25 Best Things to Eat in Calgary 2012

The 25 best things to eat in Calgary this month

Jelly Modern Doughnuts: Nenshi’s salted caramel

Jelly Modern Doughnuts has made cruller creatures out of Calgary’s cupcake crowd. Its big, fresh doughnuts come with more than 20 creative toppings like lemon-glaze or Valrhona chocolate. At the top of my list is Nenshi’s salted caramel, dipped in caramel ganache with maple butter drizzle and sea salt.

100, 1414 8 St. S.W.

Cactus Club Café: Sushi Rice Pockets

The Vancouver-based chain Cactus Club Café serves a West Coast menu I can’t resist, especially those yummy wild smoked salmon and avocado sushi rice pockets. Über-chef Rob Feenie is behind many of the dishes on the Ocean Wise menu.

7010 Macleod Tr. S.E., 2612 39 Ave. N.E.
403-255-1088, 403-250-1120

Cowtown Beef Shack: Bun o' Beef

Only in Cowtown would you find a big smoky beef brisket sandwich at a drive-thru the size of a tollbooth. But the small-but-mighty Cowtown Beef Shack has perfected the art of drive-thru dining — fresh baguettes filled with lean Alberta beef, smoked to perfection. Sure, you can go Philly style with sweet bell peppers and cheese, doctor it up with the barbecue sauce or even have the tender pulled pork, but why waste the taste? You’re here for the beef, so keep it simple — bun with beef, and horseradish if you’re feelin’ frisky.

5250 Macleod Tr. S.W.

Green Cedars Food Mart: Hummus Dip 

You’d think almost anyone could whip together a decent hummus dip — a few chickpeas with olive oil, lemon, garlic and tahini in the blender, and zappo! Healthy, creamy bean dip. But it often goes so wrong, especially among those ubiquitous, overly acidic supermarket versions. Thankfully, the cooks at Green Cedars Food Mart know just how to coax the most balanced flavour out of this simple snack.
Go there for the fresh hummus, made daily — it’s perfect.

4710 17 Ave. S.E.

Coco Karamel: Alfajores

Coco Karamel alfajores are sweet sand­wich cookies filled with dulce de leche or quince jam. You can have these Argentinean specialties rolled in coconut, glazed with lemon or dipped in chocolate, but the traditional dulce de leche sandwich, a vanilla biscuit with the traditional milk-based caramel filling, is perfect. Handmade and individually packed, they make lovely gifts and are a great treat with coffee.

Kingsland Farmers’ Market
7711 Macleod Tr. S.

Wilde Grainz Artisan Bakery: Caramel Corn

If you love caramel (like I do), try the caramel corn at Wilde Grainz Artisan Bakery. It has nothing to do with the artisan breads, perfect croissants and wicked cinnamon buns made there, but popcorn is a food group in my household and, enrobed in thick, crunchy, buttery caramel, this is the perfect dessert after a popped movie-night meal.

1218C 9 Ave. S.E.

Cassis Bistro: Black Olive Tapenade

Cassis Bistro, with chef Dominique Moussu and restauranteur Gilles Brassart at the helm, is like a little bite of France. Everything is seasonal, but Moussu really rocks it with rustic French fare. I love it all, but the black olive tapenade — a fine paste of tiny, cured black  olives — is a sublime slather. Try it.

105, 2505 17 Ave. S.W.

JoJo's BBQ: Mac and Cheese

Pit master Jody Barned can be found in her smokin’ converted motorhome — the Chariot of Smoke — at various locations around town, creating what can only be described as serious southern barbecue. The ribs and pulled pork are tender and juicy, and her smoky griddle mac and cheese with its crispy exterior (it's made with drippings from the smoked meat), has created some local addicts.

Roving locations

Model Milk: Calamari Fricassee

I have tried several yummy tastes on Justin Leboe’s menu at Model Milk, but I can’t stop thinking about his tender calamari fricassee. Arriving like a plate of pasta (without the wheat), the chunky strips of squid are meltingly tender with cherry tomatoes and guanciale adding a perfect salty, porky note. Hooked me instantly.

308 17 Ave. S.W.

Catch & The Oyster Bar: Smoked B.C. Kushi Oyster

It might just be another chef’s party trick, but the new bit of performance art at Catch & The Oyster Bar— a fresh B.C. Kushi oyster smoked at the table under a water glass — is cool and delicious fun. The new casual vibe upstairs in the historic downtown bank building includes this, and other new takes on fresh fish and seafood.

100 8 Ave. S.E.

Rouge Restaurant: Foie Gras

Hankering for that oh-so-French favourite, foie gras? Chef Michael Dekker at Rouge Restaurant is a magician with the stuff. He makes an addictive seared fois gras with pork tourtière and boozy cherries. It’s unforgettable.

1240 8 Ave. S.E.

Sweets by Nancy: Chocolate Almond Buttercrunch

At Sweets by Nancy in the Calgary Farmers’ Market, Nancy Staniforth sells her fudge and other tasty treats made with cane sugar, Fair Trade cocoa and other top-quality ingredients. Beyond the traditional sponge toffee and retro puffed wheat squares is her killer dark chocolate almond buttercrunch — thick slabs of crunchy, buttery toffee topped with dark chocolate and nuts. Fair Trade and fabulous.

Calgary Farmers’ Market
L3, 510 77 Ave. S.E.

Alloy: Short-Rib Tortillas

Alloy may have the most creative lunch menu in the city, from mussels and fingerling potato chips with yuzu aioli, and fresh cayenne fettucini with rosemary and lamb meatballs, to sweet and hot sambal-glazed duck wings to dip in coriander cream. But I can’t resist a fresh corn tortilla and the tender beef short-ribs, braised in mandarin barbecue sauce and shredded to wrap up with fresh smoked onion relish. It’s a real keeper, and worth the drive to this hidden gem.

220 42 Ave. S.E.

Empanada Queen: Chilean Empanadas

Katherine Vallejos creates authentic Chilean empanadas in her tiny northeast Calgary shop. Stop in to take out a juicy homestyle beef or chicken empanada, complete with the requisite ground meat, hard-boiled egg, raisins and black olives inside a sturdy, but tender pastry and served with Chilean salsa.

4, 4100 Marlborough Dr. N.E.

Olive Chicken: Fried Chicken

If you’re into crispy fast-food chicken, you should try it Korean-style at Olive Chicken. The ladies behind the counter are friendly and, though something might have been lost in translation, I think they only make plain or sauced crunchy fried chicken sold in takeout boxes (fried in canola oil, not olive; I asked). Go for the sauce — a sweetish, sticky red chili sauce with just a slight burn — that makes this tender chicken sing. Don’t think about the calories; just take a seat by the window, gaze into the busy parking lot and enjoy some seriously gooey and messy —but very tasty — fried chicken.

1324 10 Ave. S.W.

Maggie’s Kubasa: Kubie Kornball

Sorry folks, this delight comes from Edmonton — and you have to wait for the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth to taste it again — but the Kubie Kornball, a little riff on the classic corndog, is all-Alberta and altogether addictive. Maggie’s Kubasa has been operating a sausage cart in the capital since 1943, so you know they’ve got the chops, and last year Maggie’s showed up at the Stampede, winning the “best new midway food” award for the little fritters of crispy cornbread filled with chunks of Maggie’s custom-made pork sausage and jalapeno jack cheese. Yee-haw!

The Calgary Stampede

That Schnitzel Place: “International Schnitzel” Sandwiches

This may sound like an oxymoron, but this crispy mushroom works. That Schnitzel Place is a little eat­­­ery that specializes in “international schnitzel” sandwiches. It offers a choice of pork loin, top sirloin or chicken breast, but the Portobello mushrooms that are Panko-breaded and crisply fried are really special. Customize it with the Parthenon combo of fresh parsley lemon caper pesto, goat cheese, caramelized onions, peppers and arugula.

821 4 Ave. S.W.

Anju: Oh’s Kimchi Ramen

Korean at Anju — lamb chops marinated in fermented Korean pepper paste (gochujang), spicy Korean pork belly tacos, and edamame hummus — are great dishes to share. But, on a day when you need to warm up, right to the core, Oh’s Kimchi Ramen, a real Korean-style hot-and-sour soup with spicy cabbage, tofu and local Berkshire pork, is good for what ails you.

507 10 St. S.W.

Spolumbo’s Fine Foods & Deli: Cannelloni

Of course, we all love Spolumbo’s Fine Foods & Deli for its fresh, homestyle sausages and serious sandwiches, but if you step outside the casing, there’s more to explore. These guys are all about the pork and have some dishes for fast cooking at home, and some of the best stuff comes from Aurora’s (a.k.a. Tony’s mom’s) kitchen. Next time, skip the sandwich and go straight for her tender cannelloni filled with meat, cheese and spinach.

1308 9 Ave. S.E.

Heritage Bakery & Deli: Perogies

If you can’t catch up with the new Perogy Boyz food truck, you can always stop at Heritage Bakery & Deli to get the very perogies they serve from their takeout window. All of these tender, Polish-style dumplings are hand-pinched and filled with things like potatoes and cheddar cheese, beef and sauerkraut and even blueberries.

1912 37 St. S.W.

Rocky’s Sausage Haus: Smokies

At Rocky’s Sausage Haus, Rocky Schermer is always making sausage — all manner of classic wursts, from Bulgarian bratwurst with leeks to spicy Italian. But the Westphalian smokies are a favourite. Get them cold-smoked and ready to steam or grill, or try the chewy, air-dried version of Rocky’s smoky to haul in your pack on a hike. It’s a pork sausage with a distinctive personality — just like the third-generation “wurstmacher” who makes them.

37 4 St. N.E.

Shiraz Persian Cuisine: Persian Ice Cream

A nice Persian family makes nice Persian food at Shiraz Persian Cuisine — from the wicked eggplant dip to the tender lamb shank with green Persian rice. But don’t leave the building before you’ve had the Persian ice cream — creamy homemade vanilla ice flavoured with chopped pistachios and saffron. Truly an exotic taste.

1120 Centre St. N.E.

Shef’s Fiery Kitchen: Butter Chicken

Shef’s Fiery Kitchen is Shefali Somani’s label for her spicy takeout curries of all kinds. Tanzanian-born, Somani’s curries are both Indian and East-African in provenance (with a touch of Thai, too), but you can’t go wrong with her butter chicken. I found it in the freezer at Market 17, but you’ll also find her at the Calgary Farmers’ Market or Blush Lane Organic Market. It’s hot stuff.

Calgary Farmers’ Market
510 77 Ave. S.E.
Blush Lane Organic Market
3000 10 Aspen Stone Blvd. S.W.

Boogie’s Burgers: Fay’s Burger

In a city where ground beef patties rule, it’s hard to build a better burger than Boogie’s Burgers, which have stood the test of time. Fay is no longer behind the counter (the newest owners are Noel and Kipp), but Fay’s Burger is still there and I can almost hear her saying, “Honey, you’re gonna have Fay’s burger with mushrooms” when I get to the counter. Fay can’t be replaced, but her burger still rocks.

908 Edmonton Tr. N.E.

Wurst Restaurant & Beer Hall: Schweinshaxen

At Wurst Restaurant & Beer Hall, they just call it Schweinshaxen — a meaty pork “knuckle” with potato dumplings and braised cabbage that’s the bigger Bavarian answer to braised lamb shank or osso bucco. This massive ham hock, slow-roasted to tender perfection, seems to be the logical choice to wash down with one of the equally oversized steins of beer served at Wurst. It’s like a trip to Munich, without the jet lag.

2437 24 St. S.W.

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