The Coup Ethical Vegetarian Restaurant
Since going vegan, I’ll admit my fine dining experiences have been pretty lacklustre. Granted, our favourite restaurant is a steakhouse, so I suppose I’m asking for it. Still, my husband has noticed I’m not exactly crazy about dining on lettuce, and so, Friday night he suggested dinner at The Coup, a self-described modern ethical vegetarian restaurant here in Calgary, Alberta.
It was our first time eating there, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I grew up in a crunchy granola town in the Pacific NW, where our local vegetarian restaurant was a glorified cafe’s with bad food and worse service. Honestly, I was a little nervous my omni husband would be disappointed.
The Coup doesn’t take reservations, so when we arrived there was a 30 minute wait. I always take this as a good sign. The place is very popular! We left our name and cell number with the friendly hostess, and went for a walk on 17th Ave, which is filled with window shopping opportunities. It was a pleasant way to spend the wait.
When we returned, they were just cleaning our table. The dining room was bustling with a wide variety of patrons. Hipsters, business people, eager looking college students and even Louis Vuitton-toting fashionistas were well represented. I breathed a secret sigh of relief. No secret vegan handshake necessary – this was a vegetarian restaurant pretty much everyone could feel comfortable in.
After being seated, we checked out their wine list. There were only about 5 red wines, but they were well-chosen to satisfy pretty much any taste. We sampled two, with encouragement from our attentive server, and chose the 2013 Milou Rouge – a full bodied, fruity 50/50 Grenache Syrah blend from the South of France. Delicious, biodynamic and eco-conscious!
As an appetizer, we had the tandoori cauliflower wings. Our waitress warned us they were rather spicy, but we found them to be mild, although the chimichurri sauce on the side was a tad hot.
For the main course, I was definitely determined NOT to have salad! I spotted their burger immediately. The “Upstream Burger” has a roasted garlic, yam and seed patty, topped with fresh dill, mixed greens and red onion rings. It comes on a ciabatta bun spread with garlic aioli sauce. Vegan aioli! Could it get any better? As a side, I ordered the Rosemary Yam Fries, which were tender and flavourful. My husband ordered the exact same thing, except he had the chimichurri mayo, instead of the aioli.
Copycat! Haha, no, one of the main reasons we both ordered the burger is that it is part of the Mealshare program. Mealshare is a fantastic program that partners with restaurants, and places their logo next to an item or two on the menu. When a customer orders a ‘Mealshare Item’, they get their food, plus restaurant donates a meal to youth in need. Since the Upstream Burger is one of the most popular items at The Coup, they’ve donated at least 7,236 meals by last count!
When my burger arrived, I ate it like a proper burger (no utensils for me!). My husband is less barbaric, and used knife and fork to dig in. I was in heaven. So full of flavour! But also very garlicky. Definitely not something to order on a date if you’re the only one eating garlic! Thankfully, my husband was eating the same thing, so the fact that my breath could’ve stopped a truck at 50 paces didn’t phase him.
I couldn’t believe how filling my meal was! My husband managed to finish his, but I only managed half. I’m no lightweight, but I’m so used to having salad at restaurants that it felt weird to be so full! Plus, we NEVER skip dessert, so I needed to save some room.
After a discussion with our server (and stopping to catch our breath after the main course), we went with the vegan carrot cake. It was really good (especially the buttercream frosting – I have no idea how they did it, but it was incredible). However, next time I think we’ll get the chocolate torte, because we found the carrot cake a bit too dense – almost like a cheesecake, which just seems strange in a carrot cake (I like my carrot cake dense, but with a discernible crumb – just a matter of preference). I’m not complaining, though! There wasn’t a crumb left behind.
We’ll be returning. After becoming accustomed to paltry pickings on Friday night at the steakhouse, it was overwhelming to have so many choices! I really enjoyed the atmosphere, and it’s much more my style than the crunchy veggie cafes I remember. The decor is lovely – our server told us that the owner studied interior design, and it shows. It’s very Dwell-magazine-ish – lots of wood, complete with a wrap-around living wall on one side of the bar. Very ModVegan (or ModVegetarian, as the case may be).
The service was impeccable, and I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, but for some reason I anticipated a bunch of judgy, disdainful hipsters looking down their noses at patrons. Of course, there’s a reason places like that never seem to last long!
Calgary is in the middle of a massive economic downturn, so it’s a tough time for any restauranteur. Yet, if last night’s crowd is any indication, i The Coup seems to be bursting at the seams, in spite of the tough climate. The attractive interior, delicious food, ethical focus and friendly service set it apart as a vegetarian restaurant, and it’s no wonder they’ve been around for 12 years. I look forward to seeing what their future holds. Perhaps a second location or spinoff restaurant when the economy here picks up again?