It’s possibly the hippest neighbourhood in Calgary. Kensington (most Calgarians forgo calling the area by its full title: The Kensington Village) connects two of Calgary’s oldest communities (Hillhurst and Sunnyside) to the downtown core.
For more than a century, Kensington has maintained a Euro-style urban village identity, very different from the rest of Calgary. The area rivals 17th Ave. S.W. in walkablity, and its near-250 shops and restaurants provide pedestrians with a litany of interesting choices. Whether you’re out for a Sunday stroll or a night on the town, Kensington has what you’re looking for.
Kensington consists of two main strips, 10th St. N.W. and Kensington Rd. All the usual (and highly visible) hipster and skater-type clothing shops reside within a few hundred feet of each other on 10th St. (American Apparel, The Source, and The Rocket, to name a few); but peppered throughout are a several stand-out apparel outlets, such as Brooklyn Clothing Company, a menswear importer, which offers no-B.S., hard-to-find jeans and shirts for guys with non-fancy, but none the less, solid tastes.
Tenth also has many specialty shops worth checking out, including Hot Wax, a long-standing used record store in the community.
If you’re a couple doing some real “specialty” shopping, Calgary’s favourite sex-positive shop, A Little More Interesting, is around the corner at 1121 Kensington Rd., and The Cat’s Pajamas and Lingerie is a few shops down from there.
If you want to get a good bottle of vino before going home, stop by The Kensington Wine Market, a marketplace near the end of the strip, which offers many exclusive selections and a knowledgeable staff of oenophiles (wine geeks).
The entertainment options are a bit limited, as Kensington is mostly a merchant district. If you’re not interested in 24-hour Internet gaming or comic books (Internet Cyberpark and Another Dimension on 10th, respectively), you should visit the historic Plaza Theatre. Calgary’s oldest movie house, the Plaza hosts the trendoid-laden Underground Film Festival (CUFF), each April; and puts on the best indie, international, and abstract flicks and events, year round.
Kensington has a remarkable diversity of cuisine available in a compact area. Most countries belonging to the UN are represented, in some facet; what are you in the mood for?
Let’s start with Italy. Pulcinellla, on Kensington Cres., makes its incredible pies in the traditional Neapolitan way — thin-crust, cooked in a giant wood-fire stove, served slightly blackened. If you perfer Italian home cooking, walk across the street to Peppinos Ristorante and Deli. The mom and pop’s specialty is sub sandwiches. A giant board lists all the choices, like the Chicken Alla Parmigiana — two chicken breasts, marinated in homemade tomato sauce and smothered in Parmigiano cheese. (Ordering alternative: close your eyes and point, you’ll always come up a winner.)
If you’d like to get busy with your hands by chowing on Ethiopian fare, Kensington has two of the city’s best African restaurants, on the same street: Blue Nile and Marathon, both on 10th.
There’s too much good global food to name in one installment. Sultan’s Tent has you covered for Moroccan. Tandoori Hut and Tandoori Knights for Indian. Kol3 makes insanely good Vietnamese crepes. The list goes on and on and on.
Like the cuisine of Kensington, the watering hole options are quite extensive, too. But, if you want to be where the action’s at, the locals tend to frequent four places: There’s Molly Malone’s, a medium-sized Irish tavern, with a killer rooftop patio, on Kensington Cres. The Yardhouse, which is usually filled with a good mix of business-types and weekend warriors. The cozy hobbit house, or Kensington Pub (KP to the locals), which sums up the neighbourhood’s personal and inviting demeanor, and F.A.T.S. (Fifth Avenue Tenth Street) Bar and Grill, a pub’s pub, and a great place to watch sports or hear live music.
Image courtesy of Calgary Reviews.