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In Edmonton and Calgary next week - budget recs, please?

Hi to the Alberta Chowhounds, I hope you can help an expat coming home for a week. I was born and raised in Edmonton, but my career took me a few thousand KMs east. I really haven't been home for more than a day or two in the past decade - so I suspect any of the places I knew and loved in my youth will have changed so much as to be unrecognizable.

I'd love to hear your recommendations of places to go (or to avoid) for low to mid-budget eats in Edmonton. I'm frankly less impressed by a hip vibe, than by a kitchen that actually cares about the food it's serving. Both lunch and dinner recommendations would be appreciated; also if anyone knows of a gem or two in the St Albert area, that would be great (since I have to get there to visit the inlaws anyways.)

Also, I will be in Calgary for a couple of days mid-week, any similar lunch or dinner places in the Southwest part of town would be very much appreciated.

Thanks in advance for all replies, I will post a recap on the ones I am able to visit.

--MarkhamDee

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  1. Red Door Bistro on 11th Ave SW is great and very affordable (try their consomme!), also Aida's on 4th St SW is a fantastic steal (I always get the muhammara and grilled cheese). Fiasco Gelato on 17th Ave SW apparently has fab takeout sandwiches too.

    1. I was raised in Edmonton too...as a matter of fact,I just returned from a visit there. Some of the spots I would frequent were Pagolac for Vietnamese food and banh mi, and Tau Bay for pho. Both are located in Chinatown. You might want to check High Level Diner and Cafe de Ville. I loved those places too, and they should still be around. Sorry I can't help with the St. Albert recs...I'm a southside girl myself.

      1. what do you mean by "southwest"? Almost all of downtown is southwest, but so are some far-flung suburbs.

        1. This e-town expat is looking forward to lunch at Culina during a similar visit this summer and breakfast or lunch at NY Bagel Cafe (full disclosure, I have worked there) For the food and because they are in the heart of areas that define Edmonton for me, 99th Street and Whyte. Also, a sandwich from the South Italian store and dinner at the circle ring Chinese restaurant just behind lucky 97 in Chinatown, which still ranks among some of the best sichuan style food I've ever had (I live in Sichuan). The menu can be confusing if you are not familiar with that style of food but try at least one 'fish-flavour' dish if you go.

          1. Well, I live in Edmonton and I would love to share my favourite restaurants with you. For Italian, you can't go wrong with Piccolino's which is in the mid-range (approx. 142 Street 91 Ave). The food is always great and fresh and Lino runs it with dedication and love. I rate his lasagna the best in the city. Be sure to make reservations. I've eaten there for lunch and dinner. Another place for good solid mid-range food is The Urban Diner (just off 124 street)). Very popular for home-style food in a comfortable setting. Our friends live in a highrise condo just behind the restaurant and they go there at least once a week. Last time I was there was for Sunday brunch and I had the eggs benedict, which I love even more than my own recipe. We often go to Cafe de Ville (Kenny, the waiter is a favourite) and don't forget Yiannis on Whyte Ave. It is still delicious. Vi's for Pies on Stony Plain Road has a nice lunch (homemade soups, filled buns, salads, entrees, and mouth-watering desserts.)
            Try The Italian Centre Shop (Little Italy or Southside) for a panini and latte. Inexpensive and a nice change. Jeffery's is a cafe and wine bar on 142 Street that serves a nice little lunch that is again, fresh and delicious. Nice comfy atmosphere, too. In the same cute little strip mall is DeLuxe Burger Bar that is very hip and sells yummy but very pricey burgers. Loads of food, though.
            In St. Albert, go to Nello's Italian place on St. Albert Trail. I work with a number of people who live in St. Albert and they swear by this place. Not too fancy but great food. Really, that's what really matters, isn't it. DO NOT go to the new Greek place next door to Nello's. I posted my horrible experience there on the Board last week.

            1. If you are near the University in Edmonton, go to Leva. It is a little Italian joint that sells drinks and snacks and has THE BEST gelato in Edmonton. I'm drooling as I type this...

              1. One of my favs in downtown Edmonton is Boun Thai for lunch. It is at Jasper and 108. The buffet is not huge, but each dish is flavourful and authentic. I am from Toronto (moved to e-town a year ago), and I would have to say that this is one of a handful places that I like to eat at.

                1. In St. Albert I would say The Cajun House for lunch or dinner.
                  If you want something that has that home made taste, I would try the Thai and Laos restaurant Syphay.

                  1. Markham, to repeat my query- by SW, what do you mean? SW Calgary comprises a huge area, and if you mean downtown, there are parts adjacent in the NW (in Kensington for example) and the NE (in Bridgeland for example) that would fit your requirements. So, please, clarify, happy to help!

                    1. Hi there! I just discovered Chowhound, but I've been a food fan for while. Unfortunately, I live in the NW so my SW experience is limited... but I know a place that might be quite close.

                      It's called Julio's Barrio, and it at the corner of Memorial and 10'th St NW, right before the bridge into the downtown core. The easiest way to get there is to just drive down Kensington, there's a ton of parking. This place is open at 11:30 AM, weekends, and open until quite late. The Mexican food is wonderful! I've had the fiesta platter, chimichengas (sp?) and the 4 tacos, and never went away disappointed. The drinks are superb but will seriously jack up the bill if you indulge. For a simple meal, no drinks, apps or desert, this place is very well priced and I would recommend it if you like Mexican food.

                      Edit: By drinks I mean alcohol, heh

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: AriaDream

                        I am going to try to be diplomatic here: I thnk that Julio's Barrio is very poor. I don't mean to flame you in your first post, but given the plethora of more authentic, non-chain cheap ethnic eats even a stone's throw from Julio's I am surprised that this is your recommendation. In Kensington you have Shawarma Station, Tibet on 10th, Sushi Zeal, even the Malaysian curry bowl at Spice Cafe. I would choose any of these before Julio's. In fact I would choose just about anything over Julio's. If you want decent Mexican in Calgary you are severly limited, but for cheap ethnic there are many other choices here in various Asian, Middle Eastern and African forms.

                        OP, please come back and tell us what PART of the SW you are looking for recs for. Please.

                        1. re: John Manzo

                          How very odd.. I thought I had posted where in SW Calgary I was going to be, but apparently that post got eaten by the void. I'll be staying just south of, but close to, the Chinook Shopping Centre... hope that clarifies!

                          1. re: MarkhamDee

                            Leo Fu's is near there and the Chinook food fair has an outlet of Opa! I think Leo Fu is only open for dinner but I'm not sure.

                            1. re: sharonanne

                              Il Centro (60th Ave, and 3rd St.) has great pizza and pasta. Perfect for lunch. Buddha's Veggie (5802 Macleod Tr.) is also a good choice if you like vegetarian Chinese.

                              1. re: sharonanne

                                Leo Fu's is open for lunch. They have a small buffet and I think you can also order from the menu.

                              2. re: MarkhamDee

                                going a little further south from Chinook Mall on Macleod you can also try Los Mariachis - 7400 Macleod Trail.

                          2. And...Veggie Bhuddha has a fake "dry ribs" dish that iis AMAZING! It is so meatlke and spicy and yummy and great!

                            1. I don't live in Edmonton but I used to go there a lot until a year ago, all the places I went to are downtown. My favourite low-priced dinner restaurant was Bistro Praha, last time I was there the schnitzel was still around $15 ($10 for a small portion but I never got that), including starter salad and potato salad with the schnizel. L'Azia was also really good, and reasonably cheap, it's in the mall where the Delta is. My absolute favourite lunchtime spot was the cafe at Holt's. It's on the second floor past the women's wear in the corner. Lots of Edmontonians don't know it's there.

                              In Calgary, near Chinook, my absolute favourite Indian restaurant, Taj Mahal, is 10 block north of Chinook Centre on the east side of Macleod. If you like Mexican, Salt and Pepper is a little further north on the west side of Macleod. Kinjo's is a pretty good sushi place around 70th and Macleod. Mid to low budget in Calgary is going to be a bit higher than in Edmonton.

                              1. This is really really general (a bit too open ended), but i'll do my best in the short time i have to give some recommendations. Most cheap places are ethnic. These are all in what I considered to be a "budget" end - IE meals for $10-$15 including tax and tip. All addresses are "approximate", as im never quite sure of the exact cross street/ave. If you need more details, ask. I’ve included a few really good places that exist at slightly higher price points as well. If you’re willing to venture into the “expensive” range, IE 20-50 range, let me know and I have a whole slew of additional recommendations.

                                Churros King - Whyte Ave, about 102 street. Chilean.
                                Billed as South American. the owners are Chilean. They have great south american sandwiches for 8-9 bucks, and good empanadas at $5 a basket (a great deal). Get the chile sauce for dipping. A lot of food for the price. Very similar to food i had when i was in .Chile

                                Dadeo - Whyte Ave, 105th Street - Cajun
                                Po Boy's are cheap during lunch, and they have an extensive lunch menu that are in the 8-12 range. Food is really tasty here, but the decor is diner style. Dinner costs a bit more, but is still fairly affordable.

                                Pagolac, though many Vietnamese restaurants in town suffice is my favorite - 2 locations (97street, 53rd avenue) and downtown on 97 Street and 105b Ave. Vietnamese. Yummy. Soups and vermicelli. 6-10. Really hard to go wrong!

                                Tropika - 2 locations - Calgary Trail S and 62 ave, and west end, 149 street and Stony Plain Rd - Malaysian - this is really pushing the "authentic bit", but it's good.

                                They have great combo's and laksa's for lunch in the 6-9 range. Dinner is a pricier propsal, but M-Thu is half price Satay so you can often get away with the higher end (15) if you eat mostly Satay and rice, and share a Sambal Bunchies (a must for me!) and Roti Canai with your friend(s)

                                Spinelli's - Italian Center Shop - 2 locations - 97 Street and 105(?) ave, and 51st Avenue and 105 Street.
                                Grocery store, but with really good Italian sandwiches. 6-7 bucks, can't remember exactly. But big serves, nice bread, good meat. And a great bakery (cannoli!) - makes for a good quick lunch.

                                Acajulalta(sp?) - Central American. 107th Ave and 113 (?) Street.
                                I think they position it as "Mexican", but the owners are from El Salvador. This is fairly inexpensive as well (10-15), and quite authentic for Central American.

                                Garage Burger Bar - 106 Street and 103rd Ave, by the Metro. It used to serve the best burgers in town when i worked a few blocks away. Some friend's still go, and say it's still really good, and really cheap.

                                A more upscale burger destination is Deluxe Burger Bar (142 street and 96th ? avenue). I like it, as the burger and fries are really good, but it costs more in the 10-15 range than in 5-10.

                                You can add Korean to the list at the higher price point. Bulgogi House is the old Edmonton standby (92 street 88 avenue), and is pretty good. Lee House is fairly comparable, but not as busy (Calgary Trail S and 80th avenue). For all you can eat, table grill, Ginseng Palace (34th Avenue and 97 Street) and Korean Village (77th Avenue and 85 Street) are $20.

                                The food at the Savoy (turns into a drinking establishment at night) - Whyte Ave and Calgary Trail S (104th Street) used to be very good, but i havent been in a while. It's bistroey kind of food, at a good price. I enjoy the food at Suede Lounge (also a drinking establishment) too, which is on Jasper Ave and 113? Street.

                                It may be outside your price range (more like 25 range if you share an appetizer), but
                                Sofra is awesome Turkish food. It's on 106 Street and 104th Avenue. It's currently my favorite restaurant in Edmonton.

                                Lashish, a small Lebanese restaurant off Jasper (on 117th?), excellent shwarma, falafel, shish-anything, very reasonable, good quality.

                                Bistro Praha is on Rice Howard Way, and serves up authentic Czech food.

                                Lots of places downtown as well, but it's been too long for me to comment. Good luck!

                                1. Koto Japanese Restaurant
                                  127-1 Hebert Road, St Albert, AB

                                  Nice family restaurant, good service, good food, just across the streets from the Safeway and Save-On, by the PetroCan at the south end of town (closer to Edmonton) is my favourite St. Albert resturant.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: HerMamma

                                    Ay yi yi... weird trip, and lots of other things happening when I got back, so this reply post is tardy. Mea Culpa.

                                    In St Albert, I fortunately was able to avoid the Greek place next to Nello's. Unfortunately I didn't get to Nello's or Cajun House. On the recommendation of my MIL we went to Muggins for lunch. Ugh. Would not voluntarily go again... and will leave my evaluation of that restaurant (and my MIL's taste in restaurants) at that.

                                    In Calgary, my suggestions for possibilities like Kinjo's or Taj Mahal got nixed because of food allergies and delicate stomachs among others in the family group. We instead ended up at Pasquales on Macleod Trail, which was about $15-$20 for most mains on the menu. I had their fettucini pescatore, which was beautifully done; none of the various different shellfish were overcooked, the sauce was nicely spiced, and the portion very satisfying. Others at the table had lasagne (made with veal), manicotti, and other fettucini and penne dishes, and everyone really enjoyed their selections.

                                    In the University area, I also had lunch with a friend at Roots Organic, and I have to say their ham and lentil soup was very nice. (Didn't stop at Lava, as the weather was a little cool... maybe next time).

                                    And on the south side, a real discovery from my dad - which surprised me, since he's usually pretty conventional in his tastes - was Ariana, an Afghani restaurant in the Whitemud Crossing. Nothing fancy for the decor (think formica tables and vinyl booths), but very clean, and very friendly service... and delicious food. I had the Chicken Quorma with Quabouli; the seasoning was spicy, but more aromatic spicy than super-hot spicy. My dad had a beef dish - I cannot really remember which one - but he really enjoyed it as well. The prices are very, very reasonable (around $10 for a meal which will not leave you hungry), and they do take-out as well as eat-in. This is not a fancy place for a date, but highly recommended for a casual meal; I personally hope that they get busier than they were when we were there, because I really want to go back the next time I return to Edmonton for a visit.

                                    Thanks again to everyone for their suggestions... I wish I had more time (and less family weirdness to deal with) to be able to try more of them.

                                    1. re: MarkhamDee

                                      Thanks for the follow-up.

                                      I've marked Ariana down as it sounds interesting and defintely worth a try. We are always looking for something affordable especially at lunch time rather than ending up in yet another chain like Earls, Moxies and the like.