Calgary’s best student-friendly budget bites
By Bella Coco, Staff Writer
When it comes to searching for a bite, the food and restaurant choices can be overwhelming. But for students, the price point can be the biggest determining factor of where they might treat themselves next.
As a student, on a budget, who considers herself a foodie, I took it upon myself to explore the Calgary landscape for budget-friendly gems. Or, should I say, jams.
The first restaurant I visited was Jams Diner, a charming breakfast joint nestled in the heart of Inglewood. The diner boasts quality and demonstrates such, with homemade jams, hot sauce, and brilliantly crafted dishes.
After I did some pricing research online, I arrived at Jams on New Year’s Day with my girlfriend, a self-proclaimed breakfast connoisseur.
The place was packed, but our timing was lucky and we were seated right away. Our server popped by to take drink orders—a vanilla latte and plain coffee, $5 and $3.50, respectively—and offered complimentary banana bread to make up for a lengthy wait time.
I ordered the spicy maple BLT with a side of hash browns which was $17, and my girlfriend ordered the double french toast with hash browns for $15.50. The menu provided price points ranging from $13 to $20 meals.
Needless to say, our breakfasts were polished off in record time. The wait time became even more understandable when Jams’ boasts about quality revealed themselves to be true. The spicy maple BLT was crispy, fresh, and refreshingly unique with the tinge of spice provided by the maple-flavored bacon. The hash browns came in patty form and paired perfectly with Jams’ playful house-made jalapeño-mango hot sauce.
The total came to $41 before tax and tip, for both meals and beverages. The service was kind and consistent, and the meals guaranteed that my visit to Jams would not be the last. For pricing and quality, I gave Jams a 4 out of 5.
My next stop was a charming street-style Italian place, Via Cibo, which quite literally translates to street food. This time I took my mother, who shares my love for Italian food. As a half-Italian, I knew I’d be picky about a place that presents fresh and local ingredients. But as a student, I gravitated towards their $10 lunch specials and $13 pizzas from a wood-burning oven.
I ordered the pollo parmigiana—the chicken parmesan sandwich—with a side Caesar salad and a beverage for $18, while my mom ordered the linguini with rosé for $15. After a pleasantly short wait time, our food arrived.
My pollo parmigiana was bigger than my head and each bite packed a punch with melted mozzarella, tomato sauce, and tender breaded chicken. The linguini proved to be a force to be reckoned with. The rosé was delectably creamy and was complimented with spinach and sliced grape tomatoes. Each bite was delectable and more filling than the last. For price and taste, Via Cibo earned a 4 out of 5.
Last but certainly not least, I visited a perhaps more popular chain, Noodle King Vietnamese Restaurant. Noodle King had the biggest selection of menu items compared to Jams and Via Cibo, but the taste and prices still had to be put to the test.
This time I flew solo and decided to feast on spicy sate beef salad rolls—which cost $5 for 2 rolls—and the vermicelli bowl with beef for $14.75. The wait time was impressively short, and the service was bright.
The salad rolls gave me a run for my money with spice as my tolerance has never been spectacular, but were bursting with flavor. The peanut sauce paired with the rolls was good enough to drink on its own. The vermicelli bowl was loaded with goodies like noodles, tender strips of beef, pickled carrots, cucumbers, bean sprouts, shredded lettuce, fish sauce, and topped generously with pork spring rolls.
For $19.75 before tax, Noodle King earned itself a 5 out of 5 for price, taste, and quantity. I happily took my leftovers home and enjoyed them hours later.