Sugarbowl is somewhat of an icon, a fixture if you will, in the Garneau neighbourhood. Located a few blocks from the U of A campus, it's almost like a rite of passage for all university students to dine here at least once. I've gone a handful of times during my schooling, as it's one of those places that's always there if you don't know where else to go.
Part bistro and part pub, Sugarbowl is always packed, no matter the time of day. It has a relaxed and casual atmosphere in a small and cozy setting. With exposed brick, a diverse comfort food menu, and an extensive selection of craft and Belgian beer, it's a super hip joint without the pretense.
I had the week off from work, so rather than bum around the house (like I did with the majority of my time), I decided to meet up with SC and AL for lunch after their classes. We were able to secure our choice of table, and had a lovely time catching up.
Sugarbowl's most well-loved menu item is also their most elusive. The infamous cinnamon bun ($4.50) is only served during breakfast and brunch, typically selling out around noon. Basically, get there early to avoid disappointment!
We were there shortly after 12:00 and asked the waitress if there were any left. She had to go to the back to check, but thankfully returned with good news. Out of the three remaining, we went ahead and ordered one. Served toasted and slightly warm, the cinnamon bun was massive and definitely made for sharing. Underneath the cinnamon sugar bark, the centre was fluffy and pillowy soft. It was surprisingly not as sweet as I was expecting, especially when compared to its mall counterpart.
Up next was AL's mac 'n cheese ($13.00), which was made with Applewood smoked cheddar. A large hearty portion of elbow macaroni, smothered and then baked in a creamy cheese sauce. This is comfort food to the nth degree.
SC decided on the chalkboard daily special which was a Four Whistle farm beef burger ($14.00) with sriracha mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickle, and a slice of Gouda cheese. With any of the burgers or sandwiches at Sugarbowl, you also get a choice of side. Options include fries, yam fries, soup, mixed greens, or a Caesar salad. SC decided on the soup of the day, which was creamy tomato and dill. With the burger, SC thought that the patty lacked flavour on its own, but made up for it with the sriracha mayo.
For my main dish, I chose the chicken & waffles ($15.00): a buttermilk, spice marinated chicken breast served on top of waffles with watermelon salsa and a maple butter sauce. It seems like every restaurant now has its own reiteration of chicken and waffles, but I distinctly remember Sugarbowl as the place where I had my first encounter. It was near the beginning of my university career, so ordering this specific dish at Sugarbowl (for me at least) will always carry a bit of nostalgia with it.
They've tweaked the recipe somewhat and added a watermelon salsa, but I felt it really wasn't necessary. The waffles, however, were still its characteristic fluffiness, with just a bit of crispness around the edges. Although they usually are pretty good at keeping the chicken juicy, this visit, I found the chicken to be a bit tough and somewhat stringy and dry.
Overall, a great place to hang as there's something on the menu for everyone. If you're not patient enough to wait through the long lines that often plague Sugarbowl, there's definitely a lot of of other places to choose from in the area. Just remember that good things do come to those who wait!