Located 30 minutes down Highway 2 from Calgary’s most southern border, High River, Alta. is a town that should be on your day trip radar. Many will remember it as being the hardest hit area of the 2013 floods, but three years later, the town has stood strong and has largely rebuilt. Scratch the surface of High River and you will find unique restaurants and food producers focusing on local ingredients and that small-town feeling we all crave.
Evelyn’s Memory Lane Café
Evelyn’s is High River’s well-known 1950s-style diner, and for good reason. Still rooted in its earliest beginnings as an ice cream shop, the café is now well known for its lunch menu and baked goods—down to earth with a bit of funk, according to current owner Hubert Aumeier. Today, you’ll find former owner Evelyn Zabloski behind the counter, preparing freshly made sandwiches on the heartiest of breads, longtime staff dishing out generous slices of pie, and Aumeier convincing you to add a scoop of ice cream on top. Aumeier has mixed old with new, staying true to Evelyn’s home-cooked meal roots while including ingredients that tickle current taste buds, while adding gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options. The beef stew is a menu staple (even in the summer months) with longtime fans calling to see if it’s available that day. Also popular is the fresh-roasted Hutterite chicken sandwich. Whatever you choose, leave room for dessert. From the Vegan Gold ice cream (coconut, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, maple syrup) to the strawberry rhubarb pie or the carrot cake, they’re all decisions you won’t regret.
High River Farmers’ Market
A long-standing community tradition, the High River Farmers’ Market is a one-stop shop for fresh summer produce, breads, baked goods and locally-made trinkets. It is also the place to find new businesses and food producers that are just getting started. During the flood, the farmers’ market continued to operate in one of the few locations that were accessible, showcasing how committed the people of High River are to ensuring the area’s success. This year’s market runs on Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. along 4 Avenue SW from June 16 to September 29.
Greidanus Honey Mill
Honey is a hot topic in High River with the town recently allowing residents to keep beehives in their backyards (license and training required). Luckily, visitors don’t have to look far to find locally-produced honey to take home. Greidanus Honey Mill is just a few minutes southwest of High River and easily accessible off the Highway 2A overpass. This family-run farm only sells a small amount of its own raw honey and beeswax candles at local farmers’ markets and at the mill. If you’re a honey junkie, call ahead and plan a visit while they are they are extracting this liquid gold. During this time, you’ll be able to bring your own container for them to fill up. What’s sweeter than this?
Highwood Crossing Foods
If you’re a Southern Albertan, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard about Highwood Crossing Foods. The 120-year-old family farm produces organic crops, and in 1996, began cold-pressing organic canola and flaxseed oils. It has formed alliances with other local organic producers to ensure it always has the crops on hand to produce fresh, made-to-order oils each week. Highwood Crossing Foods has expanded to produce organic whole grain flours, granola, baking mixes and hot cereals, all of which, along with the oils, are produced at its processing facility on Centre Street. Take a drive past and then head over to Highwood Natural Foods to pick up a few of the products. Don’t fret if you can’t make it in—retail stores, hotels, bakeries and restaurants across Canada use and sell the products too.
Fun fact: Highwood Crossing’s steel oats won first place in the Specialty Porridge Division of the 2010 World Porridge Championships in Carrbridge, Scotland!
Back in 1974, Highwood Distillers chose High River as the perfect place to set up shop because of its Rocky Mountain water supply (it has its own well) and the availability of local grains. Still Alberta-owned, the distillery produces over 100 liquids—made onsite from the area’s grains when possible (except the rum and tequila)—under it’s own umbrella brand as well as a few others. With this diverse range, Highwood Distillers products might already be lurking in your liquor cabinet. If not, you’re going to want to try the distillery’s White Owl Whisky, a colourless whisky aged 10 years in a charred oak barrel. It’s the whisky’s lack of colour that lends itself to cocktails, in place of other clear spirits such as vodka or white rum. Hint: Use it in a Caesar instead of vodka for a bit of added spice.
Find Highwood Distillers products at local liquor stores or in your own hometown at liquorconnect.com.
Hitchin Post Drive-In
When Carmen Lamoureux was three years old, her parents bought the Hitchin Post Drive-In and began serving burgers and milkshakes from the welcoming window at the corner of 12 Avenue and Centre Street SW. Calling the Hitchin Post a part of her, Lamoureux spends six days a week making the menu’s hamburgers from scratch every morning and then cooking them each evening. This adds up to about 360 lbs of freshly ground beef sourced from one of her neighbours, Foothills Custom Meats. Locals recommend trying the mushroom and HP burgers with a real strawberry milkshake and a side of battered mushrooms. Once you know your favourites, call ahead and place your order to avoid long lineups during peak hours.
It’s also helpful to check the Hitchin Post’s Facebook page for the drive-in’s hours before you go, as they change due to weather. If it’s a warm winter, they often open, so you can cool down during chinooks with a milkshake.
FYI: The drive-in is cash-only.
One of the most neat and portable food items made in High River can actually be found in grocery stores across Western Canada. High Riverite Christiane Gossen developed the Via Bar, a certified-organic, gluten-free, whole grain and vegan energy bar, in 2010. From taste tests in her own kitchen, Via Bars are now made by hand in the commercial kitchen located in the lower level of Gossen’s home. The passion and hard work behind each Via Bar is evident through Gossen’s knowledge and commitment to healthy and clean ingredients. For example, the two chia flavours have chia seeds listed as the first ingredient. Drawn to raw seeds, Gossen says they are “power-packed nutrient-filled elements of nature,” and each bar has a little over a gram of Omega-3 fatty acids and four grams of fibre. Find the bars at High River’s Co-op, Stephen’s No Frills, Sobeys and Highwood Natural Foods for a snack on your way home. Stay tuned for a few new flavours (the line is currently at 10 different bars) and some new ingredients too.