Curious About "The Mission", Calgary's Fantastic New Spot?
Last week we had the opportunity to have lunch at a new restaurant in our neighbourhood, Mission, appropriately titled The Mission. This spot is another gem from the geniuses who gave us Anejo and Blanco Cantina. These guys are phenomenal, and we got the chance to chat with one of the owners, Patrick Hill, about their new space, their vision and how they manage to thrive in a city with an unstable economy. We love how inspiring this company is, what they stand for, and how downright delicious their food is. At Flopsy Life we are very selective about who and what we choose to share with you - The Mission definitely makes our cut.
First Impressions of The Mission
One of the first things that drew my attention was how strong the branding is for this place. I initially assumed that with a name like The Mission and strong Catholic motifs like a cross as their logo, there was some sort of religious inspiration behind this. There is sense of religion in regards to building tradition and community, but it is in no way associated with Catholicism or Christianity. Rather, they are paying respect to the history of our neighbourhood; specifically, Father Albert Lacombe, the man who had a strong hand in developing this community. Community is the reason The Mission exists. They wanted to create a place for people of our generation to get together, whether it is for a drink, to listen to live music, or to have "family" supper. It is a place for us to gather, to share food, spend time together, and build our own traditions.
The Mission recently opened in the space that was the restaurant Candela, and some major renovations were completed. The design was done by Korr Design,and the space is absolutely gorgeous. The dark grey walls, gold accents, and natural wood features are dramatically played up by soft lighting and the huge skylight over the bar. The seating all now faces towards the center of the room so that the people, rather than the large wall of windows, are the focal point. Again, community is what makes The Mission so special, and they wanted to emphasize that. The dramatic decor is completed by the gorgeous bar directly under the sky light. Overall you get a very opulent yet approachable vibe the moment you walk into the door. The style is very Scandinavian and it feels like a better version of our home. It is comfortable, cozy, and elegant. Definitely what you want when you are finding a place to become a regular.
The menu here is remarkable, something that is consistent with their brand. Executive Corporate Chef Kevin Hill has been involved in all 4 restaurants (Anejo, Blanco, The Mission and Living Room), and you can see that his inspiration and talent know no bounds. The menu has a very global influence - they have a fabulous mix of dishes, many of which have a twist on our favourite comfort foods. We noticed a touch of both Asian and French flavours in some of the dishes, but their overall goal was just to have a menu of good food and avoid being pigeonholed. The menu has something that everyone can enjoy, but it is highly curated and not overwhelming. While the prices are similar to what you would find at something like Earls or Moxies, the quality of food is what you would find at something like Teatro or Mercato. The ingredients are fresh, the portion sizes are great, and everything is cooked to perfection.
Each meal starts of with their house popcorn, which has wasabi peas, dried apricots, nori and seasame oil. Isaac and I ordered the King Salmon Salad, the Mission Burger with taleggio cheese and bacon, and a Brussel Sprout Caesar Salad. The King Salmon Salad was absolute perfection - warm potatoes, corn, kale, snow peas and the most succulent salmon all coated in a delicious grainy mustard sauce. It was fresh, sweet, and spicy all at once.
The Mission Burger was the perfect size, and although it had some heavy ingredients on it I didn't feel heavy after eating it. The bun was soft, the aioli added great flavour but wasn't overpowering, and the beef had a very natural flavour. However, the best part was easily the Brussel Sprout Caesar Salad. This is made with shaved brussel sprouts, traditional caesar dressing, peppered bacon, and grana padano cheese. I will never be able to eat a regular caesar salad again - the combination of spicy brussel sprouts with the creamy dressing and thick chunks of bacon was HEAVENLY.
We finished it all off with an apple crumble topped with house made bay leaf ice cream. The generous portion was perfect for sharing. The warm earthiness of the crumble was perfectly balanced by the interesting flavour and freshness of the ice cream. All of this, plus two americanos, came to around $50, which is remarkable for food of this quality downtown.
One of the things that interested me most about The Mission is the fact that it is opening during a time of major shifts in income and employment. So many people have lost their jobs, and many more are facing uncertainty about whether or not their jobs are secure. After talking with Patrick we were so inspired by their ability to remain positive and strategically move forward. He pointed out that neither The Mission nor Blanco are adding seats to the economy, but are taking proven locations and restructuring them with their unique ethos.
Everything is geared towards our generation's demographic and keeps the current situation in mind -hence the lower prices for quality food. They also seem to understand that we are growing towards a more sustainable culture in which community and slowing down are what is important. This is why we love them - they fit so well with our essentialist philosophy. One of the things that Patrick said really stuck with me, especially in regards to owning a small business: "If you're not growing, you're dying." Amen.
To help bring in the community, The Mission has events running throughout the week. Everyday from 3 to 6 is happy hour, where you can grab a glass of wine, a pint or the weekly cocktail for $5. Every Thursdaythere will be live acoustic music by Lexi Strate, a local musician. On Fridays and Saturdays there are in house DJs and the place turns into the only nightclub in Mission. Finally, every Sunday they have Sunday Dinner, a place to gather your family and spend some time together before the responsibilities of the week take hold.
A theme we really noticed here was balance. You have a dark room balanced by tons of natural lighting, ornate gold with wood accents, exotic flavours with familiar dishes, and high quality food with affordable prices. And really, ins't balance what is most important in this life? Balancing the old traditions we grew up with with the ones we create ourselves, or a busy work week with time spent intentionally on what brings us joy? The Mission gives us a place where we can spend time in community focusing on the important things - good friends, good food, and good times.