The gateway to Alberta is Calgary, a bustling big Canadian city that I didn’t have a lot of expectations for. My mind was more on the mountains.
I’m going to be totally honest here; I was not expecting a foodie scene and so many epic meals. Hell, I love surprises when traveling! But more on that in a minute.
But I love giving cities a chance, and I think it’s important to be openminded about places when you’re exploring the world, don’t you? Don’t judge a book by it’s cover and all that shit.
The next morning I woke up early with my mind on coffee and headed over to the Simmons Building in the East Village. An old mattress factory converted into a thriving foodie center that just opened this year, I was really excited to see what was in store for me there.
Cough cough, hot coffee. Show me the beans!
Right next to the frozen river, the old school urban feel of the Simmon’s Building reminded me a bit of my old haunts around New York and New England, but I wasn’t prepared for just how an amazing experience it would be until I walked inside.
Wow, Alberta, you are full of surprises!
Tucked away in the heart of the up and coming East Village, the beautiful wooden beams, exposed brick and soft lighting of the building created one of the most welcoming atmospheres I’ve experienced in Canada. It felt like it’s own little market.
Right next to me as I walked in was Phil and Sebastian, an open coffee shop that you could immediately likely serves the best coffee in Calgary. Normally when I arrive in a city I seek out cafes like this, minimal with a focus on high quality coffee. It’s like they read my mind.
I’m such an addict.
In the back I could see the Charbar and Sidewalk Citizen Bakery, and my nose and interest was piqued. Without skipping a beat I ordered my standard latte before grabbing a seat and waiting for company. I was immediately curious about what made this place tick. Sometimes you just know when a place has a story.
And I was right, a rare occurrence.
When I walked inside the Simmons Building, I was immediately blown away by how cool of a spot this was. If you value quality food and meals prepared with mindfulness and love, THIS is the place for you!
A building destined for the wrecking ball, it was saved with the idea of turning it into a community space. Hundreds of people vied for the lease to set up shop but three innovators won out – a cafe, a bakery and a restaurant, none of them typical of course.
I’m not a food writer but this was too good not to share. Here’s their story along with my favorite bites from Calgary.
Phil and Sebastian
Phil and Sebastian studied engineering together at university, working as lab partners. They became friends over good food and better coffee. You can probably see where this is going, the result of which is amazing coffee in Calgary that Me (and probably plenty of you guys) couldn’t get enough of.
Read more of their epic story here. Trying to summarize it would just do it an injustice.
I like my coffee with a story so I was lapping it up when I was hearing the story of engineers turned award winning baristas. Isn’t that something we can all relate and aspire to? Leaving the comfortable to follow your dreams in the hopes that they pay off?
It’s an inspiring space, and I love that you see every angle of how the coffee is prepared, even it seems a bit intimidating. I’d rather learn that not, you know.
Sidewalk Citizen Bakery
After a couple cups of coffee, I wandered over to the Sidewalk Citizen Bakery. I needed something to stuff my face with after so much coffee. I was jittery.
With a Middle Eastern and Mediterranean menu and a no BS attitude, this Israeli owned bakery combines tradition and innovation in every bite. I knew I was going to like this place when the owner asked if she could feed me. Um, duh. Yes please!!!
With almost every ingredient made in house, including the yeast that makes the bread, there is though, purpose and love in every dish here to make you want to stay all day and try everything.
Where do I start? The best brunch I’ve had EVER of all time was at Charbar. Omg did it blow me away. And I don’t say that lightly.
Blending together Argentinian, Spanish and Italian flavors over an Argentinian woodfire grill, I wish I hadn’t eaten for days to prepare me for this meal. But don’t worry, my mom raised me right and I didn’t leave anything. What was left came with me as leftovers. Obviously.
It’s also a really funky space. Definitely try the pizzas and ceviche mixto. ZOMG.
Working together with Phil and Sebastian and the Sidewalk Citizen Bakery, they all compliment each other and really show off the best there is in Calgary.
Yellow Door Bistro
The rest of my time in Calgary I ate pretty well too, with dinner one night at the Yellow Door Bistro, an eccentric restaurant with a fine menu. In a different part of the city from the Simmon’s Building, it was the first time I tried pierogies in Calgary, a local staple.
As someone with a Polish ancestry who is not the best chef, I’ve always struggled with making pierogies so it had been a while since I indulged. GOD, they have to be one of my favorite dishes. And honestly, what more could you want when it’s a balmy -10 degrees outside?
I couldn’t get enough of the delicious perfect sized mains or the regal throne chairs. This place was cool.
My last morning in Calgary I found I was quite bummed to leave the city. Living in one of the most remote, rural areas of the world here in New Zealand (wouldn’t have it any other way) I can fully appreciate it when I get to spend time in the big cities. Until I got a damn parking ticket. Seriously Calgary?
Starting with variety and ending with an ample selection of diverse and delicious food. Yum. I headed over to Red’s Diner, a local fave for a hot brunch before driving out to Canmore and the Rockies.
Ok, I am going to admit that I SERIOUSLY miss diner style food when I am outside of North America. It just takes me back to university and hanging with friends late at night or recovering from a big night out.
My spicy breakfast burrito with a whopping portion of guacamole was my last Mexican fix before heading back to a world without good Mexican food. And obviously we shared a plate of pierogies.
Calgary, I blame you for me not fitting into my snowpants when I arrived in Banff.
Have you ever visited a place with a surprising foodie scene? Have you been to any of these spots in Calgary?