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Jun 26, 2008 01:23 PM

Available Mexican/Latin American goodies in Calgary

Howdy Everyone,

After a recent move to Medicine Hat (from Edmonton), I have come to the conclusion that not many spices/general food goodies needed to accomplish Latin cooking are available down here in the Hat. I actually don't know if you can even go anywhere to buy a taco - good thing I make my own tortillas every couple of days. But I digress.

I'm pretty sure I'll be heading into Calgary this weekend and I'm looking for a place to pick up some stuff. Having never shopped in Calgary for cooking related items, I searched the boards and discovered Boca Loca; where I will surely make a stop (are they open Sunday? - please tell me yes). Are there other stores to visit? Or does Boca cover the spread quite well. I would also like to pick up a new molcajete and would appreciate any feedback about where I could find one. I realize I could order one online, but I don't like the idea of shipping so much weight and not seeing the basalt before hand. As well, I won't be going south for a least 6 months and don't feel like waiting any longer.

Thanks in advance.

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    for some reason hours for 11 St are not there but I am pretty sure it's open Sundays- Northmount is closed Sundays.

    1. 11 St Boca Loca is not worth visiting (this location has been sold and new owners are Africano so their interest is split rather than focusing on Latino) - better selection at 14 St & Northmount Dr. You can also go into Forest Lawn on 17 Ave SE to El Bombazo. Prices are also much cheaper at El Bombazo. They are in a little strip mall on the south side of the street just after crossing over the Deerfoot.

      8 Replies
      1. re: sarah galvin

        there is a very nice mexican lady doing all the Mexican cooking at 11 St. It is very much worth visiting, still.

        1. re: John Manzo

          The food is fine but the groceries are very lacking - always rotten tomatillos, high prices, etc

          1. re: sarah galvin

            Thanks for the heads up about both locations. I'll definitely be looking for an assortment of grocery items, so I'll try to stop in at both Boca Loca and El Bombazo. Any thoughts on where I could find a molcajete?

            John - I wanted to say I enjoy reading your blog, and your fruli discovery made me smile..It has been a favorite of mine for a while.

            1. re: raidar

              The Northmount location might have one but I would also check Williams Sonoma. I have seen one recently but I can't remember where - I'll think on it.

              1. re: sarah galvin

                Thanks again sarah. I checked out the WS catalog online for the the US, and the molcajete they have looks like a solid option.

                  1. re: raidar

                    The US stores are larger/carry more items than the Canadian ones...I'd call the local Calgary store and make sure they have it so you don't waste a trip: 403-410-9191 :)

                    1. re: maplesugar

                      Another great resource is I have purchased several things from them and they are great. It is in Canada so no hassle crossing the border.

        2. So here is the update. My GF and I didn't get a chance to leave yesterday so we did pack everything into one busy Sunday. I made a quick google map of some locations we wanted to stop at (although forgot to note which Boca Loca location was closed on Sundays) and headed out on the journey. In Calgary we grab a friend, along with his GPS, and headed off to the first stop - Boca Loca (northmount) - sad start to the adventure, but at least we got the closed shop out of the way. Boca Loca on the south was our next destination and walking up we got excited as it smelled rather good. The inside however was disappointing, as I expected/hoped for a greater selection of canned/dried goods and well they had lots of regular hot house style tomato's, their tomatillo's were looking well beyond their prime. Decided to pass on anything there and head for El Bombazo. The three of us were greeted by a pleasant older lady, and had a quick look around(and I mean quick, as the shop is very small). Needless to say, I wanted to bring something back, so I picked out a hot sauce and some horchata mix and we headed on our way. The Williams Sonoma store was next on our list and it was a treat. While I did not come away with a molcajete (they did have one, but it was not in great shape IMO and pricey at $80), I did get a gorgeous pizza peel and cowboy theme cookie cutters that I need for some baking I'm donating to a stagette party coming up. I think after the quick tour to Calgary and back, I'm most excited about the pizza peel. I have been making my own whole wheat pizza dough (Peter Reinharts recipe) for the last 3-4 months and have grown tired of using the back of a cookie sheet to slide the pizzas into the oven.

          On a side food note, I do enjoy a fine bowl of Pho, something that we also lack here in Medicine Hat. Taking some advice from fellow Chowhound's we visited Saigon Y2K (the location right across from McMahon Stadium). I enjoyed the Pho beef sate and found it to absolutely delicious. The broth was full of flavour and the smell when they placed the bowl in front of me was mouth watering. Our friend ordered well done beef pho, which although tasty, didn't hit the same level in both our opinions as the sate did. The plate of goodies was solid with crisp sprouts, but the mint/basil was bruised and rather dodgy looking. My GF ordered the "bun" or as fmed labeled it The "Other" Vietnamese Noodle, and was disappointed. Not being a huge Pho fan, this is her usual dish when we head out and in her words, the spring roll seemed reheated and the chicken did not have much character. Maybe eating at 3 in the afternoon had something to do with her dish being disappointing, it didn't dampen the fact that it has quickly become my favorite place for Pho Sate - too bad we will have to drive 3 hours to enjoy it again.

          Thanks for the help and suggestions!

          4 Replies
          1. re: raidar

            If you are looking for a place that carries good pho sate, AND good bun, try Pho Dau Bo - especially if she likes the pan-fried lemongrass chicken and spring roll (which it sounds like). They have better Sate, and waay better bun.

            Check my blog for more Pho options...your fellow Sate lover!

            1. re: raidar

              I was just at Boca Loca north. I think the selection is much better than the south branch if you can get in to Calgary on a Saturday. They did have 2 molcajetes but I have no idea if they're good or not. They had a wolf or some other animal head on then which waves a tourist flag in my mind but they were a decent weight. I couldn't see a price.

              I also agree that Saigon Y2K isn't that great but maybe your review explains the discrepancy between my experience and others as I'm a bun fan. Too bad the place foodsopher recommends is halfway to Medicine Hat from where I live!

              1. re: sharonanne

                my mexican buddies tell me that they usually have some sort of carving on them traditionally ,mostly a pig for some reason.

                1. re: howlin

                  I could be persuaded it was a pig, we're talking a pretty simple carving.

            2. foodosopher - Thanks for the Pho suggestion, it is going on the list for the next time I head into Calgary. I may even try to sneak it in on the way back from my trip home to Edmonton this up coming weekend.

              sharonanne - I appreciate the information about Boca Loca having a couple of molcajetes. I need to check in on those and see for myself. I would (could) be a little worried about the designs as a fair amuont of fakes are made like pigs or bulls. Here is a good picture of a pig version ( and gourmet sleuth also has a great write up about molcajetes, what to look for etc..

              I did ask the woman who was working at El Bombazo if she knew of anyone in town who sold them, and she said no. Not surprised necessarily as I imagine some of these little shops would shy away from the bringing in such heavy items.

              2 Replies
              1. re: raidar

                Looks similar but the ones I saw had paint on the animal. There were 2 in the store but both were the same. I wanted to make that clear as I keep using the plural but that doesn't mean they have a selection.

                I would ask the owner of the north Boca Loca. There have been a couple of articles in the Calgary Herald about her. She's been in the store every time I've been there but I usually go on a weekday. There's an e-mail contact on the website:

                1. re: sharonanne

                  I will try and contact the owner, as I should be swinging back through Calgary sometime early next week on my way back from Edmonton.

                  I also noticed that the Edmonton Journal bistro section mentioned a Latin Festival happening this coming weekend. "fans of Latino food can visit Edmonton's Latin Festival, scheduled for July 5 and 6 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Louise McKinney Park. Traditional foods are on offer, along with live salsa music and a dance show." So I plan to swing by this, and maybe ask around about finding a quality molcajete while enjoying some hopefully delicious eats.

              2. I bought something similar at Ten Thousand Villages on Crowchild Trail. It was made of same material but flatter on the bottom and just round. Great for grinding spices.