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hole in the wall - calgary

i'm hoping for some help - once a month my office goes out for lunch to a "hole in the wall" and we take turns choosing such a place. My turn is coming up pretty soon and since I haven't lived in Calgary that long I haven't discovered many of these types of places.

We've been to the deerhead cafe - this one was probably as good a hole in the wall as you could get - a handful of vietnamese places, some pubs, etc.

It can be pretty much any part of town - I'm looking for something really good....any suggestions?

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  1. As one of the resident gourmands, I feel like I should suggest a few places.

    - Jonas' Restaurant; low-key, good value and homey. Downtown. Hungarian food is particularly good for these cold winter days.
    - Reef n' Beef; previously discussed. NE (Rundle). Steak and a time warp.
    - Wonton King; it looks from the website like they're classing up the joint. Four locations; I just remember the original serving outstanding wonton soup to the truck drivers of Barlow Tr.

    I'm sure I'll come up with others.

    1. One of my favorites is Fresh Select Deli which is at 807 7 Street SW. It's very small, maybe seating 10-15. It serves your typical lunch fair but they have the best Spicy Chicken. I've been going here for about 15 years or so and while I've been tempted by other things on the menu, I don't think I've tried anything else besides the chicken.

      1. Crete Souvlaki! At the OK Gas bar at 17 ave and 25A street SW. Not much room for sit down, they only have a few tables (maybe room for 6 or so?), but do a take-out number that day. The food is fabulous Greek. As 'hole in the wall' as it gets.

        1. i'm curious as to whether you're more interested in the novelty of a run down spot or actually interested in a good meal... the recommendations might differ depending on which is the more important factor...

          anyways, a few initial rec's for holes in the wall.
          - banh mi thi thi (across from the harry hays building in china town)... it doesn't get more hole in the wall than this. despite this, they (still) have some of the best vietnamese subs in town. no eat-in seating.
          - crete souvlaki - good take-out greek food, with the added bonus of gasoline odors.
          - wiener schnitzel house - Bowness Rd NW
          - i've posted before about a chinese bbq meat place on the west side of centre st around 14th st N where you can get two kinds of bbq meat (easily about half a pound) on rice for about $5. Both their bbq pork and roast pork are good. i wasn't as impressed with their soya chicken. no eat-in spots here either.
          - there's a korean place called Matsarang House that's very hole-in-the-wall-ish on 10th st just off 12th ave SW. It's pretty good, with good lunch specials before 2pm.

          29 Replies
          1. re: marcopolo

            The BBQ Place is BBQ Express. It's on 13th Avenue and Centre Street. The Lunch box (two meats and rice) is up to $5.50 now, $6.50 if you choose the duck. And i wholeheartedly agree - the bbq pork and roast pork are the two best options. The soy chicken is at least moist, but the flavour is kind of meh...

            1. re: marcopolo

              thanks for the suggestions, please keep them coming!

              it should be a combination of both good food and no atmosphere - crete souvlaki has been done already

              we do need to be able to sit down there are about 10 of us.

              1. re: pants

                well then, you probably wouldn't all fit in Matsarang House either.

                just remembered that the schnitzel house in bowness is only open for lunch on saturdays, so that's probably not a good idea either.

                i was thinking that skylark (Indian) might also be a nice hole-in-the-wall kind of place. If your co-workers a bit adventurous, you could also try the what's up cafe on 17th for some ok caribbean food.

                1. re: marcopolo

                  If you're looking for Caribbean, What's Up is pretty inconsistent in their hours. I've tried to go there several times and they are sometimes open, sometimes closed. Last time i walked by, they looked like they had been closed for good. But it kind of always looks that way. It's a great suggestion though.

                  For a sitdown place, try Green Grotto on 17 ave SE. Jamaican-owned, they do great brown and red stews, and ok jerk. If you call in advance, they told me they would prepare Jerk traditionally and BBQ it (i think they grill it right now...so no smoky goodness). Havent taken them up on that yet.

                  Skip the fish. And imo, skip Skylark. It ranks up there as the worst meal i've had over the past 2 years.

                  1. re: yen

                    do they have Roti? i would kill for some good roti - one hole in the wall a couple months ago was at what used to be Sherry's but has new owners, i was so excited about the roti and then it was mashed potato with corn and chicken in a spinach tortilla wrap....i was so disappointed and been craving it ever since!

                    1. re: pants

                      Yes, they have roti, but i dont remember it being great (and always ask for extra sauce). My understanding (and John can correct me/validate it) is that Roti, while a West Indies thing, is more prevalent in T&T than it is in Jamaica.

                      Other Roti places in town include the T&T Organettes Club (my fave), Caribbean Choice Foods, Joyce's, and the venerable What's Up. I've Roti from the place next to Skylark too (same stripmall, can't remember the name though). They were all about the same, other than the T&T OC.

                      The only places with enough sitdown for 10 would be Green Grotto, T&T OC, and the place next to Skylark.

                      1. re: yen

                        looks like organettes and roti hut are the only pure TT places in town now as tropical hot appears to have flown the coop :(

                        And yep, roti was re-invented by Indian indentured labour in Trinidad and Guyana- it's made it to Jamaica but it's not Jamaican; having said that, I think Joycee's makes a good roti. The Jamaican place across from Lina's does terrible roti unfortunately but at least it's made with real daalpuri and not a tortilla!

                        SPEAKING OF LINA'S: My partner has heard that Lina's is closing and being replaced by a T&T! I have mixed feelings about that but given the very obvious ethnic transition that's occurred in that area- Chinatown really extends up Centre all the way to 20th Ave, really- it's not surprising. T&T wants a toehold in the inner city in Calgary, apparently.

                        1. re: John Manzo

                          Uh, where is the roti hut? This sounds promising!

                          I was so mad about Tropical Hot. I drove 35 minutes to get there, only to find it gone :(

                          1. re: yen

                            roti hut is across 36th from Pacific Place, 920 36 St NE. I have had decent doubles there but made a beeline there the first day I moved to Calgary, August 9 2000, and got the blandest "veggie" roti I have ever suffered through- it seemed that she left the curry out because I'm white, I dunno.

                            I don't really have a reason for why we don't head there all the time, I guess coming from the SW it's just as inconvenient to head up towards deerfoot mall area and get roti at Organettes, but Orgs don't make doubles, unless they've changed.

                            1. re: John Manzo

                              Other than distance, is there anything else that you don't like about The Roti Hut?

                              1. re: sleepycat

                                you must mean organettes- i don't like that they don't serve roti every day, and that their are things not on the menu- doubles, aloo pies, etc.

                                1. re: John Manzo

                                  Ok, so all this talk about island foods had me hungry. So i did a scouting trip last night to figure out where Roti Hut was, and i hit it on my way into the office today.

                                  I went a little overboard - i got a large roti, 2 aloo pies, and a double.

                                  Roti's come in two sizes (regular and large) and two varieties - boneless, and regular. Boneless cost 2 bucks more. I like this option, as many people arent big fans of picking bones out of their food (i like bones personally, but i know im weird).
                                  They had veg, goat, and chicken. I got a large, boneless goat.

                                  The Roti itself was sizeable. Definitely larger than What's Up or Joycee's, or Choice Caribbean as well. It is a couple dollars more, so i think it's justified. I asked for extra sauce, and they complied. The roti itself was fairly good - nice flavour, good sauce ratio - only issue was not enough meat, and i prefer chick peas in my roti's (it was primarily potato). Authentic? I can't say - i'll leave that for those who know better.

                                  The double was decent, but needed hot sauce. It was $3.
                                  The aloo pies were fresh, and really good. I tore into them walking out of the restaurant. They were $2.50 each.

                                  All in all, a fair deal. Not so insanely cheap that i'll go all the time, but when im craving that sweet curry goodness, i'll be happy to get back in line and have the ladies laugh at me for my oversized order.

                                  1. re: yen

                                    Ok I don't eat Island food muchif at all but I know where this Roti Hut is. A large boneless goat sounds kinda funny. So what are Doubles and Aloo's?

                                    Educate me.

                                    1. re: sleepycat

                                      Sleepy- doubles are a sort of sandwich with a shell of deep-fired barra (bread made from ground lentils, or is it ground chickpeas, not sure, maybe either), stuffed with curried chickpeas and served (ideally) with pepper sauce and chutney (in TT they often use a chutney of either cucumber or coconut; in Canada it seems you always get tamarind, which is fine). Aloo pie is a fried pastry, sometimes like a pie crust and other times the same barra as with doubles, and it's stuffed with curried potato. My partner, who is Trini, always asks for potato and chickpea; some places comply, some not.

                                      1. re: John Manzo

                                        The sauce was what i believe to be pepper and tamarind. Some garlic in there too. Good flavour and heat. The doubles at Roti Hut were made with lentils filled with curry chickpeas, and the aloop's were in a pie crust, not a barra crust. Aloo pies came in either chick pea or potato. Both - i didnt realize. That would be better!

                                    2. re: yen

                                      Time to give this place another shot! I just wish since the owner is from Tobago that they had bake and shark- that's what you eat on Tobago, not so much rotis.

                                      1. re: John Manzo

                                        There was a Jamaican flag on the wall... i kinda of wondered.

                                          1. re: John Manzo

                                            Don't ask me man. Go check it out...it was on the wall!

                                            1. re: yen

                                              I'm not blaming you Yen, but jeez, that's sacrilege.

                                              1. re: John Manzo

                                                ya, i knew you werent My response was rushed - sorry, i forgot the smiley... i was running out the door. Didnt have time to double check.

                                                Anyway, they had a T&T flag on the wall opposite it, but the first one i noticed was the Jamaican one. Go give em heck John! :)

                            2. re: John Manzo

                              is lina's closing or moving? i can't imagine they would close down, it's very established is it not?

                              1. re: pants

                                I don't really get it either- something about owner wanting to retire or something

                                1. re: pants

                                  What makes you think they are doing either? I was just there and saw no evidence.

                                  1. re: sarah galvin

                                    Nothing "makes me think" any of this; my partner heard it from somebody who knows the parties involved.

                      2. re: pants

                        I know this may come a tad late, but my hole-in-the-way joint is Vlassis - it's a pizza joint up on centre st past McNight (beside the KFC) It's ambiance is absolutely scary, but if you venture inside, their pizza is so.... good! I usually order the Vlassis 88 or a Hawaiian (I have never had better). Their baked lasagna with meatsauce is also to die for. They serve it piping hot with a side of garlic toast. I haven't been able to find a better place since I moved down south - Spiro's doesn't even touch it.

                        What's also good is that it'll easily fit 10 people.

                        Have a try

                        1. re: jkl

                          Better late than never! This stuff is gold. I can't wait to try it next time (though i don't like Hawaiian, so i hope Vlassis 88 does the trick :) ). Thanks for the info.

                          1. re: jkl

                            This is a favorite of DH's hockey team.

                            1. re: jkl

                              I remember going here as a kid back in the '70's. My sister and all of her friends had their first jobs there as waitresses. I don't think that it's changed much since way back then. I may have to revisit for the nostalgia factor!

                        2. Two suggestions:
                          - Gee Gong in Chinatown on Centre Street has both an excellent Chinese butcher and good food.
                          - Luxor on 7 Avenue, just west of the 8 Street C-Train station, has delicious Middle-Eastern food.

                          Would Spicy Hut on Edmonton Trail be considered a hole in the wall?

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: aktivistin

                            Kind of looks like one. Good food at Spicy Hut :)

                            1. re: aktivistin

                              I would NOT call Luxor a hole-in-the-wall, but if you venture around the corner there is a place called Dakota Deli that would most certainly fit the bill. It seems to be full of trash from the 80s (literally... trash), there are piles of dusty magazines and records all over the place, and they also do Western Union money transfers. I pass by it daily, on foot, and I've only ever seen people in it once. Yet it remains open, all day, every day.

                            2. Try the Sub Company (also known as the Sunshine Cafe) at 404 Meridian Road NE. Great big bowls of Wor Won Ton Noodle Soup for under $7. Huge breakfasts for under $5. They have a small Chinese Buffet on weekdays as well as sandwiches, burgers, etc. Very little ambiance - but that's part of being a hole in the wall.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Zydeco_Mama

                                Are their Chinese buffets any good ?

                                1. re: sleepycat

                                  Honestly haven't had the buffet - just the wor won ton - which in my opinion is really good.

                                  1. re: Zydeco_Mama

                                    Wor Won Ton, King's on Barlow.

                                    Delicious, and about as hole-in-the-wall as I like to get.

                                    1. re: young lion

                                      The Sub Company is just a little further down the road from King's. I like their Wor Won Ton better than King's.

                              2. Fat Kee noodle house in the NE behind the Husky truck stop on 32nd Ave and Barlow. They make their own noodles for other restaurants so most everything is fresh and pretty cheap. No frills Chinese style sitting and atmosphere.

                                Peanut's Sports Pub behind the Carriage House Inn, has a great lunch steak sandwich deal and supposely good wings (haven't tried those yet).

                                Wellington's at 10325 Bonaventure Dr SE offers a great steak lunch (a bit pricey but excellent steaks) with good service.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: slingshotz

                                  not too late at all, it's my turn the end of april - so i have a few weeks to try some of these places out!

                                  1. re: slingshotz

                                    Wait a minute... Wellington's is now considered hole in the wall?! I suddenly feel extremely low class!

                                    1. re: Hoj

                                      Wellington's is not hole in the wall.

                                  2. baba ka daba ,most definatly a hole in the wall ,but the the lamb /goat chops i would kill for ,ginger naans good too .it looks like they changed ownership so things have changed.they have a set menu now althouogh sometimes they dont have all the things they offer that day

                                    1. Check out Thai Nongkhai - 10, 7400 Macleod Trial S.E. I'll be posting some pics and a bit of a blurb on my blog soon, but here is a photo in the meantime. Check out the little fried shrimp birds! It is next to Heaslip Meats, in a stripmall, and from the outside you would never know it's anything special. Until you go!

                                      1. Pelican Pier in the NW was awesome if you're looking for seafood.

                                        1. my favorite hole in the wall in calgary is a little all day dim sum restaurant up center street around 22nd avenue.. its directly accross from a temple of some sort in a little strip mall with an insurance place in it.. The woman that owns it makes it all herself, and its awesome. Who wouldn't like shue mai any day of the week. Also they have most of it available frozen so you can take it home and keep it in your freezer.. 5 tables.. and just really good food..

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: retroville

                                            Centre and 22nd? Do you mean Little Beijing?

                                            1. re: retroville

                                              So they have all day every day is dim sum?

                                            2. Fortune foods. 2404 center street north.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. pretty much.. the menu is double sided, so there are some soups and a few chow meins and such. but mostly just really good dim sum..

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: retroville

                                                  I have been trying to find good dim sum so I can't wait to try this out. Thanks for the tip!

                                                2. also they are closed tuesdays, no clue why.. anyone care to guess?

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: retroville

                                                    Tuesday is the slowest day probably for chinese resturants. I know of other chinese resturants that close on that day. Plus if they're open all weekend they probably need a day off esp if they are family owned business

                                                  2. Post a review after you have eaten there. I would like to know what others think. so far everyone I have taken there loves the place. any other dimsum places I should know about?

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: retroville

                                                      I remember stopping by Fortune Foods on my way home from Chinese school. It brings back memories of stopping there with my mother to pick up frozen dumplings and wontons, and sharing a beef & noodle congee and beef brisket ho fan soup. If there are fresh sesame balls (the kind filled with red bean paste), pick some up! Hot and greasy but very delicious.