There are restaurants in the neighbourhood, and then there are neighbourhood restaurants. As a resident of Calgary’s northwest, I have long bemoaned the dearth of both in my end of town.
Apropos of its name, 4th Spot Kitchen and Bar is located at a quaint corner in the northwest. I’m immediately taken with its warm, inviting atmosphere and well-placed array of black-and-white historical photos of surrounding ’hoods.
As the weather is mild, the small patio is full of patrons happily enjoying meals in light traffic while seated under patio umbrellas. Inside, the family-friendly main floor is all clatter and buzz. The upper floor lounge incorporates local vintage street signs in its entry stairwell and a wall-sized satellite view of northwest rooftops and yards. More private with subdued lighting, it’s a perfect setting for intimate conversation.
Fourth Spot makes a very good first impression, but its second also holds up. Our server is helpful, returning to the table frequently and offering both food and drink suggestions. This happy and helpful service is also evidenced throughout the restaurant.
A half-pound of Pier 37 mussels ($9.99) arrives post haste. These steamy little guys are way overcooked, but the broth is tops. Latticed with creamy crème fraîche, the molluscs are bathed in a lovingly simmered clam-and-vodka tomato sauce containing Spolumbo sausage slices. I like the clam-forward flavour of the broth better than the mussels themselves.
A much more filling appetizer is the salaciously named saucy balls ($11.99). This time, both sauce and meat are bang on. Massive orbs of mozzarella-stuffed AAA certified Alberta gold Angus ground beef sit ankle-deep in thick, pulpy roasted tomato sauce. Now these are meatballs! The beef has a dark, grilled outer layer that gives way to a juicy, tender interior. The small cheese centre adds visual appeal, but also another level of moistness and velvety texture. The excellent sauce sets the meat off in heavenly fashion, but is also a treat when mopped up with the plate’s two plump, individually crisped focaccia wedges.
My companion next attacks the Fat Elvis ($13.99), a honkin’ big burger dressed with blue cheese, caramelized onion, spicy mayo and topped with a fried egg. Its obese-celebrity handle implies an indulgent gastronomic mandate. Halfway through, the burger is something of a car wreck; white bun sogged with fatty meat juice, mayo and mushy cheese, its contents spilt like that of a wet piñata. My criticism is not that the burger is a mega-rich mess, but that it could be just one degree richer and messier. The egg is overdone, whereas the yolk should run when bitten into. However, the taste is well balanced. The blue cheese is punchy without overpowering the meat, though the patty could be seared a bit better. And the onions are sweet and moist.
The half-rack of “fall off the bone ribs” ($14.99) does no such thing. Though the slab needs more time on the barbecue, the pork rib portion is impressive and the excellent sauce is dark and succulent. Backing the meat up are mixed vegetables and a corn cob, all enjoyable. To accompany, I choose a bowl of coarse-cut coleslaw prepared with light vinaigrette. Its top-end crunch makes a good counterpoint to the thick and smooth baritone sauce.
For dessert, 4th Spot offers a selection of sweets prepared by Amandine Bakery and Pastry. The chocolate cake ($6.99), described as “tall dark and delicious,” is exactly as advertised and then some.
Cooking times may need adjustment, but 4th Spot deserves a slap on its hospitable back for its tasty comfort food and for being an ideal neighbourhood hangout. And though there’s still plenty of room for more, I may just have to tone down the carping about the lack of eateries in the northwest.