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Looking for Great BBQ in Calgary

Hey y'all,

I'm visiting Calgary in a couple of weeks for a week-long stay. Coming from Austin, TX, where we pride ourselves on our smoked BBQ, and knowing that Calgary is cattle country, I'm looking to find some BBQ that can impress a native Texan. Where're the best bets?

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  1. Having eaten at many BBQ places in Austin, Lockhart, and Luling, i'd suggest no where. Regardless of being cattle country, we have no BBQ that will impress a native Texan. Nothing that's even as good as Sonny Bryans, which isnt very good at all.

    Please try some other restaurants that are a better indication of the food culture here - as BBQ just won't cut it. Trust me!!

    1 Reply
    1. re: yen

      I'm not much of an expert on BBQ and so I will defer to Yen. As for the best steak in town I would recommend Caeser's downtown location and order their rib-eye. Their Scampis, table made Caeser salad and cheese toast are pretty good too.

    2. You have 2 choices. Big T's and the Palomino. Big T's is like...a touristy BBQ joint. The Palomino...is nice and rundown with a huge smoker sitting in their room. Big T's is a restaurant and is quieter. Palomino is a bit rowdier (some live music) and functions as more of a bar than a restaurant. Depends on your mood I guess....

      2 Replies
      1. re: ureviewcalgary

        URC has highlighted your two choices. And neither are worth eating at if you are looking for good Q.

        Since Q is so subjective, i'll highlight my preferences and let you decide if you have similar tastes:

        I like Blacks for brisket. Smitty's for hot links and Luling City Market for ribs. I know ribs arent really traditional Q, but they're so darn tasty!

        If you think im totally off base, then i'd say try Palomino.

        1. re: ureviewcalgary

          Big T's is owned by the same ladies that own some (all?) of the Cheesecake Cafe franchises in town. So it stands to reason they use the same military industrial complex ingredients at Big T's as they do at Cheesecake Cafe.

        2. I'd agree with Yen, if it's BBQ you're looking for, there's almost none in Calgary.

          If it's a great piece of grilled meat on the other hand.... Yes, Caesar's for steak or Vintage. Better yet, how about some elk or buffalo at The Ranche or River Cafe.

          1 Reply
          1. re: bohunk

            Could not agree more with you! There is no Q in cowtown! Big T's is to BBQ what red lobster is to sea food. I would take a pass.
            Palamino on the other hand is fair, and it's a fun night to have dinner and catch some love rockabilly, the place it self have a great atmosphere. But if you want a good piece of Beef; The Vintage is my recommendation, But I would also recommend a trip into the Rocky's and a stop at Murietta's in Canmore for some cobe beef.

          2. I concur with what everybody has said so far -- frankly, if you're looking for great BBQ, the nearest place to Calgary to get it is... Texas. Kansas City if you're open to the style.

            I also want to mention for completeness sake that Booker's BBQ Grill and Crab Shack also has pretenses at BBQ. They're even less notable than the Big T's and Palomino. (Luckily, they're only pork BBQ, so a Texan wouldn't eat there by mistake.) I'm going there in a couple of days with a group, and I'm sort of perversely thinking of trying the pulled pork, since I just spent a few days in January chasing Q through the Carolinas.

            There are some good places for grilled meat, while you're in town. Go for the Asian cuisines, Greek, Lebanese, Italian. There's lots of great restaurants, just not for barbecue. Which is a pity because, as you noted, we're in cattle country, so we have meat. We're near forests, so we have wood. We just don't have the tradition needed to make BBQ great.

            PS: Our Mexican food scene is, astoundingly, even worse than our BBQ, just in case you were wondering.

            2 Replies
            1. re: ByeByeBaby

              Bye Bye- I said pretty much exactly what you just said, including about how Mexican is even sadder and making ethnic recs as well, and my comment was deleted!

              There is some good Korean and Chinese BBQ here! Gotta make do with what the locals eat. Calgary is great for Vietnamese, Indian, and Middle Eastern and of course has lots of higher end places that are making the scene here interesting, but don't even bother coming here for BBQ.

              1. re: John Manzo


                I posted a new thread about the way ethnic foods are being "borged" to meet a Western palate...alas it got whacked too. I maintain my own blog for the purposes of ranting. If you ever have a rant, I am happy to post for you under your name.

                Now...as far as the Palomino is concerned I think it is the best Calgary has to offer. The BBQ "when fresh" is veryyyyy good. Problem is the time lag between finished product and the erratic business at times results in an inability to serve fresh bbq consistently. Fred has his food cost nailed down, but he has to do what is necessary in order to try and make some money (while he builds the market). If you ever get ribs/chicken fresh from the Q I think you'd all enjoy much more...just my 2 cents...and I have participated in rib tastings there so I know what they really are capable of. It may not be as good as the southern USA...but it kicks the poop out of places like Tony Roma's and Big T's. As for Bookers...I wouldn't eat there again if someone paid me. Horrid stuff.

            2. As someone who lived in Austin for 5 years & in the South for 20 years before that....skip the bbq & the mexican food on your trip to Calgary. Some things that you can get in Calgary that you can't in Austin.....real Chinese food, great Vietnamese food, great Italian food. We enjoy Regency Palace in China Town for Dim Sum on weekends, there are many, many good Vietnamese places (just search this board) & I enjoy La Brezza in Bridgeland for Italian. Enjoy your visit, eat some steak, try a cuisine that is lacking in Austin but DON"T EAT THE BBQ OR THE MEXICAN FOOD! If you do, don't say we didn't warn you. :)

              1. Okay everyone, it sounds like BBQ is out, and I knew better than to risk any Mexican food. I'll definitely make a point to try some Chinese and a few other ethnic cuisines while I'm there. The friends I'm visiting have a favorite Moroccan restaurant downtown, but the name escapes me. We're planning on a day trip to Banff, so I'll try to hit Canmore for dinner on our way back to Calgary. Thanks for all of the rec's, and I'll post how it went once I'm back home in the Lone Star State.