L-R, John and Carrie Jackson with their partner Connie DeSousa from Chix Eggshop. The pop art behind them is a tribute to their three moms. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia
Darren Makowichuk / DARREN MAKOWICHUK/Postmedia
When John Jackson and Connie DeSousa made their return to Calgary almost a decade ago after several years working abroad, the co-chefs seriously considered opening a breakfast restaurant. They went so far as to concept a place called 64 Degrees (in reference to the perfect temperature of a sous vide egg), but instead shifted gears and opened Charcut, which has become one of Calgary’s most celebrated restaurants.Since then, Jackson, DeSousa, and Jackson’s wife Carrie Jackson, who is also a partner in the business, have opened Charbar and the rooftop patio at the Simmons Building, but 64 Degrees never become a reality. When an opportunity arose to start a restaurant in the East Village’s new Alt Hotel (which is under the umbrella of the same group behind Le Germain Hotel that Charcut sits in), the team knew it was time to make their breakfast dreams come true with Chix Eggshop.
A large window from the attached hotel shows the interior dining area of Chix Eggshop in East Village. Jim Wells/Postmedia
Because it’s in a hotel, Chix Eggshop obviously has to cater to Alt guests, but Jackson and DeSousa also wanted to fill a void in the East Village. While Lukes in the Central Public Library does do coffee and porridge and Sidewalk Citizen in the Simmons Building makes what are arguably the city’s best cinnamon buns, the community really hasn’t had a bacon ‘n’ eggs-style breakfast joint. Much like they did with Charcut at Le Germain, the Char-team wanted to do something that got the job done for hungry hotel guests without becoming a generic “please everybody” breakfast room.“When we both worked in San Francisco, we thought the neighbourhoods there were so vibrant, so we wanted something that was really a neighbourhood restaurant,” DeSousa says. “When we opened Charbar, we were the only real restaurant in the East Village, but now that the neighbourhood is really developing, it feels like the right time and right place for this restaurant.”
The Classy Chix plate with a mimosa, cappuccino, a side order of bacon and breakfast potatoes. Jim Wells/Postmedia
Even though Charbar and Charcut are both fairly serious-looking restaurants, Jackson and DeSousa have always had a playfulness about them, which really shines at Chix Eggshop. The 60-seat restaurant’s décor is a tasteful version of retro diner kitsch, with pastel colours and comfy booths. Designer Connie Young paid homage to the mothers of the three partners — DeSousa and both of the Jacksons dug up youthful photos of their moms (Dolores, Louise, and Helen), which have been converted into pop-art portraits and a trippy custom-made wallpaper. Service is very relaxed and astonishingly quick: Chix is counter service only and customers are required to seat themselves. Overflow seating is available on the clever “indoor patio” in the hotel’s lobby.Jackson and DeSousa promoted Charcut sous chef Jess Stone to head the Chix kitchen and together they created a “fast-fine diner” menu that emphasizes the beauty of both the chicken and the egg. The signatures are a collection of breakfast sandwiches that Jackson stresses are meant to “drip down your arm” as you eat them, most notably the Hot Chix ($13.95), which is a piece of crispy chicken with Nashville-style hot sauce, a cage-free over-medium egg, buttermilk mayo and celery slaw served in a brioche bun, and the Miss Piggy ($12.95), stacked with the crispiest bacon you’ll ever see, creamy cucumber dressing, tomato and another one of those cage-free eggs. There are also breakfast classics like a French toast pie with brown sugar vanilla custard ($12.95) and healthier options like the Kick Start berry smoothie bowl ($14.95) with natural granola and local honey, and the Olympian Cobb salad ($13.95) made with veggies from Inspired Greens. Day drinking is not discouraged at Chix: there’s a boozy slushy machine churning away on the counter as well as a curated selection of premium canned cocktails.
The Kickstart Smoothie Bowl at Chix Eggshop. Jim Wells/Postmedia
“It’s that balance between healthy and happy,” Jackson says. “There are dishes that keep you active and feeling amazing and also some that are about indulging and deliciousness. We’ve really put a focus on blending those two words: healthy and happy.”Chix Eggshop is located at 635 Confluence Way S.E. and can be contacted at chixeggshop.com. The restaurant is open daily from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The giant warm half-pound chocolate chip cookie at Chix Eggshop. Jim Wells/Postmedia
* * * *In other restaurant news, Taiko Canteen, a new 3,000-square-foot food market and music hall just opened in Manchester. Billed as an un-restaurant, the venue brings together the food of the Taiko Taco and Zilfords Fried Chicken food trucks, rotating taps of local beer and, because people like to have fun while they’re eating bao tacos and fried chicken, Lucky Putt mini-golf. Table reservations are not accepted, but you can book a tee time to take in a round of putting. It’s all located at #107, 3851 Manchester Road S.E., with more info available at taikocanteen.com.Also, the selection of restaurants at Westman Village in Mahogany continues to grow. Sweet ‘n’ savoury pie company Pie Junkie just announced that it will be opening its third location (there already are shops in Wildwood and Kensington) later this fall, just in time for anyone looking for a better-than-homemade pumpkin or pecan pie to serve at Thanksgiving dinner.Elizabeth Chorney-Booth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @elizaboothy or Instagram at @elizabooth