One might not expect to find much culinary imagination in a place formerly synonymous with campfire beans and overcooked beef, but Calgary has developed an innovative and vibrant food scene. In addition to CHARCUT and Chef’s Table (see main story), here are three restaurants of note.
Set along the Bow River in an atmospheric 1891 house that was once the home of a wealthy Alberta cattleman, Rouge features simple ingredients — including produce from its own substantial gardens — imaginatively prepared. Try starters such as warm potato and duck confit salad, or rabbit consommé with mushroom dumpling. You’ll find main courses such as grass-fed beef tenderloin with a broccoli-stem salsa verde, or a perfectly cooked lamb loin with lamb confit and carrot polenta. There are three inviting dining venues inside, plus an outdoor garden and patio in fine weather. Five minutes from downtown. 1240 8th Avenue S.E.; Tel. (403) 531-2767
The attractive storefront dining room fits within a historic building on Stephen Avenue, the city’s bustling downtown pedestrian mall. A banquette and an inviting bar stretch along one exposed-brick wall and bistro-style tables line the other, served by an open kitchen where local and regional organic ingredients are prepared with a contemporary French influence. The seasonal menu offers starters such as a salad of salt-baked beets, or mushrooms on toast with a soft-poached egg. Entrées might feature Arctic char from Yukon, British Columbia sturgeon and Alberta beef. Open for lunch and dinner. 111 Stephen Avenue (8th Ave. S.W.); Tel. (403) 263-5330
A Calgary favorite for two decades due to its excellent locally sourced food and lodge-style ambiance, River Café has a charming location in Prince’s Island Park, reached by three footbridges. Diners are greeted with a selection of house-made breads and locally churned butter, and starters such as flatbread with red lentil hummus, or a board of house-cured game and fish. Main courses include local bison, line-caught Pacific lingcod and naturally raised beef. The best Canadian wines are to be found on an international wine list, or guests may bring their own wine and pay a corkage fee. 25 Prince's Island Park; Tel. (403) 261-7670