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Mar 20, 2008 07:11 AM

inexpensive dinner in Calgary

hey Calgary CHers!

Can you recommend anywhere newish (or tried & true) for an inexpensive/ moderate (ie. mains for max of $22) resto in Calgary next Friday night. Downtown preferred, takes reservations, not ethnic.

Don't know if this is a lofty quest but hopefully we can find something.

Thanks all!

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  1. I might suggest Red Door Bistro (11th Ave and 5th street SW). It has French influences, but is certainly not an ethnic restaurant. There are straightforward items like steak, chicken, etc. In terms of prices, they may be a few things just above 22 but not much. For example, we sometimes have steak and frites there are the 6oz version is around 17.00.

    Red Door has a nice atmosphere, service is pretty good although they have off nights now and again. Interesting cocktail menu as well.

    1. I'd suggest Prairie Ink in the McNally Robinson bookstore - enjoy before it disappears this summer.

      Pretty tall request - most ethnic restaurants would fall into the inexp/mod range. How ethnic? Jonas (Hungarian) is downtown as well for cheap eats.

      Red Door Bistro is a good suggestion. I haven't been to Saltlik for a while, so their prices were reasonable at one point in time.

      1. The bar at Catch probably has a few good choices.

        9 Replies
        1. re: sarah galvin

          Oooh, excellent suggestion! Cleo, that's the lower level of Catch.

          1. re: John Manzo

            thanks for the suggestions, I will take a look at these. As for Ethnic, no Asian food. Not for any dislikes just feel like something different.

            Yen? are you out there, you must have some opinions? I would like something along the lines of Culina or Bacon in Edmonton.

            1. re: cleopatra999

              How about Brava Bistro? Its fairly close to downtown and although a few of the Mains are above your price point most of them would be below $22.

              1. re: cleopatra999

                Hmmm. Looking at Bacon's website it looks like you might like Cafe Koi.


                1. re: cleopatra999

                  Nothing in the same price point and quality as Culina here. Comparable restaurants to Culina are all mostly 50% more. Expect to pay a 20-25% premium on top of Edmonton prices for comparable food at other establishments.

                  Calgary's price point for non-ethnic restaurants is typically quite high. Especially downtown. If you're open to non-asian ethnic food, it will open up your opportunities quite a bit more.

                  Anyway, under your existing criteria, I like Jonas' the best (Hungarian). Nothing quite like it in Edmonton. Red Door pretty much fits, though i find the food to be distinctly average. Divino for flatbread and some cheese (not a real formal sitdown type meal, but tasty), but the mains cost a lot more. Bistro Piq Niq is probably just above your price range, but they have corkage if you want to bring your own wine to offset the cost :)

                  If you venture into Bridgeland (one of the communities next to downtown), Artisan Bistro (Spanish by way of Chile) fits pretty much the price point. La Brezza will remind you upscale Tasty Tomato, and it's there as well.

                  Kensington (just north and west of downtown) opens up a few more options as well. Pulcinella is very hit or miss on the board - they serve authentic neapolitan pizza. It has a pretty "modern" atmosphere (if you consider "black and WHITE!" to be modern), and falls within your price point. Lots of pubs and small ethnic eateries in the area as well.

                  A good bet price-wise, and different than E-town, is Casbah, Moroccan restaurant just south of downtown (down the street from Red Door). The environment is a bit sterile, but the food is tasty.

                  Im -1 on the bar at Catch, and the food at Koi is nowhere near as good as Bacon. Brava is ok, but fairly far. If you want a good price, and creative inventive food with eclectic atmosphere, your best bet is The Coup. It's vegetarian+vegan, but it fits all of your criteria. Just no meat.

                  It's south of downtown on 17th Avenue. Unfortunately, i don't believe they take resos.

                  1. re: yen

                    Just a heads up on Jonas', I went there for lunch today, craving paprikash, and they're closed until the 27th. So they will be open next Friday, but you may not be able to make a reservation until almost the last minute. Also, the decor is a little home(l)y, which may or may not matter to you.

                    (The plan C we wound up with, for the record, was the Kabuli Grill, a new chain fast-food Indian place; they had a pleasant mango and black pepper potato dish, but the butter chicken was awful and the rest of the food was pretty bland and unappealing. Thai Express and Koryo are far better as far as the new Canadian-based Asian fast food chains.)

                    Another option in Kensington that's non-Asian is Marathon, an excellent Ethiopian place -- although the service is slow.

                    1. re: yen

                      Nope, no reservations at Coup. Otherwise I'd have recommended it.

                      Cleo doesn't say how strictly she wants the location to be "downtown" but I'd add that the restaurants on 11th Ave (Red Door, Casbah) are a very easy, flat walk from the core itself; Kensington can be a pleasant walk on a nice day (and the days have been VERY nice for weeks now) or one C-Train station NW of the core; Bridgeland is NE of downtown but I hate to say this but I don't recommend visitors unfamiliar with the lay of the land to walk there as they have to run the gauntlet of crackheads and the like around the massive homeless shelter around the 4st Bridge- I walk across Centre St but that gets complicated, it is VERY hilly and you're better off cabbing it or driving- so I don't include Bridgeland (or Inglewood) with "downtown" recs.

                      I think Brava is much more than fairly fair, by the way- one of my fave restos anywhere.

                      1. re: John Manzo

                        Concur on walking to Bridgeland. Im a fairly big guy, and I won't say it's my favorite walk in the city.

                        1. re: yen

                          I agree, the walk over the Langevin bridge (the one under the 4th Av flyover) isn't ahem the safest...even midday I've felt a bit uncomfortable. On the plus side the guy slurring "hello" at the kids(class field trip) was already in zip ties and being taken to a waiting cruiser by Calgary's finest.

              2. I will suggest Aida's Mediterranean on 4th street.

                13 Replies
                1. re: Shazam

                  thanks everyone.

                  I did not think of brava as last time I was there (3-4 yrs ago) I seem to recall it being higher priced, but maybe in comparison it is not anymore.
                  I had no idea that calgary restos had gotten that crazy in their pricing compared to here.

                  I love cafe koi have had great meals there and may resort to that. I was hoping that we could find something else though.
                  Morrocan might be a nice change, wanted to stick to downtown so that we could cab down then stay there to go to beat niq. Pic niq does look above our price range.

                  Coup would be fine with me, but my SO needs meat with his meals.

                  Red door sounds interesting.

                  What about Jaro Blue, have been hearing alot about it on this site? I am not sure how I feel about tapas. I always feel like I am getting ripped off.

                  1. re: cleopatra999

                    Based on the "budget" you quoted? You will feel like you're getting ripped off :) .

                    1. re: yen

                      Well, per the suggestion in this thread, I decided to try out Red Door Bistro last night (was on my way to the Rhino for drinks, so it was conveniently right next door).

                      I was going to order the 6oz & Frites, but was really hungry and opted for to order off the a la carte chop menu instead.

                      I selected the 16oz blackened ribeye ($21.99) and Tomato and Herb Risotto ($4.99). There were a variety of sauces and other accompaniments, but all I wanted was a nice juicy steak.

                      The steak came medium, as recommended by my server, I normally prefer medium rare, but due to the amount of marbling she suggested that the steak be brought up to the proper temperature for the fat to melt completely.

                      It came pretty true medium, warm with a slightly pink center. Blackened on the outside, which was different for me (Chicago style almost). The steak was GOOD, not exceptional, not blow my socks off amazing, but pretty much just what I was expecting.

                      The Risotto was delicious as far as non-mushroom risotto goes, flavorful, cheesy, slightly al dente, and overall a strangely good choice beside the steak.

                      I had Hairy Eyeball (house heifeweissen beer, which I enjoyed immensely, but made strange bedfellows with my dinner)

                      Total bill was around $50, after two more drinks for companions that joined me near the end of my meal.

                      Service was brisk, knowledgeable, and friendly.

                      So overall good, but not so good that I would go out of my way to recommend as a steak joint. Your mileage may vary.

                      1. re: young lion

                        We have given in, we are going to go for, what is the best of either thai or other asian (not Indian, sushi ok) anywhere that has corkage? takes reservations, downtown, or 16th ave N area. nice atmosphere, not too loud.

                        1. re: cleopatra999

                          not that many places have corkage- but word on the street is that if you want Thai, you must try Thai Sa On, on 10th Ave just east of 4th St SW.

                          1. re: John Manzo

                            "word on the street" from whom? I wasn't impressed, I'd only heard/read rave reviews from a certain food critic whose opinions I no longer heed. As said above, your mileage may vary.

                            1. re: hsk

                              I say "word on the street" because I've never actually eaten there, but there is one poster here who declared it his fave resto in Calgary and I've read tons of positive press about it.

                          2. re: cleopatra999

                            I tried a place on Monday that i really really liked actually. It's called Thai Place, it's located in the Quality Inn on Banff Trail (they are just off 16 Ave N and roughly 24th Street). Great flavours, nice ingredients, and reasonable sizes. Not saying this is Chiang Mai, but it's better than my usual standbyes of Thai Boat and Ruan Thai. Thai Nongkhai might be better, but it's much farther out.

                            No idea on corkage here. There used to be a website that listed all the corkage restaurants in Calgary, but it's no longer up there. According to "localwineevents", Piq Niq, Sushi Club (a decent Sushi place in Kensington, just N of downtown), and Diner Deluxe are the only ones near your price range, near your area, that have corkage. Call ahead and check though, as these sites are often out of date and no longer accurate.

                            1. re: yen

                              I forgot about Diner Deluxe! I have not actually been there for dinner. Only breakfast, but that would be a great idea....especially if they still do corkage. sushi club might be a great idea too....although does wine go with raw fish? there is a reason why they drink sake.

                              where is thai nongkhai?

                              1. re: cleopatra999

                                Wine certainly can work, depending on the fish, and depending on the sushi. My brother and I drank 2 bottles of 05 Riesling at a very nice sushi meal last year - went incredibly well together.

                                Nongkhai is fairly far south on Macleod trail. I was told last week that they are related to the owners of Thai Boat (cousins??), which i was not aware of.

                                1. re: yen

                                  okay, that is definitely too far away, but I will keep that in mind next time we visit my folks who live far south!

                                2. re: cleopatra999

                                  Diner Deluxe DEFINITELY does not take reservations.

                                  1. re: cleopatra999

                                    Diner Deluxe is not as busy in the evening, though I haven't been there on a Friday night. I don't think you will have a problem getting a table.

                                    I know I am forever recommending the Rose Garden Thai Restaurant, but I would like to throw it out there again. I prefer by far over Thai Sa On, and the atmosphere in the Rose Garden's upstairs space is very intimate (but not cramped) and exotic (but not cheesy). The Rose Garden does take reservations. Another option for Thai/South-Asian is Spicy Hut on Edmonton Trail.

                                    I also like El Sombrero on 17th Ave. I realise that there isn't good Mexican to be found anywhere in Calgary, but I quite enjoyed the empanadas and the churros I had there.

                                    Lastly, you can respect your budget at Cilantro on 17th if you stick to pizzas and pastas. I love the pear and gorgonzola pizza and the smoked salmon and vanilla cream crostinis.

                      2. I'd recommend Buon Giorno, I like it but it's never mentioned around here - it's been around forever (although some remember when it was the Prairie Dog Inn) - so maybe not cutting edge enough. It fits - takes reservations, most mains $22 and under, It's Italian (ethnic to me but not according to your clarification), not quite DT but on 17th and 8th SW, so fairly close to DT. If Greek is OK Pegasus on 14th and 11th SW would also fit.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: hsk

                          Buon Giorno makes superb pizzas, but only at lunch! For shame! And yeah their food is pretty darn good- just don't go near the "bread" they give you. It's like a 1974 time warp in a basket- horrible. But easy to avoid.

                          1. re: John Manzo

                            Manies, almost next door, makes great pizzas, too. And they make them all day and night.

                            1. re: John Manzo

                              Pizzas at Buon Giorno? I never knew. But I only go at dinner. I'll have to give it a try.