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Feb 10, 2009 04:47 PM

Cheap, Crowd-Pleasing Lunch in Downtown Calgary

It's Teacher's Convention this week (Thursday and Friday) so approximately 10,000 teachers will be downtown. Be forewarned. Anyways, it seems most teachers have already made their dining plans, but a few other new teachers and I were a little late getting ourselves organized. So now we need a place for Thursday lunch. The area near our school is pretty much a culinary wasteland, and as a group we usually end up at Joey Tomatoes, Earls or Brewsters. To be honest, those aren't bad choices when your main criteria are pleasing a large number of cheap people. So, any ideas for where we could go downtown? We will reserve tomorrow and our group could be anywhere from eight to twenty people (we'll know before we reserve, obviously). I would personally rather avoid chains, and the restaurant needs to have a vegetarian option. Close to the convention centre is a plus too.

Please and thank you!

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  1. Really cheap would be the City cafeteria just down the block...but then aside from the price and the somewhat dependable salad bar I can't say the place ever did much for me. Avenue Diner comes to mind, comfort food, nothing over $20, but they don't take reservations. Same goes for the Drum & Monkey...kinda left field rec but it meets the cheap and crowd-pleasing requirements, again no resos http://www.drumandmonkey.ca/menu.php

    Screaming 3yo, gotta dash, if I think of others I'll let you know

    1 Reply
    1. re: maplesugar

      I can see Drum and Monkey being good for Friday lunch, which is probably going to be a bit more energetic. Also, they have veggie burgers! Yay! Thanks!

      1. re: John Manzo

        They opened after my office moved to Spiller Rd. I just checked out the menu and it looks phenomenal I'd have lunch there in a heartbeat...DH works in the area so I checked out the breakfast menu too. I was disappointed to see they only open for breakfast at 8:30am...by then I'd think a lot of potential clientele would have to be in their offices.

        1. re: John Manzo

          Koi would be perrrrrrfect... for me! If I can't convince my colleagues to go then I'll definitely make a point of going there in the near future. It's right up my alley. Thanks!

          1. re: John Manzo

            A few of us went to Koi for lunch today and it was really good. I had a stir-fry with loads of vegetables, toasted almonds and five-spice tofu on jasmine rice. Being from Victoria, cute little restaurants like that are my favorite!

            However, yesterday the big group of us went to... Bookers! Oh my. It was absolutely packed- there were easily 150-200 people there. I caved and had fish and chips (first animal product I've voluntarily eaten since summer 2006) and it wasn't great. I saw a lot of people dissecting their food when it arrived, and a lot of people (more than half) complained their food was room temperature when it finally got to our table. I TOTALLY understand that they were slammed and hadn't expected the crowds, but I doubt I would go back (if I could avoid it). BTW, they actually have a vegetarian pasta entree. I just didn't want to look fussy.

            1. re: Jetgirly

              I was wondering when we'd hear back =)

              Thanks for the update Jetgirly! Glad to hear you enjoyed Koi, their menu looked amazing. I'll have to check them out soon. I have plans to take DH for lunch once my MIL comes to visit and we can get some time out by ourselves.

              Bookers? I drive (when the flyover is open) by there all the time but I've never been in. I can see how the crowds would make it difficult for the kitchen to get food out in a timely manner. If it were me I might give the place a second chance on a quieter night.

              1. re: Jetgirly

                IMO Bookers is a fun spot while usually serving good food. I've encountered the room temperature problem once before out of a dozen visits, but have also found their jambalaya to be the best in the city.

                We usually split one of the small $12 bowls in addition to our meal. Deep fried pickles are also good to enjoy once a year :)

                But lastly I can't believe someone would order a non Veggie dish for the first time in 2.5 yrs only to not look "Fussy." Wow that kinda blows my mind but the worst part, it wasn't cooked well and you didn't get the chance to devour that piece of fish with a big grin from ear to ear.

            2. I almost forgot, Trader's Grill in the Marriott across the street from TCC/the Hyatt. Might be busy but they used to have a lunch special. AYCE Soup & sandwich type thing... they might be worth a call: http://www.letsgofordinner.com/Calgar... 403-231-4503 :)

                1. re: Hart50

                  I can see you've never eaten a meal of shared dishes with a group of teachers and then tried to split the bill! :) I WISH we could do Indian but nobody would go for it- they are grossed out when I bring homemade curry to school (and it's not because my curry is THAT horrible). I would do one of the Indian buffets if I was with more adventurous eaters.

                  1. re: Jetgirly

                    I'm surprised that any group of well-educated people would be this closed-minded- I thought Indian was years past being thought of as exotic!

                    1. re: Jetgirly

                      That's a shame. Another thought...perhaps you could give the James Joyce Pub a try. Although I haven't eaten there for a while it might fit your needs.

                  2. It's probably too late, but I like Milestone's, on 8th and Centre, it's reasonable and the service has always been good, but I've only ever been on weekends, I'd imagine it's really busy on weekdays.
                    The Vietnam on 12th Ave between Macleod and 1st SE is good and quite cheap. I don't know for sure if they have vegetarian options but I'd expect they would. Ditto for the Korean Village on 10th and centre.