Half Century Secrets
How Calgary’s longest-running restaurants do it
by Erin Lawrence
With new restaurants opening and closing every month in Calgary, it’s easy to forget about the ones who’ve stood the test of time. Yes, dining at the city’s newest hotspot or at a trendy room is fun and alluring, but there are a host of places in Calgary that don’t need gimmicks, of-the-moment ingredients or lineups to attract a constant stream of regulars.
Hy’s Steakhouse and Cocktail Bar opened its doors back in 1955, when Hy and Barbara Aisenstat saw an opportunity in Calgary’s underdeveloped restaurant market. So what’s the secret to a successful restaurant, not just year after year, but decade after decade?
“We never change our core values,” says COO Megan Buckley. “We have always treated our staff and guests like family – that has never changed.”
Calgary has always been known for its steakhouses, so it’s probably no surprise that another steak joint appears on this list of long-running restaurants. Caesar’s first started serving premium grilled and hand-cut steaks to business types and diners downtown 45 years ago, in 1972. With its self-proclaimed “undeniably old school” décor, it’s a room to remember, for sure. Its Mad Men-era three-ounce cocktails also give it a certain vintage quality that ensures customers return, both to the original location on 4th Avenue SW, and to its newer version, in Willow Park.
Not far away, The Carriage House Inn on Macleod Trail is also celebrating its longevity, after 50 years in business. Brenda Davidson, Director of Sales and Marketing, says that while a restaurant needs to be adaptable, some things must remain the same. One of the owners used to routinely walk around and pour coffee for guests. One of the Inn’s longest-serving employees also created a popular dessert that’s still on the menu today – Sally’s rice pudding.
“It’s about consistency and the reputation of the hotel, which is for great food and great service.”
It might be reputation, then, that’s sustained some of Calgary’s longest-running restaurants through tough economic times. When there’s uncertainty, most of us crave familiarity and stability, so it follows that diners will turn to trusted favourites when it comes to spending their limited disposable income.
Read entire article in the digital issue of City Palate.