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Calgary Street Eats?

Saw a great thread recently on the Toronto board dealing with street eats. Basically any place you can just walk up, place an order and walk away, chowing down.

What are some of the gems in Calgary? Any stars at the farmer's markets? Any honest-to-goodness street vendors doing some open-air grilling? Any burger/chip vans to speak of? Any pupusa nazis? Food court surprises?

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  1. Great topic starter, Jim!

    I'd say that the street food most ubiquitous in Calgary is, without question, the Vietnamese sub. Yes, it's well-represented in other markets but the format of the viet sub is different here (ie, BIGGER), and the sheer number of stores selling it make it a kind of Calgary version of Toronto's roti or jamaican pattie.

    Having said that, I have three faves: the original location of Banh Mi Thi Thi in Chinatown in a dingy tiny place (no seating, so it fully meets your definition of street food) across 1st St SE from the Harry Hays fed gov bldg; Kim Anh on 17th Ave SW across the street from Western Canada High (this is not to be confused with that inferior [IMHO] Thai Tai on the same block)- Kim Anh also makes a fantastic chicken curry on rice- cheap and a great feed; and the subs at my favourite local (ie, a block from my home) viet place, Noodle King- this one does have proper seating but I almost always get it to go. All their food is tasty and that includes splendid and cheap banh mi.

    Calgary does a pretty good job in the shawarma area (and has much improved since my move here in 2000) and I think there are discussions of this in the archives- some standouts (depending on whom you ask) are shawarma king, falafel king, pita express, pita's plus, shawarma station, sammy's, tazza, and soby's.

    We don't have the incredible number of hot dog carts that Toronto has, but we have at least two hot dog places that sell "gourmet" dogs that are much MUCH better (and twice as expensive) as T-dot's "street meat." I love both of these places: Tubby Dog on 17th SW at about 9th and Le Chien Chaud on 4th SW in the same building as Jugo Juice (around 21st st). Before anybody recommends that dog place in Bowness, know that it has been sold and is now more of a viet sub shop.

    Things I want for Calgary:

    1. More damn roti. My partner is from Trinidad and we miss Island Foods (et al) in Toronto- it is a singular source of embarassment for a Trini to have to go to a Jamaican place for roti, but such is our dilemma here.
    2. Calgary really, really, really, desparately needs some real baja-style burrito places. Yes we have that place over by sunridge- near rona, strip mall w/ second cup and wendy's, the place that has the fantastic salsa bar- but that's it. I want to see a place like BURRITO BOYZ in TO open here, dammit! We have the LA style hot dog places (this is what Tubby Dog is), now let's do two-fisted burritos!

    8 Replies
    1. re: John Manzo

      Have you tried T&T Organettes and Social Club? They are obviously Trini, and serve Roti et al at lunch.

        1. re: newJJD

          They moved a while ago, so im not sure if the address i have written down is accurate (i believe it is the new address though). I have:

          Bay 24, 2110 - 41st Avenue NE
          Their phone number has stayed the same though... you can always call them first at 275-1905.

          Don't expect much for dining facilities... it's more a social club than restaurant. But the food/Roti is as good as i've had here in Calgary. Unfortunately, it isnt as good as ones i've had in Toronto for some reason, but oh well....

        2. re: yen

          Yep- we go there when we can but it's a drive!

        3. re: John Manzo

          You're referring to Chico's Tecate Grill. Great place, once-a-week for me... love the Mahi-Mahi Tacos with Salsa Verde!

          1. re: newJJD

            I think Chico's Tecate Grill has been taken over by some chain either Taco Bell or Taco Time.... I think they kept part of the name though.

            1. re: sleepycat

              It's a Taco Time Cantina. Same decor, same setup.

              1. re: yen

                Yes that's it. It's all the same including the food? Wonder why the owner sold.

        4. I'm with you on the burrito front – I'd give my left cojone for a big ol' fish burrito. Actually, I'd settle for a solid fish taco...don't know if I ever found one in Edmonton. I wonder why street tacos have never taken off in this part of the world? I know, I know... it's three month vocation, but if hot dog vendors make a go of it here, why not tacos? (I'm talking the little guys you order three of at a time, then condiment them to oblivion.)

          1. Rocky's burger bus certainly qualifies. You walk up, and chow down. I haven't tried the fries, but the burgers are good if you like the thick as your fist patties. It is my husband's favorites. They are rather anemic on the toppings, but if cheese and bacon are the only embellishments you seek, this is the place. It is kind of out of the way though, in the industrial part of town.

            2 Replies
            1. re: alex8alot

              Where might a fella find this bus? Or does it move around?

              1. re: BIG jim

                Rocky's Burger Bus is a permanent fixture in an industrial park off Blackfoot (1120 - 46th Ave SE). Alex doesnt give it justice when she says they are as think as your fist... they are actually bigger! Huge mounds of meat. Unfortunately, not seasoned... so i find them to be a bit of a trial to finish. Toppings are sparse as she mentioned... they will add Chili or other condiments for a small fee as well. But it's basically beef and a whole lot of it.

            2. Plus, tacos are dead easy to do production line style- stewed meats, one of those steam warmer things for the tortillas and a grill, and real tacos are basically just CORN torillas, meat, maybe come onion and cilantro, maybe pico di gallo (sp?), squeeze of lime and maybe a little sprinkle of queso fresco- NO farking lettuce, NO tomatoes, NO taco bell garbage! And they take maybe 30 seconds to make.

              Burritos are a tad more compicated but when we can have great steam-table production lines as they have at Tiffin's (where you can make a great Indian "taco" with rotis and butter chicken!) or Thi Thi, doing Mexican is just a step sideways. The "burritos" at Wrapture DO NOT CUT IT.

              They have Taco del Mar in Vancouver- now how do they rank???? We're the consumer champs in Canada, Taco del Mar should be HERE!

              4 Replies
              1. re: John Manzo

                Never been to Taco del Mar... I will try it out on the Long Weekend and Post back...

                I wonder if they have Yucatan style-food, like barbacoa (slow cooked seasoned shredded beef) and Carnitas (slow cooked, spiced pork) That U.S. Chain, Chipotle does a killer job with these two items... BTW do not eat at BAJA Fresh in the U.S. -- more like BAJA Stale! stick to Chipotle!

                1. re: newJJD

                  Taco del Mar is akin to Baja Fresh- now I do like Baja Fresh but will never take it over a real taqueria.

                  1. re: John Manzo

                    Of course not - they are two totally different classifications. "Californian" Burrito's don't use many of the classical mexican ingredients (lard for the most part) in favour of healthier ingredients. But they maintain the same size, quality, and price point of a taqueria. There is not substitute for the real thing, but when you're stuck in DFW with a bunch of red necks, it'll do just fine :)

                2. re: John Manzo

                  Taco Del Mar is here. There is one up and running in Southrail Crossing in the SE (Deerfoot and 130th) right next to the McDonalds. I have seen a couple others under construction, but I forget where they were. Edit - got all excited until I read the date on the original post. Being 2006 half the stuff in Southtrail Crossing (including Taco Del Mar) was not there :)

                3. You know, I got dragged out for some eats with my old roommate - so we ended up at Joey Tomato's in Chinook (Suburban chain food is a guilty occasional pleasure). I had the Baja "blackened" Basa and shrimp soft tacos -
                  They weren't blackened, but lightly battered and deepfried - served in a soft taco with guac, cilantro, some chopped tomato, and I have to admit - were rather good. I've only had fish taco's once before at Berryhill (Eau Claire). But I liked the Joey ones better.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Gobstopper

                    this sounds fantastic...

                    have all joey tomatoes rebranded as "joey's"?

                    1. re: John Manzo

                      Pretty Much... Some still say Joey Tomatoes rather than the new "Joey Global" But the menues are all updated and serve food similare to sister chain Earl's, with a Med influence.

                      No more cheap pizza and pasta

                      The fish tacos are pretty solid. I order them without cilantro. I dunno I just can't stand the stuff. Not on Mex food and certainly not on my Viet-subs!

                      The sushi tacos and Ahi Tuna tacos are good little appy's too.

                  2. Señor Manzo, next time you're in Vancouver.... http://www.steamrollers.com/

                    it's not Mexico, but it's a good effort.

                    1. Oh, been to steamrollers... I like them. I like autentico tacos mexicanos, but when it come to burritos, we're talking strictly cal-mex, and steamrollers are a decent approximation thereof. I remember hearing from a counter person there that Calgary was on their radar...

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: John Manzo

                        Amen to this. Taco's, good burrito are a huge sore spot for me.. Personally, i'd love a good camarone taco... yum! Or some carnitas, or lengua. Though you'd never catch a Canadian selling that for some strange reason.

                        For Burrito's here, there isnt just Chico Tecates (the one by Sunridge), but Avocado in Deerfoot Meadows. It is terrible, overpriced, undersized, and poor quality. So i guess that doesnt say much. I would kill for a Baja Fresh, or even a Chipotles to come here. I looked into a Baja Fresh franchise for Alberta 5 or 6 years ago, but since the buyout by Wendy's, they only sell national licenses. Apparently we are the 51st State after all...

                        1. re: John Manzo


                          An investor friend of mine and I were just talking a few weeks ago at the Skins Game in Banff. We were eating at Magpie & Stump (pretty decent Mex fare, if you've never been.. I hadn't until that day and was impressed)

                          We both miss the hole-in-the well joints off of the main drag in Playa del Carmen and the Taquerias / Pupuserias (El Salvadorean Tacos) in the Sacramento/Fresno corridor. And we, like you think the Cowtown area is lacking this. We tried AVOCADO Grill at Deerfoot Meadows... good, but too formal for what we are thinking. We are hoping to locate a native chef that now lives in the area and opening up a small shop/lounge..... I will keep you posted.

                          1. re: newJJD

                            JJD, ya know you can get very good pupusas in Forest Lawn- not sure of the name of the place. In fact I suspect there is more than one place to get pupusas in Calgary.

                            1. re: newJJD

                              If you can do a real taqueira, you have a customer for life in me, and as much word of mouth that i can spread :)

                              I notice in a later post that you love carnitas... mmm - sweet buttery lard!

                          2. Found it- El Bombazo, 2881 17th Ave SE 204-3757

                            1. Thank you Manzo,

                              Now I don't have to drive an hour north from Airdrie to get pupusas at Las Palmeras in Red Deer... IMHO the best Mexican (with a touch of El Salvador) in the province. Great pupusas and my favourite, CARNITAS!

                              1. whoever opens the first authentic mexican place in calgary is gonna make a killing. simple as that. chipotle's is owned by mcdonalds no? still delicious!
                                god, even salt lake city has better mexican food than us! somebody do something!!!

                                big ups to island foods! i have yet to have a decent roti in calgary.

                                my fave street foods are
                                - 4 street pizza
                                - chien chaud (better than tubby dog, but not nearly the cool atmostphere. i find the tubby dogs to be too 'porky'..is that a word?)
                                - burger inn (not really on the street)
                                - this is making me think there also isnt nearly enough street food in calgary.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: misscheeks

                                  ooh porky...we went there once...fake cheese and bad hot dogs. Ohh and the chili...made me want to puke. I grew up eating coney island dogs....and they were always cheap good eats, and never tasted porky. I even got the onion rings which were a greasy mess. I won't even give it a second chance.

                                2. Is that the Burger Inn on Bow Trail? Is there only the one? And from my previous life in Calgary, I seem to remember a nifty burger joint around Northmount Drive...CB's? CJ's? Is it still around?

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: BIG jim

                                    there are actually 3 of them. One on macleod trail at southland dr, the one off of 4th St and the one on Bow Trail. My daughter was basically a galloway burger fed fetus. the 4th st one is my favorite.

                                    1. re: alex8alot

                                      I believe there is one in Airdrie as well. I do agree that the 4th Street one is the best. The best fries are there (double brown paper, skins on, lots of salt and malt vinegar).

                                    2. re: BIG jim

                                      CB Hamburger Inn! It's still there. Korean owned now. Menu hasnt changed except for a few additions. Same quality too :)

                                    3. The Chinese bakery in the chinese supermarket on Center Street north and 12th avenue (I think 12th, maybe 13th, if not, I'll correct myself) used to have the very best spring rolls in the whole world. And, I don't say that lightly. But, the last 2 times I drove across town to get them they didn't have them. The rest of their stuff is pretty standard.

                                      I find that supermarket is better for produce than Jay's on 16th Ave and has more Japanese products so the drive isn't totally wasted.

                                      Also, some friends go to the Currie Barracks farmer's market for breakfast and rave about it but I haven't joined them so I'm not sure where in the market. I've been away since January. Looks like lots of places to try!

                                      1. There is a great souvlaki place located on 17th avenue just west of Crowchild called Crete Souvlaki. It is located in a sketchy gas station (OK gas) which would easily turn a person off but the food is really good. It's basically take out since there is one table located next to the gas station cashier (you order your food through that cashier and pickup from the side).

                                        Crete Souvlaki
                                        2623-17 Ave SW
                                        (403) 246-4777

                                        1. I regularly crave the Shopsy's sausages from the Bay downtown (2nd floor). That and one of their malts were a favourite guilty pleasure.

                                          Also 2nd the rec for Rocky's Burger Bus!

                                          1. street eats. I agree, I love TO for street food, not as good as the US but decent. I love all of it...grilled fruit, Souvlaki from a cart in the heat of summer. Tamles...ohh I am dying right now. Trini food...doubles and roti...and curried mango. I think I need a trip!

                                            Calgary can keep their burgers and hot dogs...we need to step up to the plate.

                                            PS if your into chains Taco Del Mar is opening up by Sunridge in the strip mall with Best buy, Designer depot. It's on the far side by Sally's beauty supply, seen the sign today. We took a trip up the NE for Tiffin for some ribs. Kids got a dollar store trip. Ahh what a Saturday.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: kritafo

                                              we got Tiffin yesterday too, in our tiffin to boot- they do a killer lamb curry...

                                              1. re: John Manzo

                                                Yeah we go eat in and take out! ha! We get ribs and rotti's to go. I love their spinach curry as well. I am a huge lamb curry fan. kids just always get butter chicken, I am just happy they enjoy it.

                                            2. Definitley would suggest trying the Sausage Party downtown. Great sausages, friendly service and the cart doesnt look like something that has been stored in a dirty shed for years