Category Archives: My Calgary

My Calgary: Pigeonhole

Eating at a hyped up restaurant can be dangerous. When an eatery comes highly recommended by trusted friends or has been given prestigious awards, it’s easy to come in with sky-high expectations and be disappointed when the food doesn’t quite measure up. I’d eaten at Pigeonhole prior to its Air Canada Best New Restaurant win, but last week was Zevi’s first time at the restaurant, and we were counting on a meal worthy of a big winner! Spoiler alert: it lived up to our expectations and then some! 

Pigeonhole scored points with me before I even walked in to the restaurant because of their small-plates format. Choosing what to eat at a restaurant is always an incredibly agonizing ordeal for me, so what could be better than getting to sample five dishes instead of just one! Even with the opportunity to choose multiple dishes, though, Zevi and I had a pretty hard time picking just five plates to share. The menu is divided into vegetables, meat, seafood, seasonal, and dessert categories, and we were tempted by so many of the offerings from each section.

 After we’d come to a hard-won consensus, we were presented with our first two dishes. The lamb tartare and tuna crudo, much like the other dishes we’d eat through the course of the evening, came out on adorable mismatched saucers that looked like they’d been stolen from my grandmother’s china cabinet (or maybe a hipster’s apartment ;). My enthusiasm for the plates was soon forgotten as I took my first bite of silky raw tuna with bright radish and the perfect crunchy pop of crispy puffed rice. Slathered on crusty bread oozing with burnt onion butter, the lamb was gone in a flash. If Pigeonhole started selling that burnt onion butter my toast would be dripping with it every day of the week!

Things only got better as our next three dishes made their appearance. Pillowy ricotta and spinach dumplings begged to be broken open and dunked in their lucious mushroom sauce. Every bite of halloumi was both soft and chewy, its saltiness perfectly complimented by mini bites of beet and caper. Zevi and I consider ourselves semipro-level halloumi connoisseurs, and we’ve never made any that’s close to as good as Pigeonhole’s. The flank steak, cooked to medium rare perfection, absolutely blew our minds and made us question everything we knew about cooking beef. Each thinly sliced piece all but melted in my mouth, and I’d be hard pressed to think of a more expertly prepared steak.
The memory of that juicy beef singing on my tongue would have been more than enough to keep me smiling for the rest of the night, but my dessert-loving husband was pretty keen on trying something from the sweet side of the menu. Zevi’s a diehard chocolate guy, so I knew we’d be going with the chocolate pot-de-creme. Rich, dark, and not too sweet, the creme-filled teacup was everything I love in a chocolate indulgence, and the perfect way to end a delicious evening. 

Pigeonhole is not only the best new restaurant in Canada, it’s one of my all-time favourite restaurants in Calgary, and I don’t give out that kind of praise lightly! If you love to share delicious food as much as I do, you should definitely check out this 17th avenue spot. Just save a little flank steak for me, ok?  

My Calgary: Mugshotz

Mugshotz dill pickle wings

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, so much of the best food I’ve eaten comes from places without beautiful decor or a high end price tag. That is definitely true when it comes to Mugshotz, a bar in Calgary’s South East that’s about as divey as they come. With one of the city’s radio stations, complete with ads, playing over the speakers, splotchy formica tables, and fluorescent lighting, Mugshotz isn’t a place you come for the ambience, or for Instagram-worthy food photos. It is, however, a place you come for the wings.

Mugshotz wings two plates

Mugshotz wing flavours

I’ve tried my fair share of chicken around Calgary and beyond, and when it comes to wing night, Mugshotz beats my neighbourhood haunts by a long shot. If you’re looking for something standard, you can find hot, honey garlic, salt and pepper, teriyaki and all of the usual suspects on the menu. They make a mean medium according to Zevi, who’s a bit of a hot wings connoisseur. For those of us who like something a little more outside the box, Mugshotz delivers in a big way, with a whole host of flavours that you won’t find anywhere else, or at least anywhere else that I’ve been. The Sweet and Sour Sriracha has a subtler heat than your typical Franks-doused chicken, and the tangy spice makes for a much interesting bite than the usual one-note hot wing. The Louisiana Garlic Parmesan is another favourite – how can you go wrong with a thick coating of savoury, salty cheese? The Dill Pickle wings come covered with crunchy chunks of real pickle, one of many flavours accompanied by fun garnishes. There are so many types that I still want to try, and with Soy Sensation, Sultry Ginger, and Raspberry Chipotle calling my name, I’ll have to head back for more soon.

Mugshotz wings close up

Great flavours make Mugshotz unique, but the quality of the wings themselves make the place truly awesome. There are no bony, overcooked bites to be found here, and the meat melts in your mouth the way a great piece of fried chicken should. I’m partial to the mini drumsticks, and there were plenty of meaty ones to be found on my plate.

There are lots of spots servings wings on a Wednesday, but I’m more than willing to go out of my way to eat the ones Mugshotz is serving. At eight dollars a pound, they’re not the cheapest wings in the city, but you won’t lament the price tag when you bite in to that first piece of juicy, flavourful chicken. If you’re looking for cheap beer and a top-notch version of the most classic of bar snacks, Mugshotz is the place to go!

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My Calgary: OEB

OEB eggs benedict

I still remember the first time Zevi and I visited OEB. We tried to go to a well known breakfast joint down the street, but since there was such a huge line up we decided to take a chance on a little spot that had just opened a few doors down. It may have been the one and only Saturday in its existence when we could just walk right in and get a table! I was instantly impressed, and had a feeling that that it would become a favourite.

Let’s be honest, the last thing I really want is for OEB to gain more popularity. There are already hordes of people spilling out the doors on weekend mornings, and even on a weekday you’ll probably have to wait a few minutes to score a seat. As much as I’d love to keep it to myself, though, there’s no way I could talk about my favourite spots in Calgary without mentioning this gem.

The number one thing everyone mentions when they talk about OEB are those potatoes. And man are they some incredible potatoes – the best ones in Calgary in my books. If a french fry and a hash brown made sweet sweet love, OEB’s breakfast potatoes would be their offspring. The wedges of potato are fried to crispy perfection, and seasoned with just enough special spices to make you wonder exactly what they sprinkled on there to make them so addictive. Anyone who doesn’t order these in some form gets a serious side eye from me. Zevi’s lucky I let him steal some of mine ;).

OEB Duck PoutineOEB soul in a bowl

OEB has a mind-bogglingly expansive menu, so basically any breakfast items you can think of, and some you’ve never dreamed of, are there for the taking. From crepes to eggs to toast of all kinds, it’s on the menu. I often find myself gravitating towards the “Box’d” section of the menu, which features some wildly creative, and, more importantly, wildly delicious breakfast poutines made with those delicious potatoes. You really can’t go wrong with melty, squeaky curds and crispy spuds, topped with bacon, duck, or even fois gras. They’re pretty much breakfast perfection in a cute little take out box, and so easy to take home to snack on later if you can’t digest all of those saucy carbs in one go.

OEB Zevi

If you’re looking for the best breakfast in Calgary, I know many people will agree with me when I say you’ll find it at OEB. You might have to wait a while to get in on a weekend, but now that they’re using the NoWait app, you can put your name down in the comfort of your own home and just wait for the text saying your table is ready. There’s pretty much nothing stopping you from stopping in now! Just save some potatoes for me, ok?

OEB

824 Edmonton Trail NE

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My Calgary: Village Ice Cream

Calgary’s got so many great places to eat and things to see, and I think they deserve some love. In this series, I’m going to talk about the places that I think make Calgary such a great place to be.

Village Ice Cream Britannia cone

When people ask me where my favourite place is for brunch, lunch or dinner, I’m hard pressed to find a definitive answer. When it comes to my favourite ice cream shop, though, I don’t hesitate. Village Ice Cream has been wowing me with their creamy, dreamy creations since they opened in 2012, and I’m a certified addict. I’ve eaten my fair share of ice cream in Calgary and beyond, and in my heart there’s nothing that comes close to this little establishment.

Night view from Village Ice CreamVillage Ice Cream Britannia

Dreamed up by Billy Friley while eating ice cream on his grandmother’s porch, Village Ice Cream has become a Calgary favourite, despite opening in a location that most would deem unfortunate. Their original Victoria Park locale is tucked into a building on Tenth Avenue SE that gets very little foot traffic, so the fact that you can often find a lineup out the door shows that I’m not the only one urging all of my friends to check it out. Not only have they managed to keep their head above water, they’ve had enough success to warrant opening another location, this one in Britannia Plaza. While the Victoria Park store has just enough space for the ice cream scooping station and a fridge full of pints and sandwiches, the Britannia spot has some indoor seating for those thirty below zero days when your ice cream craving won’t quit.

Village Ice Cream Britannia inside

An ice cream shop has to be serving some pretty extraordinary stuff to entice me to make a special trip instead of reaching in to the freezer at my local grocery store, and Village delivers in a big way. Their scoops are the creamiest I’ve tasted by a long shot, with no loathsome ice crystals to be found. The ice cream beyond decadent, which is just how an indulgent treat should be. They’ve got ten consistent flavours, ranging from the standard Vanilla Bean, Chocolate, and Strawberry, to the exotic Cardamom, the subtle Earl Grey Tea, and the salty sweet favourite Salted Caramel. My standby is Toasted Coconut – its not-too-sweet tropical-tinged flavour and chewy coconut chunks have me hard pressed to stray away.  Some of my most beloved choices have come from Village’s rotating slate of seasonal flavours, including the sweet and tart Meyer Lemon, the bright Key Lime Coconut Milk, and my unexpected all time favourite, Spiced Banana. I know that might sound like a strange flavour – it certainly did to me at first – but one taste of the sweet banana mellowed out by warming spices like cinnamon and nutmeg will make you a believer.They constantly surprise me with their interesting concoctions, and the fact that they let their customers try as many samples as they want means that I never have to wonder what I might be missing out on.

Village Ice Cream Britannia pints

If you’re not in the mood for a scoop or two on one of Village’s perfectly chewy homemade waffle cones, try one of their out-of-this-world ice cream sandwiches. The cookies are sinfully chocolaty, almost veering in to brownie territory, and make the ice cream inside even more delectable. These things put my old favourite Oreo ice cream sandwiches to shame.

Village Ice Cream - Heather and Zevi 2

I’ve always been an ice cream lover, but Village Ice Cream has brought my infatuation to a new level. Even on the coldest days of Calgary’s winter, you’ll find me venturing out for a split single on a waffle cone. No matter what the weather, it’s worth checking out one of their shops for a sweet treat that will have your tastebuds begging for more.

Village Ice Cream

431 10 Avenue SE and 820 49 Avenue SW

My Calgary: Blue Star Diner

Calgary’s got so many great places to eat and things to see, and I think they deserve some love. In this series, I’m going to talk about the places that I think make Calgary such a great place to be.Blue Star

Take a drive down the main drag of Calgary’s trendy Bridgeland neighbourhood on a weekend morning, and you’ll most certainly see a group of brunch lovers waiting for a table at a little whitewashed cafe. While it isn’t as miniature as its sister restaurant, Dairy Lane, Blue Star Diner‘s cozy interior isn’t big enough to accommodate the ten AM Saturday crowd that shows up in search of the restaurant’s delicious fare. As these patient diners know, though, the wait is well worth it.

Blue Star Diner bar

Blue Star Diner Mom and Grandma

While I’ve happily waited my turn on lazy mornings in the past, my most recent trip to the diner was on a Thursday at lunch time. After a few minutes of admiring the beautiful robin’s egg blue-backed open shelving behind the bar as we waited for a larger table to free up, we were seated by the window, which was perfect for both people watching and for getting that all-important natural light for food photos (kidding…sort of).

Blue Star Diner yam fries

To get the meal started, we ordered a bowl of yam fries to share. I don’t know what kind of magic they work on the potatoes before they put them in the fryer, but they managed to achieve the much sought after combination of a light, crunchy outside and a silky-soft interior. My Grandma declared them the best yam fries she’d ever tasted, and when someone’s made 92 trips around the sun their opinion shouldn’t be taken lightly!

Blue Star Diner Pulled Pork Hash Blue Star Diner grilled cheese

We may have officially been there for lunch, but that wasn’t going to stop me from ordering from the breakfast menu. Who says that delicious breakfast foods should be reserved for early in the morning? My pulled pork hash was subtly spiced and full of tender peppers and creamy yams, and the pork was perfectly juicy and shreddable with the touch of a fork. The runny yolks from the poached eggs were a delicious mix-in, and the thick cornbread sticks provided the perfect vehicle for soaking up extra sauce. Everyone else gave rave reviews for their dishes as well, with the only niggle being a few too many onions on my dad’s grilled cheese.

Blue Star obviously shines in the early hours of the day, but they shouldn’t be overlooked for dinner. They make a mean traditional margarita, one of my favourite drinks, and I’ve had to restrain myself from scooping up the last bits of their guacamole with my fingers. They’ve got burgers ranging from beef, to chicken, to lamb, to veggie, and they’re all top notch. I’m always tempted by their tacos, but have yet to pull the trigger. Something to look forward to for my next visit!

Whether it’s breakfast, brunch, or burgers you’re after, Blue Star Diner is a great Calgary choice. I could go for one of those margaritas right about now…

Blue Star Diner

801 1st Ave NE

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