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Chorney-Booth: Let loose with your loved one this Valentine’s Day at a new restaurant-bar hybrid


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Traditionally, romantic couples would be spending this weekend scrambling for reservations at fine dining restaurants and splurging on fancy prix fixe dinners. And while that certainly is going on this year — much to the relief of high-end restaurants that rely on Valentine’s Day business to get them through the slow post-holiday period — many sweethearts are looking for something different this Feb. 14. Many of us have spent the last two years eating meal after meal (after meal after meal) with no one other than our partner and may be looking to shake things up a little bit.

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If a sit-down champagne-and-caviar-style meal seems like too much this Valentine’s Day, why not scale it back and enjoy some drinks and more casual bites in a venue with a little bit of energy to help recharge your pandemic relationship blues? Calgary has seen several bar-restaurant hybrids open over the last few months and while they may not scream “special night out” in the way a formal white tablecloth restaurant does, for a last-minute pandemic Valentine’s Day date, they may be just what the (love) doctor ordered.

Milk Tiger staff from left, Jon Regnier, Rhiannon Lewis and Jordan Wiltshire. Brendan Miller/Postmedia
Milk Tiger staff from left, Jon Regnier, Rhiannon Lewis and Jordan Wiltshire. Brendan Miller/Postmedia Brendan Miller/Postmedia

First up is Milk Tiger Lounge, which many cocktail lovers may remember as a cool little bar that used to be located on 4th Street S.W. just north of 17th Avenue. Like everything else, it closed in March 2020 with the first round of pandemic restrictions. Unlike most other places, Milk Tiger didn’t reopen once the restrictions lifted and eventually announced that it would be moving up the street to open a larger location in Mission.

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After a long wait and a significant renovation of the restaurant space that was most recently Mr. Chen’s and was Sassi Kitchen and Bar before that, the new Milk Tiger opened at the end of December. The changes aren’t minor — the patio alone at the new restaurant is larger than the entirety of the previous location. The room is split into a plush lounge at the front of the room for former regulars who want some of the old cocktail bar vibes and a bright restaurant zone along the side of the building full of well-spaced tables for proper dining.

Milk Tiger Lounge menu item Meatloaf with mash potato, green bean casserole and onion ring garnish. Brendan Miller/Postmedia
Milk Tiger Lounge menu item Meatloaf with mash potato, green bean casserole and onion ring garnish. Brendan Miller/Postmedia Brendan Miller/Postmedia

Owner Rich Adams describes the food as “Wisconsin supper club,” a very specific genre of comfort food classics with a hint of fine dining flare. Chef Alison MacNeil, best known from her time at the sadly departed Black Pig Bistro, took some time off from a cookbook project she’s working on to act as a chef consultant, taking the menu beyond diner fare. The result is a collection of retro appetizers such as deviled eggs ($6), fried mortadella sandwiches ($14), and a meat-free French onion soup ($12) as well as entrees like a classic meatloaf, a portobello mushroom steak done Diane-style, and Portuguese-style chicken (all $22) that come with a choice of two sides ranging from gnocchi and cheese to a surprisingly elegant green bean casserole. Though it doesn’t advertise itself as such, Milk Tiger is a completely gluten-free restaurant and also offers plenty of plant-based options for vegans and vegetarians.

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Milk Tiger Lounge on 4th St. SW.  Brendan Miller/Postmedia
Milk Tiger Lounge on 4th St. SW.  Brendan Miller/Postmedia Brendan Miller/Postmedia

Drink-wise, this is still indeed the Milk Tiger Lounge that regulars will remember. The bartenders have pared down the drink list to offer reasonable price points (most of the drinks sit at about $13) and quicker service, but there are still dozens of drinks on offer, including what was the first and is probably still the best authentic Sazerac in town.

The new Milk Tiger Lounge is located at 2004 4th St. S.W. and can be reached through milktiger.ca. The restaurant is open daily from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m.

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The newly opened Whiskey Rose.
The newly opened Whiskey Rose. jpg

For something completely different, Valentine’s sweethearts may want to blow off some steam at the also newly opened Whiskey Rose Saloon, a massive country music bar that opened last December in the building that used to house Cibo. The two-level venue (with a stage for live music upstairs) is bound to get raucous once milling about in bars is allowed, but even with customers seated the music is loud, the drinks flow easily, and the food is, surprisingly enough, quite good.

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Co-owner Chris Jamieson says that he intentionally wanted to create a honky-tonk that didn’t feel like a nightclub — this isn’t intended to be Cowboys 2.0. The food is what Jamison calls “western comfort food,” which isn’t exactly traditional southern-style BBQ, but does include selections like Nashville Hot Chicken (available as a sandwich for $16 or as a platter at $21 for a half order or $35 for a full), catfish and chips ($16) and baskets of St. Louis-style ribs ($16). The kitchen’s calling card, however, is its fried bologna sandwich ($6) a greasy little booze-soaker that is only available after 10 p.m. and pairs well with any of the bar’s signature cocktails or wide selection of beer. Brunch is also available on the weekends.

Baskets of appetizers at the newly opened Whiskey Rose.
Baskets of appetizers at the newly opened Whiskey Rose. jpg

Whiskey Rose Saloon is located at 1012 17th Ave. S.W. and can be reached at 403-474-7673 or through whiskeyrosesaloon.com.

Elizabeth Chorney-Booth can be reached at elizabooth@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter at @elizaboothy or Instagram at @elizabooth.

The interior of the newly opened Whiskey Rose.
The interior of the newly opened Whiskey Rose. jpg

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