Calgary food tour: Around the world in 8 restaurants

By Guillermo Barraza

Calgary has become a hub for incredible international food, which is good news for people who would like to take their taste buds on a trip but can’t afford the airfare. Here are 8 delicious picks for those who want to taste-test Calgary's international cuisine scene. [Photo credit: istockphoto.com/Rouzes]

Calgary food tour: Around the world in 8 restaurants

Mexican

If you’re looking for authenticity in flavour and presentation, look no further than Native Tongues Taqueria. Far from seasoning from a pouch and jarred salsa, Native Tongues serves up delicious Mexican food on a magnificent grill that gives a natural smoky flavour to all the meat and sides they cook up. Order single tacos or bring a group of friends to chow down "Mercado Style."

If you want to try your hand at making your own Mexican cuisine, Tres Marias Food Market serves up a variety of house-made salsas, pico de gallo and Mexican/Canadian-inspired bison and bean dip. While there, check out the small bistro serving authentic Mexican street food prepared with fresh ingredients.

Italian

The menu at Scopa Neighbourhood Italian ranges from pizza and pastas to antipasto dishes big enough to share. The homestyle service and ambiance at Scopa is warm and inviting with a menu that changes seasonally. Among Scopa favourites is the baked lasagna and each bruschetta comes with a unique ingredient – so it's best to try them all.

Located in Kensington is a hidden gem for authentic Italian sandwiches. The sandwiches at Peppino Gourmet Foods are made to order with fresh ingredients and served on whole wheat or a traditional baguette. Among neighbourhood favourites are the meatball sandwich and the Riches of Italy, which is an assortment of cured cold cuts with a special dressing. Peppino also boasts a small market where you can purchase cured Italian meat, cheese and olive oil.

Caribbean Islands

The bright and lively flavours of the Caribbean countries are but a short commute away at Simply Irie. The restaurant serves up traditional dishes of oxtail and curry goat, along with crowd favourites such as Jamaican jerk, stewed chicken and Jamaican patties. If you’re looking for a special treat, try the fried breadfruit or the fried plantains. Both are sweet and starchy nibbles of delicious fruits not commonly found in western cuisine.

Similarly, The Caribbean serves Jamaican-inspired dishes with some added Western flair. The Back Home Burger is not your average burger – its mix of jerk-based spices give the traditional western burger a unique flavour. Roti – a flatbread originating in India – is wrapped around curried or jerk chicken, goat or served as a vegetarian option.

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Other stops on the tour

Ensira Restaurant is among the go-to Calgary stops to order up shareable meals on large plates to enjoy among friends and family. The Ethiopian cuisine at Ensira are stewed or saucy and come with a traditional Ethiopian bread meant to dip and scoop the meal from the plate.

A classic stop for Chinese food in Calgary, the Silver Dragon Restaurant – located in Chinatown – has been open since 1966. Whether you're craving spring rolls, shrimp dumplings or live lobsters and crabs from the restaurant's in-house seafood tank, you can't go wrong with this stop on the tour.

Food truck fare

With food trucks an increasingly popular option among Calgarians, it's a no-brainer to continue your food tour with endless options within a few feet.

The first of its kind in the city, QueChivo delivers Salvadoran street food to Calgary. Traditional pupusas, tamales and fried plantain are on the menu. Subs N’ Bubbles offers Vietnamese subs with a twist of Korean or Indian flair. They also have bubble tea, salad rolls and Asian-inspired hard shell tacos.  Spicy and delicious Cajun food is doled out by Sticky Ricky’s food truck, including a New Orleans-inspired poutine.

For a full list of food truck options hitting the streets of Calgary this summer, check out this Smart Tip.

You don't have to travel far to sample a smorgasbord of incredible international food – Calgary is fast becoming a destination for those with worldly palettes. Though sampling these eight restaurants won't immediately transform you into Anthony Bourdain, they're a delicious way to start.

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