When visiting a new city one of the best ways to explore the local scene is to try out some of its restaurants. A good dining experience can, at times, make or break a memorable trip, and we’ve asked you to tell us about your favourites in Calgary and you responded loud and clear. If you’re new to the city and are looking to experience the best Calgary has to offer, consider this your cheat sheet—you can’t go wrong with any of these winners.
Best Fine Dining and Best Overall: Teatro
Teatro has been a bastion of Calgary’s fine dining scene for 15 years, and it isn’t hard to see why: painstakingly crafted cuisine, attentive service and one of the most regal venues in the city. Chef Dominique Moussu creates “modern Italian” menus, but this Brittany-born chef also imports the best of his homeland, evident in dishes such as foie gras ravioli with truffle celery root purée and Magret duck breast with panzanilla insalate. Their wine cellar boasts 850 labels, including rare Bordeaux vintages such as 1998 Chateau Haut-Brion Blanc and 1995 Chateau Angelus, and a philosophy that forbids exorbitant mark-ups. Getting in without a reservation can be difficult, especially on theatre nights when Teatro’s proximity to the Epcor Centre for the Performing Arts makes it a popular destination. But, waiting your turn is worth it; this is fine dining at its best.
Best New Restaurant: Olives
Olives, the latest project from the stylish Hotel Arts Group, features innovative Italian cuisine, urban-chic décor and a display bar so diners can watch the kitchen team prep plates. Diners can sample dishes like organic tomato gazpacho with Ahi tuna tartar and roasted fennel, while surrounded by large-scale Bisazza tile murals; lounge with glass of wine; or wander over to “Olives to Go”—their gourmet market deli. Equally important is the impact the restaurant has had on the Victoria Crossing district. In efforts to breathe new life into the neighbourhood—referred to as “the soul of Calgary” and home to Calgary landmarks like the Stampede Grounds—the refined, upscale Olives exemplifies the city’s transition into a sophisticated urban centre in the heart of cowboy culture.
Birks Silver Service: Chicago Chophouse
Each year, the members of Calgary’s Les Clefs d’Or (“The Golden Keys”), a prestigious international organization of hotel concierges, choose a restaurant they feel consistently provides great service to hotel guests. This year chef concierge at the Hyatt Regency Calgary, and Clefs d’Or member Jill Grundy says the Chicago Chophouse earned the honour. “Chicago Chophouse is extremely helpful in many ways to our guests, whether it is fitting in tables at the last minute or providing the extra touches for special occasions,” Grundy says. She also credits their unique layout for contributing to their guests’ positive experiences: there’s a bar and casual dining room on the lower level, a more intimate upscale dining room on the upper level, and separate rooms for private dining. “With live music being played on certain nights it also brings a touch of class to the atmosphere,” Grundy says.
Best Ambiance: River Café
River Café has few competitors for Best Ambiance. Its location in Prince’s Island Park offers bucolic surroundings and a panoramic view of downtown. Its décor—a cross between backcountry hunting lodge and five-star hotel—creates an intimate yet urbane environment. And its food, Canadian regional with an emphasis on seasonal ingredients, is some of the best in the city. The bison striploin, from an organic ranch near Waterton, is highly recommended and a favourite of Chef Scott Pohorelic.
Best Hotel Dining: The Rimrock
In a city as young as Calgary, it’s hard to find a restaurant that has witnessed ebb and flow of history quite like The Rimrock. The restaurant itself opened in 1962, but the venue, the Fairmont Palliser, dates from 1914 and is the city’s only CP hotel. There are a few dishes that have stood the test of time, but the rest are surprisingly contemporary: foie gras terrine with toasted brioche; caramelized onion, tomato and wild thyme flan; and the butcher block with hormone- and antibiotic-free beef and bison.
Best Service: Murrieta’s
Along with a beautiful setting, complete with an open skylight, exposed brick, and dark wood accents, Murrieta’s exquisite food is expertly complemented by a professional team of servers. The staff here are encouraged to use their personality to brighten diners’ visits and go through extensive in-house training before being put on the floor.
Best Wine: The Belvedere
The Belvedere is known throughout the city for its wine list: more than 750 wines, expertly selected by a team of sommeliers and served in a swank, understated lounge, complete with skylights looking up to the Calgary Tower. And while the wine usually hogs the spotlight, the food is a worthy accompaniment, especially the glazed lamb shank with parsnip creamed flageolet beans.Best Italian: Centini
Centini is a study in contrasts. At first glance, the meticulous décor and gourmet ingredients—such as milk-fed veal and white truffle—give the impression of a formal, Old World establishment. But, at the same time, owner Fabio Centini and his team create a feisty, high energy atmosphere that is infectious. The cuisine is creative, though if you’re looking for classics such as caprese salad, gnocchi or veal parmigiana, Centini is a top choice.
Best Canadian Regional: Oh! Canada
At Oh! Canada, they don’t just serve Canadian cuisine. This lunch spot is a love song to the Great White North, with menu items such as The Gretzky (smoked turkey on ciabatta), Le Quebecois (Montreal smoked meat) and Newfie Fish & Chips (battered cod tails). But, it’s not just the names that are Canadian; wherever possible the ingredients are homegrown, from Alberta beef to Quebec cheese, B.C. salmon and Newfoundland cod.
Best Greek/Mediterranean: Broken Plate
Festive, colourful and boisterous, Broken Plate is Greek in every sense of the word. Their flaming saganaki, spanakopita, rack of lamb and stuffed chicken breast are expertly executed, but the real draw is the atmosphere: white and blue hues, Ionic columns, broken tile counters, and festivities that include Greek dancing and plate breaking. Each of Broken Plate’s three locations has a slightly different vibe, but adhere to their modus operandi.
Best French: La Chaumiere
Stepping into La Chaumiere’s vestibule is like trading the hustle and bustle of 17 Avenue for a refined enclave off the Avenue des Champs Élysées. But, you won’t find the French cuisine of Julia Child here. La Chaumiere has stayed in business for 20 years by innovating and keeping their dishes fresh: their duck confit is served with black olive tapenade, their veal comes as a sweetbread, and their foie gras is sautéed and presented on leek and mango.
Best Casual European: Jonas’ Restaurant
It’s hard to get more authentic than Jonas’, where checkered tablecloths, hearty Hungarian fare and polka music create a slice of Eastern Europe. Rosza Jonas runs the dining room while her husband Janos stays in the kitchen preparing generous portions of cabbage rolls, goulash, chicken paprikash and homemade dumplings—just like they did before emmigrating from Budapest. The prices are refreshingly modest; the most you’ll pay for an entrée is $15.Best Sushi: Globefish
Innovative rolls are the specialty at this local favourite. With a large selection of sashimi and special creations, you’ll find options like their “Mango Paradise” roll with crab and avocado wrapped with fresh red tuna and mango, and served with a white lemon sauce. There are two locations in the city—the newest spot in Kensington lends an aura of upscale elegance with long banquettes and chandeliers.
Best Chinese: Silver Dragon
In the heart of Chinatown, Silver Dragon offers up a variety of traditional Hong Kong-style dishes. They offer daily dim sum that is served on trolleys with everything from barbecue pork steamed buns to chicken feet. Be sure to try their ginger beef, it’s one of the best in the city. The dining room is large and the tea is complimentary.
Best Indian: Karma
This hidden gem, located east of Deerfoot Trail, is worth the drive. In addition to the standard butter chicken, korma and coconut curries, Karma offers unconventional fare such as their signature Hakka platters, a blend of Chinese and Indian cuisine. We recommend the chicken Manchurian, cooked in a combination of Indian and soy sauces, or the chili paneer, marinated with garlic and sautéed in sweet and sour sauce.
Best Thai: The King & I
Known for its authentic Thai dishes and warm atmosphere, this is a great place for good conversation, good friends and good food. The flavours here are expertly balanced with chili-jam and basil infused coconut milk, and fresh ginger and almonds mixed into a mild black pepper sauce. There is a wide selection for vegetarians as well.
Best Latin: Blue House
Here you’ll find contemporary Latin American cuisine with fresh salsas, spices and tropical fruit. Seafood is the specialty with dishes like steam pan-fried red snapper, oven-baked salmon and grilled tuna. In the evening, diners eat by candle light around cozy tables and are serenaded several days a week with live flamenco music.Best Brunch: Diner Deluxe
This is a cozy “new generation mom & pop” diner, complete with old-fashioned ‘50s décor like chrome tables and an old rabbit-eared TV. On the menu are homemade dishes like warm, organic barley with vanilla bean cereal, and sourdough chocolate French toast with grilled bananas. Be prepared to stand in line—this is a popular spot on a weekend morning, but it’s worth the wait!
Best Steak: Caesar’s
This local institution, with a Roman-themed interior, has been serving some of the city’s best charbroiled, aged Alberta beef since 1972. Along with your choice of prime cut meats like rib eye, New York, or T-Bone there are also options like a table-side Chateaubriand for two, rack of lamb, and “The Ultimate:” filet mignon with broiled rock lobster tail, asparagus and Béarnaise sauce.
Best Casual: The Living Room
This hot spot along Uptown 17th Avenue is as comfortable as its name implies. Set inside a bungalow, the concept is interactive cuisine with a contemporary mix of French, Italian and Canadian influences. Items to share include cheese and chocolate fondues, a whole roasted free run chicken and a seafood hot pot. There’s also an extensive wine list.
Best Gourmet Burger: Tommy Burger
Sitting right off of lively Macleod Trail you’ll find the city’s ultimate home for hearty burgers. Though it looks like a typical diner from the outside, once you step through the doors of Tommy Burger you’ll notice an upscale version of a typical burger joint with dark brown hues and flashes of apple green. This is reflective in their menu with twists on the average hamburger with additions like avocado, Camembert cheese and pineapple.
Best Pub: Ship & Anchor
The competition on 17 Avenue—Calgary’s nightlife epicentre—is fierce, especially for a no-frills, no-gimmicks pub such as the Ship & Anchor. But, year after year, Flames game or no Flames game, this pub proves that the simple approach is usually best. The location is convenient, the beer on tap, the crowd diverse, the vibe casual and the music rock-oriented. Stop by on the weekends for periodic live music, or as a pit stop before hitting the clubs.THE RESULTS
Best New Restaurant
Birks Silver Service Award
Best Fine Dining
NewPort Grill on Lake Bonavista
Best Hotel Dining
Redwater Rustic Grille
Best Canadian Regional
Fleur de Sel
Best Casual European
Glory of India
The King & I
Best Casual Dining
The Living Room
Best Gourmet Burger
Ship & Anchor
Rose & Crown
Palomino—Laura Pellerine and Sally MacKinnon