Neighborhood watch: Inglewood, Calgary

Inglewood street scene.

A little neighborhood adjacent to downtown, Inglewood has emerged over the last several years as one of Calgary’s most dynamic ‘hoods. Inglewood is the oldest neighborhood in a city full of new builds financed by oil revenue. Happily, the neighborhood carefully safeguards its buildings, and the façades of Ninth Avenue SE, its main strip, are in no danger of being smashed by a wrecking ball. Inglewood’s old-fashioned core is a world apart from Calgary’s go-go downtown skyline.

Inglewood is also an important neighborhood in Calgary’s cultural calculus. It is home to the Calgary Sunfest and the Calgary Fringe Festival, and sits adjacent to the Calgary Stampede, the enormous rodeo and exhibition that takes place every July. It’s also close to the Calgary Zoo and the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary.

Inglewood’s contemporary retail profile is a fascinating tangle of old-school antiques stores, new upscale home furnishings shops, and quirky outlier businesses. The area has gentrified slowly and unevenly. Many locals cite the most recent oil boom and the migration of street prostitution away from the ‘hood as essential to Inglewood’s more recent transformations.

Inglewood is home to Rouge (1240 Eighth Avenue SE), which came in at Number 60 this year in the S. Pellegrino World’s 100 Best Restaurants List. That I did not have time to have lunch at Rouge on Wednesday will haunt me for quite some time. Rouge ranked higher than any other Canadian restaurant on the 2010 Best Restaurants List.

There are other culinary delights in Inglewood. There’s the simple, organic-minded WilderNest Dream Café (1209 Ninth Avenue SE), which serves delicious breakfasts of farm fresh eggs and drip coffee delivered in little French presses. There’s also Choklat (1327A Ninth Avenue), which does a thrilling trade in chocolate and other cocoa products. The one-stop shop does everything in house, from bean to final product. The caramel and chocolate shortbread is ridiculous, as is its line of exquisite chocolate bars.

There are anarchists in Calgary, too.
Savour (1331 Ninth Avenue SE) is a lovingly curated kitchenware and food shop, opened in 2008. The kitchenware products are all of very high quality, with a handful of whimsical objects, though the shop really sets itself apart with its carefully selected edibles. The food selection prioritizes Canadian provenance, and includes a line of Alberta-based Brassica mustards.

Moonstone Creation (1416 Ninth Avenue SE) is a lovely Native art gallery and gift shop, with a range of art and practical objects created in an in-house workshop as well as by artists in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Yukon Territory, and the US. Like many of the fresher shops in the neighborhood, Moonstone Creation is a recent addition to the Ninth Avenue scene. It opened in 2009.

Inglewood’s old-school antiques legacy can be sighted at Inglewood Antiques (1221B Ninth Avenue SE), with its eclectic hodgepodge of classic decorative items, pop culture objects, and fresh, dried, and silk flowers. Inglewood Antiques, founded in 1987, sources much of its inventory from individual sellers.

Across the street there’s Circa (1226A Ninth Avenue SE), a top-notch art glass shop with vintage and contemporary offerings. Opened in 2004 by Brian Imeson, it contains mostly European mid-century glassware, originating in the Czech Republic, Italy, Sweden, and Belgium, among other places. Whether or not the astounding price tags are within your budget, this is a great place to engage in home furnishing fantasies.

Lastly, Pro Line Shooters II (1426 Ninth Avenue) is a gun shop and barbershop. Such an enterprise might appear in the abstract to be out of place on a street increasingly lined with stylish shops, yet Pro Line Shooters feels as though it fully belongs on funky Ninth Avenue. During my recent visit, the resident barber had his hands full.

Accommodations tip: Inglewood Bed & Breakfast, 1006 Eighth Avenue SE. A grand Victorian replica of house sits just a block from Inglewood’s main artery. Rooms are spic-and-span, the owners are chattily personable, and the décor is comfy with a bit of Mitteleuropa flair. On this last count, it may be no surprise that co-proprietor Helmut Schoderbock hails from Austria.

Read the entire road trip series here.

Some media support for this visit was provided by Travel Alberta. All opinions belong to the author.