eat. Music clubs generally aren’t known for serving particularly good food and nothing can distract from a good show like pesky hunger pains.
Thankfully, there’s no shortage of great food along the Music Mile, the stretch of 9th Ave. S.E. that starts at the Blues Can in Inglewood and goes about a mile westward to Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre. Along the way, there are plenty of places to catch live music, lots of restaurants to grab a great meal and, perhaps best of all, a handful of spots to do both.
The Blues Can Jambalaya
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The Blues Can is not only the official anchor of the Music Mile, but also encapsulates the essence of this historic entertainment district. In addition to offering live music seven days a week (mostly but not always of the blues persuasion), the Blues Can also has a full kitchen. The menu focuses on Southern-style food with specialties like breaded frogs legs, Po’Boy sandwiches, and blackened catfish.
“Cajun food does tie into the blues,” says Blues Can’s Teena Wilson. “As a business you have to offer as much as possible to get people to come in, so we have offered both Cajun food and blues music from the very beginning when we opened in 2010.”
Down on the other end of the Mile, the reconstructed King Eddy (now part of the National Music Centre complex) is much swisher than the original 100-year-old building was in its final days (which, nostalgia aside, is not necessarily a bad thing). The modernized room incorporates many of the original venue’s architectural elements and is also home to a new kitchen, helmed by chef Diana Nacita. The food also pays homage to the American South, with an emphasis on dishes like shrimp and grits, boudin balls, and buttermilk fried chicken. The programming often fits what food is available, depending on the time of day.
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“Calgary offers a fantastic range of music and culinary experiences, which is why the two pair so well together,” says the King Eddy’s general manager, Jynnifer Gibson. “We present daytime-friendly acoustic sets for our weekend brunch fans, while our happy hour features rowdy crowd-pleasers and craft brews. We’re proud to offer something for both foodies and music lovers, whether they’re dropping in for lunchtime or late night.”
Crispy Smoked Pork Potato from the King Eddy
And then, somewhere in the middle of the Mile, you have the Ironwood Stage and Grill, which makes food an integral part of any visit. Rather than paying admission and then finding a table and ordering food if they’re hungry, patrons make a table reservation and the cover charge is then tacked onto the tab. Long known for booking eclectic acts of almost every genre, the menu is similarly varied, with everything from calamari and risotto to fish ‘n’ chips and burgers on the menu.
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“The Ironwood strives to provide a well-rounded experience for everyone,” says chef Colin Mitchell. “It’s all-inclusive and our diverse clientele reflects a universal love for getting together to enjoy excellent food, drinks and live music.”
Of course, there are plenty of other places along the strip that offer a combination of music and food. Lolita’s Lounge sits above the Salt and Pepper Mexican restaurant, and serves a similar Mexican menu while also putting on jazz shows. Other spots like Without Papers pizzeria, Gravity Espresso and Wine Bar and Scarpetta Italian Eatery are primarily restaurants or cafés, but to keep in the spirit of the rest of the Mile host regular live music nights. Other food stops like Bea’s Eatery in the Bite Grocer, the rock ‘n’ roll-themed Gorilla Whale, and neighbourhood stalwart Spolumbo’s don’t regularly program live music but will happily provide a pre-gig meal.
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While the Music Mile is officially only made up of those blocks along 9th Avenue, we’d be remiss not to mention Mikey’s Juke Joint over on 12th Ave. S.W. Mikey’s recently opened an authentic taco shop, appropriately dubbed The Taco Shop. The Palomino Smokehouse remains one of Calgary’s best venues for independent rock music, while also serving some fantastic barbeque and Broken City is as well-known for its vegetarian-forward pub menu as it is for
its live shows. With so much to eat on the Music Mile and beyond, music fans have no excuse to go hungry in the name of seeing some live music.
For more information on the music mile and its venues, visit musicmile.ca.