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Jun 24, 2007 05:05 PM

Interesteing Mid-range food in Calgary?

I am constantly frustrated by this city's lack of good, innovative, mid-range dining. The only way I can find to have a good meal with entrees ~20 is to go ethnic, which can be good, but nothing interesting. What's a foodie on a budget to do?

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    1. Show me a city with innovative, good dining with entrees under $20 anywhere. The ethnic spots ARE this category. I wouldn't blame it on Calgary. The price of everything is always going up everywhere. All you can do is hope to get what you pay for.

      2 Replies
      1. re: formerlyfingers

        Sugo's entrees sit around low to mid twenties, and I don't think The Coup has a thing on their menu for twenty bucks. It's very doable, evidenced by the multitude of boring chain places that fill that market in this city. I would gladly pay a little premium on earls prices to get something I'm actually interested in eating.

        1. re: funkfunkfunk

          You raise a good point. The Coup, though has the advantage of not offering the one thing that accounts for the bulk of a restaurants' food cost - meat!! So, although it may be "innovative" my money will be spent elsewhere.....I like meat way too much. Sugo? I wouldn't personally call it innovative, but, each to their own I guess. And wouldn't they fall into the ethnic category? On that note however, there is lots of good reasonably priced Italian around town. The markets and Italian Stores come to mind.
          Finally, you mention Earls. I admit to having a fondness for Earls that may not be shared with others around here. While I know they are not necessarily "innovative" they are trying to make good food and their training is evident. I always feel I am getting value for my money at Earls, as I have yet to have a really negative experience there.
          I don't think one can expect to get really creative, well prepared, innovative and technically sound food for under 20 bucks. I would be suspicious of it if existed.

      2. There are a few spots that offer good entrees for close to your price point...but you'll have to choose wisely and not be afraid of flatbreads and pastas (not always innovative)...which cost restaurants less in terms of food cost and hence tend to have a lower price tag. Chicken is also usually a lower priced item. I also find appetizers between friends in many places to be more creative and they often offer more value than entrees. With labour costs and the price of real's tough for places to make a buck.'s some picks I came up with off some of my favorite menus;

        Brava Bistro - Lots of pastas/flatbread for less than $20 and Crispy Cracklin Chicken for $24 (my favorite dish there!).
        Divino - The lobster cannelloni for $22 is excellent value and the porcini mushroom flatbread (with Elk pepperoni) is excellent. Great appetizers and an amazing wines by the glass list.
        Tribune - When they open again (rain damage has closed them) you will find an excellent assortment of pastas, quite creative, for less than $20 or go for the Tarragon Citrus Half Chicken with Vegetable Fricassee for $23.91, excellent value and an awesome dish.
        Murrieta's - Lots of pastas and flatbreads for well under $20. Live music on weekends. Good wine list as well.
        Buchanan's - Calgary's finest "gourmet" cheese burgers...$15. Excellent wine list by the glass and great scotch selection. Don't sell these burgers short, they are tasty!
        Avenue Diner - Not for dinner but a great late lunch...nothing over $14.25 and lots of great sandwiches, mac n' cheese with truffle oil, etc.
        Escoba - Reopening this fall (Penny Lane closure) across from the Globe will have a menu you may appreciate overall though I am sure their prices will go up as a result of the move.

        Earl's...I'll give them credit for one thing, they bring in their foods fresh and that's more than I can say for some other places these days. And I disagree wholeheartedly with your comment that ethnic food isn't're not looking hard enough if that's your opinion. Cheers.

        2 Replies
        1. re: ureviewcalgary

          Hey thanks for the thorough reply!

          I actually ended up at Divino tonight, but I got the Lamb (36$), which was excellent(despite not being the temp. I ordered. I was good enough that I was halfway through before I noticed) so my frustrations are still there. I don't expect that kind of dish for 25$ but even among restaurants in the same class, portion and sides for a dish along the same price-point vary so widely it's pretty tough to figure out what is good value and what is not. I would gladly take (and would probably benefit from) a smaller meat portion and more veg/starch in this hypothetical mid-price restaurant if it would lower the price of the dish.

          I love Buchannans, they introduced me to chicago style steaks (and burgers!). I have to watch myself when I go though, it's pretty easy to spend all night getting shitty on whiskey. I'll definitely have to try the Avenue and the Tribune when it re-opens. What I meant as far as ethnic food being uninteresting was more that it is uniform in and of itself: if I get a bowl of brisket pho at a restaurant, it will be more or less the same every place I go.

          Thanks again for your suggestions.


          1. re: funkfunkfunk

            Glad my post helped you out a bit. To your final point...the reason you find ethnic food being commoditized or "altered" is because they are being made for the "Calgary palate". There are lots of great ethnic spots that aren't the typical cliche but they're also not the places people typically write about. It's a shame...bad Chinese, Vietnamese, Sushi, Indian, Greek, the list goes on...all in the name of serving food to rubes who don't know better and don't care to taste the good stuff. It makes me miss my travels but when I do find a little gem I appreciate it even more! Cheers.

        2. Cafe Koi is very creative and inexpensive.

          Artisan Bistro is Spanish-influenced but not strictly "ethnic," with good price points.

          What about the new Victoria's?

          Fingers- have you been to The Coup? I'm a carnivore and I love it.

          2 Replies
          1. re: John Manzo

            John, I am guilty of contempt prior to busted me!

            1. re: John Manzo

              I tried to go to Victoria's on Friday for lunch and it is closed (AGAIN!). The sign said new management/renovations but did not cite an opening date. This was on the east end entrance door. Later that day driving by I noticed that there were chairs and umbrellas out on deck on the west end so now I don't know what is going on. They had a lovely bakery and coffee shop for a little while but when I took my hubby out for dinner one night it was awful. Packaged food and oily dressings on the salad. Nothing that made us want to return for dinner.