Dished Neighbourhood Gems: Calgary's Kensington-Sunnyside

Nov 24 2022, 5:00 pm

Calgary is home to some amazing gems, longstanding classics, and under-the-radar establishments when it comes to stellar food and beverage. 

We’re doing the digging for you by highlighting the best local destinations to check out in each neighbourhood (if you haven’t already).

Here are our Dished Neighbourhood Gems for Kensington-Sunnyside.


Every city seems to have that one charming community that’s perfect for a Sunday stroll, a slow-moving brunch hangout, or the ideal place to take the family when they’re in town for a visit. In Calgary, that’s the community of Kensington-Sunnyside.

It really only feels like two long and intersecting streets (10th Street and Kensington Road) once you cross the Louise Bridge, but there are so many shops to explore, local businesses, and of course, plenty of food spots.

There are iconic streets like Stephen Avenue that feel mostly made up of chain restaurants (nothing wrong with that, just saying), or 17th Avenue that seems to change by day (easygoing, friendly) and night (vibrant, busy). It’s Kensington-Sunnyside where you go for locally owned spots that feel like staples in the community.

There’s peace here. Cafes aren’t lined up outside the door with people eagerly waiting to grab a caramel latte with oat milk extra foam extra hot before they head to work. Lunchtime isn’t filled with business people in suits asserting their dominance over the cheque. People come here to enjoy their time, and it starts with incredible places to grab a bite.

From some of the best pizza-by-the-slice in the city to upscale pubs, this area is a food lover’s paradise.

There’s no way we could mention them all, but here are some of our favourite food and drink gems in Calgary’s Kensington-Sunnyside neighbourhood.

Upscale pub: Free House

 

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Free House offers patrons a casual atmosphere with a great selection of beers and a food menu that “focuses on North American Cuisine​.” In many ways, it also feels like the best version of what pub food can be.

There are still the staples of snack food, handheld options, pizzas, and more. The thing is, the snack food includes items like ricotta toast with honey pistachios and black pepper, handles options like a famous Cubano sandwich, and the pizzas are flatbreads, like the Duke of Earl with wild boar bacon, sausage, salami, and calabrese.

There is also one of the best charcuterie boards in Calgary here, ordering a la carte items like duck rillette, candied salmon, and oak with candied pecan and maple syrup.

Address: 1153 Kensington Crescent NW, Calgary
Phone: 403-452-1339

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Contemporary sushi: Shijo Sushi

 

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Shijo Sushi offers traditional Japanese fine dining that always feels welcoming and cozy, mostly because it’s in the heart of Kensington.

The menu frequently changes, but every dish always feels like a contemporary take on the classics. Each plate is extremely Instagrammeable here too, with creative ways of plating and decorating the plate.

The menu is always made simple, usually just appetizers and a list of rolls, but it’s anything but basic. If this spot was in the heart of downtown, it would be packed every day, but because it’s here it feels like a vibrant gem to be enjoyed by the community.

Address: 1240 Kensington Road NW #103, Calgary
Phone: 403-283-4100

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Over-the-counter deli: Sunnyside Natural Market

Simply put, this is the best place in Calgary to grab pizza by the slice.

The kitchen team here has perfected a dough that feels light and airy like one of the bakery’s amazing loaves of bread. Using this dough, topped with unique and delicious ingredients for interesting flavour combinations, two styles of pizza are cooked throughout the day in the oven.

One of the pizzas will always have meat, and one of them will always be vegetarian, and both of them are always worth ordering.

Chicken sausage with grapes, mozzarella, and pickled jalapeños could easily be a pizza recipe drawn on the chalkboard here. Honey-roasted cauliflower with miso mushrooms and cheddar could be as well.

There are also tasty treats, housemade soups and sauces, sandwiches, and more.

Address: 338 10th Street NW Unit 10, Calgary
Phone: 403-270-7477

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Traditional Italian: Pulcinella

Old-school charm and contemporary service and dishes make this Italian spot feel like the best of both worlds.

With a traditional wood-fired oven, it’s the Neapolitan pizzas that continue to have people recommend this spot. There are over 20 to choose from, all coming from an appreciation for the classics, from the Margherita to the Quattro Stagioni made with tomato sauce, mozzarella, prosciutto cotto, mushroom, artichokes, anchovies, parmigiano, and basil.

The team takes pride in the pasta here too, so make sure to come hungry and at least split one of them. The lasagna is made with ground veal and pork in a tomato bĂ©chamel sauce. Luckily you don’t need to decide on pasta or pizza, just go for both.

Address: 1147 Kensington Crescent NW, Calgary
Phone: 403-283-1166

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Cozy date vibes: Winebar Kensington

 

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What’s cozier than wine service, small plates, and charcuterie, especially with great company?

It’s one of our favourite dining atmospheres, especially when done so in Kensington-Sunnyside.

Grab a seat in this cozy spot where you can rosé all day or mix it up and try out the Moscatos, merlots, or malbecs. Also in the house are pinots, cab savs, chardonnays, and a Bordeaux blend, along with plenty more.

Creating your own charcuterie board to pair with your glass of vino is highly recommended. Build the board with whatever kinds of cheese sound good to you, like a rich and salty Secret Du Compostelle to go perfectly with dry-cured Spanish pork.

It’s also a short walk from here to the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, so dinner and a show are all set in this neighbourhood.

Address: 1131 Kensington Road NW, Calgary
Phone: 403-457-1144

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Bold Mexican: Tu Taco

 

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Every community needs a great taco spot. There are fewer foods that go so perfectly for a quick lunch or a dinner date.

Marcela Ezeta, the owner of Tu Taco, was born and raised in Toluca, Mexico, and is proud of her heritage. She’s also delighted to share her favourite secret family recipes and delicious, modern street food with YYC and the Kensington-Sunnyside area.

Tu Taco is known for its house-made corn tortillas, street tacos, tostadas, and burritos. Guests can also enjoy birria tacos, churro bites, churro cones, and cocktails.

Address: 1414 Kensington Road NW #102, Calgary
Phone: 403-283-0137

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Outdoor hangout: Container Bar

 

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This is the hipster entry on the list.

Many people might complain that Calgary doesn’t have a cool pop-up or high-concept bars like other major cities, and yet Container Bar is right here in Kensington.

Serving upscale snacks, burgers, and drinks out of a shipping container, this interesting space is also hidden away in an alley. All of the menu items sound like pub fare, like the burger and fries, but are twisted into something new (choice of crow, tofu bahn mi, or spicy crow burger).

The wings here include kinds like adobe, braised in soy and vinegar with caramelized onion and garlic chips, and also chipotle and coconut wings.

Don’t worry — there are heaters.

Address: 1131 Kensington Road NW, Calgary
Phone: 403-457-4148

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Mediterranean fare: Vendome

 

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Even though this spot comes from the team that brought YYC some of the most well-known and loved restaurants, it still feels like Vendome is completely underrated.

From Teatro Group, Vendome serves refined Mediterranean-style dishes out of a historic building. With mezze platters, pasta dishes, and main entrees like the slow braised beef rib, dinner here is fantastic, but it’s the brunch that feels ignored — at least by people not familiar with this community.

Even just the standard Sunnyside breakfast here comes with three eggs, two strips of bacon, two pieces of sausage, smoked brisket, marinated artichoke and tomato, Alforno multigrain toast, Boursin hollandaise, and seasoned hash browns.

If you’d rather have something sweet, go for the French toast cubes with apricot custard and whipped cream.

Address: 940 2nd Avenue NW, Calgary
Phone: 403-453-1140

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50s-style burger joint: Flippn’ Burgers

 

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It would be easy to completely miss the spot on a casual stroll down 10th Street. It’s small, unassuming, and essentially windowless, but that’s why we love this hip burger joint. There’s a rare charm to a place that doesn’t seem to care until it’s obvious they do with the food.

Serving flame-broiled burgers, stepping through the doors here is like stepping into a 50s dive diner. The menu includes all of the burger choices you’d expect, and some fun ones like the signature double beef burger with melted cheddar and Swiss cheese, crispy onions, sautĂ©ed mushrooms, beef bacon, and Flipp’n sauce.

Address: 330 10th Street NW, Calgary
Phone: 403-474-9365

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Craft cookies: Chunk’d

 

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Chunk’d is so good with such fun branding that it would be easy to assume it’s a chain dessert spot with tons of money behind it.

This Kensington-Sunnyside store is actually the only one locally owned.

There are pre-orders and delivery options, or you can just walk right in and choose any type of cookie to take with you while you walk from food spot to food spot. Chunk’d is known for serving cookies that are topped with interesting ingredients and filling found on the inside.

These hefty and stuffed cookies are loaded with toppings like M&Ms, chocolate chips, candy-coated pieces, and peanut butter cups, to name a few.

Address: 330 10th Street NW, Calgary
Phone: 403-764-7558

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Board games: Hexagon Cafe

Board game bars and cafes are not necessarily new concepts, but Hexagon Cafe is a special one. There are over 1000 games to choose from, and the staff that work here all seem to be experts on every single one.

If you ever run into an argument over the rules, the team here will likely be able to help.

Order any espresso-style coffee drink or some of the snacks while you play.

Address: 1140 Kensington Road NW #200, Calgary
Phone: 403-209-2881

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Fried chicken icon: Chicken on the Way

There are nine locations for this popular spot, and Kensington-Sunnyside is one of them.

The bold yellow and red colours are what draw many people to this spot, and the classic fried chicken menu has everyone coming back. The aesthetic is like something out of a Tarantino movie.

Fried chicken, fish, fritters and fries are the specialty, and we suggest ordering a box that has it all.

Address: 1443 Kensington Road NW, Calgary
Phone: 403-283-5545

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If you have a neighbourhood gem in or around the city that you want to shine a spotlight on, let us know at [email protected]. 

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