By B. Simm
CALGARY — Seventeenth Avenue from 14 St. to 4 St. SW is one Calgary’s great walkabouts. Eastbound towards Macleod Trail from 4 St., however, that stretch of sidewalk is a little less developed and consequently a little less vibrant without all the sunshine patios, bustling boutiques and glowing night lights the strip is know for. Extra measures are required to stand out along those four lonely blocks heading east.
“Yeah,” chuckles Sam Friley. “I tried to get the largest sign I could find. It’s 24 feet long!”
Friley who owns, operates and created Buttermilk Fine Waffles, is both a calculated and creative thinker with flair for adventure. Trained as a geological engineer, he fled the corporate world after a brief flirtation realizing the “office was not for him” and hop-scotched around the globe looking to sink his teeth into something he was truly passionate about.
“Food has been a huge part of my extended family for a long time. My grandparents came from Texas during the oil boom in the ‘50s. We grew up with southern food, which has a very unpretentious approach. It’s all based on more smoke, more flavor. And being generous, not holding back on fat or salt.”
One of the many ventures Friley thought about was opening a BBQ joint. He traveled twice in one month to Chicago hoping to come back with the right idea, but something wasn’t clicking with BBQ or with his other fact-finding excursions.
“Often it’s supply. For example, being in Calgary, being on the prairies, having access to good tomatoes makes having a really great Mexican restaurant hard.”
After agonizing over several different options, Friley says, “It was really over breakfast with my brother and sister-in-law that the conversation turned to waffles and this great recipe in the family that we had forever. For ages,” Friley emphasizes. “My aunt Shannon’s buttermilk waffles.”
Friley’s older brother is Bill Friley, architect of Village Ice Cream, where the younger Friley spent a considerable amount of time learning about the industry. With his family’s blessing, he took the buttermilk recipe and ran with it.
Top of the line waffles on the menu are the H.A.M. (ham, caramelized onions, asiago, parmesan, chives) and the Arugula (arugula, cheddar, goat cheese, honey, chili oil). More cheese please, the flavour is sensational and unforgettable. You’ll have a hard time suppressing the craving for more the morning after.
There is, of course, the Classic Buttermilk served with maple syrup direct from Quebec. Or you can build your own taste explosion from an imaginative selection of fruit, creams, syrups, chocolate, cheese and nuts. If that’s not adventurous enough, come try the smoked pulled pork, BBQ sauce and coleslaw, another Friley family specialty, piled high on a dinner waffle.
The batter is carefully made with precision, and cooked with waffle irons imported from Belgian that results in the perfect blend of crispy and moist. What also deserves a very special mention is the fresh orange juice-making machine. The Zummo juicer squeezes 40 oranges a minute producing a citrus burst so amazing, you’ll never drink from the carton again.
Buttermilk faces south, and sunlight streams in all day long. It’s décor is bright, alive and contemporary, but causal, warm and relaxing as well.
“It’s very Scandinavian,” explains Friley. “Countries that are dark a lot of time, need a pop of colour, something to break that dimness.”
Friley wants Buttermilk not only to be a fabulous eatery, but also to breakout and become a meeting place, an alternative to the bar where people gather to read their newspapers and magazines (which there’s a wall full of them hanging on racks), engage in conversation and drink coffee (he serves a custom blend courtesy of Phil and Sebastian) and also has movie nights on Mondays dubbed as Buttermilk Cinema, which runs from “8 p.m. to late.”
Driven by an abundance of ideas and energy Friley reveals he loves being part of the food and restaurant business because “it’s incredibly interactive, and probably runs at the same speed my brain runs. And that,” smiles Friley, “makes it a peaceful place.”
Buttermilk Fine Waffles is located at 330 – 17 Ave. SW.AB, Alberta, breakfast, Buttermilk Fine Waffles, food and drink, waffles