The walls made up of weathered boards decorated with singed words and sayings stamped into the surface are just one way the Wild Card Shack Pub and Eatery cultivates an atmosphere that makes the establishment unique.
Rhys Eckhardt and Nadia Migadel are the co-owners of the pub on Summerfield Boulevard, which they purchased in Nov. 2019 and opened in July 2020. Migadel said the inspiration for the bar’s aesthetic came from the pair’s home on an acreage, where they embrace rustic décor and country-style living.
“A lot of small towns try and make their pubs look like the city so they can feel bigger, and what makes me happy about here is that we’re able to bring the town back to the town,” Eckhardt said. “[Airdrie] used to be a rail town – once upon a time it was known as a rail town. It has roots in this type of atmosphere.
“I think all small towns need a pub that looks like their small town,” he continued, acknowledging that Airdrie doesn’t necessarily fall under the small-town designation anymore, at least in terms of population.
The two self-described rednecks said their menu items are derived from the comfort food Eckhardt’s mom would make when he was growing up. Dishes like shepherd’s pie, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding are some of the items they refer to as ‘classics.’
Wild Card also boasts a large selection of traditional pub food, such as wings, calamari, mozza sticks, chicken fingers, fish and chips, and burgers – all of which are breaded or made in-house. And of course, there’s also beer and a selection of various cocktails on the menu.
Patrons can also take in live music at the venue on Fridays and showcase their talent during name-that-tune on Mondays, line dancing on Thursdays, and karaoke on Saturdays.
It was the bar-food-favourites that skyrocketed Wild Shack Pub and Eatery in multiple categories in this year’s Best of Airdrie Readers' Choice Awards, with the food joint securing four accolades: Bronze in burgers, wings, and takeout, complimented with a Gold for Migadel as best bartender and server.
Eckhardt said he was surprised to learn the pub was chosen for numerous awards by community members. Although, Migadel might have been more taken-aback by her win for best server, as she said she didn’t think that she was known around the city.
“It was a little surreal – I definitely wasn’t expecting it,” she said.
“I think it’s all about just getting people to laugh. Nine times out of 10, people that come in here are down or [on] liquid-courage or whatever. So, I think getting people to laugh is a big thing,” Migadel added, when asked about how she ensures the best experience for every customer that walks through the door.
“A little smile goes a long way,” she continued.
In their first year of operation, Wild Card was dragged through the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions along with almost every other service-based business in the province. But, Eckhardt said in the end, the pandemic ironically might have helped get the business to where it is today.
He explained that although the pub was a relatively new business during the first wave of the pandemic, the support-local initiatives that flooded the city in 2020 were paramount in preserving the business.
“We knew the kind of numbers we needed to survive. We were almost doubling those numbers,” Eckhardt said.
Having been crowned in the Best of Airdrie Readers' Choice awards for the first time, the excitement is buzzing amongst the staff of Wild Card – though Eckhardt said there is always room for improvement.
“Every day it’s, ‘How do we make it better?’” he said, adding the master plan is to make Wild Card franchiseable and hopefully open a second small-town location within the next year.
Wild Card Shack Pub and Eatery is located at 2145 Summerfield Blvd SE, just off of Main Street.
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