By SEEMA DHAWAN & MICHAELA RITCHIE
The critically acclaimed television series Fargo has found its match for a backdrop in Calgary. This dark comedy-drama films extensively in the city, and Calgary’s heritage neighbourhoods and surrounding wilderness have been versatile enough to transport viewers to desolate landscapes in Minnesota and North and South Dakota across three separate pockets of time.
Want to make a visit to the American mid-west off-screen? Here’s where to go for a Fargo Tour in Calgary.
(Warning: Spoilers ahead!)
The Smokehouse Diner
This diner, located at 6805 Ogden Rd SE in Calgary, moonlights as Lou’s Coffee Shop, owned by the retired cop Lou Solverson in season one. Lou preaches words of wisdom to his deputy daughter Molly here as she works to solve the central crimes of the first season — much like a younger Lou does in season two, when the timeline of the series jumps back almost three decades.
• The Smokehouse Diner, 6805 Ogden Rd SE, (403) 236-7424
Head slightly further north than the rest of the tour demands to this hotel at 2120 – 16 Ave NE. The hotel has been used to film a variety of interior and exterior shots for season three of the show, including that pivotal argument between Ray and Sy, which took place in the hotel’s restaurant, Fontanella. Poor Ray’s Corvette was later smashed up in the hotel parking lot.
• Clarion Hotel and Conference Centre, 2120 – 16 Ave NE, 403-291-4666, www.choicehotels.com
The next part of the tour takes us into the downtown core. Hard to believe small-town America could be recreated here, but the dull, blocky exterior of the soon-to-be former Central Library provided a perfectly stern face for the FBI Headquarters in season one of Fargo. In season two, the neighbourhood of Kensington, including The Plaza Theater, was used to film big city scenes set in Sioux Falls, Kansas City, and Luverne.
• Calgary Central Public Library, 616 Macleod Tr SE, 403-260-2600, www.calgarylibrary.ca
• The Plaza Theatre, 1133 Kensington Rd NW, (403) 283-2222, www.theplaza.ca
This district features as a prominent backdrop for the show, so strolling down 9th Avenue is sure to bring familiar scenes to the surface of any fan’s memory. Start at the Bo Munk Insurance building (1335 – 9 Ave SE), Lester Nygaard’s depressing office at the start of season one. His place of work is just across the street from Swans of Inglewood, the bar where Ray Stussy later meets up with his parolee Maurice LeFay to hatch their plan against brother Emmit Stussy in season three. Unfortunately for Maurice, the heist goes sour, prompting Ray and his girlfriend Nikki Swango to do away with him by dropping an air conditioning unit on LeFay from the fourth floor of the building right across the way — which, back in the real world, is home to Savour Fine Foods. Walk another block to find Inglewood Pizza, seen on screen as Norm’s Pizza in the first season of the show, and Delightful Café, the stand-in for that diner in season three — you know, the one whose ominous neon sign only lights up on D, I, and E.
• Swans of Inglewood, 1336 9 Ave SE, 403-233-7574, www.swansofinglewood.ca
• Savour Fine Foods, 1331 9 Ave SE, 403-532-8222, www.savourfinefoods.com
• Inglewood Pizza, 1225 9 Ave SE, 403-237-8220, www.inglewoodpizza.ca
• Delightful Café, 1201 9 Ave SE, 403-262-2220
Once you’re done in Inglewood, fill up at one of Calgary’s many Gas Plus locations, which can be seen in all their retro glory in the background of several episodes, and head to where Lorne Malvo’s dramatic shooting scene in season one was staged. The Las Vegas hotel was actually filmed at Hotel Arts in downtown Calgary. The shocking elevator scene happens to take place at the gateway to one of the city’s trendiest hotels. Once you’ve finished taking selfies in the elevator, head to Hotel Arts’ Raw Bar for a cocktail and indulge in the drama of it all.
• Hotel Arts and Raw Bar, 119 12 Ave SW, 403-266-4611, www.hotelarts.ca
Finally, the best is saved for last. After these stops, head outside city limits to a fan favourite spot: Bear’s Den in Bearspaw. Sy Feltz, Emmit Stussy, and Ruby Goldfarb have eaten here in season three — but before you ask, there is no “Fargo table” at the restaurant; the interior got a bit of a makeover before filming started, though much of the original charm remains intact for the show. Be sure to take a photo with the signage of the restaurant, also featured on-screen.
• Bears Den Restaurant and Lounge, 254028 Bearspaw Rd NW, 403-241-7611, www.bearsdencalgary.com