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I need help in Calgary!

Hi, I've been lurking around this site for quite some time, but just finally decided I needed some major food intervention. What I wanted to ask was as a total foodie in training (with a pretty tiny food budget) what are some restaurants that I can eat at that will offer amazing food in Calgary and area? I'm tired of eating at the chain restaurants my friends choose I want to take them out and broaden everyone’s horizons.
Anyways after my long tale of food woe, any help you could offer up would be much appreciated!
Thanks in advance!
Jo.
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  1. There's a laundry list of great spots...but what type of food are you looking for? Any particular ethnic cuisines? Continental? Wine spots? Etc. One thing to note is you can go to many of Calgary's hot spots and share appetizers with friends and NOT have to shell out for $$$$ entrees. The cost is easily the same as dinner in a chain spot. I am happy to help if you can offer info on what your tastes buds are craving! You can check my blog for more info.

    1. Aida's on 4th St SW for great Lebanese food.
      Atlas on 9th Ave SW for tasty Persian food.
      Bow Bul-go-gi on 37th St SW (or therabouts, it is by Westbrook Mall) for cheap and tasty Korean food
      Globefish on 14th St NW for tasty and innovative sushi
      Boca Loca on 15th Ave SW and 11th St SW for wonderful home-made Mexican food
      Some chain restaurants I don't mind are Open Sesame down south on MacLeod Trail, next to Smugglers, and Joey Tomatoes at Chinook Centre(better service than the Eau Claire location though the latter has a great patio in the summer).

      1. Jo- there are tons of good-value ethnic spots in town- is there anything that you're especially fond of?

        For non-ethnic great value, one of my fave spots is The Coup- vegetarian cuisine that anybody can love, with one caveat- we have not had good luck with their soups. Those aside, two can dine really well, with big portions and great flavours, for less than $30 for dinner. For TWO.

        1 Reply
        1. re: John Manzo

          Yes, I second The Coup! In addition to what John already said, I will say that the restaurant has a very cool atmosphere. How many other restaurants have a DJ?

          And agreed about ethnic spots being considerably more budget-friendly. Without ethnic food here, I'm not sure I would be able to eat out with my friends that often (a matter of budget and taste agreement).

        2. Cilantro is always a good bet. Medium priced, but a few less expensive "outs" such as pizza.
          Mimo on 17th Ave SE. It's Portuguese.
          Santorini on Centre Street
          Puspa (up north)

          Budget is getting to be a concern this days... urgh.

          2 Replies
          1. re: bohunk

            In response to what kiond of foods I'm looking for ... ANYTHING!! My friends have just never really tried anything but the Moxies, Chillis and Earls. I however enjoy Indian, Korean and Mexican type cuisines. (and am always looking to expand my horizons as well!)So I'm very interested in trying these spots even if I have to dine alone. I suppose I could ask if there are any restaurants anyone could suggest that has a mix of different kind sof cuisines ... in any case I am very much so looking forward to trying out these suggestions.
            Thank you again and keep 'em comming!!

            1. re: bohunk

              Cilantro does have great food but I'd have to say the prices are a bit on the high side of medium. If you don't mind spending a little more, definitely try to bison.

            2. There are loads of places to try, check my blog as the one above, you should also try a couple websites:

              http://www.letsgofordinner.com/Calgar...
              http://www.where.ca/calgary/category_...

              Those two sites are my fall back, for reviews I tend to check FFWD and take a look at the Calgary Sun too ( I know I know it's not a great NEWS paper) http://www.calgarysun.com/dine/index.... they review lots of things so it can help you out if you're not sure where to go!

              2 Replies
              1. re: foxyfreckles

                Koi! I forgot Koi! Resonable, and they have DJs some nights too!

                1. re: bohunk

                  Koi is KOOL. Damn good coffee too!

              2. 2nd the Koi and Bow Bul-go-gi rec's. Koi has inventive and delicious salads, and Bow Bul-go-gi has some of the best Korean in town, though it isn't grill-yourself.

                I have a special fondness for Vicious Circle -- their Chocolate Banana cake, Spinach & Artichoke dip, and Linguini Carbonara are awesome. (May be biased b/c I just really like going there in general, fun to lounge & yummy martinis...) Skip the French Onion soup though, they've cheap-ed out on it in recent years.

                I also like Silver Inn on 16th NW for Szechwan Chinese ... if you want to see how REAL ginger beef is done, go there -- they invented it! Also try the crackling rice dishes. Ginger Beef Restaurant in Sunridge Mall has great peking duck --- a bit of a splurge (compared to most Chinese food, at least), but if you're going with a few friends, it's not too hard on the wallet.

                If you don't already go, Downtown Dining Week is usually a very good deal. I went to Buchannan's a few years ago, SO good (but normally way out of my budget).

                Hafta say I'm not a huge fan of Open Sesame, except for their desserts. I prefer Mongolian Grill (4th St downtwon) for that kind of thing. Again, not exactly cheap, but should be in reach.

                And of course, there's all that wonderful Pho in the city. Tasty, filling, and cheap. I really haven't been to a *bad* vietnamese place, but my usual haunts are Golden Bowl on MacLeod a bit north of Chinook, and a place by 16th & Center... can't recall the name, but it shares a parking lot with Jay's Supermarket (big Asian grocery store). I especially enjoy the quail here, crispy and succulent, and only like $7 or $8. Another great place is on Bow Trail across from Westbrook Mall, tucked in next to the Video Headquarters. Lightning quick service and good food.

                Big T's has decent southern BBQ food (don't know about it's authenticity, but it tastes good enough) for good prices. Things like pulled pork, brisket, corn bread, etc. Go with 3 hungry friends and get the Elvis Platter. Then book off the rest of the day, b/c you'll need a nap after all that protein! Various locations, including one near the Banff Trail station, another one on MacLeod near Heritage.

                1 Reply
                1. re: CuriousCat

                  Oh, I've had bad Pho here. There's a place on Centre St south of 16th Ave that was absolutely horrendous - it was water, onions and noddles in a bowl. There's a Vietnamese place in Silver Springs that's also heinous.

                2. Been a while since we've been there but the beef with black bean sauce off the Chinese menu at Happy Valley on Center and 3rd Ave (I think, I have issues knowing which avenue I am on in Chinatown) was an incredible deal. My daughter also liked the minced pork and cream style corn over rice but it looks like a dog's breakfast so I hesitate to recommend it. I repeat, off the CHINESE menu. We used to feed 4 on the 2 dishes alone.

                  1. Bul Go Gi on 17th!-love it, love it, great lunch special- for dinner I prefer LA Ribs or Pork Bul Go Gi, glass noodles are awesome too
                    Vietnamese - Pho Kim just off of centre before 16th Avenue tucked away behind the large chinese mall
                    Dim Sum - best dimsum in Calgary..."Forbidden City" l on the corner of 16th and Centre NE ,worth the trek and the long waits on weekends, Best to go with at least 4 people to get a wide variety of dishes. Make sure to visit T&T chinese supermarket too, seafood section is great
                    Breakfast - Chez Cora - Quebec restaurant chain, great waffles, great fruit smoothies, lots of fresh fruit - 130 Ave SE - long drive worth it!
                    Chianti - decent pasta, great prices
                    Indian - Tandoori Hut in Kensington, great value, large portions, larger portions for takeout
                    Thai - Thai Sai On - 10th Ave SW
                    Koi - great lunch menu, dinner * warning if you don't want noise go Monday-Thursday
                    Rose & Crown - Steak Sandwich
                    Thi Thi Subs - 8th Ave SW - quick take out lunch or take out dinner for one - all the vietnamese subs are great
                    Bookers - Sunday or Monday for all you can eat snow crab legs, food is good, outside of restaurant scares newcomers, but go inside
                    Japanese - freshest in the city, about $25 per person, Zipang in Bridgeland, worth the money, 2nd - Sushi Club in Kensington
                    Vegetarian - The Coup is great
                    Just for fun! - Americanos, Lattes or Hot Chocolate at Cafe Beano open late

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: eateat

                      I prefer the Rose Garden Thai restaurant on 8 Ave SW at Centre St to Thai Sa On. I like Rose Garden's style of pad thai (not in a tomato sauce like I have seen in a few restaurants) and their curries, especially the Sweet Green Curry. Does anyone know if the two restaurants follow different regional styles? I think the prices are also a bit lower than Thai Sa On. Perhaps because Thai Sa On is so busy, the service can be intermittent and huffy.

                      1. re: aktivistin

                        haven't been to Rose Garden...I'll definitly go try it

                      2. re: eateat

                        Great list- although coffee geeks have major problems with Caffe Beano, it's the best atmosphere of any coffeehouse in the city.

                        On Thi Thi- I think that I speak for a lot of people when I say that their original location by Harry Hays is better than the franchise (yes it's the first in what will be many franchises) on 8th Ave.

                        1. re: John Manzo

                          I agree with the Thi Thi by Harry Hay being much better, but the downtown location is open a little later, great for the downtown crowd and line up is not as long.

                          1. re: eateat

                            I think Kim Ahn on 17th is WAY better than Thi Thi, but then maybe I'm totally biased :D. I think that is generally a personal bias though, and Thi Thi is still pretty great.

                            1. re: foxyfreckles

                              Kim Anh has AMAZING chicken curry- even better than their subs- Viet curry with potatoes and carrots that melt in your mouth- I could eat a bowl of those carrots, seriously.

                        2. re: eateat

                          I concur on Rose Garden being superior to Thai Sa On. I like the atmosphere much better, as well -- particularly on a warm evening when they open up the windows. I wasn't too impressed with the pad thai, though -- they have something on the menu called "street noodles" (pad sew maybe?) that I much prefer.

                          I just noticed the Thi Thi on 8th the other day; I'm reassured to hear the original is still the best.

                          Another place worth recommending is Marathon, in Kensington. I haven't been there in a while, but to my recollection it's as good as any Ethiopian I've had anywhere, although the service is on the slow side. It's somewhere in the vicinity of $20 and is awesome with a small group of friends (4 or so), with the food being served on a communal bread.