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Aug 5, 2008 12:40 PM

Chow in Downtown Calgary

Heading to Calgary in a couple of days and I was wondering if anybody had recommendations for good places to eat in and around Downtown Calgary (I will most likely be walking). Market suggestions are great, generally inexpensive and casual places (like bistros, bakeries, cafes, etc.) are great, food from all cultures is great. Thanks

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  1. There are many great options in downtown Calgary- more if you're willing to expand you search to include adjacent areas that, while not in the core proper, are very much reachable on foot. You'll find most of the expense-account options on Stephen Avenue (8th Avenue between 1st St SE and 4th St SW)- just walk along the pedestrian mall and look at menus. Some board faves on this stretch are Divino, Tribune, Teatro, Belvedere and my personal fave, Centini, but there many others. Calgary's compact, accessible Chinatown is downtown too, about 8 square blocks between 3rd Ave and the river and between Centre St and Macleod Trail; there are cavernous dim sum places, at least two Taiwanese places, fantastic banh mi, superb bubble tea, at least one outstanding new Thai place, and several very good Vietnamese places.

    There are other little clusters of restaurant activity downtown, especially in the Eau Claire Market area and near, say, the Westin hotel. Of note, downtown has two outstanding coffee houses both of which are open 7 days a week and both of which have very good food: Caffe Artigiano at 3rd St and 6 Ave SW, and DeVille in the amazing Art Central complex at Centre and 7th Ave (upstairs).

    Immediately south of downtown south of the CP tracks is the Beltline neighbourhood, which full of new condos, young and young-at-heart types and a great food scene. Two more of the city's (and Canada's) best coffeehouses are in this area; Bumpy's on 8 St near 11th Ave SW and just a couple of blocks south is Kawa Espresso Bar (open 7 days with food and wine too) at 1333 8 St SW at 14 Ave, 17th Ave is the main retail strip and is Calgary's Queen St with many, many dining options, including chowhound faves Jaro Blue just east of 14 St and Brava Bistro at 7 St. Tons if high and low end (as in Tubby Dog's insanely overloaded hotdogs, around 9 St, excellent banh mi at Kim Anh across from Western Canada HS, and addictive albanian Bureks at Euro Bakery near 4th St).... I'm going to stop there and let others pipe in.

    (edited to note that as a city of 1.1 million people Cgy has hundreds of "coffeehouses" but like all NA cities, most are less than outstanding- I don't want to give the impression that there are only 2 downtown; just that there are only 2 that are top drawer)

    1. John's recommendations are comprehensive. My personal favorites downtown are:

      Breakfast: 1886 Cafe next to the YMCA, or Avenue Diner

      Chinese: head to Chinatown as John suggests, I would pick Han's (Taiwanese), Gee Gong (Cantonese noodles and barbecue) or Golden Inn (Cantonese, open very late). Also Vietnamese subs at Thi Thi. All of these places are inexpensive and interesting.

      Indian: Nawab or Glory of India (excellent lunch buffet here).

      Stephen Avenue restos - expensive: Divino (excellent bistro, regional cuisine, great wine and cheese selections), Murietta's, the bar at Tribune (I like it better than the downstairs restaurant).

      Hungarian: Jonas - good and cheap and friendly.

      Persian: Atlas - unique, inexpensive, not licensed but you can try some strange Persian drinks instead.

      Best and probably the most expensive in downtown: River Cafe on Prince's Island. Great location, great food, worth a splurge especially if the weather is nice.

      As John pointed out you can head south to 17Ave SW which is fun especially on a nice evening. Or you can head north across the river into Kensington, a short walk. Around 10th Street NW there are two decent Ethiopian places, a very nice teahouse, a couple of good Indian restaurants (Maurya and Tandoori Hut), Pulcinella for southern Italian pizza, a good Italian gelati place, and some higher-end restos such as Muse.

      1. I'm moving to downtown Calgary next week- this thread has been very helpful!

        1. Managed to only get to a couple of places (partially because I was so stuffed after lunch at Divino). Lunch at Divino was generally quite good. Best part was the bison tartare and the cheese (had the Brillat Savarin and the Morbier). The pasta with porcini was good but I didn't feel the dish was as good as a whole compared to the tartare.

          Also had a latte at Artigiano and it was surprisingly good (I'm not generally a coffee lover so it's hard to for me to find something I truly enjoy)... had a flavour that was faintly reminiscent of good chocolate. Also strolled around 17th Ave and some of the places looked interesting.

          I will most certainly try some of the other places mentioned the next time I roll into town.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Blueicus

            Don't forget to try Blink Restaurant & Bar on Stephen ave. You're looking at the same price at Divino's, but more food focused. All organic and seasonal products, even better than River Cafe, though you can't beat the ambience at River Cafe. Tribune is nice for cocktails and wine, but not so much for food, and Centinis is nice, but you're going to spend quite a bit of money there.

          2. Which of Calgary's Chinatown restaurants has the best dim sum? Do they have circulating carts or just off the menu?

            4 Replies
            1. re: il davis

              they have both, depends on the resto- we always end up at harbour city but I'm pretty sure it's not best...

              1. re: il davis

                I think Regency Palace and Silver Dragon might be the only ones still circulating carts. I personally enjoy U&Me as it offers some innovative dim sum not available at other places and everything tastes quite fresh.

                1. re: aktivistin

                  Is U&Me open? I was reading the Calgary Health Region public health orders looking for something else and it sounds like U&Me is going to take some time to get things in shape.


                  I'd walk up the Centre Street bridge to Grand Central. Harbour City had carts a couple of weeks ago but I've scratched them off my list purely on the basis of the egg tarts and rice pancakes.

                  1. re: sharonanne

                    Oh, good call on U&Me, sharonanne. I hadn't been there in a couple months.

                    Another restaurant to try north of the Centre Street Bridge is Happy Hill. I like their woo kok/fried taro & pork balls (the ones with the crazy bird's nest-like crispy tendrils on the outside).