Abe’s creates the fas-cas dining experience
Bernie Levert is accustomed to seeing folks enter Abe’s Restaurant, walk right past the front counter and the giant menu, take a seat at a booth and start tapping on their phones.
A few seconds later when they put their phones down the printer in his kitchen starts up. It makes Levert happy, knowing that his customers have ordered lunch using the app he created.
Customers then get a text confirming their order and a few minutes after that a second text follows to say their burger, sandwich or salad is ready, made fresh.
“It’s not full service but you are sitting on good furniture, you get china and real cutlery and you’re not given a plastic bag for $15”
They don’t even have to talk to a single person if they choose not to.
“I also see people waiting outside in their vehicles for their texts,” Levert says.
Orders take about 10 minutes, so in no time customers can get back to the business of the day, feeling good that they have had a fresh, tasty meal at fast-food speed.
Abe’s Restaurant, located in Kingsview Heights, opened in March 2015 and quickly established itself as a go-to spot for fast-casual – or fas-cas – dining.
Abe’s occupies the spot on the food chain between fast-food and casual fine dining. Levert’s food is all sourced locally and made in front of diners. “It’s not full service but you are sitting on good furniture, you get china and real cutlery and you’re not given a plastic bag for $15,” he says. “It’s that middle ground, so instead of paying $19 for your meal you’re paying $12 to $15.”
The diner’s name is derived from William Aberhart High School in Calgary, where Levert’s initial restaurant was scheduled to open. Abe’s in Airdrie will be followed in a few months by another location in the Mahogany community in south Calgary. Levert has for a long time owned a restaurant management company in Calgary, which currently operates Nashville North at the Calgary Stampede. Abe’s is the first restaurant he has owned entirely by himself.
The Airdrie restaurant is small at 35 seats. Customers can order at the counter or use the app (or if crowds aren’t your thing the menu can also be found at abesfood.ca, where you can order, pay and have food delivered to your residence).
“You can come in here and have burgers and fries, which are very popular of course in this community and country,” Levert says. “We also have a great fresh bar and healthy options in here. You can come in here and have a great salad and smoothie.
“Everything’s completely fresh. We don’t pull any punches. We don’t buy anything in bags or boxes,” adds the owner. “Everything is designed to come out fast. When you come in for lunch it’s not taking 40 minutes to get to you – it’s taking under 10.”
Abe’s also carries gluten-free buns that can be substituted on any of the12 burgers and sandwiches on the menu. The bun is isolated during preparation to make sure there is no cross-contamination.
“We have a fryer that’s dedicated to gluten-free fries. Nothing touches it,” Levert explains. “We have a lot of gluten-free families who come in here and they know it’s safe. Because it’s an open kitchen they can watch us and make sure it’s safe.”
A couple of the more popular items off the main menu are the Big Lion Burger (tower-stacked double beef burger, double cheddar cheese, onions, pickles, Abe’s sauce); and Skirt Steak Sandwich (thinly sliced seasoned flank steak, sautéed mushrooms, garlic-parsley aioli, lettuce, tomato, brioche bun).
“We have guys who drive up from Calgary for that thing. That’s a meaty steak sandwich. There’s steak in that thing,” Levert says.
Favourites from the fresh bar include Kale Power Salad (baby kale, romaine lettuce, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, seasonal beets, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, black chia seeds, hemp hearts, blueberries, pomegranate-lime vinaigrette) and Boston Cobb Salad (roasted chicken, cheddar cheese, maple-smoked bacon, hard-boiled egg, grape tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, crisp romaine lettuce, red wine vinaigrette).
Abe’s is open every day from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Levert and his staff also serve breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.