By RACHAEL FREY
Comedian John Catucci hosts Food Network’s You Gotta Eat Here. (Photo: courtesy Shaw Media)
From posh urban eateries to down-home country diners, Food Network’s You Gotta Eat Here showcases beloved Canadian restaurants, with host John Catucci sampling the most outrageous and mouth-watering dishes the nation’s chefs can concoct.
Fans of the show don’t have to just sit at home and drool, though. Head over to one of the 17 Calgary restaurants featured on the show’s four seasons and eat what John ate, or discover a hidden gem on the menu. You Gotta Eat Here airs Fridays at 7 pm on the Food Network.
BOOKERS BBQ GRILL + CRAB SHACK (Episode airs March 27)
This casual barbecue and seafood restaurant is serving up Southern classics like smokehouse brisket, crab legs by the bucket, blackened catfish, jambalaya, and smoked chicken wings. The rustic warehouse interior is the perfect backdrop for a button-popping feast—piles of all-you-can-eat crab legs and BBQ ribs are on the menu every Sunday.
What John Ate: We’ve heard he was forced to choose between crab legs and BBQ ribs—we’re definitely curious to see how many he was able to pack away!
• 316 – 3 St SE, 403-264-6419, www.bookersbbq.com
NAINA’S KITCHEN (Episode airs March 13)
Don’t let the size of the place fool you—this tiny family restaurant is making some of the best burgers in the city. The patties are stuffed with your choice of ingredients, from blue cheese to fresh jalapenos. The Nainalicious, which is stuffed with pulled pork, aged cheddar, caramelized onions, and Granny Smith apple, comes highly recommended.
What John Ate: We won’t know for sure until the episode airs, but frankly it would be weird if he didn’t try a stuffed burger. We’re guessing the Nainalicious was the star of the show.
• 2808 Ogden Rd SE, 403-263-6355, nainaskitchen.com
Premium beer and wood-fired, thin crust pizza are served at this unpretentious rock ’n’ roll bar. The 24 draft lines change several times per week with a focus on breweries outside the mainstream. Try the Blazing Saddle Pizza with blackened steak, banana peppers, white cheddar, mozzarella, crispy onions, cajun remoulade, seasoned arugula and horseradish aioli.
What John Ate: Pizza Spring Rolls — crispy, deep-fried rolls filled with pepperoni, green peppers, mushrooms, basil, mozzarella and spicy marinara sauce.
• 1080 – 8 St SW, 403-264-2739, beerrevolution.ca
GRUMANS CATERING AND DELICATESSEN
This little Jewish deli and catering in Victoria Park features matzo ball soup, potato knishes and Montreal smoked meat sandwiches, just a couple blocks away from the Stampede grounds. They are now serving weekend brunch, including Lox Eggs Benedict served on potato latkes and breakfast poutine with smoked meat, cheese curds, poached eggs and hollandaise.
What John Ate: Smoked Meat Shepherd’s Pie — Montreal smoked meat, sautéed onions, carrots and corn under a mashed potato crust, with a side of veal gravy.
• 2310 – 11 Ave SE, 403-261-9003, grumans.ca
THE FINE DINER
Located in Calgary’s historic community of Inglewood, The Fine Diner serves modern American-classic cuisine with locally sourced ingredients in a good ol’ fashioned ’40s style diner. A private room is available for social events and corporate functions. Try the Breakfast Burger with a homemade patty, caramelized onions, bacon and a sunnyside-up egg.
What John Ate: Meatloaf Sandwich — Homemade, juicy Angus beef meatloaf wrapped in bacon, served with house salad, duck fat fries, soup or honey roasted potatoes.
• 4, 1420 – 9 Ave SE, 403-234-8885, www.finedinercalgary.com
UNA PIZZA + WINE
This is 17th Avenue’s top stop for gourmet thin-crust pizza and Mediterranean-influenced cuisine, as evidenced by the line out the door. Try the popular veal and pork meatballs cooked in tomato sauce as well as pizza with prosciutto, ricotta and fresh arugula. Gluten-free pizza crust is available, and the kitchen is open until 1 am.
What John Ate: Mushroom Pizza — Roasted mushrooms, smoked mozzarella, grana padana cheese, arugula and truffle oil on UNA’s famous crust.
• 618 17 Ave SW, 403-453 -1183, unapizzeria.com
BIG FISH SEAFOOD RESTAURANT & OYSTER BAR
A member of Vancouver Aquarium’s Oceanwise program, Big Fish is a cozy, creative restaurant devoted to sustainable seafood choices. Sample the Canadian oyster bar, which features six premium varieties of East and West Coast oysters. The wine list and after dinner drink menu are well worth checking out too, including the Dark & Stormy Float made with Legendario Cuban rum, spicy ginger beer and cinnamon ice cream.
What John Ate: Soft Shell Crab Club Sandwich — An entire succulent, deep-fried soft shell crab topped with wild boar bacon and organic tomatoes.
• 1112 Edmonton Tr NE, 403-277-3403, big-fish.ca
BIG T’s BBQ & SMOKEHOUSE
True Southern barbecue with slow-smoked barbecue ribs, chicken, pulled pork and more, served with tasty homemade sides such as cornbread, hush puppies and deep-fried pickles. Meals are meant to be eaten family-style, with everyone digging in to the same dishes. Big T’s has a casual vibe and a great bourbon selection.
What John Ate: The Elvis Platter — A massive pile of meat with smoked brisket, pulled pork, St. Louis ribs, half chicken, rib ends, Andouille sausage, coleslaw, beans, fries, gravy, cornbread and buns.
• 2138 Crowchild Tr NW, 403-284-5959, www.bigtsbbq.com
You Gotta Eat Here airs Fridays at 7 pm on the Food Network. (Photo: courtesy Shaw Media)
An impressive selection of burgers are available at Boogie’s, including the Deep Fried Mac-n-Cheese Burger with one patty, cheddar and three deep-fried mac ‘n’ cheese wedges. June’s Jerk Chicken Burger is also highly recommended. Sides include regular fries, spicy fries, yam fries, yam chips and onion rings.
What John Ate: Doug’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” Burger — Four beef patties, four slices of bacon, a butterflied wiener, cheddar, a fried egg, Boogie’s signature red sauce, lettuce, tomato and onion, topped with a mini corndog.
• 908 Edmonton Tr NE, 403-230-7070, boogiesburgers.com
Local, seasonal and sustainable cuisine is what’s for lunch at Boxwood, the little sister of the renowned River Café. Located in the historic Central Memorial Park, the café offers inventive dishes like organic citrus chili popcorn and chickpea fritters alongside the stars of the show, juicy rotisserie meats such as roast lamb and organic chicken. Take home warm oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for dessert.
What John Ate: Spragg Farm Roasted Porchetta Sandwich — Rotisserie porchetta topped with cilantro salsa verde, arugula and pork cracklings.
• 340 – 12 Ave SW, 403-265-4006, www.boxwoodcafe.ca
A small, casual café with style located in the heart of Calgary’s Beltline, the specialty is gourmet burgers with toppings such as blue cheese, avocado and red onion. Try the Californian, a vegetarian panini made with sun-dried tomatoes, cream cheese, artichoke hearts, marinated eggplant, banana peppers and tomatoes.
What John Ate: South Beach Bennies — Two poached eggs, Roma tomato, avocado and hollandaise on an English muffin, served with a side of smashbrowns.
• 827 – 10 Ave SW, 403-261-9759, holygrill.ca
This brightly-lit diner with a funky, retro vibe serves all-day breakfast as well as contemporary takes on comfort foods. Expect it to be busy, especially on weekend mornings, but the wait is worth it for dishes like Huevos Rancheros with over easy eggs, jalapeño-lime chicken, roasted red peppers, salsa verde and cilantro sour cream over corn tortillas.
What John Ate: Maple Fried Oatmeal — A slab of oatmeal with dried cranberries fried in maple syrup, then drenched in vanilla bean cream and lemon curd.
• 804 Edmonton Tr NE, 403-276-5499, www.dinerdeluxe.com
FAT CITY FRANKS
A diner in Mission serving hot dogs with creative toppings, like the Ukrainian Dog with potato and cheddar perogy filling, sautéed onions, bacon bits and sour cream or the traditional Chicago Dog with a pickle, tomato, onions, cucumber, celery salt and hot pepper. Classic sides like potato salad and coleslaw as well as vintage malted milkshakes and old-fashioned sodas are also available.
What John Ate: Breakfast Dog — A classic hot dog topped with cream cheese and chive scrambled eggs, cheddar and real bacon bits.
• 2015 – 4 St SW, 403-229-3641, www.fatcityfranks.com
JELLY MODERN DOUGHNUTS
This gourmet doughnut bakery and café offers a sophisticated update on the classic Canadian treat. The tantalizing options include a carrot cake doughnut topped with a cinnamon marscapone glaze, or Nenshi’s Salted Caramel dipped in caramel ganache with maple butter drizzle and a sprinkle of sea salt. They also have sandwiches on plain doughnuts.
What John Ate: Maple Bacon Doughnut — A Canadian favourite, this sticky treat is dipped in brown maple glaze and topped with crumbled Valbella bacon.
• 1414 – 8 St SW, 403-453-2053, jellymoderndoughnuts.com
PFANNTASTIC PANNENKOEK HAUS
This homey Dutch eatery turns pancakes into meals. More like a thick crepe than a typical Canadian pancake, there’s dozens to choose from including the savoury favourite of potato, onion, bacon and cheese, or the popular Black Forest (Zwarte Woud) with warm cherries, ice cream, whipped cream and orange liqueur in a chocolate cup.
What John Ate: Philly Cheese (Steak Met Smeerkaas) Pannenkoek — Steak, peppers, onions, mushrooms and cheese cooked into a pancake, with a side of barbecue sauce.
• 2439 – 54 Ave SW, 403-243-7757, www.dutchpancakes.ca
A hip diner specializing in large hot dogs with unusual toppings, like the PBJ topped with peanut butter, grape jelly and Cap’n Crunch or the Sumo Dog with wasabi mayo, seaweed, pickled ginger and sesame seeds. The décor is almost as interesting as the menu, with a quirky retro vibe that pays homage to Saturday morning cartoons and arcade video games.
What John Ate: Sherm’s Ultimate Gripper — A bacon-wrapped dog on a bed of chili, topped with mustard, banana peppers, sautéed onions, grilled ham, a fried egg and nacho cheese.
• 1022 – 17 Ave SW, 403-244-0694, www.facebook.com/Tubby.Dog.Hot.Dogs
DINING IN CALGARY? CHECK OUT:
• Perfect Patios: Where to Dine Outdoors in Calgary
• Calgary’s Best Eats: Where to Dine Awards 2013
• 10 Calgary Restaurants for Gluten-Free Diners