The Simmons Building: A Historic Gem on the Bow Trail

Along the east end of Calgary’s beautiful Bow Trail and in the recently developed East Village neighbourhood sits the Simmons building. Established in the early 20th century as a mattress factory and baring all the charming aesthetics of old-industrial architecture, this building stands today as a brick-and-mortar establishment hosting three notable Calgary businesses: Charbar, Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters, and Sidewalk Citizen Bakery.

The Simmons Building: a Historic Gem on the Bow Trail

The East Village Neighbourhood Association has been keeping a keen record on Simmons’ over 100-year long history, including a brief period of time when the building was completely abandoned. However, due to an initiative by the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation aimed at reviving the neighbourhood, the interior was repurposed to become a sprawling hub for local businesses. Many agree that Simmons’ original 1912 design, featuring exposed brick walls and an open concept, reflects a 20th century cultural shift – one that emphasizes the strengthening of cities and communities. One visit to Simmons today proves that the same concept is echoed in the gathering of people from all over Calgary to share some of the best food and coffee the city has to offer.

Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters

If you were to enter the Simmons Building from its south-facing doors, you would first notice the emerald marble countertops of Phil & Sebastian’s espresso bar. Directly across the bar is the roastery and Phil & Sebastian’s first and only refurbished drum roaster. The floor-to-ceiling windows allow each visitor to Simmons an intimate view of the roastery’s operations, which includes the roasting of raw coffee beans. After the show, you can taste the process for yourself by ordering a number of espresso-based drinks from the counter (or a drip coffee, if you like to keep it simple). Phil & Sebastian is known around Calgary for the delicate, citrusy, and floral notes of their lighter roasts. The Simmons location is also one of the few that offers brew-to-order drip coffee.

Sidewalk Citizen Bakery

For breakfast, brunch, or lunch, Sidewalk Citizen is one of the best spots around the city. You will find the bakery directly north of the building from Phil & Sebastian. Guests who are hoping to get ahead of Sidewalk Citizen’s line – which can extend out the doors of the building on a busy day – are able to order both their baked goods and Phil & Sebastian coffee from the same counter (just pick up the drinks back at the espresso bar). Sidewalk Citizen’s menu includes everything from a rotating selection of sweet and savoury pastries, to fermented sourdough bread, to a breakfast and lunch menu featuring daily-made sandwiches and soups.

Echoing the open concept at Phil & Sebastian, the kitchen offers an open view and an enticing taste of what goes on behind the scenes. There, guests can watch as future sourdough batches (made with a 9-year-old starter named “Freddie” by staff) are shaped and cut by hand. And, for those wishing to spend some time admiring the Simmons Building and its historic interior design, there are seating options on both the main and upper levels.

Charbar

With two storeys inside the Simmons Building and a magical setting along the Bow River, Charbar is a notable destination for local, sustainable ingredients assembled with a Latin American theme – seen in dishes like the Argentinian-inspired “Fugazza” (deep-dish) pizza made with a local dough. Charbar’s commitment to elevating their community through supporting all local businesses is reflected in their partnerships with Phil & Sebastian and Sidewalk Citizen. Therefore, guests are welcome to enjoy any drink from the café, even while sitting out on Charbar’s rooftop patio with views of Calgary’s skyline and the rushing river.

In order of the three businesses inside the Simmons Building, Charbar should be the last – but not least – destination. At the hostess stand, you’ll be welcomed by a fridge full of thick, marbled steaks which themselves are a hint to the elevated quality of ingredients on the menu. From there you will be introduced to Charbar’s elegant dining room, its modern design accented by the wooden beams and exposed brick of Simmons’ original architecture. It is certainly a unique and enticing setting for a meal made with Calgary’s best, local ingredients.

 

 

About Bailey Seyts 13 Articles
Bailey Storey is an Honours Bachelor of Arts Graduate from the University of Toronto, where she double majored in English and art history. Since completing her degree, she has worked as a freelance writer for various online publications throughout Toronto and Calgary, the latter being where she currently resides. While completing her final year at the University of Toronto, she was runner-up for the Lorne Tepperman Prize in Public Writing in response to her article on St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Red Deer, Alberta. Bailey has the most experience writing about the arts due to her academic background and hobbies – which include painting and screenwriting. Most recently, she is attending SAIT’s Film & Video Production program with intentions to extend her writing career into the entertainment industry.