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Valentine's Day in Calgary

Hello again,

Valentine's is around the corner and I've left my planning a little late this year. As a starving student (alright, not exactly starving, more-like constantly craving), I'm looking for a restaurant recommendation that won't break the budget (textbooks were extra expensive this term!). This means no thank you to your Teatro's, Belgo's, Velvet's, etc... although they may be great restaurants, I think wait untill after graduation.

The criteria? In roughly this order of importance:
-Excellent, delicious food... doesn't have to be cutting-edge cuisine, just tasty. It doesn't matter what kind of cuisine either - chinese to french to mediterranean; I love it all!... if it's tasty!
-Ambience... it is Valentine's for two after all. Tiny, out-of-the-way, hole-in-the-wall, restaurants have always appealed to me more that the 100-seat trend-setters.
-Price... again, budget is always an issue for a student
-Location... Not a huge consideration, but if it's all the way out in Okotoks... ;)

Your suggestions will be GREATLY appreciated!

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  1. The Blue House Cafe on 19th Street at Northmount Drive NW may fit the bill. It is Latin American food with an eye to seafood. It's small and sometimes quite crowded, but if you have the right table can be quite romantic. They also usually have live music.

    1. Have you considered The Coup? Intimate and friendly with delicious good value vegetarian. One issue might be that they don't take reservations but when we arrive early we've never had a problem snagging a table.

      2 Replies
      1. re: John Manzo

        John, cmon, there's nothing romantic about vegetarian food :)

        1. re: yen

          well, the peaches and bananas of the world beg to differ :)

      2. Can you set a specific desired expenditure? Teatro, Belgo, etc.. is definitely high end, but im not sure if you're aiming for $60 for 2, $50, $40, $30, etc....

        16 Replies
        1. re: yen

          Good point - up to around $100 for two - Valentine's isn't a time to be too cheap!... but that would have to me a multi-course affair.

          1. re: can_i_try_some

            Off the top of my head, a few places come to mind.

            1. Artisan Bistro. It had been a while since i've been there, but this place is your definition of tiny romantic whole in the wall. The food is spanish, and very tasty. Entrees come in between 18-30, and appetizers are in the 8-12 range, desserts 6-8. The family that runs it are amazing people too. I think if you were careful with your wine choice, you could do $100 here with 3 courses. No wine? Then definitely no problems.

            2. Aida's. It can get a bit noisy, but it's a cozy spot on 4th. Good Mediterranean, and can easily be kept under $100. You'd be able to get some wine with that even!

            3. I think Japanese is pretty sensual and romantic, so i'd personally aim for something like that. Wa's is small and cozy, but has all the atmosphere of a fancy cafeteria. But the food is good. Shikiji is nicer, and have quite a diverse menu, but the food isnt as good.

            4. TibetonTenth - tiny Tibetan place in Kensington, really good food, very cozy - i think they have 7 tables. Very personal, and personable service.

            5. Antonio's Garlic Clove - getting to the high end of the scale price-wise, the food here is good, and it is a nice atmosphere. And nothing says romance like 100 clove chicken right? :)

            6. I don't find East Indian to be very romantic, but there are a bevy of fancy places that would fit. I think the atmosphere at Moti Mahal is best out of the ones near the core, and they have good food to boot. Nirvana (in the NE) is like a big Taj Mahal. More impressive than romantic, but it's fancy!

            7. Tapas at Jaro Blue. I think this might end up over your price range (John can speak more to this), but it's a nice romantic, trendy space, and quite small. Excellent service, and good food. Sharing a bunch of tapas platters sounds nice too :)

            8. Brava Bistro - some recent service concerns aside, they have good bistro food in a nice, smaller atmosphere.Top end of the price scale though.

            Anyway, hope that helps. Im sure people will have a lot more to add, but i have to run to my basketball game :)

            1. re: yen

              Jaro is great although they have one unfortunate weak spot and that is deserts, which are a sine qua non for real romantic IMHO.

              Artisan is a superb suggestion.

              1. re: yen

                Jaro or Artisan are nice.

                I think Mango Shiva would've fit the bill, but I don't think they are re-located yet - sigh... unless someone else in the Chow world knows something I don't?

                Maybe end the evening with a leisurely dessert at Nectar Desserts.

                1. re: ybnormal

                  How about Laurier Lounge; an old house that's been renovated into small rooms for dining? Loads of candle-lit, romantic atmosphere, very good service, tapas and other well-done dishes at a reasonable price point. I was there last weekend and we enjoyed it immensely. The only table I would ask not to be seated at is the cute little table for 2 at the top of the second-floor stairs which unfortunately is right beside the washroom. Check out the good review in the Jan/Feb City Palate for Cheap Eats under $50.

                  1. re: bmacdon

                    I was at Laurier Lounge in December, and had a horrific experience. Wrong food was brought out, super slow service, wrong drinks, cold food, omissions not omitted, disappearing servers. Then when the bill came, they had forgotten to put 70% of it on there! We mentioned that 250 dollars was missing off our 350 dollar bill, and they laughed and said oops! Did they comp us anything for all the mistakes, especially when we were good citizens for pointing out their grievous error in the bill?? Coffee? Dessert? Nope.

                    Granted we were a group of 8, but that really shouldnt have been beyond their capabilities. We didnt even ask for separate bills in order to keep it easy for them! I would not go back.

                    1. re: yen

                      that's too bad about Laurier - I was there on the patio right after they opened in the summer and everything was great. i was just thinking the other day that we should go back.

                      i would second Jaro Blue. Divino can be done reasonably as well, so can Tribune. You just have to watch what wine you order, that's usually where it adds up quick - but i know they both have great wines at the lower end of their price ranges.

                      1. re: pants

                        Yeah, it was disappointing, especially compared to the old location.

                        Divino could be managed at that price range, but you'd be scraping near the bottom of the price bracket for each course, even without ordering wine. When the OP said $100 (for 2), but only for a multi-course affair, i didnt think that ordering the cheapest thing on the menu for each course just to make budget would be the right kind of V-day experience. At $100, you're really aiming for $40 each in menu items (since tax and tip pretty much add up to $20). That would be tough at Divino (soup, flatbread, and a dessert already puts you at $34). I know when i was in a similar situation (student), i would prefer to go someplace cheaper and order what i wanted, than to feel like i was bottom feeding at some fancy restaurant i had no place being at (budget wise).

                        As for Tribune, i definitely don't see being able to do three or more courses under $40. It's about 20% more than Divino.

                        1. re: yen

                          yeah, i guess divino might be tough for multi-course and tribune, but you can't eat multi-course at tribune, it's way too much food - i can barely get through salad and entree and I can usually eat :)

                          1. re: yen

                            Tribune is in fact 20% cheaper than divino.

                          2. re: pants

                            Maybe Laurier just falls apart with big parties? I had the opposite experience at Wild Ginger- at the film fest closing gala, everything was fantastic, I mean a complete revelation, but for regular dining I've never heard anything good about the place.

                            1. re: pants

                              I had visited Laurier Lounge shortly after the opening and found that it was a charming neighbourhood bar with a simple concept. Service was inexperienced and the food though unimpressive, was priced well. As a result, the restaurant saw much success quickly and then raised they their prices considerabley. Its definately not worth the doubling in original price for fondue or entrees starting in the mid 30's. I haven't been back since but if the service is still receiving complaints after this much time I would just as soon as pass on a revisit.

                      2. re: yen

                        artisan would've been nice. i heard they closed :(
                        too bad, i had a really great meal there.

                        1. re: marcopolo

                          I was there last Friday. Definitely not closed.

                      3. re: can_i_try_some

                        If you like italian, buon giorno on 17th Ave at 8th St SW would probably fit your price range, we never spend more than that for 2, multi-course with wine (house). There's a new italian place just north of the Stampede la vita e bella that I thought was pretty good, They have their menus online now www.lavitabella.ca

                        I love the greek food at Pegasus (14th St at 11 Ave SW) www.ourpegasus.com and indian food at Taj Mahal (Macleod around 50th Ave) www.tajmahalcalgary.net - I think they give free roses at Taj on V-day. If you like oysters - it's the"food of love" :) - you can try the Embarcadero www.oysterbar.ca - these are all places that are within your $100 for 2 range.

                        Maybe it's just me, but I hate getting jacked up on V-day (and on NYE) with $100 per person fixed menus at places where dinner is normally $50pp and what's on offer doesn't justify the upcharge. You might want to consider cooking something really nice at home.

                    2. This location may not be the greatest for you - but it's not Okotoks (not quite) - but Karma on 130th ave SE, off Deerfoot Trail has great indian food at reasonable prices and I find the ambience to be very cosy. It's a small space, not super brightly lit, but not really dark either. Definately call ahead for a reservation.

                      1. La Villa is up in the Westhills area, and it's pretty cozy and romantic. Excellent food, good service, good desserts and usually our bill is just shy of $100.00

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: sweeterpea

                          hey...is Moroccan Castle still around down there? that to me is the ultimate in romantic, very sensual eating with your hands shrouded in tapestries. I don' t recall it being that pricey but it has been ages since I have been there.

                          1. re: cleopatra999

                            I like that idea. You may also want to try another Moroccan place, The Casbah - the food is really good and the ambience is low lighting and intimate.

                            1. re: cleopatra999

                              The Moroccan Castle is a beautiful room - but we went about a year ago and found the service efficient but frosty, and the food was just OK.

                              1. re: cleopatra999

                                I just noticed that Sultans Tent has reopened on 14th Street just south of Chicken on the Way. My friend told me this was quite some time ago (like November). Anyone try it yet?

                                1. re: yen

                                  I used to love the Sultan's Tent. I hope it is as good!

                                  Yen, are you aware of anything like this in Edmonton?

                                  1. re: cleopatra999

                                    Me too. When i get a chance to try it, i'll let you know.

                                    Sadly, im not aware of any Moroccan restaurants still operating in Edmonton.

                                    1. re: yen

                                      Sultan's Tent is back? That's great news, I hope. I have never been to Morrocan Castle, but I did find Sultan's Tent to be better overall than Casbah.

                                      1. re: yen

                                        just did a search and found Moroccan Gardens. ever heard of it? might have to start a new thread.

                                        1. re: cleopatra999

                                          I thought Moroccan Gardens was closed. This is the one in the Highlands yes?