Alberta’s largest city, also known as Cowtown (for its central role in Canada’s beef production, not to mention its status as the home of the Calgary Stampede, an annual rodeo and exhibition), Calgary is the international gateway to the Rocky Mountains. Set upon the confluence of the Bow and the Elbow Rivers, it has hosted the 1988 Winter Olympic Games, and has consistently ranked in the top ten most livable cities in the world by the Economist. A far cry from its standard meat-and-potatoes fare of decades past, the city has exploded with many diverse and delicious restaurants—here are some of our recent favourites!
Located in a historic building downtown, this staple of the Calgary culinary scene has been serving up Mediterranean fare for 25 years. The secret to their success perhaps lies in their extra virgin olive oil, which makes an appearance in most of their dishes. Rich and fruity in flavour, the oil is made from olives grown by the owner’s family in Italy.
The River Café rests aside a lagoon in the heart of Prince’s Island Park, affording sweeping views of the park and city skyline. Inside, the atmosphere is inspired by the natural features of the Bow River Valley, with seasonal Canadian cuisine and an open-hearth fieldstone fireplace providing the feel of dining in an old Rocky Mountain fishing lodge.
Find Rouge in Calgary’s hip Inglewood neighbourhood. A large, on-site garden serves as the basis for Rouge’s homegrown menu, with Chef Paul Rogalski drawing inspiration from the season to showcase local food at its most flavourful.
Underground Bars & Speakeasies
Betty Lou’s Library
Follow the sound of smooth jazz through the hallways of the Devenish Apartments to Betty Lou’s Library. Be sure to have handy your password, received upon reservation! Inside, swanky 1920s velvet chesterfields and Tiffany-style light fixtures set the tone to sip on one of their fabulous cocktails, all named after famous women of the early 20th century.
Tucked away behind a one-seat barbershop, Cannibale is a stylish gathering spot serving post-prohibition style cocktails, craft beers and dishes using locally sourced food. The cozy retro interior sees exposed brick and leather bank seating, while a small patio allows you to take your drink outside on a sunny day.
Frenchie Wine Bar
Navigate past the facade of a takeout pizza joint to find Frenchie Wine Bar hidden in the back. Settle into an intimate atmosphere as you nosh on their snack menu of locally made charcuterie from Empire Provisions, house-made ricotta, and cheese fondue. The bar’s moniker comes from co-owner Jayme McFadden’s deep and equal appreciation of French wines and her French bulldog, Penny.
Beverages and Cocktails
Proof (stylized as “Pr%f”) was recently ranked the fourth-best bar in Canada by Canada’s 100 Best; an unsurprising feat considering the level of talent found on their team. Boasting a list of over 300 bottled beers and whipping up inventive tapas from their open-air kitchen, Proof has rightfully earned their reputation as a hotspot for exceptional libations and snacks in downtown Calgary.
Located in an old teahouse, Pigeonhole is the brainchild of Justin Leboe, who was voted Canada’s most innovative chef in 2016 on Canada’s 100 Best list. The decor maintains elements of the former tenant, combining chandeliers and vintage fixtures with modern design. Dishes are an effortless fusion of European and Asian flavours, paired with a selection of natural wines.
OEB Breakfast Co.
The traditional breakfast is elevated at OEB with menu items such as a breakfast bowl featuring ahi tuna and savoury crepes served with lobster and caviar pearls. Purists can still enjoy the classics like two eggs any style or a traditional eggs benny. Ingredients are locally sourced, with the chefs sourcing potatoes from nearby farmers and harvesting honey from hives in Calgary’s Bridgeland neighbourhood.
This cafe and deli sits just south of the downtown core though the owners, Dave Sturies and Karen Kho, who specialize in whole animal butchery and curing. Initially running their business from home, thanks to local support and collaboration, they now run a full-service operation, offering a daily brunch that features house-cured meats and supplying charcuterie for local restaurants.
In the southeastern suburbs of Calgary, the farm-to-table initiative of Starbelly sees a healthy and sustainable menu using in-season ingredients perfected by expert cooking. Don’t miss their Waffle Station on Sundays, a sure hit with kids.
A brightly-lit space housed in a beautiful brick building, enjoy old-fashioned Italian food served family-style at Cibo. Keeping things local and fresh, dishes are enhanced by ingredients such as greenhouse-grown micro basil and boar bacon from nearby producers.
Cafes & Desserts
The inspiration for Mari Bakeshop come on a dreary weekend in 2016, when Chef Douglas Gregory (formerly from the French Laundry in California) saw past the winter drudge and fell in love with the fervour of Calgary’s East Village. He and his partner/pastry chef, Lauren Ahn, decided to open their bright and minimal-modern shop in this rising part of town, specializing in rolled cakes, choux cream puffs, and Parisian-style bread.
Once upon a time, this 106-year old building housed a mattress factory; now, it’s the home of Sidewalk Citizen. Specializing in fresh bread, like organic sourdough, as well as flaky pastries, this bakery-café is a great spot to grab a sandwich or pizza for a quality, quick and tasty lunch.
Ollia combines traditional culinary practices with modern techniques to concoct some of the most delectable (and intricate) pastries in the city, especially the beloved macaron. Either pick up some of the delicate French cookie to go, or sample the gamut of flavours from the shop paired with a tea from their wide selection.
Made by Marcus
Made by Marcus began when owner Marcus Purtzki found himself with excess egg yolk after making macarons (his original passion) and turned them into mouth-watering ice cream. Shortly thereafter, he superseded his macaron-making reputation, with people flocking to his micro-creamy opened in the summer of 2016. Try one of his unique flavours like matcha white chocolate or stick to a classic with an updated spin like Tahitian vanilla bean.
Calcutta Cricket Club
It won’t take long for you to notice that Calcutta Cricket Club is not your average Indian restaurant. Looking like a scene out of a Wes Anderson film, vibrant hues of pink, green, and orange combine with wickered walls and a tiled bar and floor of clashing patterns. Head here for a Bengalese-inspired menu featuring flavourful curries, Indian-style pub food, and exotic fruity cocktails.
Serving classic Chinese food with a modern twist, this restaurant and bar mixes traditional Shanghai and Cantonese-inspired dishes with Albertan ingredients. A tea room hidden in the basement showcases another side Two Penny as a speakeasy-style cocktail bar with a menu of small plates and bao sandwiches.
With five younger siblings and a single-parent household, Albertan Chef Darren MacLean honed his cooking skills from a young age. Following a culinary tour through Japan, he returned home inspired to open Shokunin. Aiming for authenticity in all he does, Shokunin uses fresh ingredients and house-made sauces in flavourful small plates of Japanese fare.
A great spot for a late-night snack, Una is famed for their California-style thin crust pizza adorned with locally sourced toppings, such as their rich and creamy formaggi (cheese) pizza drizzled with honey from the owner’s beehives.