A world-class venue with a world-class menu
Having cemented its place as one of Calgary’s most culturally relevant establishments, The Palomino Smokehouse and its dedicated cast of characters — as tattooed and rock and roll as many come — has perfected the blending of authentic southern fare with a passion for great live music and an unwavering dedication to the city it calls home.
For more than 10 years, the Palomino has delivered an inviting atmosphere for everyone from white-collar executives, to the tradesmen shaping Calgary into one of North America’s fastest growing business and cultural centres. For some, it’s a place to unwind with a cold beer — or many cold beers — and a meal akin to those found in the rustic smokehouses of the southern United States. For others, it’s a venue to catch some of the best live music in western Canada.
“The Palomino is sort of a place for all stripes and we pride ourselves on barbeque, bands and beer,” says Spencer Brown, the bar’s entertainment manager. “I’m very proud to be involved in such a community hub for art enthusiasts and business leaders and whoever else decides to come down.”
Brown, a veteran of Calgary’s music community, started at the Palomino in 2007 and is just one part of the bar’s backbone is the management and staff who work to keep the Palomino at the top of its game.
Photos this page: Justin M. Wilson
Arlen Smith, the Palomino’s general manager, says that when he came on board, the focus was to bring the bar to the next level. Smith, who has dedicated himself to a number of Calgary-based bars and restaurants over the last 15 years, says that what keeps the Palomino exciting is that everyone working between its sandstone- shaded brick walls is there to make Calgary the best Calgary it can be.
“All of the people who work here and are part of the decision making here love Calgary and love working with organizations, like Sled Island, to help make our city more interesting,” says Smith. “The biggest thing I’ve learned [over the last 15 years] is that I love being part of Calgary’s music scene and that Calgary is the best city in Canada.”
In the spirit of giving back to Calgary, the Palomino hosts a number of fundraising events throughout the year, notably, the Rock and Roll Rodeo, where all door proceeds are donated to the Alberta Children’s Hospital. As the Palomino’s annual end-of-Stampede fundraiser, more than 15 bands perform in both the venue’s log cabin-esque lower level — complete with a newly refurbished sound system — and the upper, main level, which I’m going to describe here as “gold rush-chic.” On both floors, bands and patrons are often surrounded by countrified ambiance and old-timey décor.
Brown points to the event as one of the Palomino’s standouts, adding that due to its ongoing success over the last decade, hospital donations have consistently increased. As a result, The Palomino Smokehouse now finds its name on the Alberta Children’s Hospital’s annual donor list with a number of heavy hitters from Calgary’s oil and gas industry.
“The fact that the whole donation is coming from people walking in at the end of Stampede and plunking down their $10 is pretty awesome,” says Brown, who has built solid connections with bands all over North America while loyally supporting his local scene.
“There really is something about watching young kids on the stage for the first time,” says Brown. “Then two years later, three years later, five years later, they’re playing Sled Island or touring to Canadian Music Week. It’s great to watch, and really, if I’m not helping local acts in their growth, I’m not doing my job.”
The Palomino is one of very few establishments in our great city able to accurately represent themselves as a world-class venue with a world-class kitchen. They effectively put their money where their mouth is while encouraging you to do the same with their Kansas City Pork Ribs.
Every item on the menu is made fresh daily using the largest smoker in North America. The Applewood Smoked Pulled Pork, Sliced Alberta Beef Brisket and Catfish Po Boy are smoked to absolute perfection, while the prestige of the award winning Macaroni ‘N
Photos this page: Paige Woodbury
Cheese often precedes itself, ordered by many without so much as a glance at the menu. If you can’t decide, and it can be difficult, might I recommend trying a little of everything in the form of the Palomino Fat Ass Platter?
Every year, Smith, who says he has eaten his fair share of barbeque all over North America, attends the annual SXSW Festival — spoken as “South by Southwest” — in Austin, Texas. And for him, it’s as much about the music as it is about the food. Smith brings this personal experience while working with his kitchen manager and his “very Palomino” kitchen staff to perfectly stylize the combination of culture and smoky cuisine.
“Our staff is very rock and roll. Almost everyone that works here is involved in music in some regard outside of he Palomino,” says Smith. “We have waitresses, bartenders and kitchen staff who all play in bands around the city and I think that keeps it interesting for the people here.”
As for the beer — Sweet, sweet, icy cold beer. It’s near impossible to talk about barbeque without exploring the beverage of such backyard necessity. The Palomino prides itself on serving a variety of domestic and imported beers for patrons interested in enjoying anything from the Slow Smoked Half Chicken with a chilled can of Pabst Blue Ribbon, to the spicy Chili Con Carne with a 20 oz. Big Rock Traditional Ale.
“We try to keep the beer menu to suit the food menu. We keep it diverse, but the beer is very much dictated by the clientele,” says Smith, with Brown adding, “The thing with barbeque beer is it has to mesh with the food, not overpower it. We have a good spread that way in that it catches everybody’s tastes.”
For those who have yet to make their way to the Palomino for a meal, some drinks and a show, those of us who have can’t help but feel sorry for your taste buds. You should probably make an evening out of it. Hell, whether you overindulge on pulled pork and find yourself unable to walk without loosening your trousers, or you make the acquaintance of Mr. Jack Daniels, there’s a LRT station right across the street for your evening’s convenience. So, head out. Grab some of the Palomino’s southern hospitality in our western corner.
— by Justin M. Wilson