Calgary Steak-Out: South St. Burger, Kensington Riverside Inn, Knifewear and Telus Spark

Besides exposing us to some of Calgary’s best restaurants, our YYCSteak Tour also inevitably allowed us to explore some of the other things our southerly neighbour has to offer.

South St. Burger

On our way down to Calgary, we decided to stop at Crossiron Mills for lunch. I had spotted South St. Burger the last time we were there, and this seemed like an opportune time to finally give it a try.

South St. Burger

South St.

We were initially lured by their use of fresh Spring Creek Ranch beef, though the ability to customize each of our burgers wasn’t overlooked as well (something that seems to be all the rage at present, with chains like Five Guys and Rodeo Burger picking up steam in Edmonton).

The system was very similar to what you would encounter at Harveys – customers order and pay first, then are shuffled through a line to have your burger designed. South St. offers almost thirty different toppings, including several different mayos, relishes, and even a mango chutney.

South St. Burger


I ended up just choosing their burger combo ($9.29( while Mack upgraded to the cheeseburger combo ($10.29). Although we liked the size of the patty (much thicker than Five Guys), if they hadn’t made the claim of using fresh patties, we wouldn’t have known otherwise – they appeared to us to have been cooked from frozen. On the side, I have to say I enjoyed the onion rings, even if Mack didn’t.

South St. Burger

Our meal

South St. Burger


As a whole, South St. wasn’t disappointing, but it also wouldn’t be worth a detour either.

Kensington Riverside Inn

Tourism Calgary arranged for us to stay in the Kensington Riverside Inn, a marked departure from our usual high-rise digs in the core. It was a nice change though, as the charming room featured a semi-private patio area, turndown service, and a coffee tray in the morning.

Kensington Riverside Inn

Kensington Riverside Inn

There were also certain advantages to residing in the Kensington neighbourhood. One was its proximity to one of Calgary’s most bustling cafes, Higher Ground (coincidentally, it turned out one of our fellow YYCSteak companions, Dan Clapson, was the coffee shop’s manager).

Higher Ground

Breakfast at Higher Ground

The other was how close we were to the Bow River and its waterside trails. Although the blustery conditions didn’t make it an ideal day for a stroll, we still took some time to explore what the area had to offer.

We took some interest in a pedestrian bridge that was still under construction at that point, called the Peace Bridge. Due to cost overruns and its somewhat avant-garde designs (one local told us that to them, it resembled one of those “Chinese finger traps”). The bridge opened on March 24, 2012 – I can’t wait to cross it the next time we’re in Calgary!

Peace Bridge

Peace Bridge

On our way back to the hotel, we also stumbled across this incredible bird house tree (dubbed the “Urban Bird Timeshare”) in the Sunnyside neighbourhood. What a unique and lovingly-crafted landmark!

Whimsical Tree

Urban Bird Timeshare


We had intentions to do some window shopping in Inglewood, but it turned out most of the boutiques and culinary shops were closed on Mondays. Thankfully, Knifewear, the store that we really wanted to check out, was open!



Specializing in Japanese knives, we had only heard great things about Knifewear. Mack and I have been meaning to get a “real” knife for some time, but knew we wanted to wait until we could get down to Calgary.

The salesperson that assisted us was knowledgeable, and asked us some probing questions so that she could better recommend us a knife that would suit our needs. The best part of the shopping experience was actually getting to try them out! There were tomatoes and potatoes available on cutting boards so customers could get a firsthand feel of what the knife was like to hold and chop with.


Trial station

We ended up with an American-style factory-made knife – I had wanted some familiarity with what we currently use. And after using it for a number of weeks, I can say I am more than happy with the purchase – and I know where I’ll be heading when we need to further upgrade our collection!


Our knife!

Telus Spark

Tourism Calgary also wanted to provide us with an opportunity to check out one of their newest attractions – the brand new Telus Spark, their rebuilt space and science centre. Located in the same area as the Calgary Zoo, there’s no doubt this will be a high-traffic area for visitors to the city.

Telus Spark

Telus Spark

Although the HD digital dome theatre is forthcoming, we were still able to get a good sense of the facility from the permanent galleries that were complete. Without a doubt, the biggest impression it left on us was just how hands on it was.

Telus Spark

Erosion at work

There were a countless number of opportunities for patrons to “play”, including the Being Human, Earth & Sky and Energy and Innovation galleries. One example in the latter space that Mack and I particularly enjoyed was a wall where we could learn how much energy common household appliances would use when left plugged in and idle (for example, a coffee maker uses 305 watts per year).

Telus Spark

How can you prevent brownouts?

The galleries also featured areas where patrons could leave their mark by commenting on an exhibit or answering a posted question. It was neat to see the collected responses – some very heartfelt and personal.

Telus Spark

The wishing tree in the creative kids museum (for children aged eight and under)

The busiest gallery by far during our visit was the Open Studio. It was definitely made with the twenty-first century child in mind, with most of the activities being driven by digital technology. Many of the young patrons we saw were engrossed in animating their own scene – with options to do this digitally, with figurines and on paper.

Telus Spark

Painting with sound!

As a building overall, Telus Spark also has some great function space. Theatres aside, the 10,000 square feet atrium is wonderfully open, with high ceilings and built-in projection, sound and lighting systems. We could see it being used for Pecha Kucha nights in Calgary.

Telus Spark


Telus Spark has also introduced some great events to try and engage unconventional audiences. Their once a month adult-only nights turns the facility into an evening destination, with a DJ, bar, and time and space for adults to get in touch with their childlike curiosity. It’d be neat to see something like this in Edmonton (though I’m not sure the expansion of the Telus World of Science will get us quite there).

In all, it was neat to see what’s possible with a brand new science centre. Check it out the next time you’re in Calgary!

Walk ’til you Drop: CrossIron Mills

With some time to kill before dinner on Friday, we made the most of my conference hotel and venue being on the north edge of Calgary and merged with the weekend traffic towards Balzac.

CrossIron Mills, which holds the distinction of being the largest single-level shopping complex in Alberta, has put Balzac on the map, for better or for worse. Driving into the mall, Mack commented that the surrounding grey, bulldozed landscape reminded him of Mars – barren and void of life. I had to agree, but I am certain that within a year, the empty space will be populated with other big box retail.

Similar to other malls in Calgary like Chinook, anchor tenants are accessible via their own external entrances. This provides great convenience for the focused shopper, though as the centre’s location isn’t really that conducive to a quick stop, the gateways are rendered less effective.


Food court

The mall is divided into six “neighbourhoods”: fashion, ranch, resources, fossil, sport and to come in 2010, entertainment. Each district has a décor scheme that ties that distinguishes that particular wing, with a seating area highlighting the theme.

In the ranch neighbourhood

Sport seating area (with LCD panels up above, and replica trophies)


Pro Hockey Life‘s stick cluster

As far as shops go however, there aren’t that many unique retailers. Jim commented that Cork is a decent wine shop, and I noted that the South St. Burger Co. looks like it is worth checking out, but the majority of stores can be found elsewhere, within transit-accessible city borders.

Mack keeping cool in a pod chair (I can’t recall the name of the furniture store; they had some funky pieces though)

One exception to this statement is the 150,000 square foot Bass Pro Shop – it seriously blew our minds. Stepping into the building that stretched forever upwards, I half-expected Vince Vaughn to pop out, dressed in full-on fishing gear, as if we were on the set of a comedy.

Bass Pro Shop

From the antler-lined entranceway to the the two-storey waterfall, the massive fish-filled tank, and the taxidermy display reminiscent of a wildlife museum, it’s an outdoorsman’s paradise. Anything you could possibly need for fishing, hunting, camping or boating is available in the store, and while I’m certain their selection is good, the fact that the store is a tourist attraction in itself doesn’t hurt matters either.

Fish tank (we didn’t stay for the feeding time)

General store (with ice cream and other classic goodies)

The store is a bit of a playground as well, as evidenced by their shooting gallery. Fun could be had for just 50 cents, and well, Mack couldn’t help himself.


We didn’t stay at CrossIron Mills quite as long as we could have, but it was enough to experience the mall. All in all, Bass Pro Shop is worth a visit for the pure spectacle of it – the rest is nothing you haven’t seen before, or couldn’t get elsewhere.