Back when our relationship was still adorable and fresh, Matt and I spent a week staycationing around Alberta. When my mom heard we were hitting up some Alberta classics like Drumheller’s Royal Tyrrell Museum and the Torrington Gopher Hole Museum, she suggested we visit one of her favourite lunch spots. Intrigued, we added a stop in the village of Linden, Alberta (about an hour’s drive north of Calgary) to visit one of her favourite restaurants.
Country Cousins Bistro & Bakery is famous for comfort food, small town hospitality and peanut butter cream pie, all of which we thoroughly enjoyed on that first visit over three years ago now. We rarely have an opportunity to get up to Linden, so when we found ourselves with time in our recent long weekend schedule to stop for lunch on our way north, Country Cousins was the obvious choice!
We ended up ordering the exact same lunch items we had on our very first visit. I went for the Mennonite platter, which includes a hunk of local sausage, sautéed red cabbage, a bowl of cabbage rolls in tomato sauce and a pile of potato, cheese and onion perogies smothered in white bacon and onion cream gravy. This platter is an incredible value at $15.40 – it’s easily a hefty dinner portion for lunchtime prices. The sausage was delicious, but doesn’t dominate the plate and slides into a nice balance with the other incredible flavours you see before you.
The sauerkraut wrapper slid off one of the cabbage rolls and it was plain to see that it was a generously meaty, rice-studded filling (I find it’s often the reverse with a rice-heavy, lightly meat-filled dish instead!) and the zesty, dill-laced tomato sauce was enhanced by a dollop of sour cream.
With the perogies (I know the spelling is controversial!), it’s hard to even see the actual dumplings due to the extremely addictive and spoonable cream gravy. When you do manage to locate a perogy under the blanket of sauce and pop a fork-tender wedge into your mouth, it’s absolute heaven.
Surprisingly to some, my favourite item is the cabbage. Cabbage gets nice and sweet when cooked at the right temperature (seared or sautéed are my favourite!), so I treat this red cabbage like a condiment to complement every other element on the plate. It was a perfect pairing for the smoky meat, acidic rolls and velvety perogies.
Not everyone can stomach a full Mennonite-style farm meal for a quick lunch stop, so I was understanding when Matt ordered his favourite. His stacked clubhouse was made with fresh sliced grilled chicken, farm ham, bacon, lettuce, tomato, Canadian cheddar and mayo on toasted sandwich bread. This was also a good value at $9.90 as it includes a side of fries, soup or salad. The ingredients all tasted so fresh, including the grilled chicken. A warning for anyone who can relate to my wimpy mouth – the bread comes toasted, so watch for sharp corners! As a hardened clubhouse fan, Matt didn’t seem to mind one bit. He did look concerned, however, while he watched how big my bites were during our habitual plate swap. Sharing is caring, honey!
Matt also opted for their made-from-scratch borscht, an obvious choice for the side as it’s packed with cabbage, potato, onion, carrot, dill, bell pepper, celery and chicken or sausage, depending on the day – practically a salad, if you ask me! (And one that’s socially acceptable to top with sour cream!)
I rarely order sweets with lunch and Matt falls onto the “never ever” side of the daytime dessert spectrum, but at Country Cousins you have to make an exception for their fabulous pies. Each visit has been made with the intention of slowly working through their dessert menu, but their cream pie selection is always too tempting to pass up. We’ve enjoyed their coconut cream and peanut butter pies in the past, but this time we shared a slice of banana cream ($5.30). There was a tiny little slice of pie pastry buried under a mountain of flavoured custard, soft discs of sliced banana and sweet whipped cream. The lovely filling just pours over the sides of the crust and fills your dessert plate. I can guarantee you’ll be in pure bliss with a slice of this pie – until you try to fit your swollen body inside your car after the meal, that is.
Country Cousins (110 1st St NE Linden, AB) is home to unbelievably delicious comfort food at reasonable prices. Their sticky cinnamon buns, pies and other desserts have people driving up from Calgary and beyond. Word to the wise: bring a cooler so you can take home a whole pie $18.90 or a slice to go from their bakery counter. There’s absolutely nothing not to love about this beautiful small town staple (other than their lack of a second location right next to my home) and I highly recommend Country Cousins for a lunch or brunch just an hour outside of Calgary.