Ironwood Bar & Grill, CalgaryThe Ironwood Stage and Grill is a perfectly sized venue for live music (mostly roots, blues, folk, country). It used to be in a Quonset hut which, while quaint, doesn’t compare to their new digs in the renovated Garry Theatre.

The place is fabulous: an intimate stage, comfortable tables with unobstructed views, and an awesome, friendly staff. Now add to that a kitchen that does stellar pub food.

I ordered the hearts of romaine salad ($9) as a starter and was warned by the server (“it’s not a Caesar salad”) that it’s gigantic and I should probably share it. He wasn’t kidding — it filled a dinner-sized plate. It was great with a creamy sundried tomato dressing, asiago cheese, olives and homemade garlic croutons.

I had the special pasta of the day, which was a lobster linguine for $16! I was soo happy that a) there was fresh lobster meat in it, and b) it wasn’t drowning in a rich cream sauce. Instead, it was tossed in some olive oil, a tiny bit of cream and capers.

Jason got the battered fresh halibut ($13 for one piece/$17 for two). The thick, meaty fish with a just-right batter was amazing — so tasty that the artichoke tartar sauce on the side wasn’t even touched.

Ironwood Stage & Grill, CalgaryThere are five flatbreads on the menu, which I snubbed, because the term “flatbread” makes me think tiny pita bread with melted cheese and a sad clump of diced tomatoes on top. Boy, was I wrong. The couple next to us got a vegetarian flatbread which was a huge pizza with artichokes, grilled portobello, roasted red pepper, goat cheese and sundried tomato pesto. For $13, it fed both of them.

Other intriguing items I want to go back to try: lamb meatloaf with onions braised in beer and feta cheese, and chicken lasagna.

If you aren’t there for a concert, you can stay in the front lounge area and still order from the menu. Otherwise, you should make reservations for a table in the main room. Your cover charge will be added to your bill at the end of the night.

I can’t think of very many places in Calgary where you can get a great meal, great service AND sit and watch live music (and have drinks brought to you).

Ironwood Stage and Grill, 1229-9th Ave. SE, (403) 269-5581. Open for lunch and dinner.

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