NO, YOU WON’T SEE Don Draper here. But a character out of Mad Men wouldn’t be out of place. With plush seating and a ceiling-high metal-framed backbar that serves as a focal point nearly comparable to the view from the windows, Major Tom has the vibe of a mid-century Big Apple hot spot.
“We wanted it to feel like escapism,” says Stephen Phipps, bar and beverage director at Concorde Entertainment Group, which is behind some of Calgary’s most well-known restaurants and bars, including Model Milk and Bridgette Bar.
Major Tom’s swish lounge is as much a destination as the restaurant itself. The two areas — divided only by a line of low back-to-back banquettes — share music and menu but delineate distinctly different atmospheres. Where the dining room seems more composed — the focus on the plates or the view or the company at the table — the bar is all energy.
There’s no open kitchen here. The bar at Major Tom is the activity hub, the focus of all attention. Placing it by the restaurant entrance means patrons seated in the bar area get an eyeful of either the cityscape west to the Rocky Mountains — the benefit of being on the 40th floor of Stephen Avenue Place, a downtown office building — or the intricate, organized bustle of the bartenders themselves as they mix, stir and pour up to 700 cocktails each night.
The drink menu, the creation of regional bar managers Nate Wry and Wyatt Sutherland, is a careful balance of classics — including the signature pre-batched-and-kept-on-ice martinis requiring a part-time staff member to dedicate six hours a week to stuffing olives — and creative contemporary originals, like a milk punch with Honey Nut Cheerios.
And, with plenty of cocktail options and the full menu available in the bar, it’s easy to come for a quick one and end up staying a while — as if that was the intention all along.
Photos: Christopher Amat, Julya Hajnoczky