We met up with Brad Taylor this week to talk about his new restaurant called Briggs, which just opened up a few months ago. Briggs is located on 10th Avenue’s once dead strip of real estate that has come alive in recent years with Craft Beer Market, the National Beer Hall, and now Briggs setting up shop.
Taylor he was just in the midst of working on the new menu that is scheduled to roll out the first week of December when we sat down with him. Briggs has been open for almost four months now, and so far the reviews are great. This is the place you want to come if you are looking for generous portions, affordable handcrafted cocktails and a decent brunch that won’t leave you waiting in the cold for an hour.
Perhaps the best way to sum up Briggs is by just two words: Approachable and simple. The whole concept behind Briggs came about a few years ago. Taylor had been working in the restaurant business a long time; for the Fuller family for 23 years, earning his stripes at Earls, and then at Joey’s, before moving into a the role of Director of Operations for the group, which meant overseeing Joey’s, the SaltLik and Local in Calgary. During that time, his significant other threw him a birthday bash that was catered by none other than Xavier Lacaze (currently the Head Chef of Briggs). Something sparked during that dinner.
After sampling Lacaze’s food, Taylor started to ask himself how he could make high-end cuisine more accessible to everyone. The biggest challenge to figure out was how to get fine dining to people in a casual environment. For the Briggs group, you shouldn’t have to walk into a fine dining restaurant to drink out of Reidel glasses, experience top-notch service or to dine in a beautiful space. The concept for Briggs was further refined when Taylor found a solid fuel broiler in Chicago. Briggs now employs two ovens that are mesquite charcoal instead of gas, which means that all the meat is cooked over an open flame. The ovens were a perfect fit for the restaurant’s desire for simplicity.
During the development phase of the restaurant, the Briggs team visited 51 restaurants all over North America to make sure they had done their homework. The most notable places they visited were New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Phoenix. Taylor credits Au Cheval and the Girl and the Goat in Chicago as making a major impression. For the interior of the restaurant, Briggs employed Anna Maria Wurz of Avid Interiors. Wurz travelled extensively with the Briggs team as they made their way around the United States dining in signature restaurants and doing their research. Wurz also stuck to the vision of approachability and simplicity. The restaurant is inviting with warm lighting, rustic décor and exposed brick. The goal was to create a space that was not so much trendy, but rather gave off more of a vibe that it had been around for a while. There can’t be any wardrobe errors here; the room is meant to accommodate people coming from the office, along with those wearing jeans and a t-shirt.
This is an exciting time in Calgary’s food scene and Taylor is happy to see how many people are on board with the movement and how quickly restaurant culture here is evolving. While he considers Calgary’s food scene to be a little young, he also thinks it’s on a very aggressive path. He forecasts the local food scene to be nothing short of amazing in the next five years.
So what are the must-have food items? According to Taylor, the most approachable thing on any menu is the burger… and that’s what they’re recommending (Chuck Burger). The 48 oz. Tomahawk Bone-in Rib Eye is also getting a lot of attention. Apparently many guys who want to go on a hero night have tried to tackle the Tomahawk on their own. When the chef actually brought a gigantic rib eye to the table, one couldn’t’ help but be reminded of the scene in the Great Outdoors with the Old 96’er.
The new menu for Briggs will be out in the next few weeks and will include nine new menu items with a few revisions. The lunch options are being expanded, there will be more focus on veggies, and there may be even a few little tweaks to the burger.
You can expect many more exciting changes in the months to come and we’ll have more to share on Briggs’ handcrafted cocktails in 2014.
Top photo courtesy Briggs