Dining Out: Cartago boosts bar culture in Forest Heights

Surely one of the measures of any city worth its salt is the ability to support unpretentious local establishments dispensing decent food and drink to regulars, most of whom live within walking distance. Call them neighbourhood pubs, cocktail bars, local bistros, whatever — these places can underpin the very notions of community, civility and urbanity. And fun.

Due to decades of wildly misguided, sexist, Calvinist drinking laws and lobbying by politically-connected hotel associations, it has taken cities in the Canadian prairies many years to begin to catch up with the rest of the world in this regard, and we still have a ways to go.

Which is why every new flower that blooms in this realm outside the power drinking vortexes of the city and region deserves attention. Such a flora is Cartago, which opened in Forest Heights a year ago and continues to win new friends from within and without the ‘hood.

It’s a sleek, attractive, modernist space, occupying part of the ground floor of a nifty corner apartment block. In a few months, a delicatessen/coffee shop operated by the same folks will join Cartago next door. The vibe is urban-sparse — slate grey, subdued, cool…

The tasteful logo is of a jockey on a racehorse, and there is a galloping racehorses motif throughout the room The menu is resolutely German-inspired.

None of which seems to have anything to do with the fact that the place is named for a provincial city in Costa Rica. I’ve always wanted to ask over a half-dozen visits, but finally queried our server the other night — (BTW, the servers are generally terrific) — what’s up with the Cartago creation myth? Well, it turns out that these simply involve some of the proclivities of the owners, and that’s it. Somehow, the mystery and weirdness of it all adds to its charm. Could Cartago make horse racing hip again? Let’s not go too far.

Again, the deal here essentially is to have some drinks with friends and an elevated snack or two. There is an extensive rotating beer and cocktail list, along with 13 fairly-priced wines. We’ve found the Hacker Lager, Driftwood Fat Tub IPA and Pago de Araiz Roble particularly potable. Haven’t made it for weekend brunch yet, but the menu looks enticing — and more importantly, it seems the management is actually serious about energizing a notoriously mediocre cash cow.

On myriad visits, we’ve sampled most of the 15

Source:: Edmonton Journal – Lifestyle

      

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