By JAMES YOUNG
When that craving for eggs and waffles strikes, there’s no need to trek in to downtown Calgary — check out these five delicious places for breakfast or brunch in the ‘burbs. (more…)
By JAMES YOUNG
When that craving for eggs and waffles strikes, there’s no need to trek in to downtown Calgary — check out these five delicious places for breakfast or brunch in the ‘burbs. (more…)
National Noodle Month: March
Noodles: the best food ever, or simply amazing? Kick off the festivities at Paper St. for a ramen burger — who needs buns when you have noodles? If your broth to noodle ratio ends up uneven at Jinya Ramen Bar, order a kaedama (noodle refill) for a second helping. (more…)
By RACHAEL FREY
At the first sign of warm weather, Calgarians head to restaurant patios, even while wearing shorts, sandals—and a parka. While there are far too many excellent outdoor favourites to mention, here are a few great options for… (more…)
Every year, some of the city’s top food critics convene to decide who deserves top honours in Calgary’s dining scene. Here are Where Calgary’s selections for 2014.
John Gilchrist is a Calgary restaurant critic, food writer, Where Calgary “Hot Dining” columnist, and author of Calgary and area restaurant review books My Favourite Restaurants and My Favourite Cheap Eats.
Julie Van Rosendaal is a best-selling cookbook author, the food and nutrition columnist on the Calgary Eyeopener on CBC Radio One, and a columnist and freelancer for several publications across Canada.
A. Warren Downs is the Gold Manager and Chef Concierge at the Fairmont Palliser, and the Regional Vice Director of Les Clefs d’Or Canada.
Diana Ng is a digital media strategist by day, and hungry, hungry hippo/food writer by night. She is the co-founder of Eat North, and has written for Culinaire, WestJet’s Up!, and Avenue, as well as other publications like Canadian Living and Fodor’s travel guides.
Dan Clapson is a food writer and columnist in Calgary who helps to chronicle the Canadian food scene for media outlets like Avenue magazine, Food Network Canada, enRoute magazine, and more. He loves London Fogs when it’s minus five or colder.
A CONTEMPORARY CLASSIC
Where Calgary’s Restaurant of the Year is Blink
No gimmicks, no trends, no themes, no features: Blink Restaurant is just simply good. “Year after year, Blink proves that you don’t need to latch onto what’s “cool” to be one of the top dining destinations in the city,” Clapson says. “The wine list is one of the best you’ll find and Chef Chris Dewling’s menu is all local and all delicious.”
Blink opened in 2009 and ever since have served up dishes that do an outstanding job of showcasing local ingredients with delicious—and sometimes unexpected—flavour pairings. “One of the best qualities in a good restaurant is consistency,” Van Rosendaal says, “Blink serves a consistently fantastic menu in a beautiful, historic setting.” This is not to say that consistency, where Blink is concerned, is tired or outdated or frumpy—it’s inviting, contemporary, and unpretentious. Blink is just an enjoyable place to be. The exposed brick walls and soft lighting create an ambiance that’s pleasant for any sort of dining experience—date, business lunch, drinks, group get-together—without being distracting. Memorable meals are what Blink serves up, because you’ll remember everything about it from the presentation to the complimentary flavours to how upset you felt when you got to the last morsel on the plate (good thing there’s always dessert). There’s a sugar pumpkin soup with spiced crème that I’d like to have until it disappears from the menu.
FAMILIAR FAVOURITES: RUNNERS UP
Raw Bar by Duncan Ly
“Raw Bar has always been one of Calgary’s hot spots, a superbly designed room with a unique Vietmodern menu by Executive Chef Duncan Ly and Chef de Cuisine Jinhee Lee, and some of the best cocktails in the city created by mixologist Christina Mah,” Van Rosendaal says. “If there’s a bar to be set in terms of Modern Vietnamese cooking, then Chef Duncan Ly has certainly set it. The plates of food here as beautiful to look at as they are to eat,” Clapson says. “Raw Bar pleases both fans of traditional Asian cuisine as well as people who may not be familiar with Asian food, with chefs Duncan Ly’s and Jinhee Lee’s expert hands at combining Asian flavours and ingredients with solid cooking techniques,” Ng says.
“Rouge is that charming and rare union between sophistication, casualness, polish, and homegrown,” Ng says. The ingredients are as local as possible, and the techniques and style of the food is timeless, all done in a cozy and historical setting.”
You can’t get more local than a place that grows its own produce in the garden just outside the restaurant and sources everything else from Calgary area producers. “Rouge has become a Calgary icon with skilled chefs, a dedication to local ingredients, and attention to detail—not to mention the best garden party venue in the city” Van Rosendaal says.
YEAR OF THE PIG
Calgary’s Best New Restaurant of 2014 is Black Pig Bistro
It was an easy, unanimous decision to award Black Pig Bistro this title: “I’m always hard-pressed to find something wrong with this place,” Clapson says. “Impeccable service, great-looking room, and the food—those pork and beans are one of my favourite dishes in this province.” Pork and beans? Yes! This dish of savoury porchetta topped with green beans, broad beans, and edemame beans is the restaurant’s most popular, co-owner Larry Scammell says. “Black Pig Bistro offers up an inspiring menu with a Spanish edge and dedication to the pig, but they’re far from one-dimensional” says Van Rosendaal. “It’s worth a visit for their small plates, interesting cocktails, and fantastic desserts, all served in a comfortably current space.” Chefs Allison and John Bieber and owners Denise and Larry Scammel opened the restaurant in April 2014, inspired by Allison and John’s travels to Spain.
The restaurant name refers to the Black Iberian Pig, indigenous to Spain and Portugal, known for its high caliber of flavour. Here, they source their pork from Broek Pork Acres, a family run farm in Coalhurst, AB that raises grain-fed and pasture-dwelling pigs without antibiotics. Beyond tapas and typical pork dishes, the menu at Black Pig Bistro is truly innovative with resulting dishes that will satisfy hungry eaters and don’t just look pretty on the plate (though they do that, too.)
NEW AND NOTABLE: RUNNERS UP
Workshop Kitchen + Culture
Good theatre and good food have always gone together to form the perfect night out. That combination resides under one roof at The Grand, a historic entertainment building that is now home to the contemporary performance company Theatre Junction and the restaurant Workshop Kitchen + Culture. Named for the building’s original theatre group, Workshop 14, the restaurant matches the performances in contemporary innovation with dishes such as gin and juniper cured trout or roasted duck breast with a coriander and espresso glaze. Three, five, and seven course “improv” tasting menus are also available. Workshop even makes its own sodas in flavours such as vanilla maple cream and blackberry cardamom. “Workshop is a little bit of fresh air in a predictable downtown dining scene,” Clapson says. “There’s a lot on the menu here, but it’s all enticing.”
Scopa Neighbourhood Italian
Casual, neighbourhood Italian is the vibe here—and the food is deliciously suited to it. “The setting is part farm house, part Italian rumpus room, and the service is bright and the prices are right,” Gilchrist says. Perfect for families, dates, and friends, Scopa serves up crisp, crusty pizzas, creamy pastas, and authentic Italian desserts. “If you’re looking for a great Italian meal and good drinks without a crowd of hipsters standing in your way at the door, then this is the spot for you,” Clapson says. “Scopa’s inspired take on Italian (especially their polenta bread with pancetta and honey) is worth coming back for again and again.”
MAISON BIRKS SILVER SPOON AWARD
Centini Restaurant and Lounge
“All of our hotels have received many great comments back from our guests about the little things the staff at Centini have done to create a memorable dining experience for them; they will hand out cannoli as they are leaving, or let them in on a family recipe. As well as the excellent food, impeccable service, and consistency, they do their best to accommodate our guests when we call in to make a reservation.”
— Cindy Stewart, Chef Concierge Westin Hotel, Les Clefs d’Or Regional Secretary
BEST OF THE REST
Our judges’ picks for the top three restaurants in 22 dining categories
*Note: Only restaurants that opened prior to November 1, 2014 were considered in all categories. Choices were voted on and discussed by the judges, with consideration for the visitor and local markets, which are Where Calgary‘s audience.
By RACHAEL FREY
Steaming pots of tea, the chatter of happy diners, and carts groaning under the weight of mouth-watering foods—dim sum is a dining experience unlike any other.
For the uninitiated, here’s how it typically works: diners are seated at an already set table with a pot of tea. Servers circulate throughout the room with wheeled carts loaded with different types of dishes and stop at each table. If you see something you want, they’ll leave it on your table and check it off on your order slip. It pays to be adventurous with your selections! The restaurants listed below are some of the best places in Calgary to indulge in a traditional Chinese dim sum feast.
Tips for Enjoying Dim Sum
• The dishes are meant to be shared by the whole table family-style rather than each individual ordering their own.
• Each place setting gets a small bowl and a small plate. The bowl is for eating out of and the plate is for discarding bones or other stuff you don’t want to eat.
• While chopsticks are standard, it’s okay to ask for a fork if needed.
• When the teapot is empty, turn the lid upside down and place the pot near the edge of the table to signal that you need a refill.
• If you spot something you want on a cart across the room, it’s acceptable to walk over to the cart to be served rather than waiting for it to come to you.
• If you want something particular and don’t see it on the carts, just ask—most places are willing to have the kitchen make it for you.
• It’s fine to ask for a to-go container for leftovers. Diners will often order quite a bit more than they can eat with the intention of taking the extras home.
Silver Dragon Restaurant
Arrive before noon, as the dining room fills up quickly and the line to get in to this second-storey restaurant can go all the way downstairs to the street. They have the standard dim sum offerings such as ha gow (a shrimp-filled dumpling with a translucent wheat starch wrapper) and shumai (an open-topped dumpling filled with pork), as well as some less common options like hatosi, a small piece of toast coated with minced shrimp and deep-fried.
• 106 – 3 Ave SE, 403-264-5326
U & Me Restaurant
If you’re struck by a sudden dim sum craving at 2 am, head straight to U & Me. Open from 8 am to 4 am, it’s one of the few places in Calgary to get any meal that late, let alone dim sum. Don’t miss the deep-fried shrimp dumplings served with a dollop of mayonnaise or the zhaliang, fried dough wrapped in a flat sheet of rice noodle.
• 223 Centre St S, 403-264-5988, www.uandmerestaurant.ca
Dragon Chinese Restaurant
This relative newcomer to Calgary’s restaurant scene opened in 2013. The décor is impressive, with plenty of red, gold and—naturally—dragons. Rather than choosing from carts, customers simply check off the dishes they want on a list and servers bring it out from the kitchen. Try the steamed buns stuffed with crabmeat paste, and for dessert, the “wolfberry jello” made with goji berries and lychee.
• 200, 118 – 5 Ave SE, 403-718-0088, dragonchinese.wordpress.com
Located on the upper floor of the Dragon City Mall, this large dining room serves up dim sum from the traditional carts as well as buffet style. If you’re tired of waiting for the carts to come around, just go up to the buffet and pick out what you want (remember to bring your order slip so the buffet attendant can check off your selections).
• 335, 328 Centre Street S, 403-777-2288, www.regencypalacerestaurant.com
Ginger Beef Bistro House
Don’t let the name fool you—the dim sum is authentic here. The clean, contemporary restaurant also offers an additional perk in that you can watch the chefs at work in the kitchen through a large window. They’re known for their ginger beef (of course), Peking duck, and xiaolongbao, a difficult-to-make Shanghai style dumpling filled with soup.
• 400, 388 Country Hills Blvd NE, 403-265-1616, www.gingerbeef.com
• 9629 Macleod Tr SW, 403-271-2233
By RACHAEL FREY & STACEY PARKER
If you’re a vegetarian, you must love salad—because if you don’t, there won’t be a single thing you can eat on most restaurant menus. Fortunately for your taste buds, these five Calgary restaurants are turning out (mostly) vegetarian menus loaded with options.
Be sure to arrive with time to spare in order to gain entry to this 17th Avenue hotspot. Well known and loved among Calgary’s vegetarians, The Coup is entirely vegetarian with a focus on fresh, whole, local, organic food. Vegans and gluten-free diners will be comfortable here as well. Don’t forget to try one of their unique cocktails such as the Kombucha Gimlet with schizandra berry, rose, citrus, vodka and elderflower liqueur, topped with hibiscus rose kombucha.
Must Try: Lotus Root Salad (pictured). Okay, technically this is a salad, but it’s a lot more hearty and flavourful than the standard pile of lettuce. Warm Asian greens, lotus root and organic cherry tomatoes are dressed in a citrus ponzu sauce, then topped with toasted pine nuts and perfectly crisped tofu.
• 924 – 17 Ave SW, 403-541-1041, www.thecoup.ca
• Map and reviews
By RACHAEL FREY
From posh urban eateries to down-home country diners, Food Network’s You Gotta Eat Here showcases beloved Canadian restaurants, with host John Catucci sampling the most outrageous and mouth-watering dishes the nation’s chefs can concoct.
Fans of the show don’t have to just sit at home and drool, though. Head over to one of the 17 Calgary restaurants featured on the show’s four seasons and eat what John ate, or discover a hidden gem on the menu. You Gotta Eat Here airs Fridays at 7 pm on the Food Network.
BOOKERS BBQ GRILL + CRAB SHACK (Episode airs March 27)
This casual barbecue and seafood restaurant is serving up Southern classics like smokehouse brisket, crab legs by the bucket, blackened catfish, jambalaya, and smoked chicken wings. The rustic warehouse interior is the perfect backdrop for a button-popping feast—piles of all-you-can-eat crab legs and BBQ ribs are on the menu every Sunday.
What John Ate: We’ve heard he was forced to choose between crab legs and BBQ ribs—we’re definitely curious to see how many he was able to pack away!
• 316 – 3 St SE, 403-264-6419, www.bookersbbq.com
NAINA’S KITCHEN (Episode airs March 13)
Don’t let the size of the place fool you—this tiny family restaurant is making some of the best burgers in the city. The patties are stuffed with your choice of ingredients, from blue cheese to fresh jalapenos. The Nainalicious, which is stuffed with pulled pork, aged cheddar, caramelized onions, and Granny Smith apple, comes highly recommended.
What John Ate: We won’t know for sure until the episode airs, but frankly it would be weird if he didn’t try a stuffed burger. We’re guessing the Nainalicious was the star of the show.
• 2808 Ogden Rd SE, 403-263-6355, nainaskitchen.com
Premium beer and wood-fired, thin crust pizza are served at this unpretentious rock ’n’ roll bar. The 24 draft lines change several times per week with a focus on breweries outside the mainstream. Try the Blazing Saddle Pizza with blackened steak, banana peppers, white cheddar, mozzarella, crispy onions, cajun remoulade, seasoned arugula and horseradish aioli.
What John Ate: Pizza Spring Rolls — crispy, deep-fried rolls filled with pepperoni, green peppers, mushrooms, basil, mozzarella and spicy marinara sauce.
• 1080 – 8 St SW, 403-264-2739, beerrevolution.ca
GRUMANS CATERING AND DELICATESSEN
This little Jewish deli and catering in Victoria Park features matzo ball soup, potato knishes and Montreal smoked meat sandwiches, just a couple blocks away from the Stampede grounds. They are now serving weekend brunch, including Lox Eggs Benedict served on potato latkes and breakfast poutine with smoked meat, cheese curds, poached eggs and hollandaise.
What John Ate: Smoked Meat Shepherd’s Pie — Montreal smoked meat, sautéed onions, carrots and corn under a mashed potato crust, with a side of veal gravy.
• 2310 – 11 Ave SE, 403-261-9003, grumans.ca
THE FINE DINER
Located in Calgary’s historic community of Inglewood, The Fine Diner serves modern American-classic cuisine with locally sourced ingredients in a good ol’ fashioned ’40s style diner. A private room is available for social events and corporate functions. Try the Breakfast Burger with a homemade patty, caramelized onions, bacon and a sunnyside-up egg.
What John Ate: Meatloaf Sandwich — Homemade, juicy Angus beef meatloaf wrapped in bacon, served with house salad, duck fat fries, soup or honey roasted potatoes.
• 4, 1420 – 9 Ave SE, 403-234-8885, www.finedinercalgary.com
UNA PIZZA + WINE
This is 17th Avenue’s top stop for gourmet thin-crust pizza and Mediterranean-influenced cuisine, as evidenced by the line out the door. Try the popular veal and pork meatballs cooked in tomato sauce as well as pizza with prosciutto, ricotta and fresh arugula. Gluten-free pizza crust is available, and the kitchen is open until 1 am.
What John Ate: Mushroom Pizza — Roasted mushrooms, smoked mozzarella, grana padana cheese, arugula and truffle oil on UNA’s famous crust.
• 618 17 Ave SW, 403-453 -1183, unapizzeria.com
BIG FISH SEAFOOD RESTAURANT & OYSTER BAR
A member of Vancouver Aquarium’s Oceanwise program, Big Fish is a cozy, creative restaurant devoted to sustainable seafood choices. Sample the Canadian oyster bar, which features six premium varieties of East and West Coast oysters. The wine list and after dinner drink menu are well worth checking out too, including the Dark & Stormy Float made with Legendario Cuban rum, spicy ginger beer and cinnamon ice cream.
What John Ate: Soft Shell Crab Club Sandwich — An entire succulent, deep-fried soft shell crab topped with wild boar bacon and organic tomatoes.
• 1112 Edmonton Tr NE, 403-277-3403, big-fish.ca
BIG T’s BBQ & SMOKEHOUSE
True Southern barbecue with slow-smoked barbecue ribs, chicken, pulled pork and more, served with tasty homemade sides such as cornbread, hush puppies and deep-fried pickles. Meals are meant to be eaten family-style, with everyone digging in to the same dishes. Big T’s has a casual vibe and a great bourbon selection.
What John Ate: The Elvis Platter — A massive pile of meat with smoked brisket, pulled pork, St. Louis ribs, half chicken, rib ends, Andouille sausage, coleslaw, beans, fries, gravy, cornbread and buns.
• 2138 Crowchild Tr NW, 403-284-5959, www.bigtsbbq.com
An impressive selection of burgers are available at Boogie’s, including the Deep Fried Mac-n-Cheese Burger with one patty, cheddar and three deep-fried mac ‘n’ cheese wedges. June’s Jerk Chicken Burger is also highly recommended. Sides include regular fries, spicy fries, yam fries, yam chips and onion rings.
What John Ate: Doug’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” Burger — Four beef patties, four slices of bacon, a butterflied wiener, cheddar, a fried egg, Boogie’s signature red sauce, lettuce, tomato and onion, topped with a mini corndog.
• 908 Edmonton Tr NE, 403-230-7070, boogiesburgers.com
Local, seasonal and sustainable cuisine is what’s for lunch at Boxwood, the little sister of the renowned River Café. Located in the historic Central Memorial Park, the café offers inventive dishes like organic citrus chili popcorn and chickpea fritters alongside the stars of the show, juicy rotisserie meats such as roast lamb and organic chicken. Take home warm oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for dessert.
What John Ate: Spragg Farm Roasted Porchetta Sandwich — Rotisserie porchetta topped with cilantro salsa verde, arugula and pork cracklings.
• 340 – 12 Ave SW, 403-265-4006, www.boxwoodcafe.ca
A small, casual café with style located in the heart of Calgary’s Beltline, the specialty is gourmet burgers with toppings such as blue cheese, avocado and red onion. Try the Californian, a vegetarian panini made with sun-dried tomatoes, cream cheese, artichoke hearts, marinated eggplant, banana peppers and tomatoes.
What John Ate: South Beach Bennies — Two poached eggs, Roma tomato, avocado and hollandaise on an English muffin, served with a side of smashbrowns.
• 827 – 10 Ave SW, 403-261-9759, holygrill.ca
This brightly-lit diner with a funky, retro vibe serves all-day breakfast as well as contemporary takes on comfort foods. Expect it to be busy, especially on weekend mornings, but the wait is worth it for dishes like Huevos Rancheros with over easy eggs, jalapeño-lime chicken, roasted red peppers, salsa verde and cilantro sour cream over corn tortillas.
What John Ate: Maple Fried Oatmeal — A slab of oatmeal with dried cranberries fried in maple syrup, then drenched in vanilla bean cream and lemon curd.
• 804 Edmonton Tr NE, 403-276-5499, www.dinerdeluxe.com
FAT CITY FRANKS
A diner in Mission serving hot dogs with creative toppings, like the Ukrainian Dog with potato and cheddar perogy filling, sautéed onions, bacon bits and sour cream or the traditional Chicago Dog with a pickle, tomato, onions, cucumber, celery salt and hot pepper. Classic sides like potato salad and coleslaw as well as vintage malted milkshakes and old-fashioned sodas are also available.
What John Ate: Breakfast Dog — A classic hot dog topped with cream cheese and chive scrambled eggs, cheddar and real bacon bits.
• 2015 – 4 St SW, 403-229-3641, www.fatcityfranks.com
JELLY MODERN DOUGHNUTS
This gourmet doughnut bakery and café offers a sophisticated update on the classic Canadian treat. The tantalizing options include a carrot cake doughnut topped with a cinnamon marscapone glaze, or Nenshi’s Salted Caramel dipped in caramel ganache with maple butter drizzle and a sprinkle of sea salt. They also have sandwiches on plain doughnuts.
What John Ate: Maple Bacon Doughnut — A Canadian favourite, this sticky treat is dipped in brown maple glaze and topped with crumbled Valbella bacon.
• 1414 – 8 St SW, 403-453-2053, jellymoderndoughnuts.com
PFANNTASTIC PANNENKOEK HAUS
This homey Dutch eatery turns pancakes into meals. More like a thick crepe than a typical Canadian pancake, there’s dozens to choose from including the savoury favourite of potato, onion, bacon and cheese, or the popular Black Forest (Zwarte Woud) with warm cherries, ice cream, whipped cream and orange liqueur in a chocolate cup.
What John Ate: Philly Cheese (Steak Met Smeerkaas) Pannenkoek — Steak, peppers, onions, mushrooms and cheese cooked into a pancake, with a side of barbecue sauce.
• 2439 – 54 Ave SW, 403-243-7757, www.dutchpancakes.ca
A hip diner specializing in large hot dogs with unusual toppings, like the PBJ topped with peanut butter, grape jelly and Cap’n Crunch or the Sumo Dog with wasabi mayo, seaweed, pickled ginger and sesame seeds. The décor is almost as interesting as the menu, with a quirky retro vibe that pays homage to Saturday morning cartoons and arcade video games.
What John Ate: Sherm’s Ultimate Gripper — A bacon-wrapped dog on a bed of chili, topped with mustard, banana peppers, sautéed onions, grilled ham, a fried egg and nacho cheese.
• 1022 – 17 Ave SW, 403-244-0694, www.facebook.com/Tubby.Dog.Hot.Dogs
By RACHAEL FREY
When summer arrives, the city’s outdoor restaurant patios bloom. Here is a sample of Calgary’s best places to eat, drink and socialize in the sun.
THE LIVING ROOM
514 – 17 Ave SW, 403-228-9830, livingroomrestaurant.com
Hours: Mon – Fri, 11 am – 2 pm and 5 pm – 12 am; Sun, 5 pm – 12 am.
Venue and Vibe: Plush and contemporary, serving family-style dishes meant to be lingered over in good company.
Patio Appeal: Two outdoor fireplaces and light-wrapped trees cast a warm glow.
Sun and Shade: Mostly shade with dappled sunlight.
The View: Great street-level people watching on 17th Ave Retail & Entertainment District.
Recommends: Cheese fondue with aged white cheddar, black truffle and truffle oil, plus your choice of meat, seafood and veggies to dip. Pair with a light, dry white wine.
By IAN DOIG
Author and food blogger Rebecca Klemke is a member of one of the city’s first families of food. Her uncle Pat O’Connor is the founding owner of Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts (CRMR). The company’s boutique resort hotels and game-focused restaurants (including Cilantro and Bar C) are definitively Western Canadian, sourcing much of their ingredients from the region and the group’s own ranch.
Decades of Decadence is Klemke’s first cookbook and not only catalogues her family recipes, but the clan’s cuisine-centric passion for life. It was recently accredited as being among the Best in the World in the Historical Recipes category at the prestigious Gourmand World Cookbook and Wine Book Awards.
What kind of cookbook is Decades of Decadence?
Bursting with over 300 recipes, it allows readers to choose their own adventure with food. From cocktail parties to romantic dates, summer cooking, holiday spirits, extravagant feasts or just dinner with friends and/or family.
By ANGELA NEUFELD
When you’re out for dinner and drinks in Calgary, consider requesting a seat at the bar. Bartender banter, cocktail clatter and the sociable setting of a communal elbow rest deliver an instant dose of nightlife. Also on the plus side, most venues’ dinner menus can be enjoyed at the bar sans (typically) reservations. Below is a guide to a varied assortment of great restaurant bars.
The Bar: Bright and contemporary, its blonde wood backbar and red bar seats are a fun and modern twist to this French bistro.
The Appeal: You can cozy up to your dinner date at this intimate six-seater. The rustic French food far exceeds its price tag.
The Feel: Refined yet happily casual.
Specials: Occasional weekend special: homemade ice cream sandwiches, seafood du jour.
Bar Reservations: Call ahead on Fri and Sat.
Recommends: Steak frites with béarnaise and aioli paired with a fine French red. Or the Drink French Fluently cocktail made with St. Germain liqueur and Champagne.
Hours: Mon – Thu, 11:30 – 2:30, 5 pm – 10 pm; Fri, 11:30 – 2:30, 5 pm – 11 pm; Sat, 5 pm – 11 pm; Sun, closed
• Avec Bistro, 105, 550 – 11 Ave SW, 587-352-0964, www.avecbistro.com
• Map and reviews
By IAN DOIG
Soon after opening in 2008, Rush was declared one of the country’s top restaurants, and according to Wine Spectator, the contemporary, upscale eatery also maintains one of its best wine lists. It was also certainly one of the city’s most beautiful rooms, featuring lux seating, glass dividers and a visible wine cellar. Despite its glowing critical reputation, the trend-setting eatery has undergone a major reinvention that even includes a new name: Rush Ocean Prime.
Pat Soul, vice president, premium brands, of Vintage Group, which owns Rush, says the critical acclaim didn’t always resonate with patrons. Two and a half years in the planning, it has been given a major renovation as well as new lunch and dinner menus. This carefully planned evolution, Soul says, retains its fine-dining ambitions but is simply more approachable.
“You can expect a less pretentious, more relaxed vibe,” he says. “An open, upbeat atmosphere in the lounge and that same luxurious dining room. Like the new model year of a great car, it’s just a revised, better version.”