When we put out a call here at www.roadfood.com for suggestions of where to eat in Calgary, several people – including a few homesick Albertans – said that we had to go to Peter’s Drive-In.
We went, and we and found the place charming in an old-fashioned way. You drive through (or if on foot, walk up) and place your order, which is handed to you out a window in a bag and in paper cups. You then park your car and occupy one of several happy, sunlit picnic tables around the building or in an adjacent lot and have a classic drive-in meal.
While the setting is nice, most of what we ate was less compelling. A double cheeseburger was built upon two tidy patties of machine-pressed beef that had neither the luxury of a plump hand-formed burger nor the appetizing raunch of a greasy little griddle-cooked slider. They were more like school lunch. We did enjoy the sweet barbecue sauce with which the double-decker was dressed – a supercharged ketchup. And the French fries were crisp and generously apportioned.
As for Peter’s famous milk shakes, available in a rainbow of flavors from banana and blackberry to root beer and rum & butter, we won’t inscribe them in our book of groovy culinary memories, either. The maple shake is a true-Canada experience, but like the other flavors we sampled, its thickness seemed more the result of chemical suspension than of creamy dairy richness.
Still, if it’s a sunny day in Alberta and you are cruising through town along the old Trans-Canada Highway, burgers and shakes at a Peter’s picnic table are the makings of a roadside experience that is hard not to like.