A lot of my life is spent driving between Central Albertan hot spots (if such a thing exists) due to our immediate family being spread between Camrose, Red Deer and Sylvan Lake. Last weekend I added one more stop to the list while helping my sister find her perfect wedding dress: beautiful Lacombe!
We had already spent the morning in Red Deer watching Kirsten try on stunning formal wear before heading to Lacombe’s local bridal boutique, so a lunch break at Cilantro & Chive made a lot of sense. This is a much-hyped local restaurant known for a more interesting food menu than most in the area (including their “Caesars that eat like a meal”) as well as a fun selection of local beers on tap. Thank goodness they take reservations, because we were competing directly with the Hometown Hockey crowd during a crazy lunch rush.
First of all, how cute is it when restaurants serve their drinks in Mason jars? I wouldn’t expect anything else from this adorable family restaurant in picturesque “downtown” Lacombe.
But now, on to the important bits. I was really proud of my mom for her hip choice of pulled pork tacos. This is listed on the appetizer menu, but we all agreed it worked well as a lunch portion. Three good-sized flour tortillas were loaded up with chipotle BBQ pulled pork, a very nice, refreshing honey slaw and finely grated cheddar cheese. The sautéed jalapenos and onions that she’d asked them to hold back would have helped to balance out the richness of the sugary sauce and cheese, but the savoury pork and crisp slaw did a lot of the heavy lifting on their own. Very nice lunch option!
Karen ordered the noodle bowl, or Vietnamese style vermicelli noodles with tender, perfectly cooked chunks of pork belly served in a mixing bowl – fun! The chopped peanuts, julienned fresh veggies, lettuce, cilantro, lime juice and spicy sesame dressing must have been terrific, because we barely heard from Karen while she happily enjoyed her meal. Two thumbs way up!
Kirsten went for the fried chicken and waffles from the brunch menu. As you can see, the fried egg came out a little crispy on the bottom. The fluffy, tender waffles made a great accompaniment to the chicken, which was was juicy and nicely fried without being heavily breaded. The maple syrup was spiked with tarragon, which gave it a pleasant, subtly herbal flavour that really accented the more savoury elements of the dish. Kirsten watched helplessly as I stole a few dunks of tarragon maple syrup for my hash browns and eventually relinquished a few delicious bites of her chicken and waffles, too. Little sisters are the best!
I was torn between a few tempting items, so the server steered me towards her favourite, the brunch menu’s Korean fried chicken sandwich. This beauty was stacked sky high with hot sauce-marinated fried chicken, smoked gouda, fresh butter leaf lettuce, tomato, sriracha maple aioli (oh my gosh!) and a fried egg all sandwiched between two thick slices of their house vanilla bean and cinnamon French toast. I’m not usually one to turn down French toast, but I will say that it was a bit much with all the other elements going on. The chicken was juicy and not overly breaded, which was wonderful, but it was missing something. It didn’t give me much of the Korean flavour I expected, like a hit of spicy gochujang or some julienned kimchi – I’d instead call it a zesty fried chicken sandwich. Still, paired with some very crispy and flavourful hash browns, this was a delicious midday interlude amongst my busy schedule of staring at my beautiful sister in various gowns!
It’s not worth its own whole post, but I should also mention that instead of dessert at Cilantro & Chive, we walked over to the nearby Sweet Capone’s for some of their famous cannoli – there were at least 10 flavours behind the counter when we walked in, and this was after the lunch rush, so there may well have been more to start with. They were serving up a lot of other classic Italian bakery faves as well, like pesche dolci, tiramisu & rum baba. We picked up a few treats to (very kindly and generously) share with Kirsten’s fiancé, Brad, later that day. First up were the Irish Cream and Cappuccino cannoli, which were both absolutely delicious. The cappuccino cream had a stronger flavour, but the Irish cream was my favourite because it was just so… creamy, for lack of a better word. The pastry itself was flaky, tender, lightly dusted with powdered sugar and didn’t distract from the delicious fillings.
After dinner that night, we carefully sliced our mini cranberry lemon cake. Moist layers of flavourful, cranberry-studded lemon cake were filled with smooth, piped whipped cream. Highly recommend!
With Cilantro & Chive’s (5021 50 St, Lacombe, AB) fun and family-friendly atmosphere, cool decor (pennies decorating the bar and plastic dinosaur taps come to mind), diverse menu options and high quality food, this is definitely a place I would stop again when I’m in the area. I will also never skip a chance to revisit Sweet Capone’s (4912 50 Ave, Lacombe, AB)! Lacombe is only a few minutes outside of Red Deer and has so many cute shops in its scenic downtown area – it’s absolutely worth the short drive to spend an afternoon walking around and enjoying the culinary delights of this adorable prairie city!