Veg-forward family-style menus, innovative Asian influence and authentic antojitos abound in this foodie-friendly YYC neighbourhood.
Calgary's Victoria Park 'hood is booming with hot restaurants these days—so much so that it can be hard to choose where to eat. That's why we highly recommend not choosing. Instead, try a foodie crawl: come hungry and make your way down the street, hitting up a handful of rooms and sampling a menu option from each. Ready for this delicious challenge? We've got a few dishes to suggest.
1. Tomatoes at Ten Foot Henry
1209 1st Street SW, 403–475–5537
Referred to plainly as “tomatoes” ($14) on the menu, this dish may sound simple, but that’s what makes it pure magic. Think succulent cherry tomatoes roasted to perfection—juicy and sweet with just a hint of acidity—next to pillowy whipped feta and torn herbs that lend fragrance and texture. Stir everything together and then heap it on a slice of toasted sourdough from Sidewalk Citizens Bakery.
2. Bulgogi Imperial Rolls at Foreign Concept
1101 1st Street SW, 403–719–7288
The term “Asian fusion” feels a little dated at this point, but the elevated pan-Asian menu at Foreign Concept brings the phrase into modern day, incorporating dishes from across the continent with an outside-the-box twist. The bulgogi imperial rolls ($12), a Vietnamese classic filled with savoury pork and wrapped in a crispy, golden brown shell are a must-try: wrap with the accompanying leaf lettuce and chase with spicy daikon kimchi to achieve the full effect intended by 2017 Gold Medal Plates winning-Executive Chef Jinhee Lee.
3. Special Fried Rice at Two Penny (Teahouse)
1213 1st Street SW, 403–474–7766
The showstopping special fried rice ($18) is the dish to try at Two Penny—sister restaurant to Cody Willis’ Native Tongues and Calcutta Cricket Club under the umbrella of Thank You Hospitality Management—where the riskier dishes provide greater rewards for adventurous diners. On a menu inspired by iconic dishes from all over China, this blend of shrimp, duck, pork, rice and egg, made “special” by a side of marrow served on the bone to be added at the table, is a clear departure from standard take-out menu fare.
4. Crispy Tofu at Anju Restaurant
344 17th Ave SW, 403–460–3341
Anju loosely translates to “food you eat with alcohol” and the salty, spicy small plates that fall under this category are the shining stars at the second-coming of this beloved Calgary institution (formerly tucked away on 10th Street SW). Chef/owner Roy Oh’s menu of Korean tapas and other modern fare includes to-die-for crispy tofu (dubu kimchi) ($14)—these perfectly browned nuggets are served atop crispy pork belly, with succulent sesame maple sautéed kimchi (say that three times fast) and dollops of citrus aioli. Pair with cold drinks and good company. Gunbae!
5. Chilaquiles at Native Tongues
235 12 Ave SW, 403–263–9444
While the taco platters served "mercados" (family) style and piled high with tender, slow braised meats and chargrilled vegetables are an excellent choice, we can’t get enough of the authentic chilaquiles ($9) served during brunch. Not only are their tortillas made in-house, but the Native Tongues team does their own nixtamalization: the process by which maize, or corn, is soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution such as lime water, washed and then hulled. This mixture is then ground into masa, the foundation for a fine tortilla. The nixtamalized grain can also be made into totopos, the fried tortilla-like creations that make up the base of a traditional chilaquiles. Top that with queso, spicy salsa verde, cooling crema and a poached egg and you have a brunch that can conquer any hangover you throw its way.