Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Restaurants

Ami Tea and Sub – Date night 10 of 19

After my appointment at Good Salon, I was famished. I debated getting a Vietnamese sub next door from Ami Tea and Sub or fried chicken across the street from the Blue Store. It was a tough decision, but in the end, banh mi won. For this post, let’s listen to “Sweet Dreams” by Beyoncé.

I ordered a Warm Kitchen Pate Sausage ($8). I noticed the owner put a lot of care into making my sandwich. The sub was jam-packed with generous amounts of pate and simmered pork meat slices. The carrots were minced so it lacked that crunch I crave. The texture of the cucumber was soft.

The bread is light and crusty. I didn’t find the baguette dry, but there were a million little crumbs on the table after I finished eating. The flavour of the pate and sausage was delicate and fresh. I thought my sub was heavy on the sauce – the soy and mayonnaise intermingled and dripped down all over my napkin. I noticed the mayonnaise was painfully sweet – so much that I wished I omitted it.

How does Ami Sub compare to the banh mi heavy hitters in Calgary? Taste-wise, this sub was similar to My My Sub‘s homestyle cold cut. Ami’s sub is even more filling than My Tho BBQ’s cold cut and nearly matches To Me in quantity. I have a hearty appetite, and after demolishing this sub, I was uncomfortably full for hours. The flavour combination of the pate, vegetables and sausage was subtle – there isn’t that rustic pungency that you get at Saigon Deli or flavour bomb that you get at Thi Thi. I also prefer my pate with a richness to it, like Xich Lo, Obanhmi or Banh Mi Nhu Y.

I’ve reached a milestone today! As Ami Sub was date #10/19, I’ve only got nine more to go to complete my goal! For banh mi date #11, I want to check out Paper Lantern or Rau Bistro.

Cheap Eats · Pubs · Restaurants

Ship and Anchor

On Saturday, Zeta-Jones celebrated her 40th birthday party at the Ship and Anchor. I know Zeta-Jones through her partner Fougui, whom I’ve been friends with for eight years. For this post, let’s listen to “Baby, Baby” by Amy Grant.

Fougui ordered two massive platters of nachos ($22, + $3 guacamole) for the table to share. Damn – this was a good plate of nachos! Each chip was fresh, light and thin. One of my pet peeves is stale nachos. I liked how there was an even distribution of cheese, diced tomatoes, pickled jalapeños and green onions throughout the platter.

With the exception of Zeta-Jones and Fougui, I didn’t know anyone else at the table. But, lucky for me, Claudia befriended me, and throughout the night, she took the time to translate the group’s conversation. I noticed Claudia was drinking red wine (La Bite Merlot, $9), so I asked if she liked the wine. She said there was only one wine by the glass, but it was good, especially for the price. Claudia and I got along so well that night that I invited her to be a No Man’s Dinner member, and she asked me to attend her birthday party next week. We also have plans to try the charred liver at Yemini Village.

Claudia ordered the Two-Piece Fish ($15) with Yam Fries (+$3). She said wasn’t expecting much, so she was pleasantly surprised by the fish and chips. She noted the velvety texture of the fillet reminded her of the fresh fish in Mexico City. She liked that fries and fish were crispy because she thinks there’s nothing worse than soggy fish. She mentioned she ordered two pieces of fish because she expected the portion to be small. Instead, she said the fish was plump and large and could only eat one piece. I thought it was interesting the batter was so pale, but perhaps that’s just because of the lighting.

Her friend Daphne said she enjoyed her fish but found the regular fries too dry. Claudia didn’t like the tartar sauce, but Daphne enjoyed it so much, she ate her friend’s portion. Daphne noted that she could taste the vinegar in the tartar sauce, which she said paired well with the fish.


I wasn’t hungry yet, but that didn’t stop me from rudely staring across the table at the plate of Chicken Wings ($15) and Humboldt Calamari ($9). When I come back, I would order both the wings and calamari.


Though I didn’t eat, with Claudia’s riveting descriptions, I felt like I did. This experience renewed my interest in the Ship and Anchor. I’ll have to bring L for a date night so I can try some of the deep-fried delights. I also hear the lamb shank is particularly good. To be continued.

Bakery · Bars/Lounges · Cheap Eats · Curry · Fast Food · Happy Hour · Italian · Mexican · Patio · Pizza

First Street Market – Pure Street Food, Saffron Street, Moose and Poncho

On Sunday, L and I checked First Street Market. I’ve heard favourable things about all the vendors – particularly the places I’ve never tried such as Actually Pretty Good, La Mano, and Friends with Benedicts. However, on this visit, I came specifically for Pure Street Food and Moose and Poncho, two restaurants I’ve frequented in the past. For this review, let’s listen to “All These Things That I’ve Done” by The Killers.

We grabbed a spot at the First Street Bar, just in time for the tail end of happy hour (4:00-6:00 p.m.). I ordered a glass of the Vinho Verde (HH $5, Regular $7, HH Bottle $25, Regular $35) and L chose the Snake Lake Pilsner (HH $5, Regular $7).

The Portuguese white wine was served ice cold. I found this wine bright with strong tropical notes. Other than First Street Market Bar, I don’t know anywhere else in the city where you can get a drinkable bottle of wine for only $35. Where was this place when I was in school?

At Pure Street Food I ordered the Bun Bo Sate ($12) and a Fire Chicken w/ Melted Cheese Sesame Donut ($6) for L. The broth was thick, rich and beefy. The slices of beef shank, brisket and beef rib were flavourful and tender. The noodles had a nice bounce to them.

I took a bite of the sesame donut. The flavour of the crispy sesame shell was prominent. L thought the fire chicken was delicious and not painfully spicy like he experienced in Korea.

L ordered four tacos ($6 each): Carnitas (confit pork) and Suadero (lime-marinated confit beef). Both the pork and beef tacos were tasty. I found the seasoning and quality of the meats delectable. I also liked how the flavour of the cilantro wasn’t overpowering. I mentioned to L that I wish he ordered some salsas ($3.50 each) to go with the tacos, as Moose and Poncho make some wicked dips. He said he didn’t see that option when he ordered and the staff never mentioned there were additional sauces he could have purchased. L thought the tacos didn’t need any more sauce than the one he was provided.

I was still hungry, so I ordered a Masala Dosa ($13) from Saffron Street. I remembered seeing Miss Foodie rave about this vendor. As always, she is correct. The crepe was light and delicate, fragrant with the smell of coconut. The potato filling was soft and creamy. I enjoyed alternating each crispy bite into the lentil stew, tomato and coconut chutney. I would order this again.


First Street Market reminds me of the food halls in Toronto, but more intimate and modern. I appreciate the concept – chef-driven, high-quality fast food paired with a bar offering inexpensive drinks. I look forward to my next visit! Hitting the Sauce gives First Street Market two phat thumbs up.

Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Vietnamese

Bake Chef – Date night 9 out of 19

On Monday, I met L at the University of Calgary to vote for Calgary’s new mayor – Jyoti Gondek. After we voted, we went on date 9 out of 19 at Bake Chef. For this post, let’s listen to “The Times They Are A-Changin” by Bob Dylan.

I wanted to order a cold cut sub because one of my favourite things about a banh mi is the contrast of the warm toasted baguette and the refreshing chill of the vegetables and meat. However, the last time I tried a cold cut at Bake Chef I was not impressed, so I ordered what L recommended. 

L and I both ordered the Beef Sate Sub ($8.10). We went to his office to eat our lunch. I was relieved because I know I would have embarrassed L with my banh mi photo shoot. However, even in the privacy of his office, I could sense L was nervous. His eyes darted around as the crumbs and carrots started to fall on the table. L is sensitive to food smells, so I think he was worried I’d drop the subs on the floor, which would definitely leave an odour behind. Personally, I would love to work in an environment that smelled like my most favourite food in the world. Lucky for him, no sub was injured in the making of this blog post and I left his office stink free. 

The baguette was soft and squishy, significantly lighter than Saigon Deli and Trung Nguyen. The generous amount of beef was hot, saucy and sweet. I enjoyed the gooeyness of the melted white cheese and the texture of the ribbon-like cucumbers. The carrots, red onions and jalapeño provided a crunch that help to balance out the soft texture of the beef. 

How does this sub compare to all the other banh mi heavy hitters? The vegetables were fresh, but the carrots weren’t pickled. Size-wise, this sub is packed with more meat than even My Tho, To Me Sub and MyMy Sub. L prefers the texture and taste of the beef at Bake Chef over Saigon Deli, which he finds too dry. Bake Chef’s sub is also the most filling – I was stuffed for the next five hours. The bread is light and dry, so the sub gets soggy rather quickly. The addition of the lettuce and cheese makes Bake Chef’s sate beef sub the least authentic, but that doesn’t matter to me, as the overall flavour is great. 

If you can, get out for the advanced vote. The ballot process this year is more complicated than previous elections. There are two ballots – a municipal and a provincial ballot. As well, voters will be asked to  vote on adding fluoride to our water, select nominees for the Senate of Canada and vote on referendums about equalization payments and Daylight-Saving Time.

17th Ave · Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Vietnamese

Thai Tai – Date night 8 of 19

I met Pedals at National on 17th Ave for half price wine. I picked National because I wanted to get a banh mi at Thai Tai after our night out. I’m always thinking ahead. For this post, let’s listen to “Papa Don’t Preach” by Madonna.

I haven’t eaten at Thai Tai before because I heard the food is westernized. However, I stumbled on a post on Instagram and the cold cut sub looked good enough for me.

I ordered a Cold Cut ($7.99) on toasted white bread with carrots, cucumber, onions, and chili peppers. When my sandwich was ready, I sat outside to eat. When I took the first bite, I grunted in appreciation. The guy sitting across from me that shot me a weird look, like I was ruining his late night meal.

The combination of the warm crusty sub and the coolness of the meat and pickled vegetables was so overwhelmingly delicious, my eyes rolled to the back of my head.  It’s incredible how much joy a banh mi can give me. The ratio of meat to vegetable and bread was spot on. The thick layers of meat are double that of Trung Nguyen and Thi Thi. The pate is so subtle that I didn’t really notice it. However, I found the special sauce of garlic, chili soy sauce and sriracha bright and savoury.

I called an Uber after I ate, but I still craving something. I spoke to an employee and told him my predicament. He said he had some spring rolls I could take from another order. He just made a friend for life. The vegetable spring rolls were awesome. When I arrived home, the shell was crunchy and the filling was still super-hot. I liked that I was given fish sauce, hot sauce and plum sauce.

Colour is really weird because I took this picture in my Uber.

L said when I came upstairs, I ranted for a good twenty minutes about how much I enjoyed my sub and spring rolls before falling into a deep sleep. The two glasses of wine I consumed earlier may have intensified my enthusiasm for Thai Tai. In any case, I plan to return and try the cold cut again, so my next review won’t be influenced by outside factors.

My next stop is Bake Chef at the University of Calgary. L and I are going to the advance vote so we can support mayoral candidate Jyoti Gondek. While I’m there, I’m going to pick up a banh mi for date night nine out of 19.

Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Thai Thien – Date 7 of 19

I met up with Reeves at Cactus Club. Before I left my house to meet her, I looked up restaurants that would be open after our girls’ night. I spotted Thai Thien (formerly Thai Tai Sub) on 811 1 ST SW. I figured it was the perfect opportunity to have banh mi date night #7 out of 19. For this post, let’s listen to “You Were Meant For Me” by Jewel.

Cactus Club has half price wine on Tuesday and Wednesday. We drank some wine and Reeves ordered calamari. I nibbled on some of the hot peppers, but I was saving my appetite for the main course – a banh mi. I read the Google and Yelp reviews of Thai Thien beforehand so I didn’t have the highest expectation. I incorrectly assumed that a place like Thai Thien, one that caters to the downtown work crowd and tourists, wouldn’t have pate in their assorted sub ($4.99). I was happy to find out I was wrong.

I requested a white baguette as I read in the reviews that the brown version is too doughy. I found the interior of the bread soft and light. The cucumber was quartered and each piece was noticeably crisp and fresh. The carrots are pickled and crunchy. The sliced onions gave off a pleasing pungency. I counted two layers of cold cuts. Next time I would request extra meat to balance out the heavy ratio of cucumber. I appreciate the generous layers of pate, mayonnaise and butter, which I think is Thai Thien’s strong suit.

How does this cold cut compare to the other banh mi heavy hitters? Size-wise, the sub is similar to Trung Nguyen and Kim Anh. The flavour of Thai Thien’s pate tasted like Freybe’s pork pate, which gave the sub a westernized twist. I much prefer Xích Lô, Banh Mi Nhu Y, and My Tho BBQ’s pate. Thai Thien gives the least amount of meat but considering the rock bottom prices and the high rent location, I’m fine with paying a little extra to get some more meat. In terms of taste, Saigon Deli, Banh Mi Nhu Y, Xích Lô, Trung Nguyen, and Thi Thi offer a more traditional sub, which I prefer. Price-wise, this sub is an awesome deal, especially considering Thai Thien convenient hours and prime location in the downtown core.

The next week, I tried the Charbroiled Pork Sub ($6.25). Damn, this one is even better than the cold cut. The meat was seared on the outside and juicy on the inside. The ratio of meat to vegetable was perfect. The vegetables were fresh and crunchy. Every single bite contained that delicious balance of savoury, sweet and spicy.

For an inner city sub, you can’t get a better deal. I was stuffed and blissfully happy for only six bucks. Hitting the Sauce gives That Thien two phat thumbs up. Thai Thien is open from Monday to Saturday, from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Vietnamese

Xích Lô Street Food – Date 6 of 19

For banh mi date #6, I checked out Xích Lô Street Food (pronounced sic-low). I’ve been wanting to check out this Vietnamese food stand in Eau Claire ever since John M posted it on Instagram. For this post, let’s listen to “Sick Love” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

I ordered a Beef Sate Sub ($9) and a Cold Cut Sub ($9). While I waited, I chatted with Rick, the co-owner of Xích Lô. I learned the pate Rick makes is made from chicken liver and cognac. Everything in the subs is homemade except for the baguette, which Rick buys daily from a banh mi distributor. I noticed Xích Lô sells an assortment of steamed buns, which he informed me is one of his most popular dishes. 

These subs are bigger than the norm. I can tell because I could barely hold all the subs in my hand. During my photo shoot, I lost some of the daikon and carrot garnish. What I won’t do for my blog.

Xích Lô’s cold cut sub is a cut above the norm. How good is the cold cut sub? This banh mi is so phenomenal that when I was eating my sub, I felt like I was making love to it. There’s something special about the cold cut sub and I think it’s the combination of the meats, pate and sauces. The pate is silky smooth, with a rich mellow flavour. The homemade mayonnaise is thick and decadent, and only adds to the richness of the pate.

I was impressed with the freshness and quality of the three meats. I counted four layers of cold cuts. The amount of meat to bread and vegetables was proportional. I noticed the drizzle of Rick’s soy based sauce permeated throughout each bite.

The daikon and carrot are finely minced, so you got all the pickled flavour but none of that trademark crunch. I still got that satisfying chomp from purple onions, jalapeños and dry peanuts. The sriracha gave a warm heat that countered the tartness of the pickled vegetables.

I tried a bite of L’s sub and I noticed the fragrance and flavour of lemongrass. The beef was sliced thin, and each piece was soft and tender. L usually only eats sate beef subs but he after tasting my sub, he prefers the cold cut.

How does this cold cut compare to the other banh mi heavy hitters? Xích Lô subs are more filling than Trung Nyguen and Hue Thuong but not as densely laden with meats as My Tho BBQ, To Me Sub, or MyMy Sub.

For the smooth texture of cucumbers and crunch factor of the vegetables, I like Thi Thi and Obanhmi.  Xích Lô baguette is light and crusty, but the soft chew of Saigon Deli‘s bread and the buttery crustiness of Trung Nguyen win by a margin. In terms of taste, Xích Lô cold cut meats tie with Saigon Deli and My Tho. Without a doubt, Xích Lô offers the best pate I’ve tried in Calgary.

Hitting the Sauce gives Xích Lô two phat thumbs up and this food stall is making it on my list of best restaurants in Calgary. Pro tip – note that due to all the sauces and the minced carrots and daikon, these subs are best eaten immediately. Xích Lô is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Vietnamese

Hue Thuong – Date 5 of 19

L and I were running errands on Sunday. Since we were already in Inglewood, he suggested we go on banh mi date #5 of 19. Hubba hubba, he sure knows the way to my heart. For this post, let’s listen to “Can’t Remember to Forget You” by Shakira and Rihanna.

I saw Miss Foodie’s post on Hue Thuong in Forest Lawn. When I checked the online menu, I noticed Hue Thuong offers banh mi. I’m glad I called ahead of time because the restaurant was packed with customers enjoying steaming bowls of bun bo hue. The person who answered the phone was polite and customer service-oriented. When he realized I was in a rush and I was hesitant to wait 30 minutes, he said he would ask the chef to bump my order up. I ordered the Grilled Beef Sub ($6.55) and the Grilled Chicken Sub ($6.55). Currently, Hue Thuong is offering a promotion – each sub comes with a complimentary can of pop.

Despite the twenty-minute ride, both subs were warm when we arrived home. The baguette took on some condensation from the bag, but the bread was still good – light and chewy.

The chicken was tender, cut into nice meaty chunks. The pickled carrots and daikon were sweet. I could taste butter on the bread. I noticed both subs were lacking cucumber. No biggie, as I didn’t miss it with the addition of the sauteed white and green onions.

The beef was soft with a bit of a chew to it. I read Hue Thuong uses a homemade soy and hot sauce. We really enjoyed the spicy sauce in the meat as it reminded me of sate beef in pho. L preferred the beef, but I like both subs equally.

What Hue Thuong has over other banh mi shops is the meat taste like it is freshly prepared for every order. Pricewise, the sub with a pop is one of the best banh meal deals in Calgary. Sizewise, I found Hue Thuong more filling than Trung Nguyen but not as big as Thi Thi, To Me Subs or My Tho BBQ. Tastewise, Hue Thuong’s banh mi has more a restaurant flavour to it, similar to Pure Modern Asian Kitchen. I’m think this has to do how the meat is made in a restaurant kitchen compared to the heavy prep work involved in a banh mi shop.

I want to go back and try the bun bo hue, as well as the other dishes Miss Foodie recommended – the dumplings, rice cakes and baby clams. I have a feeling the food is similar to Song Huong, another of my favourite restaurants in Calgary. To be continued.

Cheap Eats · Chinatown

Lucky Place

Ms Biz and I met up for lunch at Lucky Place in Chinatown. I love going out with Ms Biz. Her extensive knowledge of Chinese cuisine and history is amazing. Every foodie needs a friend like her. For this post, let’s listen to “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” by Cake.

Ms Biz brought her own jasmine tea to the restaurant. She buys all her tea from a tea distributor in Richmond, BC. She gifted me a premium jar of tea to enjoy at home.

Ms Biz asked me if I wanted my usual – beef shank and tendon on double fried chow mein, shrimp dumpling with wood ear mushrooms, pork and preserved egg congee, and Thai style fried rice noodles. I asked her if we could try something different, so I could write about something new. She ordered Green Beans with Fried Rice Cakes in XO Sauce ($12.95) and a special order of Squid, Fermented Shrimp Paste & Chinese Greens ($16.95).

There are three things you need to know about Lucky Place. First, if you can’t speak Cantonese, it’s better to come to the restaurant and point at the English menu. Second, you have to be patient. Usually it is just the owners doing everything, from taking orders, serving, clearing dishes and cooking. Third, the food is about substance, not style. You don’t get off on the appearance but the taste of the food. The wok hei (breath of fire) is on point, and this is the sole reason you should visit Lucky Place.

The squid is scored, resulting in a bouncy but not chewy texture. The shrimp paste gives off umami, similar to the effect anchovy provides in proper Caesar salad. We noticed lots of fresh ginger in the sauce, which Ms Biz says help to tame the salty pungency in the shrimp paste. The stems of the choy sum was juicy and sweet.

When the rice cake dish arrived, the steam was still rising from the plate. The rice cakes were warm and chewy, soft and glutinous. We enjoyed the flavour off the deep caramelization on the rice cakes and the charred flavour on the beans. The beans were sweet and crunchy, sprinkled with ground pork. Ms Biz says when she comes to Lucky Place, she will always order the stir fry so she can enjoy the flavour of the wok. I agree. No one can cook vegetables better than a wok hei master.

For our next lunch, Ms Biz wants to check out South Block Barbecue and Brewing. I said yes, but I had to hide my disappointment. Whenever I see her, I always want to go to a Chinese restaurant because she seems to knows every owner and server in the community, and therefore can special order dishes I can’t get otherwise. However, for her, I’m willing to branch out and try something new.

Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Vietnamese

Obanhmi- Date two of 19

L wanted to knock off number two of the 19 banh mi dates he promised me. Since I was already in Inglewood getting a dermal infusion, I suggested he order our dinner from Obanhmi in Dover.  I specifically asked L for the classic assorted sub ($5.50) and not the deluxe assorted ($7.50) sub. The deluxe version has pork belly and that would put my Noom app in a tizzy. For this post, let’s listen to “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers.

When L picked me up, he asked me if I knew banh mi means bread in English. I said no, I just assumed banh mi was a Vietnamese sandwich. I asked him how he knew and he said there are informative signs posted all over the shop. He smugly added that while I asked for an assorted sub, it was actually called a cold cut. I bit back the urge to tell him no one likes a know-it-all but then I realized it actually turned me on that he knew more about Vietnamese subs than me.

L relished his Beef Sate ($7.50) sub. He thought the beef was flavourful, and not in the generic peanutty way. He noted the beef wasn’t evenly distributed, so one side of the sub had lots of beef and the other side had barely any. We both liked how the carrots, daikon, and onions were pickled. Each vegetable was crunchy and wet, tart and sweet at the same time.

My cold cut contained four layers of assorted meats. The baguette was delightful – the interior was light and fluffy and the outside crackled when I bite into it. The pate was subtle and buttery. I liked how the cucumber was sliced into thin, crisp ribbons. This is a saucy sub – the juices from the pickled vegetables mingled with the mayonnaise and pate.

How does Obanhmi compare to all the other banh mi joints? Obanhmi gives more meat than Trung Nguyen and Thi Thi, but not as much as Saigon Deli. However, Obanhmi is more generous than Saigon Deli with the butter, pate and vegetables. Size wise, Obahmi subs are bigger than Kim Anh and Trung Nguyen but not as stuffed as To Me Sub or My Thou BBQ. Personally, I thought the pickled vegetables and crusty baguette give Obanhmi a slight edge over some of their competitors.

Note: L said I was going to drop the subs taking this picture. I didn’t, but I took this picture over the counter in case the subs fell out of my hand.

I’d rank this banh mi up there with all the other heavy hitters – Saigon Deli, Banh Mi Nhu Y, Trung Nguyen, My Thou, and Thi Thi. Pro tip – sign up for the point system. Accumulate ten points and you get a free sub. Hitting the Sauce gives Obanhmi two phat thumbs up.