WORLD CUP HOMETOWNS: Jan Hudec’s Calgary
by Michael Mastarciyan
Wouldn’t it be great if you were visiting a place for the first time and you had some inside information on what to do, what to see, where to eat etc...?
Wouldn’t it be even cooler if that insider was one of the best alpine ski racers in the world?
Let’s imagine Calgary was that place...you’re hitting Lake Louise in late November and want to spend a few days in the booming Alberta metropolis also known as “Cowtown” before or after the season’s first World Cup speed races.
Fortunately for you, Jan Hudec, one of the founding members of the Canadian Cowboys, calls Calgary home and is full of great travel tips for visitors coming to his city - no shocker as Hudec is one of the friendliest and most gregarious athletes on the planet.
Here then is some valuable information for those of you afflicted with the travel bug, and curious about the city that hosted the 1988 Winter Olympic Games, on the doorsteps of the beautiful Canadian Rockies....
MM: Jan, you were born in the former Czechoslovakia but moved to Canada during the 1980s when you were a little boy. How long have you called Calgary home?
JH: I lived here when we first arrived in Calgary in 1987, and now most recently for the last ten years.
MM: What's the best thing about living in Calgary?
JH: I think the best thing about living in Calgary is the convenience of lifestyle. I just bought a 100 year old heritage home just outside the downtown core. It's 20 mins to the airport, 20 mins to the gym, 10 minutes to my son’s school and an hour door-to-door to my mom's place in the mountains (Canmore).
MM: Okay, let’s talk dining. Where's your favourite place to get breakfast in Calgary?
JH: I often get breakfast at Caffee Rosso. They have three locations. I literally live I between two of them. One is on the way to my son’s school, and one on the way downtown and to the gym. So wherever I'm going, I'm covered. They serve this simple egg and pepper wrap (The Roma) with the most amazing salsa I have ever had. Free wifi and great architecture. I love it. Corner of Olympic way and 11th Ave SE. (How fitting!)
MM: Where's your favourite place to get lunch in Calgary?
JH: Lunch is harder. There are several great spots. I always recommend Bonterra on 10th Ave and 8th Steet SW. Italian cuisine with a quaint and authentic European back alley style patio. Incredible food. Great management. No disappointments.
MM: Where's your favourite place to get dinner in Calgary?
JH: Best place to go for dinner in Calgary for me is Anju. Not many people know about it. It's one of Calgary's last hidden culinary gems. My buddy Roy runs it with his wife and their product is a treat on every level. It is basiclly Korean Tapas-style eating, with flavours that make you want to eat everything as a meal. Nice ambiance and amazing desserts as well.
MM: What's the best burger joint in Calgary?
JH: Hmmm... Lounge Burger is quite good and it’s close to my house. Right on Macleod Trail across from the Stampede grounds so it's easy to find. If you want something a little simpler or hearty...drive out to Banff and eat at Barpa's. It's a Greek place that's famous for their souvlaki (I've driven to Banff just to eat one) but their burgers have won numerous awards. Simple. Delicious. Amazing.
MM: What's your favourite cafe in Calgary?
JH: Fave cafe would have to be Caffe Rosso. I love the architecture in there. It's simple, No stress, easy to order, great coffee, and quiet. If you just want to talk to someone or have a meeting while drinking some great coffee or a spirit, this is the place.
MM: What's the best bar in town for a fancy cocktail?
JH: I don't really drink, but Earls Tin Palace on 4th Street SW is always a good spot for a cocktail. A new spot with a very cool vibe and amazing design is: Rush, it's on 9th Ave SW. When you walk in, it feels like you're going to pay 36 bucks for a vodka soda, but the prices are great and the food as well. Worth a look I you want to dress up...
MM: What's the best bar in town for a beer?
JH: Best bar in town for a beer...there will be lots of debate on this subject. The Ship & Anchor on 17th Ave is a locals favourite. So is Melrose further down 17th Ave, which has a great patio for people watching. Always entertaining.
MM: What's the best bar in town to hear music?
JH: One of my faves is another bar on 17th Ave called Morgan’s Pub (click on this article from the FISALPINE.COM archives for more info: http://www.fisalpine.com/news/heavy-metal-hudec,771.html) which has live music almost every night of the week. Tuesdays are the best with the band "Brokentöyz" bringing 80's hair metal/rock to the people, including leopard skin tights and the whole nine yards.
MM: Okay, let’s talk shopping. Where do you like to shop for clothes in Calgary?
JH: I actually shop for clothes in Edmonton! My Filosophy has been "dressing me since April 2012 - definitely worth the drive!
MM: Where's the coolest part of town for shopping in general?
JH: Inglewood is right beside where I live and has an old "rustic" feel. It's an old area that's getting a facelift, so it has lots of interesting shops and restaurants.
MM: Where's the best place to get cowboy gear in Calgary (hats, boots, belts etc...)
JH: Best place to buy a cowboy hat in Calgary is in Inglewood at Smithbilt. Best place for boots is Alberta Boot Co. Best place for cowboy gear in general is Lammle’s.
MM: Calgary is know for it's famous Calgary Stampede. Can you tell us what the perfect day at The Calgary Stampede would be like?
JH: Start the morning out nice and early at 11am with one of hundreds of free pancake breakfasts served all around the city. Head to the Stampede grounds and check out all the attractions, 1pm head to the rodeo, 5pm run out and grab a pulled pork sandwich and a bevy. 7pm, head back into the grandstand to check out the chuckwagon races and maybe bet a couple loonies (a looney = 1 Canadian Dollar) among friends. Then, if you're lucky, head to the Saddledome for a concert... Alan Jackson perhaps? If not, pull a few favours and bypass the 2 hour line up to get into Nashville North, the most bumpin’ tent on the grounds!
MM: Canada Olympic Park also has some cool attractions...what do you like to do when you go there with friends or with your son Oaklee?
JH: I only ever go there to workout at the gym, but my son attended summer camps for three weeks there this year and LOVED the mountain biking, skating, and gymnastics Center.
MM: What's your favourite Gym in Calgary?
JH: Favourite gym? The BNTC (Bob Niven Training Centre) is good now because only carded athletes can workout there, but to get a change of scenery I got to my buddy's gym the Athlete Factory off Blackfoot Trail.
MM: If you could do day of cycling in Calgary...where that be?
JH: If I had one day of biking in Calgary I'd just follow one of the many paths that serpentine around the river valley.
MM: Where's the best trail for a little jog?
JH: Jog? I haven't run more than across the street since 2004...my knees would hate me! You'll find me fighting the soccer moms off the elliptical trainer at the gym (he says with a big laugh).
MM: You are a big fan of motorcycles and ride a lot. Where would you go for a little motorcycle ride?
JH: An incredible scenic drive is out towards Banff and then south through Kananaskis Country on Highway 40 over Highwood Pass. Then out to Longview, burger at Longview Pub and back up north to Calgary.
MM: Okay Calgary has lots of culture too, what's your favourite museum in Calgary?
JH: Museum? The Mlitary Museum is cool. My son loves planes so we like to check it out.
MM: Are there any parks you like to take Oaklee to?
JH: Heritage Park is always fun in the summer. Besides that South Glenmore’s water park is awesome for kids and a good way for parents to stay dry and watch them play. But, we try to make it out to the mountains to visit grandma every chance we get.
PHOTO: Candace & Lorne Webber