Props to the vegans in Calgary for their poppin’ food scene!

Calgary has never been on my travel list but I have considered passing through if I ever went to Banff and Jasper in Alberta. Since researching vegan businesses in Canada this past year or so, I’ve discovered how great of a plant-based food scene Calgary has. In fact, it makes sense, as the city is known for its meat, barbecue, and the Calgary Stampede, which leaves all the animal lovers and plant-based eaters to create businesses for their kind. So thank y’all!

Hubs was invited to help out at an event the first weekend in August, which happened to be when his birthday was, so I tagged along for the 1.25 hour flight.

Friday, August 6

We stayed at the Calgary Marriott downtown which was walking distance to where the event was held. That ended up being great because the Calgary Tower was right across the street and an easy landmark to find in case we got lost (and we did at one point!).

On the ride in, we spotted 8th Avenue (also called Stephen Avenue) which is not open to cars, and decided to take a short walk around there after checking in, since hubby was hungry. I came across some painted benches I liked.

While it was pretty smoky at this time, the air started to clear up later and made for nice walking weather.

One thing that was very obvious was that there are electric scooters everywhere downtown, similar to San Diego. I remember there was a company trying to get them started in Vancouver, but it hasn’t taken off, probably because we have really horrible streets for it. There’s barely any room for cyclists as it is.

Calgary also has its share of murals which I enjoy, although nowhere near the amount that are in Vancouver, Toronto, or Montreal.

We went for a swim and dip in the hotel’s pool and hot tub, then went out for dinner to the one place I wanted to hit: saVeg Cafe.

The cafe is nestled inside a fitness studio, so when the studio is closed you have to call to be let in as the door is locked, but if you want to take out food, the window is on the side of the building.

Despite this being a Korean-inspired vegan cafe, I wasn’t in the mood for any of the Korean dishes so I went for the Vegan dumplings (as did hubs) and the Filet No Fish Burger, while hubs went for the Tofu Katsu Curry.

Everything here was good. Hubs enjoyed the fried dumplings, which I believe had lentils and mushrooms in them. The wrap was both crispy and tender and the filling was nice and juicy.

My burger tasted EXACTLY what I remember a McD’s fish filet burger tasted like, only better ’cause all the ingredients were FRESH. The tartar sauce and breading on the tofu “filet” made it worth it.

I also had a bite of Leo’s Japanese-style curry which was also fantastic and had that nice breading on the tofu that’s similar to chicken katsu.

While saVeg isn’t very big, it has that quaint mom-and-pop feel (I’m 99% sure we were served by the owner Rose’s mom!) and they have a map where they allow people to pin where they are from. And there have been customers from all over the world!

After a brief stop at the hotel, we went out for post-dinner drinks (non-alc cocktail for me, always) and snacks at The Wednesday Room, which Leo noticed earlier looked like a cool place that wasn’t as loud as some of the pubs on 8th Avenue. They had ONE vegan dessert, a Coconut Sorbet which I was pleasantly surprised to find out had chocolate torte, passionfruit gel, and coconut crumble along with a perfectly pyramid-shaped scoop. It was divine!

The great thing about patios is that you can people watch. We noticed that Calgary is a very multi-cultural place. The majority of folks seemed to be White in downtown and there were a lot less Asians than in Vancouver, but most of the Asians we did come across were Filipinx or Indian. So if you’re Filipinx and wondering if this is a good place for that community, it is!

 

Saturday, August 7

Birthday man left a bit early, and I took my time before taking an Uber to Canela Bakery which is south of downtown. I was in no rush since I had eaten snacks the night before while we watched stand-up on YouTube.

I really enjoyed this place as it’s literally in a house, on a residential street! While not a big place, there was some indoor and outdoor seating and I ate just outside one of the windows. Even though I arrived at around 11:30 a.m. there was still a lineup and a steady stream of customers coming after me to pick up cakes.

There were LOTS of choices here which is fantastic and something vegans don’t always have. At first I was leaning towards a cinnamon bun (I could tell lots were gone) but when I saw the breakfast sandwich I knew I could get something savoury AND sweet, so I went for a vanilla-lavender cupcake and oat milk latte.

The breakfast sandwich was good although a bit dry because of the biscuit—I know why the staff person asked if I wanted ketchup with it. The vanilla cupcake was great and the icing was a little too sweet for me, but balanced nicely with the lavender. I rarely have that flavour, but it tastes like luxury when I do.

After brekkie I took an Uber to the Victoria Park area which is in downtown and figured I could walk off the food before lunchtime. I expected there to be some shops to browse through.

I went a little too far down Olympic Way and found myself smack in Stampede area, but on the way back I passed Sculpture Park and there were some folks taking wedding photos.

Also Leo just realized on this trip that the Scotiabank Saddledome is shaped like a saddle, and told me about it!

While I’m not a huge architecture fan, I do notice it when I visit new cities. What struck me about downtown Calgary is that it SEEMS bigger than Vancouver’s, and it’s got a mix of skyscrapers/condo buildings and historic buildings, but the new seems to be outnumbering the old at this point. I also noticed that tinted windows are a big thing, although it might just be downtown. It looks like businesses are closed because you can’t see inside, and that’s why doors are often left open.

The photo below shows the balance of the architecture, with the new building stretching across the older one across a street.

If I had come to this area with an appetite, I would have definitely visited Village Ice Cream, but I went into the one consignment store I found open, and in total spent probably 40 minutes walking in the area seeing only a few cafes open (maybe it’s more exciting at night?).

By then, it was about 1 p.m. and a good time to head for lunch. I found myself at the Victoria Park/Stampede train stop, so instead of walking another 20 minutes back to downtown, I decided to take a train adventure and go one stop to City Hall. The trains there are slower than they are in Vancouver, but it was cool to see it go from above ground to below ground and then on ground level like a streetcar.

On the way, I spotted another cool mural but wasn’t tall enough to take a shot above the fence!

Veg-In YYC is a plant-based cafe in downtown close to where we were staying, and is Indian fusion, with a mix of traditional Indian food and burgers. I got the Vegan Butter Chicken, two samosas and a Brooklyn Basic burger for hubs, which has a Beyond Meat patty.

Since there was a group ahead of me I had to wait, but I was in no rush. They have a bulletin board which showed all the famous people who’ve eaten at this place, including RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan, and Billy Corgan from The Smashing Pumpkins!

The staff person gave me a free raw cheezcake, and that was sweet and I figured that counted as Leo’s birthday cake!

As you can see, the vegan butter chicken is PACKED with good stuff and honestly could have fed a family of 3. The chick’n was actually seitan and aside from the other vegetables, the sauce tasted exactly what I remember butter chicken tasted like.

I took out lunch and headed to High Park where Leo was. High Park is cool and is located on the rooftop (6th floor) of a parking building. They painted the ground and set up some picnic tables for the office crowd to hang out at. Leo also said there are yoga classes that happen there, so it’s very multi use and family-friendly. The only thing is, there are no washrooms!

After hanging out for a bit there, my plan was to head to Hoopla Donuts which has multiple locations and vegan options, similar to Cartems in Vancouver. However, I found out that the locations in the area were closed (open on weekdays only) and I’d have to Uber out to the nearest place, and didn’t want to do that. (And, no, I didn’t want to take an electric scooter on this trip. If I wanted to scoot, I’d be wearing a helmet, and I wasn’t prepared to get helmet hair!)

Instead, I headed to Baked Doughnuts (all vegan!) which I discovered was inside the CORE Shopping Mall in downtown, but unfortunately it was CLOSED! So donuts were not in the cards this time, but since I was in the mall, I went into a few shops and bought some things.

As I walked back to the hotel, I thought to myself that ice cream would hit the spot really well right now, and it’s too bad Village Ice Cream is too far out. However, on 8th Avenue I passed Lanny Boy’s Ice Cream, which is dog-friendly, and got a scoop (really, two) of lemon sorbet. That was perfect, even though there were no dogs to keep me company. While this wasn’t a vegan only ice cream place, you can always count on sorbets!

We went for another swim and dip in the hotel pool and it was nice to soak my feet in the hot tub and use the bubble jets to massage my leg muscles. I also NEVER go swimming so both days it ended up being quite the workout!

For Leo’s birthday dinner, we had reservations at Koi, which I found out on Instagram was a live music restaurant with a Filipino chef and ample vegan options. My friend who’d just visited family in Calgary recently gave me a bunch of other suggestions, but Koi was a short walk from our hotel and in a hip area.

Hubs had the pork gyozas and bistek beef, while I had Vegan Gyozas and one Vegan “Oh Koi” Bao to start and Adobo Tofu for my entrée. My favourite was the vegan bao. Although the bun was a bit mushy, the sweet potato and vegan “shrimp” okoy fritter really tasted like shrimp!

I grew up eating chicken & pork adobo on rice, so I was expecting a really saucy dish. The adobo tofu came deep-fried with vegetables on the side and although the sauce was good, it didn’t seem right, so I ended up mixing everything up with the rice and that was better. Saucy rice is really the way to go when you want to eat Filipino food.

We ate on the patio as the restaurant was pretty small and there seemed to be more seating outdoors. Entertaining us (from inside) was Shona Rae and the Bona Fides, which played some classic rock and country covers. It was so nice to hear live music again! Later in the evening, they got a dance floor going with some of the other adults inside.

After dinner, we headed a few steps to Ten Foot Henry, which was a restaurant Leo found online that was in the area and open late. The photos looked white and bright during the day, but it was dim when we got there, which created a nice atmosphere for the evening. I got a non-alcoholic cocktail and Leo had two of their rose + skin wines and a beet & hummus salad as a snack. I was still so full from dinner I just had a bite, but it tasted lovely.

We walked back to the hotel, I sang “Happy Birthday” to Leo while presenting the free raw cheezcake I got earlier at Veg-In YYC, and we watched standup on YouTube just like the night before.

 

August 8 – Plan B thanks to acid reflux!

So hubs and I didn’t make plans for breakfast before our flight, as we figured we could pick something up nearby. The Starbucks inside the Marriott didn’t have any vegan options (like some of the locations that have sandwiches with Beyond Meat patties), and the Milestone’s around the corner opened too late, so the day before, I figured we could take an Uber to The Dandelion Cafe (which is vegan) and then head straight onto the airport afterward.

I set my alarm for 8 a.m. but at some point during the early morning (it always happens at 2 or 3 a.m.) I felt pain above my stomach from acid reflux. I’m not going to go into what hypochlorhydria is here, but what sucks is that I never know when it’s going to hit. In fact, I took a Pepcid an hour before we ate dinner, felt my stomach acid ready to roll, and even though I had a full bottle of Fentiman’s Root Beer waiting for me in our fridge, I left it because I was still full from dinner and the raw cheezcake we shared just before bed. Still, it was probably too much.

Thankfully the hotel pillows made it real easy to sleep sitting up (which is the only way to let gravity do its thing at night). I thought to myself there was no way I was going to eat at the cafe later that morning, so when the alarm went off, I turned on my phone and set the alarm for 8:40 a.m. so I could sleep some more.

In the morning, hubs got himself breakfast at the Starbucks and some tea for me.

In retrospect, what I think I did wrong on this trip was not eat enough fresh fruits and vegetables. I also didn’t take any probiotics with me, which I typically have in the morning with my iron, B12, and an orange during breakfast. On this trip I was eating a lot of rice, cooked vegetables, other carbs (some sugar), and tofu.

When we got back to Vancouver, we went for lunch at the Jetside Bar and I was hoping to get a soup and salad, but only the Spring Salad was fully plant-based, but it was SO nice to just have some fresh fruit and vegetables for a change. Tummy agreed with me.

So if you’re like me and are prone to bloating, heartburn, acid reflux, or any combination of those, when you travel, don’t forget your fruits and veggies for fibre, and bring probiotics!

While it was a short trip, I really enjoyed my time in Calgary and if I have the opportunity to go to YYC again, it’d be great to explore areas outside of downtown and maybe also take a mural tour. Here are some of the other spots I’d listed that we didn’t have time to check out:

  • Cookie Mama
  • Kashew Bakery
  • The Allium
  • The Coup
  • Vegan Street

This is a short list because there were quite a few other vegan places to check out in the city (along with the places mentioned above I ate at or missed). If there are any other places you’d recommend to others, pop a comment below! Also visit my YYC highlight on Instagram for additional photos that aren’t in this blog.

Thanks for reading about my vegan Calgary adventure!

 

Click here to read about my San Diego trip in 2018.

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