I am a former journalist and editor, currently writing fiction for adults and children. Visit my website at www.karengrikitis.wordpress.com.
Published July 21st 2015
A relaxing alternative to city life
Eclectic, bohemian, quirky – Kensington Village is all of these, with its cafes, independent shops, restaurants and pubs. A favourite haunt of students and artists, this funky little neighbourhood across the 10St bridge, north of downtown Calgary, is a refreshing change from the city, and earns its stripes as an 'urban village'.
Stretching for several blocks along 10 Street NW from the River Bow and along Kensington Road NW, this vibrant district includes more than 200 establishments, several of which are housed in historic buildings.
Some of the more unusual, speciality shops worth exploring are Livingstone & Cavell Extraordinary Toys with its ranges of tin and traditional toys, The Beehive, Emerald Cowboys which sells crystals, stone and rocks, and Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut, the award-winning Canadian chocolate makers.
Notable grocery shops include Sunnyside Natural Market on 10th Street near the Sunnyside C-Train station, which sells a large range of local organic produce and delicatessen foods, and the Peasant Cheese Shop down Kensington Road.
Boutiques abound, from the more expensive Purr and James & Dickson Clothing to the ethnic, hippy outlets Manana and Bolli Imports.
There are plenty of refreshment stops along the way, such as the Red Bush Tea and Coffee Company/Candy Kid, which has cosy armchairs at the back where you can enjoy a cup of tea or coffee and cake surrounded by tea-making paraphernalia. It shares its premises with a candy store selling such delights as dark chocolate coconut cubes and flavoured honey sips.
Other coffee and tea shops include The Roasterie, the Oolong Tea Shop and Starbucks, which is housed in a 1911 former ice-cream parlour. For cold drinks Jugo Juice is a great place to stop, serving its signature veggie smoothies such as the Mighty Kale and Can't Beet This, as well as fruit-based varieties.
When it comes to restaurants, all budgets and tastes are catered for in Kensington. At the higher end is Modern Steak which is upmarket and serves some of the best steaks in town and Vero Bistro Moderne, another top-class eaterie, serving Italian and French cuisine. For noisy, busy Tex-Mex food head for Julio's Barrio, a huge restaurant on the corner of Memorial Drive opposite 10 Street bridge. There are more than 30 other eating establishments to choose from such as Original Joe's, Menyatai Japanese Noodles and Wow Chicken, a number of which have outdoor seating areas so you can enjoy your meal in the afternoon or evening sun during the summer months.
If you prefer pub grub or a pint, Molly Malone's has one of the best decks in town overlooking Kensington Crescent, while the Oak Tree Tavern boasts live music every Thursday evening. The Kensington pub, housed in two adjacent 1911 buildings, models itself on a typical English pub and serves 'traditional English comfort food' such as bangers and mash and shepherd's pie. For something a little different, try the Container Bar, described as 'beach hut meets tiki bar meets back alley in Kensington'. As the name suggests, this bijou bar, housed in the alleyway between the owner's other businesses – Winebar Kensington and Brasserie – comprises a modified shipping container and an outdoor seating area covered with an awning against inclement weather.
The 1911 building housing Starbucks, Kensington Village, Calgary
One of Calgary's three independent cinemas can also be found in Kensington. The Plaza, built in 1929 as the Regal Garage, became the Plaza Theatre in 1935 when it acquired its art deco façade, which it retains to this day. Calgary's only remaining example of a small theatre house, the Plaza shows independent, art-house movies which are changed every week or so.
Other historic buildings in Kensington include Hillhurst Presbyterian Church on Kensington Close, built in 1912 in the gothic revival style, which boasts one of the largest Sunday Schools in Calgary, and the Hayden Block, built around the same time, which currently houses the Yardhouse restaurant and pub.
Easy-going and with a small town vibe in stark contrast to the bustling, high-octane dynamic of downtown Calgary with its skyscrapers and shopping malls, Kensington Village is a breath of fresh air for locals and visitors alike, and well worth a visit.