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August 01, 2015

The thrill of the Loop

Marda Loop offers casual conveniences, trendy style

Shelley Boettcher

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Lovely Marda Loop has a little of everything: a summer festival, cafés and patios, businesses and grocery stores. It is the quintessential inner-city community: energetic, vibrant and oh so hip.

Vintage older homes nestle next to sweeping infills and new builds, and gorgeous condos offer convenience and comfort. The exciting redevelopment of Currie Barracks just across Crowchild Trail lends added energy to the Marda Loop scene.

Live here, and you can pretty much walk anywhere you need to go, from yoga class to dinner and beyond.

“It is a great neighborhood for independent businesses, with many customers within walking distance and many more passing through on their way home,” says Wade Sirois, owner of Infuse Catering and Forage — Farm to Fork Foods to Go. He’s lived in the community for 20 years, and, he says, “there is always something interesting going on.”

Located on 33rd and 34th Avenues S.W. between Crowchild Trail and 19th Street S.W., Marda Loop cuts through the neighbourhoods of Altadore and South Calgary, and is technically the business revitalization zone name, rather than an official neighbourhood.

The area gets its name after Marc and Mada Jenkins, a couple who owned a neighbourhood movie theatre that they named Marda Theatre, a combination of their first names. It opened in 1953 and closed in 1988. As for the loop part? It refers to the now-defunct Marda trolley car, which travelled to 20th Street and 33rd Avenue S.W. before making a loop, literally, back downtown.

One of the city’s trendiest, most popular areas, Marda Loop now features a wealth of places to eat and shop. Here, a few of our favourites:

Get caffeinated
The popular local Phil and Sebastian Coffee Roasters has a wonderful location in Marda Loop at 2043 33rd Avenue S.W. Alas, it was flooded earlier this year; it’s scheduled to reopen at the end of June. Go for the perfectly pulled espressos and lattes; stay for the uber-cool ambiance and delicious baking. (Go to philsebastian.com for more details.)

Find dining
The Farmer’s House Restaurant (2138 33rd Avenue S.W., farmershouse.ca) is a family-friendly eatery with a cozy atmosphere and a beautiful patio. The friendly team behind it focuses on locally sourced ingredients and homestyle cooking. The classic Caesar salad features house-made dressing and just enough bacon. And don’t forget to ask about the daily specials.

Anew Table (3574 Garrison Gate S.W., anewtable.ca) offers French-inspired cuisine that literally changes daily, depending on what’s in season. Choose from a prix-fixe (set course) menu with three or five courses. A recent dish? Asparagus and watercress veloute with a poached egg and toasted breadcrumbs.

Fergus and Bix (2018 33rd Avenue S.W., fergusandbix.com) is your stop for great local and craft beers. Dead Frog, Last Best, Wild Rose, Alley Kat and Stanley Park are a few of the names on the list. Try one or sample a flight of three. And get a burger. The Father’s Office burger features a half-pound prime rib patty, house-made barbecue sauce, alder-smoked cheddar and a brioche bun.

Forage: Farm to Fork Foods to Go (3508 19th Street S.W., foragefoods.com) has long been a favourite for busy Calgarians who want to eat well but don’t have the time to prepare everything at home. Pick up an order of butter chicken, the Vietnamese chicken salad or the Rickety Uncles (aka butterscotch bars.) “I’ve been eating them since I was a kid and they still do it for me,” says Sirois with a laugh. It’s all good.

A few blocks away, Red Tree Kitchen (2129 33rd Avenue S.W., redtreecatering.com) features similarly delicious stuff: beautiful salads, pastas, olive oils, crackers, dips and chocolate. (They have Ppura Fire-Roasted pasta, which is made with wheat that is literally roasted over wood after harvest.) Red Tree is also a great place to buy gift baskets of edible goodies for friends and family.

Shop till you drop
Independent boutiques abound! Wild About Flowers (2133 33rd Avenue S.W., wildaboutflowerscalgary.com) is perhaps the prettiest flower shop in the city. The coolers are colour-blocked: all the red flowers together, all the yellow flowers, all the white. Gorgeous, and so are the arrangements.

Doo-Dads (2133 33rd Avenue S.W., next door to Wild About Flowers) has gift ideas for everyone: jewelry, handbags, kids’ stuff and more.

And then there’s Wanderlust Trading Company (2205 33rd Avenue S.W.) for colourful imported clothing and accessories.

Get fit
Bikram Hot Yoga Marda Loop (Second floor, #216, 2031 33rd Avenue S.W., calgarybikram.com) is your place to go to get fit and relieve stress. The Friday night drop-in class is half-price if you’re looking for a deal, but there are myriad wonderful classes offered throughout the week, too.

Have fun
Don’t miss the annual Marda Gras festival, on August 9 this year. What you can expect? Dance groups, musicians, cultural performers, food, and a lot of fun-loving people dressed in purple, green and gold. Go to mardagras.ca for details.

The Marda Loop Justice Film Festival features films that address human rights, environment and social issues. Screenings take place throughout the year. For more details, go to justicefilmfestival.ca. 

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