The final setup for the 2023 edition of Taste of Calgary is complete, and now Calgarians will get a chance to savour the flavours of some of Calgary’s best restaurants and food trucks all in one place.
The festival has grown for 2023, Taking over Calgary Parking Authority Lot 6 (8 Street SW and 3 Avenue SW) and parts of the Bow River Pathway to give ample space for visitors over the August long weekend.
“It’s really exciting. We’ve been setting up for a couple of days now, and to open our gates was pretty exciting for this year,” said Jennifer Rempel, organizer for Taste of Calgary.
She said that the festival heard the feedback from visitors last year, and that meant adding more space, having more seats, creating more shade, and giving attendees more ways to experience the festival.
New for this year was the first ever Taste of Calgary opening ceremonies, which saw a traditional Indigenous blessing and Indigenous dancing, alongside speeches from Mark Garner, Executive Director of the Calgary Downtown Association and Tanya Fir, Minister of Arts, Culture, and Status of Women.
“It looks like we’re going to have an exciting weekend, based on what I’ve seen and walking the space,” said Garner.
“Connecting the riverwalk is going to be huge. Now we’ve got other zones that you can be in.”
He said that Taste of Calgary was one of the key festivals for the Downtown Core Association to help visitors to embrace the idea that the Core is for them, alongside other communities in Calgary, by tasting new restaurants and beverage businesses.
“I think what this does is it allows Calgarians to discover what’s in their community. Then from this, it will generate economics,” Garner said.
“You get to meet them, you make the connections, and that’s what I think will develop the consumer and community confidence that downtown has a lot to offer. This is just sort of the appetizer of what needs to be downtown.”
New alcohol offerings add to cultural experiences
Simply Irie, one of the city’s best restaurants serving Caribbean cuisine, was back for another year with an expanded menu.
Last year the restaurant was using Taste of Calgary as a way to shore up customers against a difficult few years because of the pandemic, but this year said co-owner Pat Bruney, the challenge was just to have enough staff to keep up with demand.
On that expanded menu this year were a number of new alcohol offerings that showcase and complement Caribbean food.
“Hopefully it will bring more customers because, I mean, our stuff is not like anyone else here. No one has rum punch, no one has Red Stripe, and Red Bull and rum—Jamaican rum,” Bruney said.
“Everything is cultural, so hopefully people will enjoy it.”
Local food blogger, food influencer, and marketing professional Chanry Thach said that although she personally doesn’t drink alcohol, as a food marketer she loves the idea of expanded options.
“It is such a great way for a restaurant to, from a business perspective, make a profit, show what they’re capable of, and to kind of open the whole entertainment aspect of dining with them,” Thach said.
“People want to be entertained, and people want to socialize—drinking is a social event.”
A plethora of cultural options to take in
Whether it’s Canadian favourites from Newfoundland, the BBQ of Brazil, to the high cuisine of Europe—this year’s Taste of Calgary has something for just about every palate.
Thach said that when she first visited the festival in 2017, she had no idea that Calgary had such a rich food scene. And today, she said, that has only grown.
“I didn’t realize we had El Salvadorian food, we have tons of Korean, and so many other different cultures and different Mom and Pop restaurants,” she said.
“I got to see everything under one roof. I was blown away. From what it was in 2017 to what is now, it just gets better and better every year.”
She said that the expanded dining areas and more food options are giving Calgarians exactly what they want: A better food experience.
“Eating isn’t just going out and consuming food anymore. It’s an experience. You want to have an event, you want to go and experience what you can’t recreate at home,” Thach said.
“That’s why people are going out to eat. I can go and make hamburgers at home, but I’m not going to be able to make it at this elaborate level. You can have a pizza, burger, corn on the cob, and a mango on a stick all in like three feet of each other. You can’t recreate that at home.”
As for her top tip for this year, the classic mango on a stick is one that everyone should try.
“It’s delicious. It’s so refreshing in this heat. And I know there was a giant squid on a stick that is here, that I love. Those two are on my list right now,” Thach said.
“But I’m definitely going to be eating my way through.”
For a full list of vendors for 2023, see LWC’s coverage of what you need to know to take in Taste of Calgary this year.