Calgary restaurants have not always had a great reputation. When we talk about food in Canada it’s always first about Montreal and then Vancouver and Toronto. But Calgary changed a long time ago and it’s only starting to get the recognition it deserves.
Many have an outdated view of Calgary as oil, beef and the Stampede. Not surprisingly Calgary is viewed as the airport hub before moving onto Jasper or Banff.
It’s true it was once a haven for business expensed fueled restaurants feeding executives lavish steak dinners. But the economy changed and the food scene thrived with smaller restaurants serving some of Canada’s most interesting food. If you think Calgary sushi would be terrible, think again!
We loved our time eating in Calgary and are stoked to share why you should stay for at least a weekend
If you travel for food Calgary needs to be on your list, we liked it so much we created a downloadable Calgary restaurants PDF with my favourite finds.
Best Calgary Restaurants
Chef Roy Oh destroyed us. Anju was our first stop in Calgary and we ate so much for lunch we couldn’t eat dinner. It wasn’t only quantity of food we ate but also the experience. It was by far the best meal we had in ages and he set the bar high for Calgary.
Anju translates to “food you eat with alcohol, “ which seems far more fitting than the ubiquitous “tapas” reference. Everything was amazing but we LOVED the spicy beef tendon.
Recently named the best new restaurant in the country, Pigeon Hole is a wine and snack bar by Justin Leboe, one of the best chefs in the country. Food is served on small plates and you’ll see people in jeans and hoodies seated next to couples dressed for date night.
Don’t miss the charred cabbage with Mimolette and jalapeno salad cream.
While Pigeon Hole gets most of the press these days, we were most interested in visiting the first restaurant Model Milk. With great respect for Chef Justin Leboe, Model Milk didn’t get the recognition it deserved.
Housed in a former milk factory, now a casual atmosphere with some of Canada’s best food. The fricassee of calamari with guanciale has been on the menu from the beginning.
This is no ordinary hotel bar. Raw Bar recently completed renovations and houses a new sheek interior with modern Vietnamese food from Chef Jinhee Lee with fantastic cocktails.
If you’re staying at Hotel Arts and just want to chill out on your own there are televisions screens on one side airing sports and news.
It feels unfair to call the Kensington neighbourhood the Brooklyn of Calgary, but when you cross the Peace Bridge skyscrapers are replaced with heritage buildings and independent shops.
Brasserie Kensington serves simple Canadian comfort food paired with craft beer. Think upscale versions of your favourites like parmesan pommes frites, foie gras poutine and potted duck rillette.
The restaurant is part of a food and drink triad that includes Wine Bar Kensington with an extensive list of 100+ wines and comfort food and Container Bar, an eccentric bar located in the neighbouring alley.
Start the Day Off Right
With two locations in the city, we visited the Simmons Building and discovered it is home to some of the best bread I’ve ever had.
And the breakfast! The labneh, eggs, tomatoes and pita! It was so good we went back the next two mornings to eat it again. Be prepared to wait in line at lunch but it’s well worth it.
Who doesn’t love a modern diner? It’s the kind of place where a girl can order a breakfast salad because an egg on anything is amazing and her guy can order pancakes and a milkshake.
Every neighbourhood should have a Beltliner, fortunately this one is walking distance from Hotel Arts.
We thought we knew coffee, that is until talking to Phil. He knows coffee and is a fanatic about making sure you have the absolute best cup.
Phil & Sebastian are former engineers and approach coffee making with intensity, controlling every part of the process from buying to roasting. There are six locations in the city. Calgary is serious about coffee.
Best Calgary Restaurants We Missed
Ox and Angela
A Spanish tapas joint on 17th Ave, it came up in many local’s recommendations.
An institution in Calgary that has been home to many chefs while maintaining its reputation as one of the best fine dining restaurants.
Another one of Calgary restaurants that is considered an institution. We met with Chef Paul Rogalski in his beautiful vegetable garden to talk about the changing food scene in Calgary. With a focus on terroir and respecting ingredients, it’s not surprising the restaurant is still as popular as when it opened.
Calgary’s Cocktail Craze
Cocktails are hot right now in Calgary, so much so that people didn’t ask us to go for a drink but specifically a cocktail. if you’re into mixology don’t miss:
Seasonal cocktails and small plates, no reservations at Proof but if there aren’t any seats they’ll take your number so you can head elsewhere for a drink to wait until they call.
Known in “the industry” as private dining room, PDR has a familiar 1960s nostalgic feeling…depending on your age. PDR doesn’t have regular hours but you’re likely to get a seat after 9:30pm.
Located in Hotel Arts, the unpretentious cocktail program is directed by Christina Maw, who is confident enough to tell you where else you should go. Bonus points.
Walk it Off – Calgary RiverWalk
In order to have a truly gluttonous holiday you need to walk between meals. We love walking through cities because you come across little pockets that will surprise you.
While the city of Calgary is great to walk through the RiverWalk behind the Simmons Building is spectacular. You walk alongside cyclists and runners through lush areas and parks. It’s an awesome way to discover the city.
Where to Stay in Calgary
A luxury suite in a great location. Hotel Arts is just around the corner from trendy 17th Ave with all of the restaurants and bars, but also only a short walk from the East Village. If you’d prefer to cycle the hotel has complimentary Brooklyn Cruiser Bikes.
Getting Around Calgary
Calgary is an orderly city, divided into four quadrants, and so easy for travelers. North/South are divided by the Bow River and East/West by Centre St/Macleod Trail.
If you’re renting a car getting into the city is a breeze as it’s only 8 miles from downtown. There are three bus routes from downtown to the airport for $8, taxis range between $35-45 and many hotels offer a shuttle.
Once in the city the C-Train is a great light rail system and it’s free between 10th street and City Hall stations. If you’re traveling outside make sure you get a proof of purchase ticket.
Want to take this information home with you? Check out our free 48 Hour Calgary Restaurants Guide. All the links click through to restaurant websites so you can begin to plan your trip at home.
What best restaurants in Calgary did we miss? Where should we go next time? Let us know because Calgary is worth more than one visit.