For Mike and I, Summer 2016 vacations will centre on weekend trips around the province!
With the current economy, hitting the road and exploring what’s right in your backyard is really the smartest thing to do.
It also makes the most sense as I just started a new job and we’re planning a bigger trip in the fall.
Lucky for us there is an endless supply of Explore Alberta staycation activities – including simply just eating your way through towns and cities!
For us, Calgary kicks off our summer of Alberta eating. We were also there to take in the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo!
Watch for a recap of my Calgary Expo experience but first, see below for a recap of what Mike and I ate during our recent trip to Calgary – Part 1 of hopefully many!
Where to Eat: Calgary, Alberta (Part 1)
Charcut Roast House
899 Centre Street, Calgary
If you love meat (as Mike and I do), no trip to Calgary is complete without a stop at Charcut Roast House.
We met up with our friend Kathy, who I first had Charcut with a few years ago. Since then – it’s become one of my Kathy’s favourite restaurants in the city!
Delicious, house-made meats and from-scratch items that changes seasonally. We shared the Charcut charcuterie board – with a variety of meats including piri piri linguica, pig head mortadella and sausage.
Then we shared the garlic prime rib with duck fat fried brussel sprouts and Charcut potatoes (with boar bacon and sour cream)
It’s simple but delicious. Also quite possibly my favourite brussel sprouts. We didn’t get it this time but you should also order the melted raclette cheese with bread!
The quality and flavours at Charcut are unmatched. Easily, one of my favourite restaurants in Calgary and a must if you’re ever visiting. Make a reservation in advance to ensure a spot!
I also need to try their sister restaurant Charbar – which is also meat-y, but with an Argentinian flair.
Bonus to eating at Charcut the same weekend of the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo?
We were a foot away from William Shatner!
— Linda Hoang (@lindork) May 7, 2016
It was especially funny because Kathy had just interviewed him earlier in the day at the Expo! (She works at CTV Calgary). While we ate, some girls approached him to ask for a photo and he basically spent five minutes explaining to them that he has had a very long day working and the last thing he wants to do is to be bothered while trying to have a nice dinner (to put it nicely lol).
Overall, a very memorable night at Charcut (both food-wise, friend-wise, and celebrity-sighting wise).
If you love meat, Charcut is a must.
217 10 Street
Since our trip to Japan in October, Mike and I have been eating ramen a lot more regularly.
Edmonton’s ramen scene is growing quite a bit but Calgary’s is no joke.
We knew we wanted to visit a ramen restaurant during our quick trip and initially had settled on Shiki Menya, a ramen shop that only prepares a limited number of bowls each day and once they’re out – they’re done for the day.
However as soon as we approached the street Shiki Menya was on, we saw a very long line outside (Mike hates lines lol).
This was actually our first stop when we arrived in Calgary for the weekend and we were starved so we bowed out and instead went to Ikemen Ramen Bar located in the Kensington area.
There were no line-ups at Ikemen (hooray)!
We were quickly seated and ordered Shio and Miso ramen bowls (extra char siu, always) as well as beef tataki, gyoza, and deep fried chicken chips to start.
At first I thought the bowls were a bit misleading – they’re quite large but the actual ramen doesn’t completely fill it up. Despite that, you get a very filling bowl of tasty, chicken broth-based ramen.
They also have some unique bowls including a roasted tomato seafood ramen and a tom yum ramen, both of which I was tempted to try but ultimately my desire to see how the classic dishes fared won.
I thought the beef tataki slices were a bit thicker than my preference, but still delicious.
And we also really enjoyed their gyoza. The deep fried chicken chips were interesting, but I likely wouldn’t order those again.
Overall, food and service at Ikemen was great. The food came out very quickly, there was no line-up to get in, and I liked the sleek, modern / wooden look and feel.
344 17 Avenue
When I only have a short period of time to visit a place, I try to cram in as many meals in a day as possible so things like ‘first’ and ‘second’ dinner becomes a thing.
Our visit to Anju Restaurant became ‘second dinner’ on our first night in town.
We were reasonably stuffed from the previous meal but still excited to try as many items as our stomachs could handle at Anju, a Korean tapas restaurant.
Anju is all about sharing smaller plates with a group of friends so that’s what we did!
Their menu has some really interesting dishes that we were excited to try.
Between the 6 of us, we tried about 6 dishes including a delicious (unpictured – because the room was dark and my iPhone was not cooperating with me) ramen carbonara, hamachi and salmon sashimi, spicy salmon tacos, pork belly lettuce wraps, kimchi fried rice, and their bibimbap hot stone rice bowl.
You could also order some larger dishes but they can get pretty pricy.
Anju is open late so you can do things like second dinner at 10 p.m.
A reservation is also recommended at Anju as it gets quite busy, though even with our reservation we had to wait a bit as the table designated for us was still being used by a group of people.
As I mentioned, we really liked their ramen carbonara.
Their sashimi and spicy tuna tacos were also delicious.
I don’t know if we were just way too stuffed by the time the kimchi fried rice came out or what but we found that one was just alright.
Overall though, Anju was a great pick for a good, late night Korean dinner – I think their menu options are great.
The conversations with friends was awesome, and I also liked the atmosphere, though possibly due to it being our second dinner (and we were already feeling full), as well as the slower start due to reservation/table issues, I’d likely recommend you try Charcut or Native Tongues (which I’ll get into below) first, if I was ranking preferences for a Calgary dinner.
234 12th Avenue
It’s funny that we didn’t want to wait in line for ramen but I was adamant about waiting for Native Tongues.
You can’t make reservations in advance at Native Tongues but you can stop by and put your name on the list – go somewhere else – then come back when your table is ready.
When we stopped in, the wait was estimated to be 2 hours long.
Now, waiting there for 2 hours would be ridiculous, but luckily we had passed an amazing-looking pub (just a converted house) down the street while walking to Native Tongues, so we thought – why not get some drinks and a snack at the pub before coming to Native Tongues?
It worked out pretty great.
Native Tongues is a Mexican restaurant that has an incredible vibe.
There’s a really cool painted wall with quirky photo frames and twinkly lights across the ceiling.
It’s also loud – with music and chatter from a full room.
I really loved the atmosphere here!
And the food!
We tried a bunch of their tacos – the lengua beef tongue, carnitas pork, chorizo con papas, pollo verde braised organic chicken, and the hongus local mushrooms.
It also happened to be Taco Week in Calgary so they had a special pescado breaded red snapper taco that was fantastic. My favourite tacos of the night were the chicken, fish, mushroom and pork.
Our friend Jack really liked the spicy chorizo tacos too. Really, we were fans of them all except the beef tongue (it was just hard for us to get past that beef tongue-y texture, but I did want to try it lol).
I also loved their shrimp ceviche tostado to start, and the chips wth hot sauce that comes with their tasty hamburger.
We also got some fun drinks, including this flaming banana pineapple:
And the service was fantastic!
Overall, all of us loved Native Tongues. Top-notch food, service, and atmosphere!
And we really think going with the mindset of putting your name down and going to get something else done or squeeze in drinks elsewhere first to kill wait time, was a really smart thing to do!
Can’t wait to come back.
Hop In Brew Pub
213 12 Avenue
The Hop In Brew Pub is just a few steps away from Native Tongues, in an amazing, converted character home initially built in the 1911.
The quirky, slanted PUB sign caught our friend Nicole’s eye as we were headed to Native Tongues, and we were pretty happy to stop in.
Hop In Brew Pub has a really cool feel.
The inside does look and feel like a house, and when you’re having drinks and pizza there, you feel like you’re having drinks and pizza at yours or your pal’s home.
It’s very casual and cool.
Besides an expansive beer menu, Hop In Brew also specializes in pizza.
In fact, that’s the only food it serves.
While we waited for our table at Native Tongues (which only took an hour instead of 2!), our group of four shared a Carnivore pizza that was quite good.
I wouldn’t rave about the service at Hop In Brew (it took awhile for a server to come to our table, and awhile for her to come back, and awhile for the pizza to come out), but I really can’t stress enough how cool the atmosphere is.
Upstairs you’ll find some pool tables, more sitting spaces, and a creepy hallway/staircase lined with old, vintage portraits of – maybe the people who used to live in the home.
Check out this Avenue Calgary story on the building’s history – at one time it used to be home to 17 people!
This unique pub is a must visit in Calgary!
1101 8th Street
There are a ton of different breakfast spots in Calgary that I wanted to visit, but in the interest of time, we had to really narrow the scope to spots in close proximity to the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo.
We ended up choosing Red’s Diner (Red’s in Ramsay) – based on some good eggs benedict reviews (my go-to breakfast dish) and the fact that the NoWait restaurant app showed there was – well, no wait.
Nicole and I both ordered the same eggs benny – The Ramsay Benny – served on a toasted English muffin with spinach, artichoke, tomato, and housemade hollandaise.
I also added capers to mine! Love that extra salty bite.
It was a delicious dish and the perfect start to our Calgary Expo-filled day.
My friend Jack also said Ramsay’s french toast was the best french toast he’d ever had.
Song Huong Vietnamese Restaurant
1704 61 Street
After a solid amount of eats at some fairly mainstream, popular spots, I was really starting to crave some good ol’ Vietnamese food.
No matter where Mike and I travel – we have to find a Vietnamese spot to eat.
We even shocked some friends when in Japan, we really went out of our way to find a Vietnamese restaurant! lol.
So instead of going to one of the more popular breakfast/brunch spots on our final day in Calgary, we opted instead to hit up Song Huong Vietnamese Restaurant for some authentic Vietnamese.
Song Huong is everything you’d expect in a good, low-key, authentic Vietnamese restaurant.
The interior really reminded me of my parent’s restaurant growing up (King Noodle House – when it was on 107 Avenue and 111 Street), right down to the fake flowers.
I wanted to try their pho – just to compare, but instead opted for their house special, the bun bo hue, spicy central Vietnamese soup – which was delicious.
It was exactly what I needed after going hard on all the other food that weekend!
Bonus: Peter’s Drive-In (Red Deer)
131 Leva Avenue
And what’s a trip between Calgary and Edmonton without a stop in Red Deer – to the famous Peter’s Drive-In?
Peter’s Drive-In is known for their milkshakes and rightfully so. I got a banana pineapple milkshake (you can mix flavours!) and it was amazing. Not too heavy. Really, just right.
I also love how much fries you get (order a small and it comes in a massive bag – medium is in a bucket – large is in an even bigger bag, it’s great value).
And their burgers are also really good.
You cannot drive by Red Deer without stopping at Peter’s (I think that’s a law that Calgary-Edmonton commuters need to abide by? lol)
Overall, I am so happy with all the places we managed to squeeze in – especially given that we lost out on almost a full day’s worth of meals because we were busy at the Calgary Expo!
There’s still (obviously) a ton of great spots in Calgary that I’d still like to try – so I do intend to keep pumping out these ‘Where to Eat’ (where I ate)-type posts as I make return or new trips to cities/towns in Alberta.
So, have you been to any of the restaurants I mentioned?
What did you think?!
Where would you recommend I go for my next trip to Calgary?