Story by Sarah Deveau
DRUMHELLER, ALBERTA — Love fossils? You’ll love the Canadian Badlands in Alberta, a fossil hotbed since the 19th century. The Badlands cover a 35,000-square-mile region, with numerous urban centres perfectly placed as home bases for short road trips. Whether you’re eating in or ordering take-out for a picturesque picnic in the coulees, we’ve got your top restaurant recommendations for dining with the dinos.
The very popular Two Guys and a Pizza Place serves up creative and delicious pizzas (try the Arriba Arriba or the Perogy Pizzazz), microbrewery beer and fun dessert pizzas (choose from Apple Cinnamon, Cherry, Blueberry or Cookies N Cream).
At independent coffee shop Round Street Cafe, indulged in exceptionally well-brewed coffee and handcrafted sandwiches, soups and baking. The baked chicken, brie and avocado sandwich on multigrain bread was divine.
I really, really hope this poutine trend has some legs. At Piggyback Poutinerie, you will find a classic squeaky cheese and gravy over fries option, but why would you choose that? You could instead have buffalo chicken and blue cheese, duck confit or the eatery’s infamous Triple Porky, topped with pulled pork, maple sausage and bacon.
Yes, it’s a chain offering, but the Ric’s Grill location in Lethbridge makes my list for the view alone. The restaurant sits high above the city in a converted water tower.
The single patty burgers and generous toppings are impressive in their own right, but the 25-ounce Mammoth Burger is Jurassic sized, and the Blair Wing Project hot wings are not for the faint of heart. If you can look at the massive milkshake list without ordering one, you’re made of much stronger stuff than I.
“Our meat is sourced from farms within a 150-mile radius of Drumheller, so we support our local economy as they support us as well,” says owner Bernie Germain.
The Last Chance Saloon in Wayne and the Patricia Hotel and Steak Pit in Patricia are old-style western saloons with stylings from the early 1900s. Both feature “grill your own steak” dishes and buffalo burgers, and offer a beautiful drive from Drumheller.
A little farther out is the tiny village of Delia, home to Mother Mountain Tea House. This beautifully restored building is decorated with lovingly cared for antique furniture and gleaming fir wood floors. The restaurant also plates a killer prime rib. The attached country store sells antiques, handcrafted items and other unique finds.
In the historic Riverside neighbourhood, Zucchini Blossom Café brings together a cappuccino bar, gourmet grocery store and Mediterranean-influenced eatery. The paninis and salads are filling, and vegetarian, lactose-free and gluten-free options are available.
I have to admit, I did not expect to discover two incredibly yummy ethnic restaurants in Medicine Hat. With a population hovering around 60,000, it can be challenging for ethnic restaurants to find the balance between serving authentic cuisine or food for the masses. Luckily, Medicine Hat residents must have exceptional taste, because the food at my two favourite spots is authentic and popular. Thai Orchid Room’s chefs serve traditional family recipes from northern Thailand — the Phuket Fisherman Soup, Divine Rice Chicken and all of the curries on the menus are incredible. At the Mango Tree, fantastic Indian food is dished out. Thank goodness for the perfectly fired naan bread, ideal for sopping up every last bit of sauce in our butter chicken and lamb tikka.
WHERE TO STAY WHEN VISITING DINOSAUR COUNTRY IN ALBERTA
Holiday Inn Lethbridge
2375 Mayor Magrath Drive South
Lethbridge, Alberta T1K 7M1
Heartwood Inn & Spa
320 North Railway Avenue E.
Drumheller, Alberta T0J 0Y4
Days Inn Medicine Hat
24 Strachan Court SE
Medicine Hat, Alberta T1B 4R7