10 things we love about Calgary's dining scene
Date Posted: Monday, June 20, 2016
When people around the world talk about Calgary, they usually focus on the financial and economic benefits the city has to offer. Yes, our city boasts a wealth of opportunities, but its riches go far beyond dollars and cents. Here, in no particular order, are the 10 reasons why Calgary has such a dynamic dining scene.
1. Food Trucks
Street food culture has gained a firm foothold in our city. Food trucks — rolling takeout restaurants serving everything from perogies to ice cream — have a short history in our city, but judging from how we’ve embraced them, they’re here to stay. The food truck fleet first hit the streets in earnest in 2011, and has grown since then to more than 20 trucks. Their fans follow @yycfoodtrucks on social media to find out where they’re going to be each day.
2. Vietnamese Subs
Don’t get us wrong — colonialism is bad. But the Vietnamese subs? Good. The toasted French baguette with ingredients like fresh cilantro, pickled carrots, chili peppers and various meats seem simple enough, but somehow each Vietnamese sub or banh mi tastes different. With Calgary’s many choices in Vietnamese food, there’ll always be a restaurant or sub joint nearby that can satiate those spicy cravings.
3. Coffee Culture
If it’s coffee you want, we’ve got it. From huge international chains (Starbucks) and Canadian favourites (Second Cup and the iconic Tim Hortons) to local independent roasters and coffeehouses (Good Earth Café, Purple Perk, Waves, the Roasterie, Caffe Beano, Kawa, and many more), you’re never far from a great brew or espresso with personality. Free Wi-Fi is almost universal in these temples of caffeine, meaning everyone from business people sealing a deal, to students doing homework, and artists submitting grant applications can be found there.
Our local breweries, including Big Rock, Wild Rose and Village Brewery, give us preservative-free beers as delectable in the bottle as on tap, in an irresistible assortment of brews. Even across a bar, there’s no mistaking the wheat field sparkle of a Grasshopper, the rich nut-brown of a Traditional, the golden haze of a Velvet Fog or the dark beauty of a Blacksmith. Cheers to Calgary beer!
5. Shawarmas, Donairs and Falafel
Mediterranean cuisine has become part of Calgary’s food fabric. It’s a delightful dilemma having to choose between various delicious options when the craving for tabouleh or shawarma hits. There are a few chains, but the many independent places are the way to go for the authentic taste of the Middle East.
6. Alberta Beef
It doesn’t take much — blue skies, clean water, endless pasture, and a diet of grass and grain — to create succulent Alberta beef. That’s the secret to Alberta’s prized meat. Working conditions can’t compare in other crowded provinces (it’s all relative), and apparently, it does make a difference. Instead of confined pens, our cattle roam free; instead of feeding on corn, our cattle are finished on high-quality prairie grain. As long as our cattle are happy, we hungry carnivores are, too.
At one time there were just a few new-generation diners in Calgary. Places like Nellie’s, Diner Deluxe, and Galaxie served up hearty breakfast fare — omelettes, eggs Benedict, sausage, bacon, pancakes, French toast, hash browns, etc. — in a retro-modern atmosphere. Today, they’re everywhere. From classic truck stops to brand-new shiny buildings, from one-off independents to small chains, the traditional diner menu is enjoying a resurgence like never before.
8. Crave Cupcakes
With the arrival of Crave Cookies and Cupcakes in Kensington in the fall of 2004, a trip to the bakery took on a whole new level of sophistication. Today with four locations in Calgary and outlets in Edmonton and Saskatoon, Crave remains the boutique bakery that reinvented the cupcake. The Princess, Crave-O-Licious, Va Va Vanilla, A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts, et al, are the decadent creations of two sisters from High River; Carolyne and Jodi proudly use recipes handed down from their mom and grandmother as a base for all their goodies.
9. Cheese shops
Cheese lovers in Calgary need never worry about being faced with a lack of choice. Not with Janice Beaton Fine Cheese and Springbank Cheese shops here to save us from the supermarket cheese cooler. Aficionados also won’t want to miss the offerings of Red Deer-based Sylvan Star Cheese.
10. Kalamata Grocery Store
Gus and George Kokos, the long-time owners of this packed-to-the-rafters convenience store, often give regulars a sweet deal on some of the finest exotic wares in the city. From their olives, to dolmades and baklava, the Kokos and Kalamata are the cornerstone of this 11th Street S.W. strip. The baklava is some of the finest in town, and the colourful personalities leave an indelible, endearing mark.
Calgary's mouth watering, thirst quincing dining scene.