Madison’s 12|12 – Calgary

Now our buddy Norman is one of the loveliest people you’ll meet – she’s also one of the hungriest. Girl can pack some snacks in her, particularly when it comes to tacos and nachos.

So, when I heard John Gilchrist awhile back talking about a new “Craft Nacho” joint in Inglewood, I knew Norman had to come along.

Tucked in along historic Ninth Avenue in Inglewood (where the original Bite was), Madison’s has a modern, industrial chic thing going on. Beautiful bar upon arrival, mixed booth and table seating and the kitchen tucked at the back.

The tables at Madison’s are very unique, the have a bit of a bow to them, a very subtle u-shape so watch your liquids sports fans.

I was particularly fond of the array of hot sauces placed on the bar so you can go on up and try whatever tickles your fancy – including some Assburn, which I chose not to try.

Madisons1

Clockwise from L: The loveliest presentation I ever did see for a coffee, the bar and hello hot sauce

Madison’s menu is simple. Want nachos? Here’s a bunch of flavours you have rarely, if ever, see on nachos. Want salad? Here’s a bunch of salads, some you know, and some very similar to the nachos on the other side of the page. Flavours range from Korean, Wilted Kale and Roasted Yam, Mexican and Wild Mushroom and Truffle.

I went with the Mac & Cheese & “Hot Dogs” (the “hot dogs” are actually Spolumbo’s sausage from down the street), Norman went with the Poke Nachos and Siddall went with the Crunchy Kale Caesar salad.

Before we get into the eats, I’d like to point out a lovely sense of local/community I got from Madison’s. Here I am in an Inglewood Nacho Bar, drinking a High Line Brewery Hopeless Romantic Sour – made just down the street, eating nachos with sausage – made just down the street. Feeling the love Inglewood!

Madisons2

Poke Nachos and Crunchy Kale Caesar

Now when making my nacho choice, I skimmed right past the Poke because I lack imagination sometimes. Norman went right for it and sweet baby unicorns, worth it. Served on won-ton chips, the tuna was tender, the mango sweet and the cucumber fresh. Topped with spicy mayo, I will admit, this dish was my favourite of the evening.

The Crunchy Kale Caesar did not shy away from bacon and cheese love. Siddall had no problem crushing it and liked the added crunch of the taco chip a la croutons. I think she said it’s one of the best salads she’s ever had, but don’t quote me on that.

Madisons 3

Mac & Cheese & “Hot Dog” Nachos

Now this may seem like I’m downplaying my choice and trust me friends, I am not. This was delicious. Half the plate was gone before I even knew what was happening. The Mac & Cheese is usually served with a homemade ketchup over top but I asked for it on the side as I don’t have the same fondness for ketchup I once did as I advance in my years.

However, the mac and cheese was spot on, the sausage all over the place without being overwhelming, and the chips remained cruncy. The sliced green onion was a nice touch to break up the heaviness of the dish but all in all, perfect for a winter evening.

At one point, Siddall the Younger arrived and he also ordered the Mac & Cheese – crushing it faster than one would think possible. Randy Santel of Calgary perhaps?

Our dishes came out hella quick thanks to the fast hands of the one, yes one chef in the back. It was him and our server, who was awesome with as many as four tables on his hands at one time. It was a bit quiet in there and I do wonder why considering our experience. Maybe they get more of a lunch crowd?

Obviously we needed dessert, and obviously we needed to try one of each of the Apple Pie Nachos and Strawberry Shortcake Nachos.

Madisons4

Strawberry Shortcake Nachos and Apple Pie Nachos – obvs

I only had a couple bits of the Apple Pie but they were rich and warm like Apple Pie should be. The shortbread however, was freaking delicious and 10/10 would eat again.

Atmosphere: 3
Service: 5
Food: 3.5

Garage Sports Bar – Calgary

Sometimes you go out to enjoy a film with friends only to realize the times have changed from the day before and you’re almost two hours early.

What is a lady and her friends to do?

In the case of the theatre at Eau Claire Mall, the answer is to head downstairs to Garage Sports Bar. Garage is hella spacious (the website says they can accommodate up to 500 for special events) – but manages to feel like a corner neighbourhood pub. I very much hope they’re incorporated into the new Eau Claire development plan.

Pool tables book end the place with tables and bar in between. There were lots of folks wandering by with their own fancy pool cues and our server informed us there’s league play on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Belgian Moons were on special for five bucks so obvs that’s what we went with for the drinking. I knew I couldn’t hold off on any snacking before the film so I ordered a salad, that’s right, you heard me, a salad.

The Vespa is greens, cucumbers, tomato, feta and a honey balsamic for eight bones. Since it was hella reasonable for a salad, I expected something of a fairly mediocre size and what showed up was far from mediocre. This was a very healthy portion and I don’t just mean because it was salad. There was also a giant wedge of foccacia with some stellar grill marks.

garage

(L) Not every day a car welcomes you to a bar – (R) Why hello tasty Vespa

The salad was fresh and the extras plentiful. The dressing was fan-freaking-tastic but I didn’t have a chance to ask the server if it’s house made. The only downfall was the bread, while it looked stunning, there wasn’t a ton of seasoning going on.

Monday night is also pizza night at Garage. While I didn’t have one this time, I’ve had one before and for $12 (on a Monday), they’re a steal of a deal.

While crushing my salad we crushed some balls on the billiard table followed by a rousing foursome of ping-pong and the NCAA championships and Maple Leafs/Bluejackets games were all around us. While Garage was a great stop over before the film, it would also be a great place to just go hang out with your peeps for some funsies.

IMG_2988

Hockey, pool and pong!

Tip: Unless you’re playing, maybe don’t sit right beside the ping pong table – if we come back, you’re libel to get nailed once or twice.

By the way, we did make it to I, Tonya (7/10).

Atmosphere: 3.5
Food: 3
Staff: 4

Garage Billiards Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

TOA Vietnamese – Calgary East Hills

One of my favourite things about Calgary is that you really can’t throw something without hitting a Vietnamese Restaurant. When the craving for pho, or bun is just so strong, you don’t have to travel to the moon and back for satisfaction.

My personal favourite, because it was the first time I ever tried Vietnamese and hasn’t failed me since, is Mihn Chau in Inglewood. But, to be honest, I’ve never had Vietnamese anywhere in this town that turned me off.

I work in the southeast of the southeast and luckily, right near by, is TOA Vietnamese in the new East Hills shopping area.

TOA still has that new car smell, and is hella tidy. Always busy during the lunch rush, I imagine that’s their money maker as East Hills isn’t exactly smack dab in the middle of a suburb … yet.

IMG_2823

Happy New Year Buddha!

Usually I call ahead and bring TOA back to work with me where I hunch over my desk stuffing my face with noodles and reading a book. But on this particular day, a co-worker and I dined in.

What first caught my eye, was the lovely table setting. Maybe I’m just a sucker for tidiness but this was oddly stirring to my blood.

IMG_2824

Why do I find this so attractive?

We both went with the special of the day. Sate shrimp, chicken and beef with spring roll and a drink for about $14 (full disclosure: I can’t remember the exact price but it was a really good deal).

IMG_2825

Obvs, I got a side of tea. It’s been a bloody North Pole around here lately.

The dish in itself was a winner, but the shrimp really stole the show. Grilled to perfection and delightfully seasoned, I could of polished off a bowl of shrimp alone. Nice balance of all the flavours and a few hits of hoisin really made this a keeper. If anything, the only downfall to the dish was though it was labeled sate, it wasn’t nearly spicy enough for my personal liking.

IMG_2826

Hello, lover.

Atmosphere: 4
Service: 4.5
Food: 4.5

Toa Vietnamese Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tubby Dog – Calgary

*Full Disclosure: Nerd Alert! Once a month, usually on a Sunday, some very fantastic people and myself get together to play some good old fashioned Dungeons and Dragons. Usually, when it’s Jobin Thievesalot’s turn to host, we go to some pretty sweet places. Last Sunday, that place was Tubby Dog.

Nestled along 17th Avenue between Ninth and Tenth Street is a wee gem of a wiener joint.

Upon entering Tubby Dog, one feels thrust into the kitchsy, arcade, diner magic of the ’80s (Tubby was actually established in ’05). Arcade games, including Mrs. Pac Man and Street Fighter line two walls, bordered by a long red counter and booth seating.

IMG_2774

Old country music blares from the speakers. Photos and posters of film stars bedeck the walls and cabinets, for whatever intriguing reason, packed with all variety of goods including turkey gizzards and squeeze cheese decorate two corners.

All in, it’s like walking into some nostalgic teenage hangout- including a mysterious, greasy bit of perfume.

Now, Tubby is not all about the Dogs. It’s also about Tacos (on Tuesday, obvs), and Burgers (one Wednesday). The arcade games aren’t just there for show and the odd game, as the venue also hosts Thursday Night Gaming, and chalkboards keep track of who games supreme.

While you can create your own dog, I highly recommend going with one of the carefully, and sometimes crazily crafted Tubby Dog creations. Tubby Dog is your classic chili; Sumo includes wasabi and pickled ginger; PBJ includes peanut butter and jelly, obvs. But also Cap’n Crunch which ermagherd!

But the particular dog that called to me on this day was the A-Bomb. Cheese, bacon, mayo, mustard and potato chips, yes potato chips. (I held the ketchup). Also friends, this is not just some shredded melty cheese, which on its own is awesome. This was NACHO CHEESE. If I had nacho cheese instead of blood in my veins, I would be a happy camper.

DAMN DOG! This. Was. Good.

Tubby has a pretty sweet collection of beers – or hard stuff – to go with your dog, but I washed mine down with a giant ass coca cola. Traditionalist.

IMG_2773

CHEZZZZZZZ! Yes, there’s a wiener in there.

Tubby also gets brownie points for serving pickled eggs, because pickled eggs are the bomb.

Atmosphere: 5
Food: 4
Service: 4

Tubby Dog Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lac Viet – Calgary

While we’ve been having a pretty mild cold season in the scheme of things, some nights there is still quite the bite in the wind so a lady needs some pho in her belly.

En route to the Thorncliffe Greenview Community Centre Christmas Market awhile back, we stopped in at Lac Viet for some Vietnamese love.

We’ve Skipped the Dishes with Lac Viet before but this was the first time inside. Your usual Vietnamese restaurant template with simple, clean lines, people coming in and out for take out, and the usual figurines including the lucky cat.

For drinks, my lady friend went with the Vietnamese Coffee and I, an ice cold Tiger beer. We started with some crispy fried won-tons and they were freaking delish.

Siddall went for the 41. Charbroiled chicken and lemon grass with spring rolls, and I went with the 11. Special beef noodle soup with medium rare, well done, tendon, tripe and beef balls, but I also asked for it spicy.

IMG_2609

Lac Viet is not stingy on portions and their product is always nice and fresh. Siddall inhaled her vermicelli and my soup, while not as spicy as I would of liked, was like a warm hug (this from someone not particularly fond of hugs).

pho

This is only the second time I’ve tried tripe in a pho. The first being un-memorable (is that a word?) Anyways, Lac Viet won me back on the tripe train as the bits of cow stomach where tender and well flavoured. The tendy was fatty and gorgeous and the beef balls little bites of love.

Lac Viet Vietnamese Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Imperial Dynasty – Calgary

Nothing says ‘I love you’ like an all-you-can-eat buffet.

At least I figured that much when we checked out Imperial Dynasty on Country Hills Blvd. for date night this week.

In the grand scheme of buffets, Imperial Dynasty is on the smaller size, while the tables weren’t necessarily buzzing, there were people constantly in and out ordering take-out and picking up.

IMG_2643

Our server was very pleasant, while not always prompt, but that’s the best part about a buffet, you serve yourself.

The actual buffet table was short but very sweet. The crispy chicken wings, which were hot out of the kitchen were salty, hot nuggets of lovely. The ginger beef was some of the best I’ve had … ever, though on the sweet side instead of the hot side if that’s your jam.

The hot and sour soup was more sour than hot, but excellent flavour nonetheless. And the fried rice, of which I had more than one helping was excellent. The dumplings didn’t quite make the cut however, as they were a bit pasty, but the filling was great with nice hints of pork and ginger.

IMG_2642

Accompanying your usual jello and fruit selection at the end of the buffet was an angel food cake with icing, almond cookies and some sort of jello marshmellow concoction – small white squares of fluffy sweetness. If you know what they are, help a sister out because they were tasty.

After dinner we headed over to the Landmark Cinema’s to recline and check out Wonder. If you have a heart you’ll cry a lot. If you don’t have a heart, you’ll still tear up. The film is a really great portrayal of the importance of being kind, so get your sappy pants on and watch it – or buy the book, because books are the bomb.

Imperial Dynasty Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Without Papers – Calgary

Sometimes a lady just needs a night out with her bestest lady friends and for me that night was last night.

Katie, Kelsey (yes, another one) and I met in Inglewood for a two-part date night.

Part 1: Without Papers

We started with dinner at Without Papers.

If you haven’t been, Without Papers is between 11th and 12th Street on Ninth Avenue in the lovely and historical community of Inglewood. It can be a bit of a sneaky blighter to find as it’s just a door and a sign, but well worth it. Up a decent sized stairway to pizza you’re welcomed by the warm, doughy smells of the joint.

Old Pink Panther episodes were playing on two walls and the chefs were buzzing around in the open concept kitchen. Lighting is at romantic capacity (hence the mediocre pics), but certainly sets the mood. And, this place is hot, like bare your shoulders in Calgary in November temperature, so FYI. I was ahead of the ladies so of course started drinking without them. Having recently fallen in love with sour beer after a trip to Annex Ale Project, I ordered the daily special, High Line Brewery’s Heartless Romantic Sour.

What a lovely little gem this was. And sour. If you like sour, you’ll love this beer. I understand sour can be an adjustment for a beverage like beer, but damn this was good. Highly recommend.

The three of us went family style and shared a salad and two pizzas. And let me tell you, the salad was a freaking revelation.

I eat a lot of food and I usually enjoy it, a lot. But Without Paper’s Roasted Beet Salad with cumin, caraway, chevre and balsamic vinaigrette is on a whole different plane. “Yeah, but it’s just a beet salad!” you might say. And I would say the difference is the cumin and the caraway. Damn girl. Just give it a go and let me know what you think, okay?

For pizzas we went with the evening special, the Salty Dog (prosciutto, olives, red onions), and Parma (tomato sauce, prosciutto, arugula, mozza, parmigiano).

The Salty Dog was indeed, salty. But in a good way, not an overwhelming way, mostly because of the olives. A tasty pizza, especially with the addition of chili oil and chili flakes. The chilis are served in two small dishes and our server recommended mixing them to create a paste – excellent decision.

The Parma is a classic. I totally dig arugula on a pizza and the chunks of parmigiano were large and in charge adding a lot of flavour.

WOP

Dessert was an obvious cap to dinner so we ordered the chocolate tart with meringue and the Mars Bar Ice Cream. From the way the server chatted about it, it sounds like Without Papers makes their ice cream in house. The Mars Bar Ice Cream was certainly a win, and while I don’t like it as a beer, I’d love to try their IPA Ice Cream one day.

The tart was rich and chocolaty and paired delightfully with the soft, creamy meringue. My beer pairing recommendation? Big Rock Traditional.

Without Papers Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Part 2:

After dinner we went two doors east to the 4Cats Arts Studio. This place is amazing. While Kelsey and I thought we were just going in to paint a pottery owl cup, we were indeed there to build the thing from scratch. 4Cats has great deals on making your own cups – 2 for $35 – and you get three visits out of the deal. 1. Build cup. 2. Glaze cup. 3. Pick up completed cup.

The nice thing too, is your cup can be whatever you want it to be. We were there to make penguins and to be honest mine turned out looking like an owl, or an old hunter in sunglasses – hard to say.

IMG_2638 (1)

Phil, Calvin and David. Photo by Kelsey (the other one).