Chorney-Booth: Crossroads Market is full of fresh and friendly food businesses

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The term “hidden gem” usually refers to something small, like a hidden little cafe in a mall or an unexpectedly fantastic family restaurant in a small town. Yet one of Calgary’s most overlooked treasures is hidden in plain sight, occupying a massive building smack in the middle of the city. A presence since 1987, Crossroads Market doesn’t get as much fanfare as some of the city’s newer or flashier markets and food halls, even though it’s packed with diverse and delicious things to eat.

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Calgarians can be forgiven for driving down Crossroads and not even noticing it. Located in a former meatpacking plant near the junction of Ogden Road and the Blackfoot Trail, the quirky building tends to blend in with its industrial surroundings. Inside, visitors will find a bustling ecosystem, with 122 vendors on the main floor and additional tenants, including the Loose Moose Theater on the second and third levels. The market, which was first set up where Crossroads Furniture Mart is now located in the Northeast, has been in its current home since the early ’90s. Initially, it had a reputation for having a swap meet feel, thanks to many vendors that still exist that specialize in collectibles, used books and videotapes, trading cards, and other miscellaneous items. Over the years, the market has become a foodie destination, hosting a number of entrepreneurs looking for a low-cost way to launch their businesses.

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Crossroads Market continues throughout the year, although the outdoor vendors end this weekend.  Azin Ghaffari/Post Media
Crossroads Market continues throughout the year, although the outdoor vendors end this weekend. Azin Ghaffari/Post Media Photo by Azin Ghaffari /Azin Ghaffari/Post Media

“Our focus has always been on people,” says General Manager Nicole Schon. “Our motto is that we are ‘the people’s market.’ It is about young entrepreneurs and immigrants who are thinking about their businesses in their countries of origin. Those are the people we try to support.”

With lower rental rates than many other markets in the city, this means the maze-like market floor is filled with a staggering array of things to eat, with a food hall offering Anatolian Turkish Cuisine ( which has been on the market for over 15 years), street food from the incredibly popular Eats of Asia, curries and samosas from the original location of Deepak’s Dhaba, gluten free baked goods from The Cookie Jar, cheap burgers from Roxy’s Grill and sauces and Fresh Authentic Mexican Molcajete Fries. All of this is in addition to grocery items like Chongo’s Market and the outdoor farmers market that runs outside in front of the building from June through the end of October.

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Says Cheese Fromagerie owner Isaac Bignell at Crossroads Market.  Azin Ghaffari/Post Media
Says Cheese Fromagerie owner Isaac Bignell at Crossroads Market. Azin Ghaffari/Post Media Photo by Azin Ghaffari /Azin Ghaffari/Post Media

While Crossroads has a delightful old-school value feel to it, newer outfitters find a comfortable home there, too. Say Cheese Fromagerie has been the market’s resident cheese shop for decades, but was recently taken over by Isaac Bignell, who bought the business after spending his formative years working for former owner Nancy Brown. While Bignell honors the Say Cheese story, the passionate cheese advocate also kicked off some changes by working with a new supplier that brings in signature cheese from around the world, including a particularly tempting collection of French selections.

“I want to shoot high,” says Bignell. “I never want to be an elite store – we will always have our cheese on sale, so if you have four bucks to spend you can still buy me cheese. Or if you have the budget to buy one of the five cheeses brought to the country, I can do that too.

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Ayoni Soumanou, left, and Jurin Dangbedji opened Jus Naturel at Crossroads Market.  Azin Ghaffari/Post Media
Ayoni Soumanou, left, and Jurin Dangbedji opened Jus Naturel at Crossroads Market. Azin Ghaffari/Post Media Photo by Azin Ghaffari /Azin Ghaffari/Post Media

Bignell isn’t the only new owner on the market. Ayonni Soumanou, who previously worked in the financial sector, was a regular at Crossroads, but she noticed that there were no cold-pressed juice vendors on site. She turned her passion for creating fresh, flavorful juices at home into a new business earlier this fall with Jus Naturel, a stall that sells blends made from fruit that Soumanou buys from produce vendors at the market. She is a prime example of the circular nature of the healthy market community: a customer who becomes a seller but continues to support the other businesses that attracted her in the first place.

For a complete list of vendors and other market information, visit crossroadsmarket.ca. The Crossroads Market is located at 1235 26th Ave. SE and is open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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In other restaurant news, Banff’s Taste For Adventure food festival has returned to Bow Valley. The festival kicked off on October 28 and runs through November 13, with 24 local restaurants offering various specials to showcase the ever-growing mountain restaurant scene. Eleven new restaurants have opened in Banff and Lake Louise since November 2020 and many of them, including Bluebird, Banff Hospitality Collective’s newest restaurant, will participate with prix-fixe menus and other experiences. The festival coincides with the Banff Center Mountain Film and Book Festival, which runs through November 6, in case you need an extra reason to get out in the mountains. To learn more about Taste For Adventure, visit banfflakelouise.com/tasteforadventure.

Elizabeth Chorney-Booth can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @elizaboothy or Instagram at @elizabooth.

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