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Feb 15, 2009 07:35 PM

Calgary - Must-try Places

I'm in calgary for 2 weeks for work. What are some recommendations for must-try places?

Also, I'm working downtown and am staying at a hotel. I don't feel like eating at the hotel for dinner every night, so I'd also like some recommendations on places around the fairmont where i can pick up some decent take-out?

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  1. I note that you posted about HK style cafes in Toronto- assuming you like this sort of think you should walk the 7 or so blocks due north from your hotel to Chinatown and check out Calgary Court, HK cafe par excellence. There are lots of great eats of other stripes in Chinatown as well.

    Anyway for must-try in Calgary I'd put River Cafe at the top of my list. There are lots and lots of great high-end places along the 100-200 blocks of Stephen Ave and the newer Rush in the office building directly west of the Palliser on 9th Ave,

    Coming from TO I'd really recommend you try sushi- it's better (IMHO) and better value (IMHO) than most I've had in TO, and one CH fave is walkable from your hotel, Blowfish, 625 11th Ave SW, which is b/t 5 and 6 streets on 11th. You might also find for takeout that Calgary's take on banh mi and on shawarma is interestingly quite different from what you have at home; one superb shawarma place is right north of your hotel on Olympic Plaza, called Pita Express in the gorgeous Burns Bldg attached to the Epcor performing arts centre. You can grab a banh mi at Thai Tai on 1st SW just south of Stephen Ave- this is also mere steps from your hotel.

    That'll do for now- I'm actually in Berlin as I type this and have a city here to explore- Guten Appetit!

    1 Reply
    1. re: John Manzo

      good sushi in toronto is oversaturated by all those AYCE sushi places... some decent ones u might find out there are either DT or the yonge street strip around finch/shepard area

    2. I was in Calgary a couple weeks ago, staying downtown for work, so I can comment.

      As mentioned, Calgary Court is decent for HK Cafe style food. If you're willing to walk a bit farther, walk north up centre street, up the hill to Happy Hill Chinese restaurant for your typical (real) Chinese food. Most of the chinese restaurants in chinatown are pretty westernized.

      If you like sushi, I'd recommend heading out to Kensington (it's not walking distance), and check out Sushi Club.. They have some amazing rolls!

      12 Replies
      1. re: kashirat

        Happy Hill is no different from other restos in Chinatown as far as "westernization" goes. In fact I take offense at your comment- I've never been to China but given the clear majority of Chinese (and ethnic-Chinese Vietnamese) in Calgary's Chinatown, I'd say you'd have to be pretty deliberate to get "western" Chinese food. It's every but as good as Chinatowns elsewhere and way, way better than many (like Chicago's).

        Sushi Club, I'm sorry, terrible rec. I tried it twice and couldn't go back after waiting 30 mins for overpriced tiny portions when I was the only customer in the joint.

        Also, Kensington is definitely walking distance from the Westin!

        1. re: John Manzo

          According to mapquest the Westin is 1.31 miles/2.12 km from Globefish Sushi & Izakaya, my fave sushi place and it's on the western edge of Kensington. Definitely walking distance, weather permitting (and footwear permitting too since us girls don't really like trekking that far in heels) :)

          1. re: John Manzo

            I was only in Calgary for 2 weeks, so I guess my recs should indeed be taken with a grain of salt. Perhaps I should change my statement to 'Do not go to Happy Valley in Chinatown'. I went there and was extremely disappointed. Coworkers there also confirmed to me that the majority of authentic chinese restaurants are outside of Chinatown in Calgary, but that is second hand knowledge, so again, grain of salt.

            I'm surprised about your dislike of Sushi club... They are definitely very different from your typical Japanese restaurant... their rolls are more unique and inventive than any place I have been in Alberta. I was personally impressed with the excellent mixture of taste / textures they incorporated into their rolls. But perhaps that's just me. You won't find california rolls at Sushi club!

            1. re: kashirat

              Happy Valley is an authentic Hong Kong cafe with excellent BBQ. Good food IF you get the correct menu. I can't speak for the regular menu. I wish they didn't do that but many places still seem to.

              1. re: kashirat

                I agree with sharonanne--Happy Valley has some of the best BBQ around, particularly their roast pork. The menu is very authentically HK cafe-style but I prefer the food at Calgary Court over Happy Valley.

                I wouldn't say that the majority of authentic Chinese restos are outside of downtown, but that the majority of Chinese people live outside of downtown. Many family meals, therefore, are eaten at places like T-Pot in the suburbs. That doesn't mean the restaurants in Chinatown are not authentic--it may just be that much of the Chinese food here is Cantonese cuisine. U&Me serves food similar in quality and selection to dinner/dim sum restaurants in Hong Kong, but Han's in the Food Court Centre has excellent Szechuan.

                1. re: aktivistin

                  han's is oily as hell... but the only place u can get taiwanese in calgary...

                  there's suburbs in calgary?

                  1. re: MeXx

                    There's another Taiwanese place right in the same complex- Delicious Country. Also the owners of Double Greeting, ALSO in the same building, are Taiwanese.

                    Calgary has suburban areas in the city proper, a consequence of its being for the most part a unicity- we do have one suburb per se that is well on its way to being an ethnoburb, and that's Chestermere, but the ethnic accent there is very much east Indian (almost 20% of Chestermere is east Indian).

                    1. re: John Manzo

                      now it's been many years since i've been to double greeting (growing up, they were in the building across the street for the longest time).. never really tried it after they moved to their current location, which was at least a decade ago or longer... from what i remember, they don't do taiwanese food, even if they're taiwanese owners

                      1. re: MeXx

                        Yep, that's pretty much it, but if you can order in Mandarin, who knows!

                        I got a plate with brisket and BBQ pork there a few weeks ago (1st day of Lunar New Year actually) on rice and it was an ABUNDANT dish and cheap as hell too.

              2. re: John Manzo

                Hey John - Were your two experiences at Sushi Club recent?

                I went there twice in recent months and was blown away by their sashimi (how I normally judge places like that)... When I mentioned it to a few friends who are longtime Calgarians, they all said it had a longstanding mediocre reputation.

                One of them came back with me to try it again last month, and she said it was certainly nothing like when she first went several years ago.

                1. re: alau2

                  Not AT ALL recent- last was before a screening at the 2006 film fest as I recall.

                  I know, I suck.

              3. re: kashirat

                It is entirely possible that entering a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown without someone who is Chinese will get you the menu with English translations instead of the true menu with only Chinese writing on it.

                At the time of the 2006 census, 6.2% of Calgary's population is Chinese. Having been to Chinatowns in other cities and to Hong Kong, I can tell you that the Chinese food in Calgary is VERY GOOD. My parents and I don't like westernized Chinese food a la Ginger Beef. If you go outside of Calgary, Ginger Beef doesn't exist. It is a creation from the 1970s made for a more westernized palate.

                In the mean time, I would recommend Calgary Court or Sun Chiu Kee (same owners) for HK style cafe food, Pine Lake for dim sum, Golden Inn for dinner (they don't open before 4pm and close at an ungodly hour for those trying to sober up before getting home).

                Divino isn't far from the Palliser and it is on Stephen Ave along with Rose Garden for Thai food.

              4. Maybe Fleur De Sel at 2015, 4th Street SW for some Brasserie food?

                Right across from the Fairmont Palliser in the Grain Exchange building I had some good meals at Piq Niq.

                1. I'd say River Cafe on Prince's Island and Sky 360 in the Calgary Tower for the ambience, food is really good too. Alberta beef, for sure, my favourite is Carvers in the NE but there's a big thread here on steak places if you want to check out others.

                  1. I would highly recommend Rush for a fancy night out. It's a great place, I've been there about 4 times and not had a bad time yet. They do a great lunch too, during the week.