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New in Calgary - can you help with "must dine at" restaurants?

We're just finishing up our move into Calgary from Northern Alberta (we're misplaced BC folks), and I hopped online to find the best butchers / farmer's markets / etc in town...

This site hit for both queries off the bat, but I've since lost the last half an hour reading about pate and L'epiceri due to your recommendations.

Judging by the various comments on this board, I think that I might be able to save myself some work and ask all of you:

Where should we be eating out?

I can afford the occasional high end night out (we loved the food and wine at Hardware in Edmonton), but I'm also interested in hidden gems that offer interesting and delicious food...

Neither of us have ever lived here or visited here; I have a vehicle (so we're not worried about getting to and from tucked away locations), and since we don't know any better, we don't have any perceptions on where a "nice" restaurant should be situated.

Would any of you be wiling to post suggestions of where we should be going?

I truly would appreciate it, and would be more than willing to offer feedback from experience.

Simon E.

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  1. Welcome to the city! Before the deluge of responses, i was just curious - what sort of preferences do you have - anything you won't eat, or any types of flavours that you don't find agreeable? Also, how often do you dine out? Is this for a weekly meal, date night, or special occasions?

    Let us know and we'll be happy to provide as many recommendations as you can try! :)

    1. Welcome to Calgary and to the Board Simon E.!

      I had the same experience with chowhound when I first joined... it can be a rather delicious time-sucking vortex ;) I second foodosopher's request for specifics so we can make recommendations based on your preferences. :)

      1. What neighbourhood did you move to? You shouldn't be "worried" about using your car to get from place to place but some will be more convenient than others.

        For more high-end and variously "trendy" dining, you should focus on the cooler retail/pedestrian strips in the more inner-city areas; in Calgary that means 17th Ave SW between about 1st St SW and 14 St SW, 4th St SW between 17th and 26th Avenues; Downtown, especially Stephen Ave (that's 8th Ave) between about 6th St SW and Olympic Plaza; Kensington, which comprises Kensington Rd NW between 10 St and 14 St, and also the stretch of 10 St NW between the Bow River and about 4th Ave; Marda Loop, which is 33rd Ave SW between 19 St and the Crowchild Trail overpass; Chinatown, which is the NE portion of downtown centred on Centre St S between 3rd Ave and the Bow River; Inglewood, which is along 9th Ave SE between about 8 and 14 St (note that that's SE, ie east of downtown); and Bridgeland, especially the part of Edmonton Trail just north of Memorial Drive and 1st ave NE for about six blocks east of Edmonton Trail. Some evolving strips include what I call "Chinatown North," along Centre St N from the river to about 24th Ave (that's awfully long but there are many gems along it), and the transcanada hwy (16th Ave N) to the east and west of Centre St.

        That's the more inner-city, trendier areas. Much of the north and NE suburban areas of Calgary constitute one huge ethnoburb and this is the area to find hole-in-the-wall with insanely good and cheap pho, curry and shawarma.

        I woudn't know where to begin to recommend specific restos- I've never been to Hardware but guess it's best-in-town in Eton, so your similar here could be any of River Cafe, Chef's Table, Capo, and many more...
        Welcome!

        12 Replies
        1. re: John Manzo

          We moved to Acadia, and happen to be right around the corner to The Better Butcher.

          This has me excited, as a bunch of people on this board seem to be impressed with them.

          My reference to neighborhood, though; was exactly what you're suggesting - I meant that I'd prefer to hit unknown areas in search of perfect pho or curry (and the best shwarma)

          1. re: Simon_E

            Here's a list of my favourites... some of these are places to dine at.. and others are places to buy gourmet food that are worth mentioning...

            L'Epicerie - I know you read about their pates already.. they also have sandwiches that you can eat there or take away.. my favourite by far is their sud-ouest (foie gras slices on a baguette)...
            1325 1 Street SE, (403) 514-0555

            Big Fish - they have oyster nights every Monday... $30 for 2 dozen.. they have a decent select from both east and west coast.. some of the best oysters I've had here in calgary..
            1112 Edmonton Trail NE, 403.277.3403

            Diner Deluxe - for diner food and brunch.. be prepared to wait on weekends for brunch though as the lineups are long
            804 Edmonton Trail NE, (403) 276-5499

            Gaucho - for Brazilian bbq... go for the rodizio (buffet where they come to the table and carve different kinds of meat for you)
            3605 Manchester Rd SE, (403) 454-9119
            http://www.brazilianbbq.ca/

            Pho Pasteur in Chinatown for pho and bun... it is my favourite pho and bun place in Calgary
            207 1 Street SE, (403) 233-0477‎

            Thi Thi sub in Chinatown (next to pho pasteur) for vietnamese subs
            209 1 St SE

            Regal Beagle for salt & pepper wings (they have wing nights on Mon, Wed and Sat
            )410 14th Street NW, 403-283-6678

            Choklat - gourmet chocolate bars (they make the chocolate themselves here).. they also have s'mores that they make from scratch
            1327A 9th Avenue SE , 403.457.1419

            Spolumbo's - you can buy gourmet sausages to take home to cook.. as well you can eat in and try their italian deli sandwiches.
            1308 - 9 Avenue SE, (403)-264-6452

            Manuel Latruwe Bakery - for their european style baguettes and croissants.. you can also order sandwiches to eat there as well
            1313 1 ST SE, 403. 261.1092

            Glamorgan Bakery - for their melt-in-your mouth cheese buns
            #20, 3919 Richmond Road SW, 403-242-2800

            Wa's Japanese Restaurant - I find this to be one of the most authentic Japanese restaurants in Calgary. Besides their sushi, I really enjoy their tempura as it is flaky and light.. I also enjoy their udon noodles as they serve it with the traditional condiments... As well, I love their agedashi tofu which is also served with very authentic condiments.
            1721 Centre Street NW, (403) 277-2077

            Palomino's for bbq - while is not the greatest bbq, it's about as good as you're gonna get in Calgary. My favourite is their smoked 1/2 chicken and their garlic fries
            109 7 Ave SW, (403) 532-1911

            Nando's - it's a swiss-chalet type of restaurant.. except that they serve flame grilled chicken with a tasty garlic peri peri sauce.. I find the chicken to be very tender, juicy and flavourful
            3333 32 Ave NE, (403) 769-0610

            Gee Gong - for westernized chinese food.. very good salt & pepper squid, ginger chicken/beef, palace style chicken etc.
            206 Centre St S, 403-264-1533

            Montreal Bagels - to buy montreal-style bagels... the owner used to work at St Viateur in Montreal.. it's as good as you're gonna get here in Calgary for Montreal bagels
            8408 Elbow Dr SW, (403) 212-4060

            Mi Tierra Tu Taqueria - for authentic mexican food
            10015 Oakfield Drive SW, 403 238-1749

            Boyd's Seafood Restaurant - for halibut & chips
            5211 Macleod Trail Sw, (403) 253-7575

            Amato Gelato
            2104 Kensington Rd NW, 403-270-9733

            Fiasco Gelato - several locations
            http://www.fiascogelato.com/

            Caffe Artigiano - for good lattes and espresso
            332 - 6th Avenue S.W

            1. re: miss.foodie

              not sure what happened at diner delux last sun but we had terrible service and our breakfast potatoes were extra extra crispy to burnt. They also replaced their sausages with crappy ones. It's overpriced for sure. Walk across the street buy some breakfast sausages at Spulombos and have breakfast at home.

              1. re: chewy_bakah

                Good to know.. I haven't had a chance to go to Diner Deluxe lately. The last time I went was a couple of months ago and it was fine.. mind you, I didn't order the sausages so I wouldn't know. I had the chocolate french toast and it was good like usual. And the time before that I had the potato pancake and pork chop and it was quite tasty too.

                1. re: chewy_bakah

                  "Walk across the street buy some breakfast sausages at Spulombos and have breakfast at home."
                  Just confused by the reference.
                  Could you be thinking of Kane's Harley Diner instead?

                  1. re: chewy_bakah

                    um chewy bakah Diner Deluxe is in Renfrew nowhere near Spolumbo's last I checked...maybe cancowboy is right and you're thinking of Kane's?

                    1. re: chewy_bakah

                      "Walk across the street buy some breakfast sausages at Spulombos"

                      or maybe Eat! Eat!
                      It's across the street from spolumbo's as well... and i've had some pretty slow service there occasionally as well. but it's usually worth the wait.

                      1. re: chewy_bakah

                        my apologies, apparently those burnt hash browns have clogged my brain.

                        It was Eat Eat in Inglewood close to Spulumbos. Thk CH'ers for correcting me!

                        1. re: chewy_bakah

                          *whew* I was starting to wonder what happened at Diner Deluxe ;)

                          Sorry to hear Eat Eat was a miss... the few times I've been there the food has been fine, I just found the service a bit slow.

                        2. re: chewy_bakah

                          Yeah, you must mean eat eat. I thought they had quality food before but now it's off my list. The sausages are super crappy, and I had always assumed their syrup was maple syrup but I noticed last time at the bottom it is $2 extra. So I guess their regular stuff is high fructose corn syrup with brown added. The time before that, the pancakes were burnt. Like a hard layer of black on one side. How could a restaurant have the nerve to actually serve that?

                        3. re: miss.foodie

                          Excellent list miss foodie! :)

                        4. re: Simon_E

                          Also forgot to mention, Buchanan's has a very good burger.. they grind their meat in house..
                          738 3rd Avenue SW, 403-261-4646

                      2. I also live in Acadia and would suggest the following near that area:

                        1) Mi Tierra, a great little taqueria that serves the tastiest and most authentic mexican i've had anywhere in Canada. located on the western end of southland drive. search for it on this board.

                        2) Gondola Pizza, on Acadia drive

                        3) Tom's House of pizza near Heritage and Macleod.

                        4) Montreal Bagels, on heritage and elbow

                        5) Moti Mahal, a very nice indian place near avenida mall south on macleod

                        1. Nonlinear has some great suggestions for around the area. To add to that, in the area, I would also suggest

                          Minas: In avenida Mall, vietnamese. 15c is a great thai viet soup

                          Greek Plaka: Little Greek place in Shawnessy, next to the zellers. Very unassuming.

                          Andys Family Meats: In Avenida again, great little butcher shop

                          Pies Plus: In Avenida, great for a quick soup and quiche or amazing pies to take home.

                          Slovak Store: On James McKevitt, near Toms house of pizza. Some really cool Eastern European things. The woman that owns the place has a lot of stuff behind the counters (think perogies, homemade pickles etc)

                          And missfoodie, Great List!!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: danniek

                            I ate at Greek Plaka a few weeks ago and was underwhelmed.

                          2. Be sure to try the Polcan market, next to the butcher shop in tha mall on Fairmount, the bacon is great,as well as the weiners. Polish is the language most heard,but they understand English. Try the cabbage rolls and perogies. Be prepared to line up!!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: cckid

                              I would rate the Better Butcher far far ahead of Andy's Meats for that area - but the best of the best would be Second To None Meats just south of Glenmore.

                            2. WOW!!! Thanks for all the suggestions!

                              I think we're covered for awhile!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Simon_E

                                My number one pick for you to try has to be:

                                BROKEN PLATE - For Acadia the Broken Plate Wilow Park locatino should be a staple if you like Greek. I think they have Calgary's best Calamari and who can resist saganaki (flaming cheese with lemon). They are moderately priced. I think this place might be one of those universal type choices that nobody woudl steer you away from. It is just good.

                                If you want some more upscale choices I tend to be more along the same thinking as John Manzo and say Chef's table, River Cafe and Capo (all in the very expensive but worth it category - special occasion dining). Add to this the following:

                                RUSH - this is in my mind the hottest of the hot right now. (in the very expensive category)

                                CENTINI - chic italian. downtown. know for pasta made daily and fresh truffels.

                                CAESARS STEAK HOUSE (also has a south location in Willow Park a stones throw from you) - this is the Classic steak experience. Every time we go we can't stop eating the cheese toast - its rediculous. White tableclots, waiters in tuxes, real silverwear and decor from the 70's steak house style. Although this is not a modern trendy twist on food it is a solid classic. I always take my staff for Christmas each year as there is something for everybody and they NEVER leave disapointed. They always feel spoiled and pampered and FULL!

                                REDWATER GRILLE - right on Macleod near Acadia - fabulous. expensive. This place is a BAD choice for KIDS though.

                                For more approachable prices but still good, trendy, chic restaurants -

                                MILESTONES - nice, trendy food conveniently located in the South Center Mall parking lot (and they have a location downtown). I heard a comment that they have great eggs benny but I am partial to their Seafood salad - yum.

                                OLIVES - for a completly FOODIE experience on a more moderate budget try Olives. This place impresses everybody who I have taken there. It is the PERFECT choice for any event at the saddle dome as it is right there.

                                RED DOOR BISTRO - downtown, hip, casual elegant, wood floor, brew own their beer and have very interesting beer choices, great for Oysters. I like the Seafood platter.

                                From Miss Foodie's fabulous picks I sedcond these:
                                Spolombos - can't go wrong here
                                Manuel Latruwe Bakery - awesome waffle with chocolate syrup and if you want to impress guests for a home cooked meal buy their individual desserts.
                                Glamorgan Bakery - an institution.
                                Boyds Seafood - good fish and chips takeout and one of the best places to buy fresh fish.

                                and from non-linear I agree whole heartedly with
                                Moti Mahal - yummy, authentic, priced right, owner operated.

                                happy eating...