Taiko Canteen Brings Bao Tacos and Minigolf to Manchester

The company behind the Taiko Taco and Zilford’s Fried Chicken food trucks goes brick and mortar with a casual spot for snacks and minigolf.

Photograph by Mariah Wilson.

As the Barley Belt‘s attractions continue to evolve beyond its core craft breweries, Taiko Canteen has launched with a fresh concept unlike much else in Calgary. Calling itself an “un-restaurant,” the two-level, 3,000-square-foot industrial space features minigolf, rap music and indulgent fried treats from the team behind the Taiko Taco and Zilford’s Fried Chicken food trucks.

You may be wondering what exactly an “un-restaurant” is. According to managing partner and executive chef Aaron Bruce, it’s a combination of the canteen’s hiring and service philosophies. Bruce says that as a young man he was given the chance to prove himself in a kitchen with no experience under his belt. In turn, he specifically hired young staff without relevant experience and put them to work right on the line. As for service, he wants guests to feel like they can hang out in peace, and accordingly guests primarily order at the counter rather than through standard table service (though table service is available to large parties and by request).

Taiko Canteen’s nine-hole minigolf course was designed by owners of the company. Photograph by Mariah Wilson.

The star attraction at the Canteen is the nine-hole Lucky Putt minigolf course. Each hole is on a self-contained green designed by the Taiko team, with eight of the holes spelling out “Get Lucky.” The effort put into these really can’t be overstated — some units weigh more than 3,000 pounds, requiring serious dedication to fabricate and install. A game costs $9 per person, plus there are a handful of deals for bulk purchases, including a swanky “black card” option worth $1500 in credit that can be purchased for $1000.

This pork belly bao is also available in a veggie-friendly version made with jackfruit. Photograph by Mariah Wilson.
This fried chicken sandwich can be ordered in spice levels ranging from mild to “lava juice.” Creamy corkscrew mac and cheese (top left) helps cut the heat. Photograph by Mariah Wilson.

If you’ve ever tried the Taiko Taco food truck before, you’ll know the company’s specialty is its moist, fluffy bao (steamed buns). At Taiko Canteen, the wheel has been evolved but not quite reinvented — classics like ginger beer and pork belly are available alongside plant-based flips on the originals, plus the serving size has been notched up a bit. Elsewhere on the menu, there’s fried chicken (Taiko recently acquired Zilford’s Fried Chicken food truck) options with an array of spice intensities, Taiko “bols” with superfoods and grains, sides like kimchi tots and corkscrew mac and cheese, plus Asian mini-doughnuts and Fiasco soft serve for dessert.

Make sure to arrive thirsty because Taiko Canteen has a wide selection of drinks. In addition to a who’s-who assortment of local craft beer and cider, you can have red or white wine (on tap!) or audacious cocktails like the Cereal Killa, made with cereal milk, soft serve, Lucky Charms marshmallows and spiced rum. If you don’t feel like having alcohol, choose between kombucha, craft sodas, “flow water” (with cucumber, blackberry or grapefruit) and a rotating mocktail.

This neon sign near the entrance sets the tone for the cheeky vibe of Taiko Canteen. Photograph by Mariah Wilson.
The interior, designed by Amanda Hamilton Interior Designs, includes this cozy nook with bright cushions and some reading material. Photograph by Mariah Wilson.

The clubhouse-like interior was designed by Amanda Hamilton Interior Design. Though Lucky Putt dominates the centre of the room, you can hang out at communal tables and a cozy seating nook nestled underneath the second-floor balcony. Throughout the space, you’ll notice nods to hip-hop culture (vintage concert posters and rapper-themed, gender-neutral bathrooms) and an array of cook books from neo-Asian street food landmarks like Night + Market.

Taiko Canteen officially opened on August 1, but you can expect to see a few tweaks in the near future. Bruce is hard at work perfecting a completely vegan bao recipe (order your veggie baos as lettuce wraps for now) and a collaborative lager made with Born Colorado Brewing will be unveiled any day now.

Taiko Canteen, 107, 3851 Manchester Dr. S.E., taikocanteen.com

Side dishes are a must at Taiko Canteen. These kimchi tots marry gut-warming, delicious carbs with tangy pickled cabbage and Taiko sauce. Photograph by Mariah Wilson.
Even the hand wipes at Taiko Canteen show that its owners are serious about hip-hop music. “So Fresh and So Clean” is one of OutKast’s most popular hits. Photograph by Mariah Wilson.
Each washroom is dedicated to a different rapper, displaying their portrait and playing their music. Left to right are Ms. Lauryn Hill, The Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z. Photographs by Mariah Wilson.

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