The Vancouverite’s Guide to Calgary: Part One

A lot of young people have been making the move from Vancouver to Calgary. While Vancity certainly boasts warmer weather, beautiful views, and chill West Coast vibes, the city has become nearly completely unaffordable for young professionals who may one day hope to own a home or budget less than 3/4 of their paychecks on rent.

I spent the last 7 years living in Vancouver, loving the West Coast life… until I didn’t. Eventually the lack of smiles and chiller than thou attitude started to get to me, and so did the cost of living. So I made the leap and returned to my hometown of Calgary, a city whose rental prices are far from a bargain, but housing is much cheaper and more readily available than in Vancouver. Now, I can actually imagine the idea of one day owning a home, instead of sighing in despair each time I came across a real estate listing.

There are a few things I miss about Vancouver, though, and let’s be honest, most of them have to do with food. YVR does food better than most in Canada, and so finding suitable replacements for my favourite local establishments has been pretty daunting. I’m giving it a try though, and I’m here to share a few tips and tricks with you! 

If you miss…

Cartems Donuts

Half eaten donuts at Cartems on Pender.

Established in 2012 as a pop-up shop, Cartems quickly became a Vancouver staple. Offering unique and exciting donut flavours, as well as vegan and gluten-free options, Cartems is one of my favourite things about Vancouver, and every once in a while I’ll get a serious craving for a gluten-free vegan salted caramel donut (an addiction I picked up while experimenting with eliminating gluten, dairy, and eggs from my diet). The alternatives are just as good as the originals, and the originals are goooood.

If you’re back in Vancity, you can check out Cartems at one of their three locations, or various stockists around Vancouver.

You should try…

Hoopla Donuts

Blackberry and Lemon Donut at Phil & Sebastian Marda Loop

Hoopla Donuts, founded by Phil & Sebastian, of the famous Calgary coffee chain, has begun to fill the niche in my tastebuds that was left behind by Cartems… until, on a whim, I snagged a vegan blackberry and lemon donut with my afternoon coffee. It changed my world. Subtle, not too sweet, cakey, not oily. This donut is the answer to my fancy donut dreams! I can’t wait to taste every single one.

You can find Hoopla at Calgary Place, and some Phil & Sebastian locations.

If you miss…

La Taqueria or La Mezcaleria

Classic, beautiful Mexican pinche tacos with a higher end twist is what these two spots do best. Both spots make beautiful tacos (and more!) that showcase high-quality ingredients, and taste so, so good. You can get adventurous and try something new, but there’s always something familiar and absolutely delicious to try!

Check out La Mezcaleria for a swanky night out at one of their two Vancouver locations, or La Taqueria for a fantastic casual meal at one of their five locations in the Lower Mainland.

You should try…

Native Tongues Taqueria

I’ve heard that these are the best tacos in Calgary, and I was not disappointed. Lots of variety, and authentic style, pinche tacos that were to die for. If you’re craving that elevated Mexican food experience, this is the place for you, and definitely where I will be getting my taco fix from, from now on.

The restaurant itself is warm and inviting, with fun family style seating in the middle. We just kept ordering tacos and they just kept coming! So good.

If you miss…

JJ Bean Coffee Roasters

Almond milk iced latte at JJ Bean Park and Tilford (and beautiful baristas Ella and Robin).

Vancouver is known for its amazing coffee culture, so I miss the variety and excitement of the many local coffee shops that consistently provided fantastic beverages, but my heart will always lie with JJ Bean. I worked there for almost five years, and grew to love the coffee, food, and community of the company. It was also nice to know that a consistently good chain existed in Vancouver, so you could walk into any JJ and expect a great quality product. I was genuinely nervous that I would not be able to find a soy cappuccino in Calgary that could compete (though no one will ever be able to beat those muffins amiright?)

JJ Bean was founded in 1996 by John Neate Jr. and his lovely wife Mel. Their goal was to bring high-quality coffee to Vancouver, without selling out their personal values. They have 20 locations in Vancouver (one is opening this week!) as well as a small handful in Toronto.

You should try…

Analog Coffee, Rosso Coffee Roasters, Phil & Sebastian

Pain au chocolat and soy traditional cappuccino at Analog 17th Avenue.

All three of these spots have impressed me on multiple occasions, and like JJ Bean, there are a number of different spots to choose from. Unfortunately none of these are available in the NW boonies where I live, but good coffee is definitely worth travelling for. I’ve had consistently good products from all three chains. They all offer great food options, minimal drink menus, and lots of non-dairy options, making me a very happy, very caffeinated lady. The best part of Calgary coffee shops is the Calgary attitude that goes with them as well- I always have nice chats with my baristas, which is something that was sometimes a hit or miss in Van (though usually a hit, baristas are the nicest people).

Most important factor for me: do they do a “Vancouver style” cappuccino? Yes they do. I am not interested in foam monsters thank you very much.

Analog has 7 locations to choose from, as does Rosso, while Phil & Sebastian has 6 spots.

If you miss…

Parallel 49 Brewing Company and 33 Acres Brewing Company

Obviously there are a ton of amazing breweries to choose from in Vancouver, so maybe one day I’ll do a full breakdown of Vancouver vs. Calgary breweries, because there is a lot to tackle there.

33 Acres is always ahead of the curve when it comes to what is new and exciting in beer. Its minimal interior feels hip and sophisticated, and their food offerings are classy and delicious. Their branding is on POINT, and I’ve just always really appreciated that, as well as their consistency of product quality. I love this spot and will always return to it.

Parallel 49 is a Vancouver institution, and known across the country (maybe? Or maybe just Alberta and BC- need to confirm!) and has so many beers it truly makes my head spin. Always a great product, and now that they are so established, they have a chance to offer some new and exciting, more experimental brews. This place is always packed in the evening and rocks some pretty colourful, industrial, East Van vibes.

You should try…

Cold Garden or The Dandy Brewing Company

Forget favourite brewery, I think Cold Garden might be my favourite place full-stop. Funky old couches, fun vibes, rockin music, and DOGS. I’ve been to dog-friendly breweries before, but none that have been teeming with dogs the way this Calgary hot spot does. If you don’t like dogs, I wouldn’t bother. However, if you are interested in a crisp, cold one, along with lots of sweet pooches, you must check this place out.

Now, if you are in search of a great brew without the novelty, definitely check out Dandy. It has a consistently fantastic product, and churns out lots of interesting stuff. Known as “Calgary’s original little brewery”, Dandy was on the front lines of the brewery revolution here in Calgary, and is still leading the way. Check them out for soft minimalism, great beer, and yummy food!

As I get to know Calgary more, I’d love to get more specific and down and dirty with the local hot spots. If you’re a Calgarian: where should I hit next? If you’re a Vancouver transplant: what else do you miss?

Let me know, because I think there will definitely be more to come on this topic!

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