Author Archives: bcorbett907

About bcorbett907

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

Fickle Pickle Pizza

Favourite Mike’s Big Pickle at Calgary’s Pizza Face

Back in high school, when glaciers were advancing, some friends and I once experimented with bizarre toppings for home-baked pizza. Peanut butter, I recall, was one such ingredient, as were marshmallows, ketchup and mustard.

The results were about as bad as you’d imagine. But I never lost that zest for experimentation or, as a road-food warrior, the impulse to order something original off a menu.

So when I read an article about a Calgary restaurant offering a dill-pickle pizza—and developing a cult-like following for it—I had to give it a try.

Pizza Face has been around a while, as a pop-up establishment in various locations around town. Two months ago, owners Mike Garth and Tony Migliarese opened a more permanent location inside longstanding health food store Community Natural Foods.

Pizza Face is inside Calgary health food store Community Natural Foods

Pizza Face’s eclectic pizza menu ranges from high-end standards such as pepperoni and margherita to “cheeseburger” and specials like black truffles—all served on a blistered, puffy crust fresh from the high-temperature oven.

But it’s the Mike’s Big Pickle (12-inch, $19) that outsells everything else. It features garlic cream, mozzarella, olive oil and fresh dill. Oh, and a whack of sliced dill pickles.

So, how does it taste? A little astringent and certainly crunchy, offsetting the softer, chewier other ingredients. In all, a lot better than I expected. Give it a try.

The dill-pickle pizza was also my introduction to DoorDash delivery. As a rule, I prefer pick up or delivery by the restaurant, eliminating the often high fees charged by large-scale delivery services.

From order to delivery: a slick 30 minutes

But I didn’t feel like driving close to rush hour. And Pizza Face’s delivery service is DoorDash. I must say, the sign up was quick and the pizza delivered to my door (free, plus optional driver tip) in just over 30 minutes.

Pizza Face
1304 10 Avenue SW, Calgary (inside Community Natural Foods)
Monday to Saturday noon-9 pm, Sunday noon-7 pm.
Pick up 587-585-8669

Curbside Sandwiches a Calgary Hit

Curbside pickup a hot business at Calgary’s Alumni Sandwiches

I’d like to describe what it’s like inside Alumni Sandwiches restaurant in central Calgary. I’d like to tell you about the design, the layout and ambience of the place.

But I can’t. That’s because since reopening, from a pandemic closure, in early May, Alumni has only been offering curbside pickup of its fabulous sandwiches.

In other words, you place your order online, by phone or on the sidewalk. When it’s ready, the restaurant door opens and a masked person hands you a little cardboard box or two bearing your sweet treasure.

A bit impersonal, but it’s the food that counts. In my case, that’s Alumni’s famous hot chicken sandwich ($13), the best I’ve yet had in Calgary. It’s a generous amount of crispy, spicy chicken (half heat still had my forehead perspiring) with slaw, “comeback” sauce and pickles, all stuffed inside a brioche bun.

Loads of spicy hot chicken inside a brioche bun

I was lucky to grab a curbside parking spot right in front of the restaurant on busy 17th Avenue S.W. And I wasn’t about to drive home or to a nearby park to devour this puppy.

A hot sandwich is meant to be eaten hot. So it was inhaled, in situ, at the curb, with a single napkin scarcely sufficient for mopping up all the juiciness.

Alumni is about a 15- or 20-minute drive for me, depending on traffic. So I won’t be sampling the rest of the menu—including a rosemary beef dip and a Mexican torta—any time soon.

My masked server talked about tentative plans to reopen the restaurant to indoor customers sometime in October. But with the curbside pickup working so well—half a dozen customers lined up in the few minutes I was eating—there may well be no rush.

Alumni Sandwiches
725 17 Avenue SW, Calgary
Daily 11 am-9 pm except 6 pm closure Sunday
403-455-7255

Patios Perfect Choice for Pandemic Dining and Drinking

Patios like this lovely one at Bitter Sisters Brewery are the way to ease oneself back into on-premises dining

Well, it was long since time I ventured out into the local restaurant scene mid-pandemic, other than to order a modicum of takeout. I still haven’t eaten inside the four walls of a restaurant but feel increasingly comfortable stepping onto an airy patio.

In truth, it all felt pretty normal sitting on a sunny, early-fall patio at Bitter Sisters Brewery, a fairly new craft brewery that recently reopened in southeast Calgary. Yes, there were the ubiquitous hand sanitizer bottles at the entrance, masked servers, regularly scrubbed tables and few indoor diners. But otherwise, it was business as usual on a spacious patio, with about 10 of 16 well-spaced tables occupied by folks enjoying the mid-day heat with some pints and bites.

Things were much quieter indoors

The brewery nicely covers the craft basics: a handful of ales, a rotating sour and a potent, Belgian-yeast saison. Of course, I went for the Second Chance IPA.

But the real revelation was a diverse food menu ranging from a fried burrata starter to a Buddha Bowl salad to a Nashville fried chicken sandwich. Again, I stuck to the middle with an excellent, custom-blend beef burger with an onion ring tucked beneath the brioche bun and a mess of Kennebec fries. A three-napkin job, to be sure.

A hinged jaw helps devour this onion-ringed top burger

Here’s hoping the revived success at Bitter Sisters and other food and drink places in Calgary can be sustained during the long, upcoming winter, when most patios will undoubtedly be shuttered.

Have you started returning to restaurant patios or indoors? If so, any favourites you’re frequenting? Let me know.

Bitter Sisters
510 Heritage Drive SE, Calgary
Opens daily at 11:30 am, except 3 pm Monday
403-287-8811

Calgary Crispy Chicken Sandwich Hits the Spot

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In the heart of Calgary’s Taiko Canteen is a cool mini-golf course

There’s been a surging interest in fried-chicken sandwiches in Calgary. It no doubt reflects the booming popularity of Popeye’s latest offering at its fast-food outlets throughout North America.

But there are a number of independent Calgary shops with southern-style fried-chicken sandwiches on the menu. I thought I’d survey a few of them. But after just my first stop, I might already be prepared to declare a winner: Taiko Canteen.

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The drinks and kitchen (in behind the window) area

The canteen is a bricks-and-mortar marriage between two food trucks, Taiko Taco and Zilfords Fried Chicken, in a sprawling, darkish space in industrial southeast Calgary. The menu is a mash-up of tacos, hot chicken, poke bowls and local craft beers and cocktails—with a mini golf course and music hall thrown into the mix for good measure. In other words, a lively hangout for young’uns.

But on to the main event: the fried chicken sandwich ($12), with sauces ranging from mild to “lave juice”. The breading here is no afterthought but a main focal point that, once fried, becomes a crispy, crunchy, beguiling cover for tender chicken thighs, all crammed into a toasted brioche bun. Exceptional.

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The fried-chicken sandwich is crunchy nirvana

The $5 tacos range from pork belly to coconut-crusted tofu, stuffed inside a unique, spongy bun that definitely doesn’t fall apart like a traditional tortilla. The contents are certainly flavourful, though I think I still prefer the conventional wheat or corn tortilla wrap.

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Unusual taco wraps, too

Taiko Canteen
107, 3851 Manchester Road SE, Calgary
Tuesday-Thursday 11 am-9 pm, Friday-Saturday 11 am-late, Sunday noon-8 pm. Closed Monday

Neighbourhood Coffee Shop in Southwest Calgary

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Beet cashew toast one of the innovative offerings at Calgary’s Neighbour Coffee

Do you ever get tired of third-wave coffee? You know the kind: Single-origin, fair-trade, lightly roasted, precisely weighed beans, with perfect-temperature water slowly poured over said beans to produce a hand-crafted brew.

So it’s nice to stumble upon Neighbour Coffee, which like its name is an unpretentious, relaxed spot in an out-of-the-way strip mall in the Altadore community of southwest Calgary.

Sure, it covers some of the coffee-shop trends—cold brew, avocado toast, brown-rice bowls and even bone broth. And yes, they do have an Instagram account.

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Yes, there is avocado toast

But this sister café of nearby Our Daily Brett veers away from the historic, exposed-brick look by being located on the ground floor of a new office building. And it’s a bright space, with a blond-wood motif and light pouring in through large windows.

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A bright, relaxed atmosphere

Indeed, Neighbours is a fine place to read a book while sipping a latte (featuring Anchored Coffee beans, curiously from Nova Scotia) and grazing on a wild salmon tostada or a beet-cashew toast.

Okay, maybe it is a bit trendy. But it doesn’t feel like it, and it doesn’t seem to have been discovered by the coffee cognoscenti. Yet.

Neighbour Coffee
4038 16 Street SW, Calgary
Weekdays 7 am-5 pm, weekends 8 am-4 pm

Soup’s Always On at Primal Grounds

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African peanut soup and “half” egg sandwich at Primal Grounds Cafe

In all my road-trip travels through western North America, I don’t recall many cafes specializing in soup. So it’s great to find, only a few blocks from my house, Primal Grounds Café & Soup Company.

Here, you can choose from three daily house-made soups plus peruse a big cooler packed with some 40 types of frozen soups to take home.

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Just some of the frozen soups available for takeout

The latter covers a vast spectrum—including chicken mulligatawny, Moroccan lentil, chipotle lime sweet potato, Lebanese cauliflower and Doukhobor borscht (about half the soups are dairy free, all are gluten free).

I’m eating in, so I order a heaping bowl of African peanut yam soup, chockfull of veggies, and a “half” egg salad sandwich, featuring thick slices of organic cracked rye and molasses bread. It’s a filling, delicious lunch for only $12; no room for the famous carrot cake.

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Here’s the complete list

Primal Grounds has been around southwest Calgary for more than 30 years, moving not long ago into the current location in a Glamorgan mall that includes a London Drugs and a Jerusalem Shawarma outlet.

The next time, I’ll have to reacquaint myself with Primal Grounds’ legendary turkey and cranberry sandwich, chased with a cup of coffee made from local Noble Tree Roasters beans. And I’ll start working my way down the long, long list of excellent soups.

Primal Grounds Cafe
5255 Richmond Road SW, Calgary
Monday to Saturday 7 am-7 pm, Sunday 7 am-6 pm
403-454-5282