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Calgary Downtown

I've lived in Calgary for years but never worked downtown. Now I have space in Art Central I may need lunch occasionally. I've had a look around at what people say when visitors ask for downtown recommendations but do you have any more specific suggestions for weekday lunches?

Art Central is on 7th Ave and Centre St south. I know Chinatown fairly well but are there any reasonably healthy, quick lunch spots once I connect to the Plus 15 system or is it the vast wasteland that it appears to be? When I say quick I don't necessarily mean take-out but I don't want a multi-course fine dining long lunch.

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  1. Does it have to be Plus 15? I just find that whole thing to be completely soul-destroying, and pointless unless it's -30 (and even then I hit the street). I've never understood the "dining" options there to be anything but terrible with some exceptions. Now, I've never worked downtown (my dining hell is the university but that's another, sad, story), but I did LIVE at the apartment tower at 8th and 8th for a year, and aside from the Eaton Centre food court I never had to rely on Plus 15 places. Mind you, back then (2000-2001), many MANY of the plus 15 joints were smoking, as were tons of eateries, but those days are of course long gone...

    Anyway, if I worked downtown, I'd make a point of hitting A Touch of Ginger as often as possible- and by this I mean the tiny lunch-only spot by the Uptown Theatre, not the Eau Claire Market place or the one where Senor Frog's used to be. Hottest lemongrass chicken I have ever tasted and tasty too, really quite different from any other Viet place in town. I'd also want to try the lunch buffet at Sahara, which is possibly the best lunch bufffet in town and one of the only, the only one I know, Lebanese one. I'd check out the new, cheap Thai from the fast-food Thai place (Calgary is in dire need of this variant!) where Sbarro at the Eaton Centre food court used to be- not bad at all...

    Really, I should defer to people who actually work downtown, but I must say that I'd love to have to problem of too much choice- lunch at the uni is too depressing for words, with one or two exceptions.

    Sharonanne, can you tell us which Art Central store is yours?

    1 Reply
    1. re: John Manzo

      avenue diner is a great place for lunch! but you either have to be really early or really late - don't even try to go over the noon hour - it's even full by 11:45.

      i've heard good things about the cafe at mcnally robinson but haven't yet tried it myself.

    2. I’ll second the mentions of Thai Express in the Eaton Centre and Prairie Ink in McNally Robinson.

      I like the buffet at Chutney on 4th ave but I find it a bit expensive if I’m not prepared to tuck in for a huge meal.

      I also often find myself at Sunterra in the Trans Canada Tower. I end up there when I don’t know what I want but don’t want fast food. I like the variety as well as the fact that I can get half portions if I’m not that hungry or feeling a little cheap.

      1 Reply
      1. re: TaraInCalgary

        I used to work in TC Tower. The pizza and big pan at the Sunterra are good, quick, cheap eats. I was there quite a bit.

        There's a sandwich place in the Glenbow Museum that's pretty good, and not often mentioned. My preference from Art Central would still be to go to Chinatown, and eat at Han's or a vietnamese place, or dim sum. Chutney is a close +15 from where you are too, and i like it. Lastly, i ate at Bourbon Street Grill a lot. It's in Petro Can tower. Cheap, tasty, well balanced.

      2. Prairie Ink is great for fresh sandwiches, soups, and desserts.

        I'd also recommend the Pita Basket Cafe on 5th Ave and 6th St. SW - excellent chicken shawarma.

        When Mango Shiva reopens they have a delicious fresh buffet that you can enjoy as eat in or take out (and it's cheaper as takeout).

        Rose Garden also has a buffet (although I think it's only available eat in) that I love.

        There's a great vietnamese sub place near the Harry Hayes building (I can't recall the name).

        I also don't mind some of the options in the +15 - although there are indeed slim pickings. The Thai place in Eaton Centre is actually pretty good, as is Sunterra. I also like the Choices in the TD Square food court (the one near Banana Republic) as they have wraps with fresh (read real) chicken and turkey each day. In fact, there are lots of places tucked into food courts around downtown that roast fresh turkeys each day for sandwiches.

        1. Can anybody report on the crepes place at the TD Square food court? Never tried it, but I love crepes, savoury as well as sweet ones...

          1 Reply
          1. re: John Manzo

            The sweet ones are better than the savory ones - the savory ones are more like overstuffed wraps than crepes. And you have to eat them right after you order them or the crepe part ends up ice cold and rubbery, which is highly unappetizing. I actually like the ones at Sunterra in the TCPL Tower better. They have a great chicken and artichoke one there.

          2. Thanks for all the suggestions too.. I will definately have to expand my lunch meals from the Sun Life plaza food court where I usually eat.

            I would also recommend the lunch buffets at Rose Garden, Chutney, and Skazka (1 St SE between 4 and 5 Ave).. all easily within reach of Art Central. (if you thought Chutney was pricey, you haven't been to Skazka yet).

            Further away from Art Central you've got ethnic places like Atlas (end of the c-train and 9th ave) for Persian - their kebabs are awesome, though I wish they used real saffron, Sahara - very tasty lebanese lunch buffet)...

            Jigga - The vietnamese sub place across from Harry Hayes is "Banh Mi Thi Thi" - get there early or else you're lining up, hoping that someone didn't put in an order for 10+ subs ahead of you.

            1 Reply
            1. re: taiphun

              Great places to eat in downtown:

              Thai Tai (located beside Piq Niq on 1 St SW and it's between 8 & 9 Ave SW) - primarily 'cos they have wholewheat Vietnamese subs! I'm so happy. I really like the Lemongrass Beef sub.

              Piq Niq is pretty good - French cuisine. A little on the pricey side.

              Siding Cafe is not bad where Art Central is.

              Alligator Pear in Petro-Canada has great sandwiches (I think it's still there) - I usually have the chicken salad sandwich on brown (of course!) made with chicken, grapes and almonds. Great combination!!

              U & Me Dim Sum in Chinatown - Feeling adventurous? It has THE best chicken feet in black bean sauce.