306 17TH AVENUE SOUTHWEST, CALGARY, ALBERTA
BACK WHEN THIS RESTAURANT WAS STILL IN THE PLANNING STAGES AND CHEF-PATRON JUSTIN LEBOE WAS TELLING FELLOW COWTOWNERS HE WAS DESIGNING A MENU THAT WAS ROUGHLY HALF-VEGETARIAN, MOST OF THEM LOOKED AT HIM LIKE HE WAS MAD.
But one such dish from that opening menu—a slab of butter-braised, charcoal-charred cabbage doused in shavings of mimolette—quickly became a prime candidate for Alberta’s most-photographed and written about dish of the year. It is still on the menu, which has semi-vegetarian copycats across town. But it would be a mistake to try to explain this restaurant’s success by focusing on the vegetable-forward part of the menu, for Pigeonhole’s appeal is far broader. Like its sister restaurant, Model Milk, this place is, for starters, emphatically groovy, from decor to vibe. The basic bones of its design—as well as tabletops and an eye-catching chandelier—are holdovers from the long-standing previous tenant, Victoria.
The white marble used to make the beautiful bar up front is reclaimed from another site. Settling in there for a pre-dinner cocktail is highly advisable, especially if you have a taste for updated renditions of classics long past (say, a Maiden’s Prayer No. 2). Leboe’s cooking is smart, original, well-referenced and always fun. Vegetarian dishes are a strong point. Try the aforementioned cabbage, or the smoky sweet potato, roasted in a bed of live charcoal and then spiked with ewe’s milk feta. Or the Japanese eggplant with its flavour-enhancing lashing of furikake. But don’t stop there. The omnivore’s dishes are even more interesting: say, risotto with uni and guanciale, or lamb tartare with shredded olives, or something from the off-set smoker, like beef rib or pork collar. The wine list is heavy on natural wines and other interesting choices, all priced at a commendably modest markup.
Monday to Saturday
4:00 PM until late
PHOTOGRAPHY BY HEATHER SAITZ