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Calgary: local specialties, must-try dishes?

Visiting Calgary soon and am wondering if there are any local specialties or must-try dishes I should make a point of having, or even restaurants that are considered Calgary institutions.

I'm not necessarily looking for the fanciest food Calgary has to offer, but more of what's truly a local flavour.

Thanks very much!

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  1. Calgary is a new city that is mostly bereft of "traditions." Yes, there are ranches that raise great beef here, but "beef" is an ingredient, not a dish or a cuisine. We have some nice steakhouses but so does Toronto. I remember seeing some nonsense in a travel guide about how Calgary had a specialty called a "beef dip," an ephemeral sandwich that I have never, ever seen on a menu here. This isn't Baltimore and we don't have crab cakes.

    Institutions? It's hard to have "institutions" in a city that was, fifty years ago, a bump on the prairie barely larger than Regina is now. I'm not saying this to mock you at all, but people come here expecting Calgary to compare favourably, or challenging it to compare favourably, with cities like Montreal that have had head starts that we can measure in centuries. Even people who live here cannot understand this, it seems.

    That said, there are many great restaurants here, a good range of ethnic cuisines (Calgary is at about the same point, demographically speaking, as was Toronto in 1991, on the verge of becoming one of the most multicultural cities in the world and already the third most diverse in Canada), and lots of money to support a burgeoning, bulging cultural scene (and that includes restaurants). Now, there aren't many ethnic cuisines that are BETTER in Calgary than in TO, but I must say that one among those "not many" is sushi. Should you come here just for the sushi? No, of course not, but since you're visiting you might as well check some of it out. There is a huge thread on "sushi in the YYC" on this board, check it out.

    There are several restos that are venerable (by Calgary standards, which is any place more than 10 years old) and that do an excellent job of locally sourcing, as much as possible; if there is one can't miss resto in Calgary I'd have to say it would be River Cafe, for food, setting and ambience. There are many other high-end standouts here, not necessarily "institutions" but very well-respected: Capo, Il Sogno, Belvedere, Divino, Teatro, Centini, Muse, Brava Bistro, and many others.

    We have some very nice markets here, among which the Calgary Farmers' Market at Currie Barracks is a standout (with a superb "food court" comprising all sorts of unique options as well as Phil and Sebastian, the subject of a profile in the Globe and Mail recently and one of the best coffeehouses in Canada); funkier but still beloved is Crossroads Market which is not far from the delights of the Inglewood neighbourhood (this is Calgary's Leslieville, with lots of funky stuff and a couple of very adored restos), and a place I never saw like any in Toronto called Lina's Italian Market, in the neighbourhood due north of DT called Tuxedo and one that is rapidly becoming a sort of Chinatown North. Lina's is as big as a small Safeway and has an epic packaged food selection, superb cheese and deli, bakery, and the most amazing tavola calda-- my favourite Italian resto in Calgary is that cafeteria...

    I sound like a broken record but Calgary is becoming a superb centre for third-wave coffee; compared to Toronto and pace Manic and its ilk, Calgary punches above its weight for coffee and it's moving from strength to strength. We recently saw the opening of the first Caffe Artigiano outside of Vancouver and it's been a huge success, but there are others raising the bar. I review these in my blog (link at my profile here).

    Sorry for the disjointed narrative here but I'm trying to type with one eye on the Flames-SJ game six!

    Have a great visit!

    10 Replies
    1. re: John Manzo

      Well, not sure if you were inciting us to respond, John, but I tend to disagree. We don't have as much tradition due to our youth as compared to 400 year old Quebec City, but that doesn't mean we have no traditions. But then compare us to Halifax. It's old and you don't have a lot of choices.

      Caesar's Steakhouse is, in fact, a Calgary tradition. As is the dining room at the Palliser Hotel. Although they are private clubs, the Glencoe and the Country Club are steeped in history. On the other hand, the now Pulcinella was Stromboli's and was a landmark. As for beef dip, where have you been my boy? It is on every second menu! Not the fancy dancy nouveau restos but at the everyday dining spots.

      Bridgeland has Italian history going back to the 30's and Chinatown? What about Chinatown?

      Some of our landmarks have retired -like Mama's or the breakfast streetcar on the west side of town (can't even remember the name now) where everyone stopped for breakfast on the way to skiing.

      And there a lots of other spots that just don't happen to be on the radar because they are no longer considered fashionable but have been with us through thick and thin.

      1. re: sarah galvin

        Okay, uncle, uncle, we have traditions, sort of. I wrote about a lot of other stuff too. But I have to ask- where are these beef dips?

        1. re: John Manzo

          Where aren't they? Moxies, pubs, Victoria's (if it is still open), Pasquales, honestly, it is so common I can't think. It can be a lunch special at other places. Usually any place you can get a burger, I'd say.

          1. re: John Manzo

            The Delta at Kananaskis has a huge and killer beef dip btw; real au jus, not the oversalted bouillon stuff.

            Sunday brunch at the Palliser is a tradition with many families, and don't forget Peter's Drive In.

            The Silver Inn offers local flavor -- reputedly the inventors of Ginger Beef in 1974.

            1. re: John Manzo

              I'm a big fan of the beef dip at the Bear and Kilt, in particular.

              1. re: John Manzo

                There are beef dip on menus all over Calgary. Google this: Calgary "Beef Dip" menu to find several examples. Cheers.

              1. re: phoenikia

                No, they don't. It ended when 'The' Chef left to start Capo.

            2. There are a few things that stand out for me:

              Ginger beef - this is a Chinese derived dish that originated here. It is offered at basically every Chinese restaurant here now. You should try it out. It's lightly breaded, shredded beef in a spicy, sweet sauce. The dish originated at the "Peking Ginger Beef" restaurant, but I'm not a big fan of that place. Try Silver Dragon downtown.

              Korean Bulgogi - Bulgogi made with Alberta beef is simply the best. Try out Korean BBQ Seoul on Macleod Trail. Make sure to try both bulgogi and kalbi.

              Kicking Horse coffee - go to Bumpy's or Diner Deluxe (I think) and try some. Great locally made coffee.

              The Caesar - yes, that drink was invented here. Lots of places offer it. I'm horribly allergic to mollusks so I can't give you any specific recommendations here.

              And go to River Cafe. I insist.

              11 Replies
              1. re: Shazam

                Bumpy's doesn't use Kicking Horse, unless there has been significant changes since I was last there this winter. Maybe you're thinking of Big Mountain? That one's local, Kicking Horse is almost local being from Invermere, but I wouldn't go out of my way to try it when there are much better coffees around town.

                1. re: peter.v

                  Bumpy's ABSOLUTELY does not use Kicking Horse! I don't know of any decent espresso bars that do. Bumpy's uses 49th Parallel from Vancouver and Big Mountain, which is indeed local. KH is not even local.

                  1. re: peter.v

                    Kicking Horse is sold at the Husky gas station in Sundance, don't know if all Huskys sell it or if its specific to that location.

                    1. re: cdn

                      Couldn't remember for the life of me where it was served. I thought my guess would arouse some comments. And Invermere's close enough :)

                      And yeah, try Big Mountain as well. I've been on a major coffee tasting tour at work and I'm getting totally confused.

                      1. re: Shazam

                        KH roasts dark, REALLY dark, as does Oso Negro but it's much easier to find fresh beans from Oso Negro (they're in Nelson) since they clearly put roast dates on bags- KH doesn't, at least not without some inscrutable code that I can't figure out, and their bags sit on supermarket shelves for months. IMHO they should not keep whole-bean coffee on the shelf for more than a month post-roast, which is the standard they use at Phil and Sebastian.

                        1. re: John Manzo

                          Yes, I purchase Oso Negro occasionally. I am aware of the differences between these brands.

                  2. re: Shazam

                    In fact the Caesar cocktail was invented by the chef who was working in the restaurant where Wild Ginger is located now. Just across from the Westin.

                    1. re: knifeguy

                      The Caesar was invented by bartender Walter Chell at the Owl's Nest Bar in the Calgary Inn (now Calgary Westin Hotel) in 1969, to celebrate the opening of Marco's, the hotel's new Italian restaurant at the time.

                    2. re: Shazam

                      Due to recs from this board, (and because I was working late and nothing else was open) I tried Calgary's famous ginger beef at Silver Dragon. For what it's worth, I'm a Chinese guy from Toronto, and in my opinion, ginger beef is definitely not something that most Chinese people would enjoy. I even asked the waiter if it's something that's more suited for the western palate, and he said I should still try it. I couldn't eat more than a few pieces. On the other hand, their pea sprouts stir fried with garlic was fresh and flavourful.

                      Any other chinese people here that would either agree or disagree with me?

                      1. re: Crispier Crouton

                        I know "chinese" people who adore ginger beef- why would "chinese" people not like it? I see "chinese" people scarfing down Wendy's and Tim Horton's every day. If what you're saying is that somebody looking for authentic Chinese wouldn't be looking for ginger beef, then of course not. This should be obvious: ginger beef is a Western Canadian- specifically a Calgary- invention. It's vernacular Chinese, like chicken balls with sweet and sour sauce that every Toronto Chinese "ho-lee-chow" style takeout does. Nobody would ever claim that it's authentic Chinese!

                      2. re: Shazam

                        A gal writing about Chinese food on About-com claims that ginger beef is Albertan in origin and barely exists anywhere else. Not true. Ginger beef appears on virtually every Chinese restaurant menu in Regina, and has for dozens of years. Like a lot of the people in Calgary, ginger beef is probably a ex-pat of the city that rhymes with fun.

                      3. I'm not necessarily looking for the fanciest food Calgary has to offer, but more of what's truly a local flavour.
                        I'm not to sure if these constitute local flavour, but local landmarks forsure.....
                        Peters Drive In
                        The Ship and Anchor
                        Nicks Steak House
                        Spiros Pizza
                        Ranchmans Country Bar
                        The Ranch in Fish Creek
                        The Dean House and Historical Site
                        Melrose for Flames Games
                        Kanes Harley Diner
                        Calgary Golf and Country Club
                        Glenmorgan Bakery Cheese Buns
                        Heritage Park

                        Just off the top of my head.....

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: cdn

                          Yep, we used to go to Nick's when we were in university for our "fancy night out", haha.

                          I second Smuggler's for a big slab of Prime Rib.

                          1. re: cdn

                            That's a good list! I forgot about Nick's and Peter's. And Smuggler's is iconic.

                            1. re: sarah galvin

                              Thanks, but I wanted to add one more, Korusous(sp). I'm not to sure if its still in operation. I just remember going there a lot as a little girl and while growing up. My dad was a good friend of the owner, I think they went to high school together. After Mr. Korusou(sp) passed away it wasn't quite the same and we stopped going. They had Calgarys BEST pizza hands down.

                              1. re: cdn

                                I think it is spelled Karouso's. I have never been there.

                                1. re: sarah galvin

                                  Karouso's was sold got a face lift and became Titan's the food changed some. Now they have been closed for a long time due to some sort of flooding issues. I think they're probably just having problems with the insurance contractors. I can relate.

                                2. re: cdn

                                  hands down!?!?!? not even CLOSE.... even if your entire idea of pizza is limited to the greek bart style. i used to live just down the street and have had their pizza many times. it was passable greek bar pie, but pretty meh IMO. (things have also changed since it was sold and renamed Titan's). Stavros, just up the street a few blocks, makes better pie, AND if you go on half price wednesdays, it's a FAR better deal.

                              2. re: cdn

                                Oh, I completely agree with those cheese buns. So good!

                                1. re: cdn

                                  Just an addition to your list...

                                  Salt and Pepper - A nice little mexican restaurant
                                  Red Water - Great seafood
                                  Log Barn 1912 - Best pies I have ever had, very unique.
                                  Murrieta's - Italian, Seafood, nice wine selection


                                2. Prairie Oysters;) Buzzard's serves them during Stampede.

                                  Second Ginger Beef- I actually crave it once in a while and it's (almost) impossible to find in Ontario.

                                  Also would suggest the Greek dry ribs- every bar in Calgary seemed to offer them, but they seem to be a rarity east of Regina!

                                  I miss the old Tullamore (circa 1999-2001), still haven't found an Irish pub that compares what the Tullamore used to be. Not sure if the original owner is still running an establishment in Inglewood.

                                  I started my 3 year stay in Calgary with a Beef Dip at the Moxie's at Market Mall, and ended it with a visit to Original Joe's in Kensington.

                                  Nellie's also seemed like a Calgary institution to me. Although I realize some of their food hasn't been received as chowworthy, I did like their huevos rancheros and the fact they served perogies with some of their breakfasts. Humpty's also has perogies available as a side, but the last breakfast I had at Humpty's was downright regrettable.

                                  Also, the Pfanntastic Pannenkoek House. I realize there's also something similar in Vancouver, but I'm not aware of any other cities that serve Dutch pancakes in Canada. http://www.pfanntasticpannekoek.com/c...

                                  Peanut butter/miniature marshmallow squares, and puffed wheat/chocolate squares seem much more common in Calgary coffee shops than other parts of the country.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: phoenikia

                                    Pilot Tavern in Yorkville (TO) has amazing ginger beef but only as an appie, not with rice etc, more like chicken wings which I think is a great way to serve it, as finger food.

                                    1. re: John Manzo

                                      Thanks- corrected my post.
                                      Will have to check it out...haven't been to the Pilot in over a decade!

                                    2. re: phoenikia

                                      Kelowna actually has a good dutch pancake place as well, De Dutch it's called. It's a BC franchise, with one in Edmonton apparently as well. I think I preferred that over PPH here in Calgary, but the difference (from what I recall) was DD served your eggs and stuff on top of the pancake, and PPH served it mixed in. Maybe my memory is just bad haha.

                                    3. I forgot to mention King's aka Wonton King, the best Wor Wonton Soup in Calgary.

                                      1. Kind of related to the ginger beef discussion. Is chicken with cashews in yellow bean sauce a Calgary thing or maybe a western Canada one? I looked in vain for it in Chinese restaurants in Chicago and Baltimore and I've never been able to find a recipe for it. Haven't looked in Vancouver.

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: sharonanne

                                          Not sure, but I know I'd never heard of it before I emigrated to Canada- sort of like how I had to give up twice-cooked pork and Mongolian beef when I moved here... also crab rangoons...

                                          1. re: John Manzo

                                            FYI, in case you find yourself in Saskatchewan, crab rangoons are available in Saskatoon.

                                            1. re: phoenikia

                                              Really? Fried wonton skins stuffed with cream cheese and crab? I bet they're not on a buffet table there like I used to find in the states...

                                              1. re: John Manzo

                                                Yep. Actually, Saskatoon is the only place I've had them;)
                                                They were on the menu at Genesis Family Restaurant. Haven't tried any Chinese buffets in Saskatoon yet, so I'm not sure whether rangoon would make an appearance.

                                            2. re: John Manzo

                                              crab rangoons...your killing me. Just when you thought you were over giving up food and you have to mention them...I could do a plate of those right now.

                                          2. As far as local food, try those sausage in a baguette things (where they, um, impale the bread and put in the sausage) you can get at a couple stands on Stephen Ave. And do a stampede breakfast where they fry the bacon right into the pancake. Spolumbo's sausage (with marinara sauce) is a local treat, although I don't know how unique it is compared to the usual Italian deli.

                                            I would say Peter's Drive-In and Caesar's steak house are local institutions. Also, try the garlic soup at La Paella, which some of the old fogeys here at work swear by. Chicken On The Way is an institution for some, although I'm not a fan, as is Lido Cafe (which is just a really average diner!). Smuggler's was mentioned here... go for brunch and just pig out.

                                            The Ship and Anchor isn't exactly old, but it's a "legendary" pub here. The burger is good.

                                            Most of our really good restaurants are too new to be "iconic" yet...

                                            6 Replies
                                            1. re: 23skidoo

                                              Also A&A deli (the original location in the NW) is an institution for some. The hummus is good, but the falafel and shawarma are middling. Jimmy (son of the original owners?) is fun.

                                              1. re: 23skidoo

                                                Blackfoot Truck Stop!! As cool and authentically retro ( maybe not retro as it never really changed or imitated anything ) as any greasy spoon anywhere. And they know how to cook eggs properly too.

                                                1. re: 23skidoo

                                                  You're on a roll-

                                                  I'd also add the Vietnamese subs- especially those from Thi Thi and Kim Anh. Calgary has great viet subs and they're different from those in Toronto- BIGGER. Same with shawarma here. Pricier but huge.

                                                  1. re: 23skidoo

                                                    Chciken on the Way is great. Greasy succulent chicken, fresh cut fries, and corn fritters that are absolutely unstoppable. The corn fritters alone are worth the trip ... it's like a savoury doughnut.

                                                    1. re: 23skidoo

                                                      I agree on the sausage and brats from the Old Munich carts on Stephen Ave. The buns are perfect!

                                                    2. Holy smokes! Thanks everyone!

                                                      It's going to take me a bit to read through all this, but thanks a million for sharing your favorites.

                                                      Looks like I've got a lot of good eatin' to do!

                                                      1. I think the major "institutions" have been noted, if I can second Peter's Drive-In (16 Ave and Edmt Trail NE - get a milkshake), Teatro (downtown, very pricey), Spolumbos and The Ship & Anchor (great selection of draught beer).

                                                        If you're looking for local, traditional fare in Calgary, I think it's important to remember that Calgary has a very diverse population. Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, and Lebanese are as much of a Calgarian tradition as steak and burgers.

                                                        To add a few less famous, but locally acclaimed gems:
                                                        Michelangelo's - 1401-11 Street SW. GREAT selection of world beer. It looks like it's shut down from the outside.

                                                        Beano - the best espresso in Calgary (I think). On 17 Ave and roughly 9 St.

                                                        The Burger Inn - Burger's being a local staple, this might be what you're looking for. You won't be limited to beef here: ostrich and bison among others are available. On 4 Street, just South of 17 Ave - it's a bit hidden.

                                                        Tubby Dog - On 17 Ave - very popular for late night hot dogs, beer and live DJs.

                                                        Falafel King - one on 17 Ave, one on 1 Street near Stephen Avenue

                                                        Co Do - on 17 Ave near 14 St (SW) Fantastic Vietnamese, which is basically a tradition in Calgary (not to mention the subs, as someone else recommended. Kim Ahn is wonderful, also on 17 Ave).

                                                        Towa - This is not at all a Calgarian tradition, but a must if you like Sushi. Go there now!

                                                        Booker's Crab Shack - Cajun, but very popular with locals.

                                                        Diner Delux, Galaxy and Dairy Lane all serve a wonderful, unique breakfast.

                                                        The Silver Dragon - great Chinese food in China Town that's been around forever.

                                                        My final advice: all this talk about Caesars. The drink is wonderful and the key is to ask the bartender if they use Clamato from the bottle or on tap. It's only good from the bottle.

                                                        The restaurant Caesars, however, is terrible. No one else will tell you this. People seem to love it for some reason. It's terrible because it's expensive and hyped but the food is only par. If you really want steak and you're willing to pay for it, try Vintage or The Saltlik. I feel the need to tell you again that Caesars is not good.

                                                        23 Replies
                                                        1. re: popil

                                                          Couple rejoinders- sorry, but...

                                                          Beano does not have anywhere near the best espresso in town. It's a nice and very popular coffeehouse, but the espresso at Caffe Artigiano, Phil and Sebastian, and Bumpy's are all better, in my opinion (and I like to think I know espresso).

                                                          Falafel King is ON Stephen Ave since the block it was in is being gutted for 'Fashion Central." It's now right next to Flames Central. Also, its beltline location is actually on 9 St SW, not on 17th per se. HOWEVER, I don't like FK anymore- it's gone to such efforts to standardize (for franchising) that the food is just blah- the last chicken shawarma I got there, in its new and gorgeous Stephen Ave location, was bland, with pita that was like cardboard. I am loving newer place by my house (it's on 14 St and 15th Ave SW) called Shawarma Knight- better than FK ever was, I'm afraid, and the whole family comes out when I show up to teach me a new Arabic word.

                                                          Towa- when they first opened they were absolutely a breath of fresh, creative air, but I can't recommend them any more. Too many freezing cold rolls, too pricey, too dodgy service, and no longer open for lunch. There is a big thread on sushi in "the YYC" and I heartily recommend OP check it out.

                                                          1. re: popil

                                                            Hy's was the best. Caesars is good. Saltlik is an Earl's operation, and it shows.

                                                            Co Do has very good satay pho soup. Everything else there is meh. I still maintain my position that Ming Chau in Inglewood is the best overall Vietnamese restaurant in town by a fair margin.

                                                            1. re: Shazam

                                                              Yeah, Hy's was the best. I'll havae to try Ming Chau

                                                              1. re: Shazam

                                                                I think the best basic Pho with rare beef is at Pho Hoai, in Chinatown (not the restaurant by the same name in Southland Crossing). So beefy. The rest of the menu is just OK, but the soup IMO is really amazing.

                                                                1. re: 23skidoo

                                                                  I agree...best Pho in the city but I heard the ceiling collapsed in Jan on another board. One of the sons of the owner frequents and he says it' hasn't re-opened. I haven't heard anything in a while...anyone know if it's reopened?

                                                                  Yes I am talking about the Chinatown location.

                                                                  1. re: kritafo

                                                                    Some friends of mine were at White Oak the other day (vegan Chinese place in the same mall). They said Pho Hoai had just re-opened after some renovations. I'll have to go there soon.

                                                                2. re: Shazam

                                                                  Ming Chau's pho is excellent, but i don't think it's the best in the city. However, their grilled meats are definitely the best i've had in the city. their lemon grass chicken, and grilled pork and beef are wicked. mmm... all i can think of is #49, #50, #60... must be close to lunch.

                                                                3. re: popil

                                                                  re: Michelangelo's - As I understand it Mike has moved to (I think) Nanton. His new restaurant is called "Wild Thyme". His lamb was the best in the city according to a friend who is planning to make a day trip to his new restaurant next time they visit from Toronto. We tried lamb everywhere, but no one came up to the standard set by Michelangelo's in her opinion.

                                                                  1. re: Lotti

                                                                    Ooh! Wild Thyme! I went there. My husband and I were really surprised by how good it was. I didn't know he used to have a restaurant in Calgary.

                                                                    As for Vietnamese, I think Quynh's (sp?) in the NE by the Sunridge Spectrum theatre is the best.

                                                                    1. re: Lainey1978

                                                                      There are many Vietnamese places in Calgary, of which Quynh's is near the bottom of many lists....too bad too!

                                                                      A local specialty is a bit tough, in the sense that nearly everything is globally influenced in some way. If I was to move away from Calgary, I would miss the dim sum at Pine Lake Restaurant, Dominique Moussu's adorable shop l'Epicerie, Amato Gelato, Lina's, Sahara (fabulous baba ghannoush and, and and), the falafel at Village Pita Bakery, the Calgary Farmer's Market (lots of things...), Capo, and Canada's one and only Knifewear. I would also greatly miss Bite Groceteria, as I practically live off of their fresh cherry tomatoes & baguettes.

                                                                      Spolumbo's would be considered a Calgary institution, as would Bernard Callebaut, and Chicken on the Way.

                                                                  2. re: popil

                                                                    I am very surprised that Tubby Dog has not been mentioned until this very point. Sure it's an expensive for a dog, sure it's chuck full of bohos, but where else, my friends can you get a hot dog topped with peanut butter, jelly and Captain Crunch? Where else can you get a hot dog topped with pickled ginger, wasabi, and Japanese mayo?
                                                                    Tubby Dog, that's where.

                                                                    And for my own two cents, Cafe Beano sucks (in comparison) and Peter's is (on risk of blasphemy) ... overrated. There. I said it. It is good for a huge bag of fries, a good shake, and a trip down the uncharted waters of someone else's nostalgia, but that's about it. I agree, if you want a good Burger, Burger Inn should satisfy, or many other pubs in the city (Broken City's is surprisingly good). And steer clear of Tommyburger. All you will get there is an overpriced burger with very little result.

                                                                    1. re: Hernando

                                                                      I think your age is showing Hernando - Tubby Dog is only an institution for the 18-30 crowd :)

                                                                      And i agree, Peter's is overrated, and Tommy Burger is terrible. Rocky's Burger Bus is as much an institution, and better. I also think Boogies is better, but a bit more expensive. For a great burger though, pubs are where it's at.

                                                                      1. re: foodosopher

                                                                        I'm glad, in a way, to hear I'm not the only one who missed the Peter's train. Every person I have travelled to Calgary with, or even talked about Calgary food with for that matter, can't live without stopping in for a meal. It just never struck me as that great, good - yeah, nostalgic - yeah...but a day trip or travel necessity - nope. I have however always wondered aboutl those crazy dog options at Tubby.

                                                                        1. re: raidar

                                                                          But the Peter's burger is infused with ketchup! And the soft texture... drool.
                                                                          A chacun son goût.

                                                                          1. re: 23skidoo

                                                                            ick, i've been to peter's one time. this was about 8 years ago, and i haven't been back since. like others have said, it's completely overrated. the fries were good, but the burger was totally poor. the meat was exactly like those frozen No-Name burger patties that you get at Superstore... really, really gross. i don't know how people can say these burgers are any good at all.

                                                                              1. re: nonlinear

                                                                                I agree the onion rings are pretty good. The shakes are great & the burgers are dismal at best.

                                                                        2. re: Hernando

                                                                          I saw 30 about 20 years ago and I like Tubby Dog. $5 for lunch isn't that bad anymore. Real beef dogs and no heartburn from additives. Gotta like it. Hot dogs are a bit of nostalgia from when we had huge bonfires every June at our one room school house in Sask.

                                                                          1. re: sarah galvin


                                                                            You're right - they are good. I just wanted to be clear that I never said people didnt like it. I enjoy it as well. Im just saying i wouldnt call it an institution. People who drink and party their way up and down 17th Ave might - there are a lot of regulars who dine at 1am, but those days are certainly past for me!

                                                                          2. re: Hernando

                                                                            The only thing I recommend from Peter's to out of towners are the milkshakes. They truly are good. Even my girlfriend who just moved here from Europe loves those shakes. Best she's had, according to her!
                                                                            Other Calgary specialties I think would include Wicked Wedge, our numerous Vietnamese restaurants that everyone has mentioned, and Thai tai. Best vietnamese toasted subs I've ever had.
                                                                            And a heads up, for that person that says the sausage-impales-into-a-bun is a calgary specialty, they're all over Europe :P They call them French hot dogs (sometimes they use the long skinny red sausages/weiners, sometimes the thicker ones). I see them all over Denmark and Scandinavia.

                                                                            1. re: Hernando

                                                                              Waaaaaaaaay prefer Le Chien Chaud on 4th Street to Tubby Dog - their hot dogs are so different and made to be just plain delicious, not just weird... Chicago is awesome, stand by the Chilean, but for a hangover, nothing beats the Ukranian (hot dog with potato cheddar perogie filling, sour cream and bacon bits)

                                                                              Tubby Dog
                                                                              1022 17 Ave SW, Calgary, AB T2T 0A5, CA

                                                                            2. re: popil

                                                                              I have to agree with popil's opinion of Caesars. I think it's terrible, especially for the price. The presentation IMO is deplorable, a slab of beef in the middle of a plate with no garnish whatsoever simply isn't appetizing (for me at least). Then the waiters are snooty. I'd pass.

                                                                              On a positive note, I am not seeing Santorini's listed anywhere. Their Kleftiko Lamb (sp?) is my favourite, and the Saganaki has been prepared perfectly each time I have gone there. Santorini's (1502 Centre A St NE) has been around for as long as I can recall, my parents went there routinely when I was in high school, so yes, we're going back a while, but to the day I find them to be consistent.

                                                                            3. I hesitate to post this, because it's and absotlute gem and I want to keep it all to myself, but Boogies Burgers, on Edmonton Trail, kicks the crap out of Peter's Drive in, and you don't have to wait in line for 45 minutes to get one of their amazing burgers.

                                                                              Also try Big Fish for Sunday Brunch, I know it's weird to go to a seafood place in landlocked Calgary, but if your sick of the regular brunch fare, this place is awesome.

                                                                              In China town, go to the Silver Dragon and order peking duck, its pricy but worth every penny.

                                                                              Jimmy's A&A and Falafal King are always great, but go to the original locations.

                                                                              Definitely check out our farmer's markets, and Lina's Italian market

                                                                              You could go to a steakhouse, but it's always more fun if you can find good yard for a barbeque and a fire (yep, were allowed fire pits here) and have some of our local beers
                                                                              Whatever you do, don't go to Ruth's Chris for your Alberta Beef: they serve American beef.

                                                                              I'm sure I left tons out, but that was my two cents.

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: hungryungry

                                                                                Yep...I fully endorse the above.

                                                                                Jimmy's A&A is possibly the best donair you could eat across Canada, bar none. And everything else they sell, hummus, baba ghanoush, et al.

                                                                                Boogie's Burgers is so top notch, creative takes on burgers but not departing from the ravenous need to stretch your mouth around some good beef. The Pizza Burger is a real treat.

                                                                                On the casual food tip, a local fav is Tubby Dog, where you can get a gourmet hot dog. One has PB&J with Captain Crunch, another with wasabi mayo, ginger etc... It's fun, although a stand in Vancouver pioneered this twist thing more than our town.

                                                                                Sunny's Vietnamese in Chinatown. Than Long on 17th Avenue, or Nha Trang in the south. Calgary's vietnamese is truly much better than Toronto could try to be, so if you're into Pho, do it up.

                                                                                Glory of India and Nawab for east indian.

                                                                                And I also agree sushi can be quite excellent here, my vote is for Hana Sushi & Towa sushi.

                                                                                1. re: indiazi

                                                                                  2nd the Jimmys comment mmmmmmmmm Donairs!

                                                                              2. Hey all, I just signed up, so I guess you can take my opinions with a grain of salt, but...

                                                                                I can't believe no one has said anything about Wellington's (Bonaventure Drive in the south, right by the Stetson Inn) yet. When people think "Calgary" and "Steak" everyone always thinks Caesar's, or Hy's, or Smuggler's. My big issue with these restaurants, is that I can easily go to my local butcher, get a gorgeous tenderloin filet and grill it myself, to absolute perfection. I don't think any of these places can grill a steak any better than I can. At Wellington's, they have bar-none, the best primerib in the city. No one in my opinion even comes close.

                                                                                As for donair and shawarma, I have a lot of family in Halifax, and nothing here compares. BUT, a few good ones: The Shawarma at The Chick Pea on 8th Ave and 7th St SW kitty-corner from Ceili's, Falafel King up in Sunridge, and more great shawarma at the Pita Stop, just off Elbow Drive in Canyon Meadows, beside Austin's. My Donair in Southland Crossing (Southland and Macleod) was my old standby fave, but it was sold last year I think and the new owner's recipe just isn't as good.

                                                                                Last but not least, anyone coming to Calgary for a "traditional" Calgary meal, should definitely make a stop at Peter's Drive-In, no ifs ands or buts.

                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                1. re: rob.campeau

                                                                                  Calgary has a different spin on donairs than does Halifax. They both have their strengths. That said, aside from My Donair you don't even list a donair place- and I very, very much doubt that there is a real shawarma tradition in Halifax since its lebanese population is not remotely as large as ours. Best shawarma in Canada is in Ottawa, no question.

                                                                                  If you want a really kickass donair that will make you forget Halifax. go to Sammy's on at 17th Ave and 12 St SW.

                                                                                  1. re: John Manzo

                                                                                    My Donair and Moe's are IMO the closest thing to Halifax donairs you'll find in Calgary (although the sauce isn't nearly as sweet as in halifax. for good donair sauce, check out pizza delight although they serve their "donair" on pizza crust, which is stupid).

                                                                                    1. re: nonlinear

                                                                                      For more Halifax-style, check out Amin Donair on 7th Ave SW, next to the pawn shops.

                                                                                    2. re: John Manzo

                                                                                      Calgary is a bigger city than Halifax, so its Lebanese population may be larger. However, the Lebanese population is certainly felt more in Halifax. The Halifax Lebanese own MANY businesses, including pizza and donair shops and there is generally much more quality Lebanese food readily available. I don't think it can be argued that the donair is a standout food for Calgary (and someone searching for a Halifax donair is not going to forget Halifax by trying a Calgary donair), but I do enjoy the take on shwarmas here. I also vote for The Chick Pea on 8th Ave, close to 7th St.

                                                                                  2. I moved out of Calgary just over two years ago, so some of these restraunts may not still be there, which would be a shame.
                                                                                    For shwarma/pita/donairs try Sammys on the south side of 17ave between 11st and 12st, in the base of the ugly pink apartment building. He spices and cooks his own meat, pickles his own veggies and is very generous when filling the pitas.
                                                                                    For indian try Tiffin roti and curry houses, on 28st se, just north off memorial, by the China Rose. Just a scoop and serve curry, with rotis made in house (you can watch them being made), it is cheap, good and full of indian families. It is not fancy but I was always happier there than any other Indian restraunt.
                                                                                    And the greek place in the gas station on 17ave and 26st sw.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: Tiran

                                                                                      All three still open- Sammy's is open Thur-Sat until 3am. The Greek place is called "Crete Souvlaki." Tiffin's Curry and Roti House is the name- closed Sundays as I've discovered way too often. They opened another location at Mt Royal U that didn't pan out- hope they try U of C!

                                                                                    2. OK, so it's not a local "dish", but it is local (and Alberta beef) and the best I've ever had, and on trips to Calgary before moving here, I always made arrangements to score some Longview jerky. I know that with many styles of jerky, there will be many and varied opinions, but for me, I've never had better.

                                                                                      1. I never noticed Baby Yorkies being on a pub menu until I moved to Calgary.... along with steak bites and the abundance of Beef Dips.

                                                                                        Are Baby Yorkies a Calgary or Albertan thing?

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: existential_crisis


                                                                                          What is a "Baby Yorkie"? The chocolate bar or Yorkshire pudding?

                                                                                          1. re: Bob Mac

                                                                                            Pudding. And I have never seen them anywhere else either. And they can be downright awful. Makes me wonder if anyone who orders them has had real Yorkshire pudding. But then I've only seen them at pubs and anything is edible after a few beers.

                                                                                            Or is it a puppy??? Hmmmm.

                                                                                        2. Does anyone know if the original owner of the Tullamore in Kensington is running a pub these days?

                                                                                          He had opened a pub in Inglewood after he sold the Tullamore (around 9 years ago), but I'm not sure if it's still in business. I loved his spicy tomato and sausage soup. Would have considered that a must-try for Calgary back in the day. Loved his f & c and pretty much everything else that used to be on the menu.

                                                                                          1. Just bumping this thread to see if any Calgarians out there might be able to comment on whether the recs here are still appropriate.

                                                                                            It'll be my first visit to Calgary and my primary interest would be in trying local specialties.

                                                                                            Since this is a business trip I'll be a solo diner.

                                                                                            Aside from my meals, are there any food-related souvenirs you'd recommend? Is Alberta beef available fresh or frozen at the airport packed for travel?

                                                                                            Thanks for any assistance you can offer!!

                                                                                            8 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                                              Is there a limited part of town you will be visiting?

                                                                                              1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                                                Ginger beef would be one to try, Silver Dragon is supposed to be the best. I'm pretty happy with Kings on 17th ave SW for ginger beef, but it's not to everyone's taste.
                                                                                                Peter's Drive In for milkshakes is always a go.
                                                                                                Inn at Lake Bonavista is one of my favourite pricey place to go. Great food, but you definitely pay.
                                                                                                Spolumbos sausage is well known and fairly decent, I don't think it would compare to Toronto though.
                                                                                                And avoid Sky 360 at the Calgary Tower. You really pay for the view.
                                                                                                For souvenir's, I haven't seen any Alberta AAA at the airport, but most butchers can get it for you. If you're mobile, there's a fantastic butcher shop in Okotoks (just south of the city) where the butcher raises and slaughters his own cattle. Also, Papa Chokolat is amazing, small batch chocolate.

                                                                                                1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                                                  Phil & Sebastian coffee beans
                                                                                                  Crave cupcakes

                                                                                                  1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                                                    If you can find Prime Grade beef it is the best. Tough to find though. Used to get it at Costco. Also, look up Valbella meats. Their products are excellent and available at Sunterra (numerous locations), and would make great gifts since all are packaged. Nothing fresh though, all smoked or cured but you can get various game, duck confit, sausages, etc.

                                                                                                    1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                                                      I am planning a return trip to Calgary (I used to live there), and this is what I'll be eating:
                                                                                                      Rocky's Burger Bus
                                                                                                      Vietnamese subs at Thi Thi (beef satay) and Kim Ahn (assorted).
                                                                                                      A Greek-style pizza from Atlas, Spiros or Jeanne's (though I hear Il Centro is all the rage for pizza these days)
                                                                                                      A bowl of pho from Pho Hoai
                                                                                                      The breakfast poutine at Over Easy.
                                                                                                      A BBQ beef sandwich at Cowtown Beef Shack
                                                                                                      Wildrose Brewery (I remember the chicken sausage being stellar, but it's a neat place to visit, regardless, especially after a walk at Nosehill Park).

                                                                                                      1. re: existential_crisis

                                                                                                        Be aware Rocky's has relocated to Crossroads Market. Also, Double Zero makes a great Neapolitan style pizza.

                                                                                                        1. re: Scary Bill

                                                                                                          I heard that Rocky's moved. Does the new location have the same appeal as the old one?

                                                                                                          I have heard of Double Zero but I'm not a fan of the Neapolitan pizza craze. I think I'd rather go back to Una or Vogglio d'pizza. I also have a secret love for Tom's House of Pizza.

                                                                                                          1. re: existential_crisis

                                                                                                            Same bus, same great food, same picnic tables, same owner, but alas, no prairie dogs for entertainment.