Saturday was reminiscent of our two meal extravaganza last spring that saw us eating two dinners in one night: first in the sophisticated wine and tapas bar TZiN followed by supper at the eternally comfortable greasy spoon Route 99 Diner.
We started our evening at JAROblue (1314 17 Avenue SW), a tapas and lounge often recommended by Chowhounders. Seductively dark, with a cool, trendy vibe, Mack and I felt a bit out of our element. Our sever quickly changed that – patient and open to questions, he was extremely attentive at the start of our meal. I asked for wine recommendations, and based on his suggestion, decided on the 2006 Dr. Pauley-Bergweiler Riesling ($9). It was lovely – sweet and fruity, it would’ve probably been better paired with dessert, but my personal preference is always “Kool Aid” (Mack’s words) with dinner.
Menu and place setting
Tapas pricepoints were $8, $13, and $15. From Andree Lau’s post on JAROblue, I knew I wanted to try the Duck Confit & Risotto Croquette ($13). The Angus Mini Steak Sandwiches with Caramelized Onions ($15) were my second pick, and for reasons involving illusions of heath and his love of the vegetable, Mack chose the Grilled Asparagus served with an Onion, Garlic & Olive Oil ($8).
While we waited for our food, we noted the great server-to-patron ratio maintained by the restaurant, and also grew to respect our very competent hostess who not only took care of the seating, but also water and bussing duties.
When she brought us our first two dishes, her introduction of them (and suggestions on how we should eat them) were a nice verbal accompaniment to a beautiful visual display. Set on a long rectangular plate, the croquettes were almost too cute to eat. Crispy and creamy, they would make a fantastic hors d’oeuvre at a party (perhaps minus the pineapple chutney, which was a tad spicy for my taste). The steak sandwiches were even better – expertly seared and perfectly prepared, Mack and I both wished we could have a full-size steak that tasted like that. The asparagus were fresh, and thus sweet, their natural flavour enhanced with a smoky infusion. The garnish of onions had had their bite cooked out of them, and rivalled the asparagus with their sweetness.
Duck Confit and Steak Sandwiches
Great for sharing with friends, JAROblue is undoubtedly pricey, but worth a splurge for their creative take on tapas.
Our appetites successfully stimulated, we walked a few blocks east to Tubby Dog (1022 17 Avenue SW). At this point, I can’t remember where I first heard about this late night institution, but I can safely say I am now well acquainted with their unorthodox hot dog toppings.
Walking in, there is no doubt that their no-frills decor signals a single focus on food alone. Two giant menus – one on the door and another behind the order counter advertise the creativity behind Tubby Dog. From the intriguing Sumo Dog (with Japanese mayo, wasabi, pickled ginger, and lightly toasted sesame seeds) to Sherm’s Ultimate Gripper (a dog wrapped in bacon, fried, then topped with ham, homemade chili, cheese, mustard, bacon, hot peppers, onions and a fried egg), we knew we were in for a treat probably not meant for the sober. I couldn’t help but think this was the Calgary equivalent to Amsterdam’s waffle and fry joints.
Hours of operation
At any rate, Mack opted for the A-Bomb ($5.75), with cheese, bacon, mayo, mustard, ketchup and potato chips, which the server said was one of the two most popular dogs (the other being the Gripper). Without hesitation, I chose the Cap’ns Dog ($5.75), with peanut butter, jelly, and yes, Captain Crunch cereal (I have to think this combination had to have originated as a drunken college bet of some sort).
A few minutes later, to the chime of a reception bell, our order was up. It was a sight to see – our dogs were as excessive as the tapas at JAROblue were dainty. As we sat agape at the task before us, three women walked by the storefront window, and after glancing at the menu on the door, wondered allowed who would eat such things. Then they looked up and saw us.
I was a bit daunted by the Captain Crunch (the morsels didn’t adhere very well to the PB & J), but in the end, I’d say it satisfied the peanut butter lover in me – I couldn’t really taste the jam or the cereal.
I’m sure many people have eaten much more offbeat food combinations, but Tubby Dog, in its utilization of a midway favorite as a vehicle for the unexpected, makes for an interesting and fun dining experience.