By Will Tigley
Two Filipino chefs are helping bring an international flavor to the Avenida Food Hall, a new food venue in southeast Calgary.
Avenida Food Hall & Fresh Market opened in December and is already getting lots of shout outs on Instagram. The concept of the urban food hall is a similar to a farmers’ market, but with 40 different vendors in Avenida dedicated to food, the venue offers food lovers a chance to taste a number of different options.
Many of the vendors at Avenida Food are focused on international flavours. Among the lines of people waiting for Korean, Mexican, or Italian food there are two kiosks that are inspired by the creativity of Calgary Filipinos.
Arce Morales opened Oishidesu, serving a variety of ramen and poke bowls.
Morales previously opened a number of food ventures at farmers’ markets including Mom’s Happy Kitchen and Malbork! Dips, Hummus and More.
“It’s been really busy,” says Morales of the two months Oishidesu has been active at Avenida Food market.
Morales says there’s been a steady line up for his shop.
“This is my second year serving ramen,” explains Morales. “This is my second Oishidesu location. I have my first location at Granary Road.”
With his multiple entrepreneur ventures in food, Morales is amazed at how the Calgary food scene is changing.
“With most traditional restaurants, rent and labour is high, so having a
smaller space allows me to cover costs easier,” says Morales. “I find if you open a restaurant you have to focus more on business than the actual restaurant. With a food hall or a farmers’ market, it’s a bit more low risk.”
All of Morales’ businesses have relied on farmers’ market and he’s experienced great results with all of his businesses.
“With a good product, you succeed,” explains Morales. “Calgarians are aware of farmers’ markets and it’s become a habit for many to visit. For a business owner, it’s also nice to run a stall for only four days and have three days off.”
As an entrepreneur, Morales is always looking for the next idea and Avenida may offer his next opportunity.
“Customers are seeing that the Avenida Food Market is really good,” says Morales. “If there’s a spot that opens up, we’ll open a Filipino kiosk. ”
“It’s about time. We have lots of farmers’ markets and we have yet to see Filipino cuisine offered at one.”
Also no stranger to the Calgary farmers’ market scene, Ping Ballego opened up Fantasy Mini Donuts and Pretzels at Avenida Food Hall.
Fantasy Mini Donuts and Pretzels, is yet another expansion of her farmers market businesses.
She is the owner of Simple Simon’s Pies, and has a Fantasy Mini Donuts and Pretzels location at the Crossroads Market. With the success of that location she decided to open a stall at Avenida Food Hall.
For Ballego, it’ has been rewarding winning over new customers with her treats.
“It’s been a great experience,” says Ballego. “At lunchtime you can’t even see through the crowds.”
The business that Ballego is building at Avenida is evident in how well her pretzels are selling. During most of the four days that Fantasy is open, Ballego sells on average 1,100 pretzels, which is by far the majority of her pretzel sales at all of her locations.
Ballego’s business takes a unique approach to German-style pretzels.
“Most pretzels places in town you have to wait for them to cook them and then eat them immediately while they’re still warm,” says Ballego. “My pretzels, like German pretzels, can be served and eaten cold. It takes about six hours with six people to prepare, but the pretzels are homemade fresh every night.”
Currently on Ballego’s menu she has three sweet and five savoury pretzels, but she wants everyone to know that she’s always experimenting with new flavours.
“Right now, my most popular pretzel is the Truffle and Cheese, but I’ve also tried flavours like Asiago Paprika and I’ve had good response to flavours like Pizza Pepperoni.”
Like Morales, Ballego also hopes for other opportunities with the success of her business at Avenida Food Hall. She’s looking at opportunities downtown to expand her food business.
To check out Oishidesu or Fantasy Mini Donuts and Pretzels, visit Avenida Food Hall Thursdays through Sundays in the Avenida Mall at 12445 Lake Fraser Drive SE.