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Aug 12, 2008 09:22 AM

Nice Restaurant in Calgary - Gift Certificate


My brother is moving to Calgary from Toronto at the end of this month to start his Masters.

I wanted to get him a gift certificate for a nice restaurant for him and his GF to use once they get themselves settled. They will have a car so distance is not to much of an issue.

I would appreciate some tips on places to consider. Any type of food is fine but no chain restaurants please.


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  1. How much did you want to spend? What kind of food do they like (or, examples of their favorite restaurants in Toronto)?

    1. You have to be a little more specific here- there are, literally, thousands of restos in Calgary and pretty much every one offers gift certs.

      I concur with Yen- tell us what his fave place (or places) are in TO and we'll suggest some corollaries. As long as he's not asking for West Indian (the one cuisine that TO trounces the rest of the country for) I'd say the breadth and quality of the food scene in TO and Cgy are pretty similar- Cgy is just smaller.

      5 Replies
      1. re: John Manzo

        Sorry, as a chowhouder, I should have been more specific. They are a couple in their late 20s. I was thinking somewhere around $100 that would be good for a complete meal (cheap wine, apps, main, dessert). They like all types of foods, but a nice Italian place might be nice. Or a nice Chinese place would work as well. They have not found a place to live yet so area does not really matter. If there is any area that would be considered "Little Italy", some recomendation in that area would be appreciated

        1. re: jdgo75

          Calgary's traditional Italian area is Bridgeland, which is just to the NE of downtown and which is experiencing a dramatic redevelopment due to the massive "Bridges" project at the former site of Central Hospital. The retail strip of Bridgeland is Edmonton Trail NE but there is a new spur of interesting condo and retail development on 1st and Centre Ave NE a few blocks east of Edmonton Trail. Much of the "Italian" in this area is hard to find (with important exceptions) and it's akin to what you'd find in Toronto on King West and area (west of, say, Ossington- all new infills with tons of young folks). There are some standout restos in the area: Il Sogno for Italian (pricey, though); Artisan Bistro (tapas) is very nice but only has dinner on Fri and Sat eves (otherwise "brunch" weds-sun); Sushi Zipang is a much-lauded sushi place; and there are some old-school Italian places in the neighbourhood too. You will not starve in Bridgeland but it might not be the best destination for dining, but that's changing with development of course.

          I'd suggest you focus on downtown, the beltline and especially 17th Ave SW area south of downtown, and the Kensington area to the NW of downtown. At the $100 price point some places are of course right out (River Cafe is, IMHO, the best resto in Calgary but $100 is not going to cut it there, though it wlll take the sting out I guess); $100 can certainly go further at, say, Cilantro, Wildwood, Bonterra, Divino, Brava Bistro, Jaro Blue (an excellent newer tapas place that I recommend to anybody looking for great food with great value in a beautiful intimate atmosphere) and as you'd expect there are plenty of places in Chinatown that will stretch $100 very, very far. There is no Lai Wah Heen in Calgary (yet) although there are many excellent Chinese places in and out of Chinatown, but maybe your friends should get to know those after they get a sense of the lay of the land.

          You might want to google the names I gave above to see if anything looks like a good fit. And every one of them is accessible on foot or on transit from most of the inner city- if your friends do move to the Bridges and work in or near downtown, they won't even need a car. Yes, it can be done in Calgary.

          1. re: jdgo75

            Niko's in Kensington is a very nice Italian restaurant, and $100 would get you a complete meal and more! I think the last time we were there it was about $60 for one app, 2 mains and wine for himself, plus tip

            1. re: jdgo75

              bonterra on 8th st is a great place for italian and would most likely fit the $100 budget. it is on 8th st in sw calgary, almost walkable 15-20 min from the heat of downtown.

              1. re: rafer madness

                I had a very enjoyable meal at Bonterra today. Pretty authentic ragus, good fresh pasta, reasonable prices. I'd consider that for your budget.

          2. I third the suggestion for Bonterra. It isn't Little Italy but one of my favourites and good value.

            1. Divino. It's not italian, but it's a great restaurant with excellent food and nice ambiance (and they could probably just get away with spending $100 between 2 people). One great thing about it is that it's located on Stephen avenue (our downtown pedestrian street). For newcomers to town, it'd be nice for them to go somewhere lots of people and see what our downtown has to offer.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Strider

                Divino is a great restaurant, but there is almost no way to get out of there on $100 for two people.

                I calculated it out - at the cheapest available item on the menu (soup, pasta, dessert, cheapest by the glass wine), you're still looking at roughly $43 before tax and tip.

                At the median price (mean is even higher), you're looking at $66 before tax and tip.

                These days, $100 just doesnt buy you much for two.

                1. re: yen

                  Agreed... although I generally share an appetizer and dessert (or skip dessert in favor of a good coffee elsewhere) when I go out for a meal, which is probably why I'm a lot closer to the $100 mark.

                  If the $100 budget is to include 2 appetizers, 2 entrees, 2 desserts, and 2 glasses of wine, that would be a tall order... I'm pretty sure you'd end up exceeding that budget at Bonterra as well (even earls or milestones for that matter).

                  1. re: Strider

                    Thats a good point - i should share more often. Unfortunately, i usually get one of each for myself.

                    As for Bonterra, actually, it's surprisinly reasonable. Median price on appetizer is $11. Entree's, $22. Dessert assume $9 (i bet it's less). Wine is $7. That adds up to $49. And over half the dishes are available for less. And the atmosphere is nice.

                    Anyway, you do make a good point though. OP - If the goal is to share an appetizer and dessert, then it would open up a lot of other great options, including Divino. Muse, Blink, Artisan Bistro, would all be great choices. Heck Artisan would work without the sharing :) I guess you need to decide how they like to eat, and figure out your best option from there. Good luck!

              2. Capriccio at 2404 Edmonton Trail NE is very nice, I've been there twice and it's very reasonably-priced good italian food. It's around $80 for 2 with a shared app, 2 entrees, a bottle of wine and without dessert (we never have dessert) before tax and tip so it will likely fit your specs. I don't know if they have gift certificates, but as others have said, just about every place does.

                2 Replies
                1. re: hsk

                  I've never been dissapointed at Fleur de Sel on 4th. It's been aroung so long (and never changed the menu) that I think it's often over looked. The presentation is about 15 years behind, but the food is good. Who makes better duck pate or choucroute? I reckon $100 should cover dinner and what a neat little joint. Crowded, often rowdy, great art in the loos.

                  1. re: knifeguy

                    Yes, I concur! Fleur de Sel is wonderful. And a great value.