chinese take-out in cowtown
We're packing up our Oiler gack and moving south to Calgary later this month. My wife and I are hoping to find a go-to Chinese take-away place along the lines of what North China Restaurant provided us in Edmonton. Not only did North China offer killer szechuan beef, singapore noodles, and potstickers....it was the kind of place where the owner knew your name, knew your favourites, talked about his family, asked about YOUR family. I know it's getting picky to ask for personality with your take-out, but you never know unless you ask. We'll be living near Bow Trail & Sarcee, but one of us will work downtown, so we can cover a bit of territory.
I don't mean to sound patronizing when I say this, but it takes time to become a "regular" and to have owners or employees give you this sort of attention. We have tons of places like this in Calgary- great food plus that lagniappe of personality. But it'll take a while to build the sort of rapport you're seeking- fear not, people here (many of them) can be friendly!!
If you want an at-times TOO "personality" accented level of service right out of the box, go to Jimmy's A and A - for the best shawarma you've ever tasted and the sense that you're the audience member getting ribbed at a comedy show.
The one working DT has the advantage of being near Chinatown and its varied delights- here I have five chinese places I frequent (there is a lot of Vietnamese and sushi in Chinatown too):
1. Han's, in the tiny City Centre "mall" on Centre St. Not the food court, not Double Greeting Snack House, the OTHER place at the end of the corridor by the 2nd Ave entrance. It's Taiwanese (by way of Malaysia, right, Yen?) and is my favourite Chinese in town. Chili Chicken (maybe it's called kung pao here?) is astoundingly tasty; taiwanese beef noodle soup is rrrrich, and they do things with simple cabbage that amaze. Tiny space, CHEAP, wonderful people!
2. Double Greeting Snack House- also in the mall, the bigger place enclosed in glass windows off the food court. Killer prices, killer congee, cheap and cheerful, FAST service.
3. Veggie House- okay, this one is in the food court. I always get the large mixed gluten combo w/ rice, a massive pile of gluten (mock pork, sweet and sour, curry, etc). It's not as good as Buddha's Veggie (Macleod and 58th, near Chinook Centre) but for me (living near-ish downtown) it's more convenient, less crowded, and much faster.
4. Harbour City. We started going here for dim sum when we moved to Calgary in 2000 and have never stopped. We've never ordered off the menu here, either. They have this dim sum dish that's deep fried eggplant stuffed with ground shrimp- it's fantastic.
5. Calgary Court- this is a sister resto of a Sun Chiu Kee on N Centre St (check this strip out too, it's a sort of Chinatown North and has an increasing lot of character) that is, my sources tell me, a perfect example of a Honk Kong Diner. They have all sorts of dishes that you would not expect (given North American notions of "Chinese") on a Chinese resto menu, like spaghetti done all these odd ways, but get over that and try it for some comfort food par excellence- and again, cheap cheap cheap.
These are not the best Chinese places in town; they are the places that I frequent to give you some idea of what's out there.
WELCOME TO CALGARY and happy chowing! There is much to discover here!
We understand where you are coming from given your comments about North China. However, we have not been in years.
When we lived on Saskatchewan Drive we too were "regulars" at the location just west of 99th Street on Whyte Avenue. Later, until it closed we would regularly stop in at their Jasper Ave. spot near 124th Street before it too closed to be replaced by Bistro "O" and now Taste of Ukraine.
In fact we rented the southside location for our wedding anniversary dinner some 18 years ago.....miss their food, have not found a replacement.
Good luck and good eating in Calgary
All may not be lost on the North China front, Bob. From what David told us it sounded like the plan was to take some well-earned time off, do some traveling, see some family, have a life, etc... Don't be surprised to see the North China sign resurface somewhere on the south side (if it hasn't already!)
A little out of the way but in that part of the SW is The Golden Leaf... It is on 37th ST SW across from Sarcee Plaza. I ate there all the time when I went to Mount Royal College.
I also like Bow Bulgogi house (Bow and 33rd Stret) for Korean, and Misato in West Market Square for Japanese.
Bow and Sarcee - hmm. Not familiar with any in that area.
Nearby (probably 10 minutes) in the NW, are two of the better Chinese restaurants in Calgary.
My favorite chinese restaurant in the city is Peking Garden on Shaganappi and Varsity Dr. They do non-cart dimsum on weekends, and their food is excellent. Fresh, handmade dumplings with thick, homemade skins are quite good. Try their soup dumplings... they do an excellent job with them. They have an excellent assortment of North American chinese as well - the szechuan beef was good (as far as szechuan beef goes... im not a big fan). They have a smaller, homey feel too. But unfortunately, they also have a massive lineup. They do remember my parents and I whenever we go there though. Lots of regulars at that place.
Edgemont Palace is also pretty decent up in the Edgemont area (just off Nosehill and Crowchild) - and might meet the criteria of matching up to North China restaurant, but i doubt it. The food is good though :)
For a more familiar experience, try John's favorite, Han's (yes John, they are Taiwanese by way of Malaysia - bang on). Small place in Chinatown, but the food is quite different than NA Chinese, which im not sure if that appeals to you or not.
In terms of getting to be regulars, the issue in Calgary is most good restaurants are swamped and extremely busy. Smaller locations would work out better, but even then, due to high turnover, it is often unlikely that they will remember you. A family run restaurant is usually the best way to go.
I just thought of one - King's takeout on 17th Avenue (and 10th Street SW i believe) is cheap, and may meet your criteria. They are run by a couple who are quite friendly, and all they serve is NA Chinese. Give it a try.
I had Happy Valley the other night, the Hong Kong style noodle house I have been craving. very good, reminded me of HOn's in Vancouver, but the barbq is better at Sun's on Center Street in my opinion. The pork didn't have the same caramelized sheen that entices me to have a piece every time I say that I don't want any.
Have you tried the BBQ pork from BBQ Express (takeout only, 1 block north)? I've found the BBQ Pork to be up and down at Sun Chiu Kee... while i find it consistently excellent at BBQ Express - and they even let you customize fatty or lean! If you want caramelized sheen goodness, try BBQ Express :)
The place I would recommend is the Happy Hill Restaurant (name may have changed?) at 806 Centre Street NE. If you can, try to have the waitress recommend something off the Chinese-language menu. Otherwise, they have very authentic dishes on the bilingual menu as well. My family loves the place and the prices are very reasonable.
And after all these fine recommendations, I've only made a stop at King's on 17th. Crikey, is it me or is that Avenue shaping up to be a prairie version of Robson? Regardless, King's is an interesting little joint, but we'll have to dig deeper and find their forté... our orders of ginger beef, singapore noodles, curried chicken were fine, but unremarkable. Their simple stir-fried vegetables, however, were better than average.
I've yet to convince my better half, or any of my Calgary amigos, to join me at some of the more intriguing mentions from above, but at the risk of confounding anyone following this thread, I have a friend here who has introduced me to another quadrant of Asia well-represented here. Babylon Foods and Tazza are worth the drive in my books. Tazza's take-out selection is exceptionally fine, and Babylon does a killer donair or shwarma for a very reasonable price.
One interesting stumble-upon has been The Holy Grill on 10th Ave. across from Mountain Equipment Co-op. I like the looks of just about everything on their simple menu of pita paninis, burgers and sides of home-cut fries, yams, and beets. If you haven't tried beet fries, they're worth the stained fingers.
Sophie's Pizza filled the tank nicely, one late night.
"Eat out a lot?" you ask, noting we've only been here a week. Well, that's what happens when your fridge dies a couple of hours after taking possession of your new home. All's fixed up now, but the good news is we have a great jump on discovering some fine Calgary eateries.
re: BIG jim
Well, having been here only a week, you've done a pretty good job of sussing out some great places. Tazza is great and definitely well worth the drive - they would also meet your requirement about being a friendly, family run place. I really like Holy Grill as well, though more for panini's and fries than burgers, which i find to be quite average. Sophies is tasty too.
There are a lot of other places worth mentioning, but you mentioned specifically Chinese. I'd recommend starting a new thread and asking about day-to-day type places worth eating at. Lot's of other great places worth visiting (Atlas, Bow Bulgogi, Shikiji, Uptown, Coup etc...)
Being an Oiler in a strange land as well, i have to admit, the restaurants overall are better down here. You have a lot of great meals to look forward to.
PS Take your better half to Divino, Capo, Rouge, or River Cafe for a nice meal when you get the chance. She'll get a lot more interested in Chowhounding :)