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Torontonian visiting Calgary....reccomendations, please?

I'm staying in Calgary for a week in February. I'm hoping to get some recommendations.
I'm open to anything - high end, low end, dinner, lunch....

Kindly let me know. thanks!

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  1. Notable
    Vin Room
    River Cafe (might not be open in winter)
    Sky 360 (in Calgary Tower)

    Off the top of my head!

    12 Replies
    1. re: cellophane_star

      Charcut - is her burger food truck worth it as well?

      1. re: atomeyes

        the burger truck is mostly hype. i would recommend 5 Guys, or perhaps Rockys, but keep in mind that you can make an equally good or even better burger on your own grill at home.

        1. re: nonlinear

          difficult to do his own burger at home when he is visiting calgary from toronto

          1. re: ingloriouseater

            oh - sorry for the confusion. I wasn't suggesting that this person cook their own burger, just that the burger options listed here aren't anything better than you can do yourself (I wouldn't go out of my way for one of these burgers, e.g.)

          2. re: nonlinear

            Local 522/510/000 have a good burger as well. It's not big (unless you get a double or triple), and kind of pricey, but so much better than the usual pub burger.

          3. re: atomeyes

            I think the truck is worth a visit if it is near you. Beats any chain, IMHO.

            1. re: atomeyes

              If you do, get the original burger, not the beef. I'd go to the restaurant though. Rocky has a really great beef burger if it's all about the beef for you - but only standard toppings, if that is what you want. Five guys is a chain, good burger for a chain. Only order one order of frys for every two people.

              Cowtown Beef Shack for a great Alberta beef sandwich.

              Open Range for Alberta beef, lamb, and game.

              Shikiji for the Chili Goma Ramen. I,ve bee here over three years and since I discovered it, have had it monthly. Strayed to anothe menu item once, and it was really good, but I returned to the Chili Goma Ramen. I'm addicted I think.

              Jelly Modern Donuts for massive, very good (a bit pricy) donut.

              Olive Chicken for lunch, fantastic Korean fried chicken.

              1. re: Scary Bill

                Bill you weren't lying about the Chili Goma Ramen. I tried it on your recommendation when I just happened to be driving in that part of town the other day. That dish is bonkers! I like Muku quite a bit for Ramen but nothing on their menu can touch the chili goma from Shikiji.

                1. re: johnjohnson78

                  jj, glad you enjoyed it, to me it really is a killer ramen. I think I could be due!

              2. re: atomeyes

                I've only sampled the original Alley Burger from the truck and it was super good. Pickle on a stick for $1 is a good add-on too! I think it's worth checking out if it's convenient. Just be aware that if there's a line up, the wait can be long.

                1. re: cellophane_star

                  River Cafe, Notable, Divinos, Big Fish, Open Range
                  Those are our favourites ☺

                  1. Charcut
                    Globe Fish

                    1. Wa's (Japanese - chirashi)
                      Charcut (burger and poutine)
                      Coup (vegetarian food)
                      Local 510 (mussels and frites)
                      I also recommend Olive Chicken (fast food - fried chicken - ask for the sauce on the side)
                      Vendome (duck confit panini)
                      Wurst (stuffed chicken wings)
                      Farm (cheeses/burgers/salads)

                      1. Thanks for your lists, everyone.

                        now, if you had to choose one or two places for a higher end dinner, where would it be?

                        13 Replies
                        1. re: atomeyes

                          Rouge and Catch.

                          I also noticed someone suggested Mercato above so I wanted to add Bonterra to the list of contenders (midpriced Italian, nice atmosphere).

                            1. re: Scary Bill

                              what do you mean re: type of menu?

                                1. re: Scary Bill

                                  If there's something with a prairie angle to it, i'd totally dig it.

                                  as you know, toronto's blessed with the gamut of ethnic foods (except for fondue and a properly made pizza, for some reason).

                                  also wondering why no one's suggested Ox and Angela. that and Charcut are the 2 Calgary restaurants I heard about.

                                  1. re: atomeyes

                                    You might like Open Range on Edmonton Trail. I haven't been but my Albertan friend said it's very rustic & farm-y. http://www.open-range.ca/menus/

                                    I wasn't overly impressed with Ox & Angela. I would recommend it for drinks & apps. They had a great looking drink menu and their corn dip and ceviche are AMAZING but I was very underwhelmed with the mains.

                                    1. re: cellophane_star

                                      A few more "Alberta" suggestions:

                                      Smugglers Inn (known for their prime rib)
                                      Farm (farm-y atmosphere, lots of local food)

                                      And again, I'd say District because all their meat (except for the fish) comes from Alberta. They're big on pork products.

                                    2. re: atomeyes

                                      I'll agree with cello, Open Range is definitely "prairie", with a good selection of game on the menu and waiters in Levi's and cowboy shirts. It is my go-to place for out of town guests who want to feel like they are in The West. I've never been disappointed with the food.
                                      Pizza, well that's a matter of taste. Mrs Scary loves Double Zero and sometimes goes there twice a week. Without Papers also makes a pretty good pie. Both use very good ingredients, to make a thin crust pizza. I've been here for just over three years and it seems to me that the "typical" Calgary pizza ( I'm waiting for the criticism) is a greek style pizza, sort of a semi deep dish with ingredients cover by gobs and gobs of cheese, not my style of pizza. I'm sure other hounds can send you in that direction, as I can't.
                                      As to Toronto, well I'll send you to Mississauga for pizza at Marconi, I'm a big fan of their pie. I understand there is a new place in Clarkson (west Mississausage) called Mickey's that everyone is raving about. I'll be in Onterrible in a couple of weeks and intend to try it out.

                                      Do go to Charcut, it's pretty good. And a lot of people rave about Rouge, though I've never been there.

                                      1. re: Scary Bill

                                        if you're looking for the best Calgarian-style pizza (yes, a greek-style pie as bill mentioned), head to Atlas Pizza in the NE. there are other places that serve this style that are probably closer to where you will be, but Atlas does it best.

                                      2. re: atomeyes

                                        In response to the "prairie" angle, might I suggest River Cafe. River would fit the bill for both prairie and high end dinner criteria, as you had mentioned you were interested in. Another place that seems to fly under the radar but is very much a top restaurant is Blink. The chef came from Whistler and Vancouver before that, working in top restaurants there, where the local / regional movement is firmly established in the restaurant scene. Highly recommended for both the regioanl and fine dining again. As far as experiencing our local scene and getting a snapshot of where Calgarians are going to eat at this moment, Ox and Angela, Una, Charcut and Model Milk are the main players. One note about River Cafe, they are closed for the month of January, so might be best to check the restaurant's website to find out exactly when they re-open and if this fits your travel schedule. Good luck.

                                        1. re: formerlyfingers

                                          just so you guys know, I'm a prairie boy. but when i say "prairie angle", i mean "i want some yummy grass-fed beef".
                                          having people in wranglers and plaid serve me food isn't my idea of a good time :)

                                          1. re: atomeyes

                                            haha... I'd suggest Charcut (dinner portioned meat) or District (for beef burgers) then.

                                            If you want a LOT of meat, you could try one of the Brazilian BBQs in town (Bolero or Gaucho) though I'm not sure if they're beef is AB & grass fed.

                                2. Hey!

                                  If you like French food/bakeries, you'd really enjoy Manuel Latruwe, Yann Haute Patisserie, and l'epicerie.

                                  They're very affordable places! And l'epicerie and yann both really have a great French atmosphere since they're staff speak French. Yann I think has the best macarons in Calgary.

                                  For dinner I think you would enjoy Vintage, the atmosphere is amazing, a very beautiful restaurant and they have a really good lobster Mac and cheese.
                                  You can also check out the living room. It's pretty pricey, but if you wanted to go
                                  all out, this is the place to be. They have a menu option:6 courses. And the chef pretty much improvs the menu for you on the spot. I recommend this. It was delicious.

                                  If you like vegetarian, you'll like the coup!

                                  Hope this helps!!!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Whittnie

                                    I always forget about Vintage. I ate there once and thought it was a good place for a steak!

                                  2. I would suggest this little dinner on Edmonton trail. It is called Dinner Deluxe and it is cute retro dinner. The service there is amazing and the food is wonderful. They bring you back to your child hood with a re-vamped Mac and Cheese with sundried tomatoes and antipasto. They also have a great pulled pork sandwich. My pick of drink is the lavender lemonade.

                                    I hope this helps.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: PrettyLilCupcake

                                      Diner Deluxe. And while I'm on my proper spelling (and enunciation) rant, it's dining room, not dinning room!

                                      1. re: PrettyLilCupcake

                                        Diner Deluxe used to be our diner of choice, but now we go to Dairy Lane. The Dairy Lane owners have also opened a new place in Bridgeland called Blue Star. Both use lots of locally sourced ingredients. Dairy Lane make the best club sandwich ever. As well as lots of other tasty food. It is quite small, though, doesn't have much of a waiting room (really just a little back hall), and I don't think they take reservations for fewer than 6 people (if at all). On a sunny weekend morning, you can see the people waiting outside holding their cups of coffee waiting for a table.

                                        I've eaten at Rouge a couple of times, and highly recommend it.

                                        River Cafe is also very good, but pricey.

                                      2. Thanks for your suggestions.
                                        we ended up at:

                                        Charcut (lunch) - pretty good. my dish was disappointing (sausage "sandwich"). wife's roast beef sandwich was awesome.
                                        Model Milk - very nice space, very good food. Great beer list. Great service. I'd go back again, but its not a "must"
                                        Ox and Angela - to be honest, it was kind of disappointing. our paella was overcooked and crispy. my wife's tuna was dry around the edges. service was creepy/strange. Debated about complaining, but we didn't.

                                        Beer: Bottlescrew Bill's. Went for the beer festival. Kind of disappointed in the selection.
                                        Craft Beer: awesome beer selection, horrible crowd and bad service. Beer was insanely cold (not the proper way to serve St Bernadus Abt 12, especially at $10/glass)

                                        9 Replies
                                        1. re: atomeyes

                                          Sounds like Calgary's food scene didn't please you overall. Too bad.

                                          One thing though, a proper paella is crispy, dry and caramelized on the bottom to the point where the pan can be held vertically like a briefcase without spilling.

                                          And I trust you are being facetious about Bill's.

                                          1. re: Scary Bill

                                            BSB's has so many beers but maybe they were out of stock on the ones he wanted to try?

                                            1. re: Scary Bill

                                              no, i was actually very impressed by Calgary's food scene (well, not by the prices) and by the beer selection. very envious about the latter.

                                              i will admit to you that i've only had paella once before. didn't even try it when in Spain and I've only recently started eating some seafood (long story). some of the rice was crispy. i wouldn't say it was caramelized. i'd say it was slightly overcooked.

                                              BSB: it was a beer event. we didn't have any bottles. but the number of quality vendors was very low. hell, Rickards had a booth. enough said. :)

                                              1. re: atomeyes

                                                Rickards, I thought that effort was a big fail years ago, I'm surprised it is still produced. I will admit though that the wheat beer is ok. Too bad they were only serving vendor product as the regular beer list is huge.

                                                I've been here just over three years now, from Toronto, and I have just begun to adapt to the price of food in general, particularly restaurants. But you have to remember that taxes here are lower and so the bottom line in many instances is not that much different. Beer, wine, spirits are much better priced in Calgary though, and it seems like Dalton is about to up the ante once again. While I was a fan of the LCBO, I am now a definite convert to the Alberta distribution model, though it is still not perfect as I loathe the "bottle depot" aspect.

                                                The Calgary food scene does get noticeably better each year, and if I were to move back to Toronto, there are places I would certainly miss.

                                                1. re: Scary Bill

                                                  I left Calgary 10 years ago, and still miss my favourite places. Calgary has always had amazing food. I turned into more of a foodie and a better cook while I lived in Calgary.

                                                  I still miss the now-defunct Debaji's, spicy tomato sausage soup and fish & chips at my local pub (also now-defunct), indie coffee shops, and the decent Indian take-out from Maurya or Tandoori Hut which was better than what my neighbourhood in TO offers. The Thai food in Calgary 10-14 years ago was better than anything I had been finding in TO at that time. I loved the Italian brunch at ll Sogno in Bridgeland, which was unlike any brunch I've seen anywhere else, even to this day. Fleur de Sel on 4th and Trocadero (iirc) in Marda Loop were as good as any bistros I had dined at in Toronto. It was a treat to have dim sum as well as mom + pop shops selling Greek, Mexican and other imported groceries within a 20 minute walk of downtown. I actually went out for dim sum and Thai food more frequently in Calgary 10 years ago than I do in Toronto in 2012 (although I now have a go-to Thai resto I love in TO). I'd never tried shish tawuk or ginger beef before I moved to Calgary, and I've liked both dishes ever since.

                                                  I don't think Calgary's food scene is behind Toronto's. It's just a different type of food scene, and I'm really looking forward to my visit.

                                                  PS Scary Bill, I don't mean for this reply to look like I'm responding directly to what you wrote. I probably should've replied further down. I agree completely that there are places in Calgary that people miss when they move away from Calgary. Calgary restaurants already do attract top chefs, and I'm sure many of those chefs are as talented as the top chefs found east of the Red River..

                                            2. re: atomeyes

                                              Hmm... I've been to all these places and I would agree. Charcut might be better at dinner (I've never been at lunch).

                                              I went to Model Milk last weekend and thought the main & dessert were good. App was disappointing. Service was excellent. Loved the design too. I would recommend trying it out but I'd want to go again to make sure the other apps are good.

                                              I was also not impressed with Ox & Angela. Apps were the best part. Mains were bland. Drink selection was overwhelming. Some might find that a good thing. Service was good but I get what you're saying about "creepy". Very hipster.

                                              1. re: cellophane_star

                                                loved the GM/hostess at Ox and Angela. on the ball. she's the matronly cool older lady. I feel like O&A could have been more innovative, especially with the hype around it.

                                                Model Milk: wish i could try that burger. looked very tempting.

                                                Charcut was interesting. felt corporate. loved their beer cooler (a thing of beauty). wish it had some genuineness or warmth to it.

                                                but in case i sounded like i was complaining about Calgary's food, it was the opposite. It wasn't world class, but you guys aren't all that far behind Toronto or Montreal. what i saw was still missing some ingenuity but trust me, it wasn't a steak and potatoes town like some people would think it is. just wait 2-3 years. bet you you'll be hearing about Calgary being a new food centre in North America. all the access to great beef plus all the oil money means you'll be attracting good chefs.

                                                  1. re: atomeyes

                                                    We stumbled upon Ox and Angela on a sunday for lunch, it is underwhelming, although the staff was friendly. I don't think there's a hype around it.

                                                    Blink is my favorite place for now, although I've yet to try Rouge and Teatro.

                                              2. Thanks again for your tips.
                                                I did a quick summary of our trip on my thingamabobby.


                                                1. Bumping this thread, since so many places I'm considering are already mentioned (Notable, Teatro, Rouge, River Cafe, Farm, Open Range, Jelly Modern Donuts).

                                                  Which places would be your top pick for upscale Italian or contemporary/continental cuisine, if you only had 2 dinners in Calgary? Cibo for Italian?

                                                  Which place in Chinatown is serving the best dim sum lately? And where would you go for Ginger Beef?

                                                  Thanks for any comments.

                                                  13 Replies
                                                  1. re: prima

                                                    Teatro hasn't ever really impressed me. For high end italian I would suggest Il Sogno or Mercato. Cibo is new but their sister restaurant Bonterra has an excellent patio and food so I'm looking forward to checking it out too.

                                                    Rouge and Catch are my usual suspects for higher end dining.

                                                    1. re: prima

                                                      To each their own! Unlike hclass I usually am wowed by whatever I have at Teatro and their space is second to none in the city. Their seafood lasagna would have to be the signature/can't miss dish.

                                                      For upscale Italian I would choose Teatro or Mercato, but if the weather is particlarly nice the Bonterra patio is amazing as well. Cibo is part of the Bonterra group but is targeted more towards the casual/trendy end of the spectrum.

                                                      My favorite place for Dim Sum and Ginger Beef happens to be at the Silver Dragon, and they've been serving in Calgary for over 40 years.

                                                      1. re: crazy_eoj

                                                        Thanks hclass & crazy_eoj ;-) Thanks for mentioning which dishes you like the most at Teatro. I lean towards seafood, poultry & veg, rather than beef or pork, when I have a choice, so I appreciate you recommending a seafood dish. Teatro opened a few months after I moved away from Calgary, and I haven't done much fine dining on my visits to Calgary.

                                                        I used to alternate between Harbour City and Silver Dragon. I don't think I've been to Silver Dragon since 2002, so it's great to hear it's still a solid choice for dim sum and Ginger Beef.

                                                      2. re: prima

                                                        Maybe it's just me, but I was thoroughly underwhelmed by Jelly. Mediocre donuts at best. Topping were good but the dough itself had very little flavour.

                                                        1. re: Shazam

                                                          Thanks for your comments, Shazam.

                                                            1. re: Shazam

                                                              Workmate brought in a box of the bacon maple doughnuts to the office and they were fantastic, everyone was raving.

                                                              But that's my only experience with them, and it isn't very difficult to best frozen dough from tims.

                                                              1. re: crazy_eoj

                                                                The only think I've ever had with bacon that wasn't very good was bacon flavoured beer. However drinking beer and eating bacon, as Homer Simpson says, MMMMMMMMMMM

                                                                I can't even remember the flavours of the other donuts, just the Maple Bacon.

                                                            2. re: prima

                                                              The best places for dim sum aren't in Chinatown but if you must stay in that part of the city then Silver Dragon is ok. If you can go further afield T-Pot, Grand Central and Ginger Beef Bistro Cafe are better depending on what you choose to eat.

                                                              1. re: sharonanne

                                                                Which Ginger Beef location is the Ginger Beef Bistro Cafe location? Thanks for your other dim sum recs.

                                                                1. re: prima

                                                                  400 388 Country Hills Blvd NE
                                                                  It is south west of the Empire Studio Theatres.

                                                              2. re: prima

                                                                I didn't have time for too many meals, and didn't even get a chance to order my plate of Ginger Beef.

                                                                Here's where I ate, and what I ate:

                                                                coffee at Higher Ground in Kensington

                                                                a 3 bite PB & J doughnut, and a 3 bite Smores doughnut at Jelly Modern, a luxe doughnut shop with seating on 8th St SW. Excellent icings and fillings, but blah dough. I prefer the old-school donuts sold at the Donut Mill located in Red Deer's Gasoline Alley!

                                                                an arugula salad with chicken at the Cactus Club Cafe on McLeod South- good for a chain, and one of the better options near Chinook Centre, afaik. Roughly equivalent to a salad at Earl's.

                                                                iced latte at DeVille coffee shop in Fashion Central, just south of Stephen Ave. Neat place.

                                                                delicious BC organic cherries from Sunnyside Market

                                                                pulled pork sandwich at District on 11th SW- better than I expected.

                                                                fried calamari and shrimp at Fionn MacCool's in the Sheraton near Eau Claire Market- pretty good for chain food- perfectly fried.

                                                                Kettlecorn at the Stampede

                                                                An iced coffee and a custom-ordered salad at Gratitude Cafe on 10th St NW in Kensington- made to order, nice miso dressing.

                                                                A raisin bran muffin from the new Sunterra.

                                                                Thanks for all your suggestions and comments. ;-)