Top Restaurants in Lethbridge

Written by Nathaniel Malong

There is an alluring sensation to local restaurants compared to multinational fast food enterprises that enhance the experience beyond the monotony of dining. Sometimes, if you feel fancy that day, you just sit down in your home and eat instant ramen, microwaved dinner, or Kraft Mac and Cheese. Occasionally, we take the quality of our food and the dining experience for granted, where our yearning for exploration comes from, to discover new experiences to satiate our palettes and senses. Even with my strict diet for my physique and an efficient workout session, I still like to explore my options and check out some of the local restaurants in Lethbridge. I don’t get to explore most restaurants in big cities because of their price and enormity, but I do here because of their size, price, and the time I had over the summer. So, if you’re looking for some good places to eat here, take inspiration from my dining experiences in most restaurants in Lethbridge. I have not gone to all the restaurants here because some are downright expensive for a university student, or they’re fast food places I try to avoid eating at. But I have tried enough to have a good sample size of the restaurants here and make an adequate listing. I will exclude franchises and multinational food corporations because they are normal, but if you want, I can do a top ten fast food restaurant list next time. I have not tried every item on the menus, but I have at least tried them more than once and explored the menu thoroughly. This is not just based on the taste of the food; it is a significant factor, but also on the service and friendliness. I have travelled the world to taste eccentric and unique cuisines; however, in my stay at Lethbridge, exploring the world through a vast array of cuisines and restaurants is enough for me to catch up on those times. 

  1. Tacos made in Mexico

This will be controversial because I only ate here twice, but the food here is one of the best Mexican foods I’ve ever had. I am not a Mexican food connoisseur, but I liked it because it reminded me more of Mexican food back home. I had Tacos de Pollos and Milanesa as my lunch for my first meal at the restaurant. The tacos de polos are soft-shelled with marinated chicken, bell peppers, and onions. However, what made the tacos stand out to me was the sauce that accompanied them. The tacos were great, and they inspired me to make my own in my kitchen, but I could improve. The Milanesa is a sandwich type with beef and cheese as its filling, and when I had it, it was terrific. I felt like I was on a dairy farm in the middle of Alberta, tending to my cattle and wheat. The taste reminded me of a long day at work and the satisfaction you receive when you finish. Granted, my only experience in farming was a field trip I took in high school, helping local farmers in rice fields in the Philippines, but the experience warrants that description. The churros were terrific, too, not too sweet like some other churros I’ve had. I have extreme opinions about churros because they’re hard to perfect. Generally, they are relatively easy to make, but it takes work to be good. 

I cannot give this restaurant more praise than I could. The owner and staff are also very kind and friendly, and they have generally been accommodating to all the other customers I see. I recommend this place, and in the grand scheme of the restaurants I’ve had, I give it a 9/10.

  1. Hickory Street 

Ribs and North American food are contentious topics for me, so I was delightfully surprised by the food Hickory Street had to offer. I have extreme opinions about food from the Americas (North and South America) because, even though I am Filipino, it has always been my comfort food, both at home and outside. I remember my time in Houston, Texas, where I tried various local and South American foods. Therefore, when I discovered and tried Hickory Street near Osho downtown, I could not have received a better reminder of home. When I first went in, I was surprised at how huge the restaurant was. It looks like a small quaint restaurant from the outside, but inside is a big restaurant that could accommodate so many people. When I ordered the ribs they are well known for, I felt like I was transported back to Texas, where I found myself getting some of these ribs in Houston. I loved the meat that Hickory Street offers, and it led me back to memories that contrasted Canada’s cold. The fries were also excellent, breaking my top 5 fries list. Listen, I know this sounds weird, but I loved to eat before I used to go to the gym. Anyway, again, the ribs were excellent, and it impressed me. Maybe I am not a rib connoisseur, and I will grant you that, but it reminded me of a good Texas meal I still remember. The family who runs the restaurant are also some of the nicest people I have ever met, and they made me feel accommodated and at home in the restaurant. I even ordered another rack of ribs because of the combination of these factors, disregarding my strict diet. Check them out when you crave ribs, meat, and any food indicative of North American meat culture. I give them an 8.5/10

  1. KOKO Japanese Restaurant

I cannot leave my favourite comfort spot in Lethbridge out of the top three. I have three spots in Lethbridge that remind me of home or places I know the people I know don’t really go to, so I can get some personal time. KOKO Japanese restaurant is one of these places, and thankfully, they also serve pretty good food. Japanese cuisine is one of my favourite cuisines of all time, second only to Chinese food, and with that amount of pressure on the cuisine in itself, I also have extreme opinions about it. However, the food at KOKO reminds me of the local Japanese restaurants back home, which were really good, too. I always order their salmon/tuna sashimi don, miso soup, and agedashi tofu, which are always comforting during a sad or happy day. The couple who runs it are also such sweet people, and I always feel so glad when people recognize me whenever I go. However, the show’s star is the sushi and the maki, which are always impeccable. I always imagine myself being a sailor catching a giant bluefin tuna in the middle of the Pacific. A storm captivates my crew and me as we hustle for the best fish possible. I cannot recommend this place more, and I highly recommend this place not only to get great Japanese food but also to feel comfortable. 8.5/10

  1. Penny Coffee House 

Coffee has become a big part of my life ever since the scourge of University; coffee has become a small hobby I pursue. Penny Coffee House has become one of my favourite places to receive quality coffee compared to multinational corporations like Starbucks or Tim Hortons. Compared to these restaurants, their coffee does not taste burnt and tastes like how coffee really should be. However, some things stand out to me, even with the amazing coffee and tea that the Penny Coffee House makes. The sandwiches are an incredible delight that leaves every taste fulfilled and every comfort possible. Especially the Portobello sandwich, which tastes like heaven. The combination of their great coffee and portobello sandwich has awakened a sensation I could only describe as a good night’s rest. Penny Coffee House has one of the best sandwiches in town; I could not compare it to anything else. 8/10.

  1. Mango Tree 

I love Indian food, and I live for Indian food. I remember going to Singapore and visiting Little India near Bukit Timah Road (man, I really miss Singapore). Anyway, I remember seeing this small Indian community and visiting their food court area, where they served one of the best Indian foods I’ve ever had. Ever since then, I have been trying out more Indian restaurants and becoming more familiar with the cuisine in its entirety. The only reason why Mango Tree is this low on the list is because I’ve only tried it once, and they always have satisfied me. I remember ordering their Samosas, Garlic Naan, and, of course, Lamb Biryani rice. Not only was the food delicious, but the portions were massive and worth the price. The Lamb Biryani was the show’s star, reminding me of when my friends and I laughed over some jokes at that little table in Little India. It was amazing and brought back good memories associated with that cuisine. This restaurant left a massive impression on me, and I will remind myself to return when I need that memory of Singapore again. 7.8/10

  1. Spring Rolls

Vietnamese food is also one of my favourite cuisines of all time. My three favourite cuisines of all time consist of Asian delicacies, as I have traversed Asia, experiencing sensual and spiritual experiences with their food. This does not exclude Vietnamese food, which provides me with not only a sense of wonder but a sense of comfort as well. So it’s no surprise that Spring rolls would give me that same experience while at the same time providing me with the sense of home I seek living so far away from my home. Comparing it to some of the other Vietnamese restaurants I’ve been frequenting in Calgary or Lethbridge, nothing else can compare. As usual, I always order the Pho, and the fresh ingredients and broth bring it together to create one of the best Pho I’ve had. I also heavily associate Vietnamese food with childhood memories when my mother always brought me to this local Vietnamese shop with a restaurant and a little shop for Vietnamese goods. I also love their Vietnamese coffee, which I cannot find anywhere else, but to my surprise, it is always great. The family who runs it is lovely, too, and reminds me of some of the people from back home who would always accommodate me and my family in local restaurants. 7.5/10. 

  1. Kuya Will and Tobias

Yeah, so we end with a Filipino restaurant. Big surprise: I am Filipino. And as a Filipino who used to roam the provinces just to taste some local restaurants, I have an authoritative opinion about Filipino food. Filipino food in itself is fantastic. But Kuya Will and Tobit have some significant highlights that take the cake regarding their food. Their Bicol Express and sisig taste like home, even with a bit of extra spiciness that I would typically not tolerate back home, but somehow I do here. However, the best meal from Kuya Will’s is their Bulalo, which is very, very, VERY hard to perfect. This place has one of the best Bulalo I’ve ever had, and I have been to many places in the Philippines that serve banger Bulalos. For context, Bulalo is a beef stew mixed in with peaches, potatoes, and corn. Very good for cold weather or if you’re sick with a cold. The stew is also low in fat but has a fair bit of sodium. It is a dish THAT IS so hard to make and perfect that only specific regions in the Philippines have easily made Bulalo, and most taste mediocre or just good. However, the Bulalo in Kuya Will’s and Tobias is unique, and I was surprised by its quality when I tried it in the summer. For that reason, and many others, including the friendliness and familiarity with the staff, I also rate it a 7.4/10. The only thing stopping it from rising on the list is that they need more Filipino classics. However, that does not stop it from being a fantastic restaurant.

Conclusion

I have been to half of the restaurants within Lethbridge and have liked almost all of them. I used to be a picky eater, but I grew out of it; however, that doesn’t mean I can’t accurately find the diamonds in the rough. Most of my food options are out of sentimental factors from my childhood and young adulthood. As you can see from the list, I describe many memories I associate with those foods that help me rank them higher than the rest. That is because food is not just about the taste or the dining experience but to which memories it references. I have eaten in many places around Asia and tried a lot of food from different restaurants, both big and small. My opinion is just that, an opinion, and if you disagree, then check them out yourself and make your own listing. Or, if you do agree, still check them out. It doesn’t hurt to eat out once in a while.

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