Author Archives: bcorbett907

About bcorbett907

I'm a Calgary-based writer who enjoys exploring the landscapes, and menus, of western U.S./Canada

Calgary Under $10 Lunch: To Me Vietnamese Submarine

Blink and you’ll miss it To Me Vietnamese Submarine

As the old saying goes, just reaching To Me Vietnamese Submarine is almost half the fun.

Yes, the hefty Vietnamese sub is probably the best I’ve eaten in Calgary. And the $6 price is one of the best lunch deals in the city.

But you do earn your pleasure just getting to the drive-through kiosk window. To Me is almost literally on busy Macleod Trail southwest.

It can really only be reached by traveling northbound. And if you blink, you’ll be past it before you see the little exit ramp that doubles as the lineup. It can be a bit intimidating if that line spills onto Macleod, which seems to happen more frequently as this wee gem gets discovered.

Second in line!

My strategy is to show up just when the place opens, at 11 am. Happily, I’m second in line and in a few minutes have moved to a small parking area to enjoy my made-to-order coconut curry sub.

In many respects, it’s a standard Vietnamese sub, with chunks of chicken, shredded carrot and coconut, cucumber and cilantro inside a crusty baguette. What puts it over the top is the coconut curry and the special sauce. Great flavour.

Get the coconut chicken sub

The only problem with this two-napkin meal is keeping all the saucy goodness off my pants and car seats.

Everything’s under $10

To Me Vietnamese Submarine
5250 Macleod Trail SW
Daily 11 am-10 pm
825-882-2828

Calgary Lunch Under $10: Peppino Gourmet Foods

Nick is part of the two-generation family behind Peppino Gourmet Foods

There’s nothing like a family-run restaurant, especially one that spans a couple of generations.

Such is definitely the case at Peppino Gourmet Foods, in Calgary’s near-downtown Kensington district. Joe Lecce launched the business in 1993, offering nine Italian-style sandwiches and a smattering of groceries.

Peppino is a combination Italian grocery store and sandwich shop

Today, with the help of his family, it’s a multi-location operation offering more than 40 made-to-order sandwiches, fresh pasta dishes and frozen and packaged Italian groceries. The relaxed, family ambience is on full display during a recent visit, with padre Joe and figlio Nick kibitzing about who truly runs the business.

I know a guy who picks up a Peppino sandwich every week, always ordering the Da Nico—a vibrant piling of capicollo, calabrese salami, mortadella, meatballs, hot peppers, cheese and lettuce. This carnivore combo costs $10.75, but most of Peppino’s sandwiches are well under $10, such as a succulent hot Italian meatball sando for $8.50.

Joe’s Special features three Italian meats for only $9.75

All the loaded sandwiches are served on a foot-long baguette, sliced in half, guaranteeing you won’t leave hungry. When food is this fresh, abundant and affordable, I can see it becoming a regular habit.

Peppino is on busy Kensington Road in Calgary’s northwest

Peppino Gourmet Foods
101, 1240 Kensington Road NW and other Calgary locations
Weekdays 8 am-6 pm, Saturday 10 am-4 pm. Closed Sunday
403-283-3882

Calgary Lunch Under $10: Beirut Street Food

Fresh-baked pitas at Beirut Street Foods

Beirut Street Food is perhaps my favourite of the many shawarma restaurants in Calgary. Its marinated chicken and beef are slow roasted over charcoal and then served inside a freshly baked, blistered, chewy pita wrap. It’s fabulous stuff, enhanced by the warm, welcoming vibe of this family-owned place in the city’s southeast.

Shawarma meats slow roasted over charcoal

The only problem, for the purposes of this cheap-eats lunch series, is the meat shawarmas slightly exceed my $10 threshold, by $1 for the regular size and by $3 for the large. One solution is to opt for a fresh falafel shawarma, starting at $9.

But I decide to pivot to something I’d never considered till I saw it on the menu. Call it Middle East meets eastern Canada. A shawarma combined with, you guessed it, poutine ($8 regular, $10 large), meaning those marinated meats are mixed with fries, gravy and cheese curds.

A pie plate full of shawarma and poutine

Sound ghastly? I kind of thought so, too, especially when my server recommended adding all the usual toppings such as marinated veggies, tahini and hot sauce.

But he was right. It was damn delicious, and I could hardly refrain from digging into this loaded pie plate to see what my fork would deliver with each bite: fries and gravy one mouthful, chicken and tahini the next.

My large size was a two-meal deal, one of the best lunch bargains in the city. This is one cross-cultural mashup I can definitely get behind.

a

A family business

Beirut Street Food
7220 Fairmount Drive SE
Monday to Thursday 11 am-4:30 pm. Friday-Saturday 11 am-7 pm. Closed Sunday
403-512-7772

Calgary Lunch For Under $10: Coco Brooks

Egg ‘n Bacon Pizza for $9 at Coco Brooks

Calgary, it seems to me, has always been a fairly pricy place to eat out. Even through an oil crash and pandemic, it’s not uncommon to still spend $15 and more for lunch. And while it’s good to support all local restaurants, a lot of people who have lost jobs or are otherwise struggling through this pandemic perhaps can’t afford these prices.

Thus I’m reviving a much-earlier series on cheap eats in Calgary. Specifically, these are restaurants or food counters where you can get a good lunch for $10 or less. A number are places I’ve reviewed before, and even if their prices have inched up in recent years, they still haven’t crossed the magic $10 threshold. Others are new to me but offering great deals.

As always, if you have a favourite cheap eats place or two of your own, let me know through the comments section of this blog.

It’s been at least 15 years since I was introduced to Coco Brooks, in an industrial part of southeast Calgary. They’ve since moved to an airier place nearby.

Coco Brooks is in an industrial district in southeast Calgary

But not much else has changed, especially on the menu: calzones, pasta dishes and a bunch of salads. Nearly everything is under $10.

Through the years, the signature offering has been individual-sized (eight-inch) pizzas, which you can bake at home or buy frozen. But for maximum enjoyment, order them at the counter, grab a seat and wait about 10 minutes for your bubbling-hot box of pizza to arrive.

It’s a little less vibrant during Covid takeout only

There are about two dozen types of pizza on offer, including bacon double cheese, barbecue chicken and pepperoni mushroom. They all start at about $9.

But I always get the same thing: egg ‘n bacon. Sounds weird, right? But it’s a fantastic mixture of scrambled egg, aged cheddar, mozza and smoked bacon. If you didn’t know, you’d swear there was no egg in there, just something light and fluffy. At $9.05, it’s a heck of a deal that I have to be pretty hungry to scarf down in one sitting.

I only seem to visit Coco Brooks about every two years. But I always know what I’m getting.

Coco Brooks
640 42 Avenue SE and two other Calgary locations
Monday to Saturday 9 am-6 pm. Closed Sunday
403-243-2677

Independent Calgary Grocer Delivers the Goods

The Bownesian Grocer is a great neigbourhood store in northwest Calgary

The local, independent grocery store, in many places, disappeared long ago. So it’s nice to see a Calgary neighbourhood store, The Bownesian Grocer, in the northwest community of Bowness, thriving amidst a landscape of mega chains.

It succeeds, in large part, by offering lots of organic products from area merchants. Here’s just a short list of such vendors: Valbella sausages, Poplar Bluff Organics, Prairie Mill Bread, prairie girl flowers, Winter’s Turkeys, Onigiri Japan sushi, Gemstone Grass Fed Beef and Rock Ridge Dairy.

Lots of local, organic groceries

Tucked into this fair-sized grocery store is a little hot-lunch counter offering chef-produced meals at bargain prices. The fare the day I visited included a pasta dish and shepherd’s pie.

Yes, the meals were in steamer trays (i.e. not made to order). But that didn’t affect the quality of what I ordered: a big slab of meaty, cheesy lasagna.

I asked for a couple of hefty beef and pork meatballs on the side but ended up with a bonus third one. In all, it fed me lunch and supper for a grand total of $9.

Steal-of-a-deal lasagna and meatballs for $9

So even if you don’t live in Bowness, this is one neighbourhood grocery store that’s well worth checking out.

The Bownesian Grocer
7948 Bowness Road NW, Calgary
Daily 9 am-9 pm 403-288-2988

Lina’s Fabulous Meal Deals

Lina’s Italian Mercato a fabulous addition to the Britannia neighbourhood

Lina’s has long been a standout Italian market in Calgary. The problem is the flagship store on Centre Street North is sufficiently removed from my regular city travel routes to fall off my radar.

That is until a third Calgary outlet, Lina’s Italian Mercato, opened in the Britannia neighbourhood, around the corner from my sister’s place. It’s a modern space with all the gleaming equipment and provisions you’d expect in an upscale Italian market.

But my great discovery was all the delicious fresh and prepared meals you can order, mostly at fantastic prices. Indeed, with a few more visits, it could well become one of my top cheap-eats places in all of Calgary.

How cheap? Consider my first purchase: an eight-inch wild boar bacon, mozza and marinara pizza for only $8. Four thin-crust, slightly spicy slices, nicely blistered after a few minutes in the big, domed oven.

A great wild boar pizza for only $8

It’s a perfect size for lunch, one of a dozen pizza ensembles on offer, including a breakfast version with a fried egg on top.

Thin-crust pizzas heading into the big domed oven

My second purchase was an even better steal-of-a-deal: a humungous, made-to-order breakfast sandwich with scrambled egg, porchetta and provolone cheese for only $6. Honestly, it could have satisfied two modest appetites, weighing in at perhaps a pound—though I certainly wasn’t waiting to get home, and put it on the scale, before devouring it.

One of the best deals in town: a big breakfast sandwich for $6

My third purchase, a slow-roasted Italian porchetta ($10), was a little fatty and the accompanying veggies from a warming tray. It was a reminder that, whenever possible, it’s best to go for made-to-order dishes; they’re fresher and hotter.

Roasted Italian porchetta

But overall, I defy you to find this quality of food at these prices, especially in such a fashionable neighbourhood.

Lina’s Italian Mercato
5108 Elbow Drive SW, Calgary
Daily 10 am-7 pm