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Calgary’s Best Eats: Where to Dine Award Winners 2013

By IAN DOIG and ADELE BRUNNHOFER

Model-Milk

Model Milk’s boudin noir with egg yolk gnocchi (Photo: Jason Dziver)

Calgary’s dining scene continues its prolonged hot streak. As bold new eateries emerge, the (generally friendly) competition has moved established restaurants to up their game. The scene’s sheer scope of choice and high level of taste is well represented in this list of Calgary’s best dining establishments.

THE PANELLISTS

John Gilchrist
Panel moderator, Where contributing editor, Calgary’s top restaurant critic

Dan Clapson
Cuisine writer, Food Network Canada commentator, food blogger at dansgoodside.com

Cindy Stewart
Les Clef D’Or member and chef concierge at the Westin Calgary

Julie Van Rosendaal
Food writer, commentator and host of online cooking series Good Bite and Viva Network’s It’s Just Food

Stephanie Arsenault
Food writer and blogger at globaldish.ca

Gwendolyn Richards
Blogger and Calgary Herald food writer

Scott Pohorelic
Chef, Southern Alberta Institute of Technology culinary instructor

Don House
Board chair, Alberta Culinary Tourism Alliance

THE WINNERS

Chef Justin Leboe of Model Milk. Photo: Jason Dziver

Chef Justin Leboe of Model Milk (Photo: Jason Dziver)

BEST OVERALL: Model Milk
This darling of the national restaurant scene serves Canadian cuisine by chef Justin Leboe that makes excellent use of regional ingredients from Brant Lake wagyu beef and Broek Acres pork to wild-caught northern walleye and Lois Lake steelhead trout. The house burger is a perennial recommend, and the sharable Mountain View fried chicken is a delectable fit with the restaurant’s sociable atmosphere. Named for its art deco dairy warehouse location, its general boisterousness paired with the sizzle and scents of its open kitchen make any meal here a memorable one. Meant to be enjoyed with good company, Model Milk’s family-style Sunday suppers are hearty, creative and constantly evolving. Also make a point of sipping a selection from the restaurant’s lovely cocktail menu.
• Model Milk, www.modelmilk.ca
Map and reviews 

STEAK: Vintage Chophouse and Tavern
A contemporary take on classic steak and seafood dishes in a relaxing, business-casual setting.
Runner up: Open Range 
• Vintage Chophouse and Tavern, www.vintagechophouse.com
Map and reviews

SEAFOOD: Catch & The Oyster Bar
Catch features an upscale, upstairs dining room and casual, main-floor oyster bar.
Runner up: Big Fish
• Catch & The Oyster Bar, hyatt.com/gallery/catch
Map and reviews

CANADIAN: River Café
The best local ingredients, fishing lodge charm and island park location make it a signature Calgary dining experience.
Runner up: Blink
• River Café, www.river-cafe.com
Map and reviews

FINE DINING: Teatro
Housed in a downtown historic bank building, Teatro features some of the best service and fine Italian cuisine this side of the Atlantic.
Runner up: Rouge
• Teatro, www.teatro.ca
Map and reviews

FAMILY DINING: Cibo
Cibo’s hip digs, contemporary Italian-inspired fare and kid-friendly ways make it a natural with food-loving families.
Runner up: The Selkirk Grille
• Cibo, cibocalgary.com
Map and reviews

BRUNCH: Blue Star Diner
The pint-sized spot is one of the city’s hottest contemporary diners, serving comfortably reinvented breakfast classics from Bennies to burritos.
Runner up: OEB
• Blue Star Diner, www.bluestardiner.ca
Map and reviews

TAPAS AND SMALL PLATES: Candela Lounge
Upmarket yet deliciously accessible, the versatile, downtown dining hotspot serves knockout global-inspired dishes.
Runner up: Vin Room
• Candela Lounge, candelalounge.com
Map and reviews

[RELATED: 10 Calgary Restaurants for Gluten-Free Diners]

VEGETARIAN FRIENDLY: The Coup + Meet
A fiercely local, organic and undeniably delicious take on vegetarian cuisine, The Coup also features Meet, a pleasant, green-themed cocktail lounge.
Runner up: Thai Onzon
• The Coup + Meet, www.thecoup.ca
Map and reviews

PUB FARE: National
Craft beer and contemporary lounge cuisine are the focus at this big and buzzy beer hall with two inner-city locations.
Runner up: Craft Beer Market
• National, ntnl.ca
Map and reviews

PIZZA: Without Papers Pizza
Leader of the city’s pizza revolution, it’s simply a relaxing hangout for pie and drinks.
Runner up: Posto Pizzeria and Bar
• Without Papers Pizza, www.wopizza.ca
Map and reviews

DESSERT: CHARCUT Roast House
Yes, it remains one of the city’s meatiest and in-demand Canadian contemporary restaurants, but the dessert menu is also killer.
Runner up: Yellow Door Bistro
• CHARCUT Roast House, charcut.com
Map and reviews

FRENCH: Cassis Bistro
For French bistro cuisine in a breezy, relaxed room, the critically acclaimed restaurant is unbeatable.
Runner up: Avec Bistro
• Cassis Bistro, www.thecassisbistro.ca
Map and reviews

INDIAN: Mango Shiva
Its excellent Indian cuisine and casual, contemporary flare make Mango Shiva a consistent standout.
Runner up: Moti Mahal
• Mango Shiva, www.mangoshiva.com
Map and reviews

ITALIAN: Bonterra Trattoria
This fine Italian dinning spot features a comfortable, casual setting and a hidden-gem patio in summer.
Runner up: Borgo Trattoria
• Bonterra Trattoria, bonterra.ca
Map and reviews

MEDITERRANEAN: Aida’s Bistro
A friendly, unassuming go-to spot for mean Mediterranean cuisine, Aida’s is a perennial restaurant favourite.
Runner up: Santorini Greek Taverna
• Aida’s Bistro, www.aidasbistro.ca
Map and reviews

LATIN: Gaucho Brazilian Barbecue
Barbecue chefs stroll Gaucho’s beautifully appointed Rodizio dining room, serving diners mouth-watering meat skewers and a special cuisine experience. Runner up: Sabroso
• Gaucho Brazilian Barbecue, brazilianbbq.ca
Map and reviews

JAPANESE: Sushi Bar Zipang
Serving seriously delicious sushi, sashimi and hot entrees, Zipang does Japanese food right.
Runner up: Wa’s Japanese Restaurant
• Sushi Bar Zipang, zipang.ca
Map and reviews

CHINESE: Silver Dragon
A Calgary Chinese food institution, Silver Dragon serves both a consistently first-rate evening entree menu and daytime dim sum menu.
Runner up: Han’s Restaurant
• Silver Dragon, www.silverdragoncalgary.ca
Map and reviews

VIETNAMESE: Balo Vietnamese Restaurant
Balo’s sprawling menu features a tantalizing array of Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese dishes including many Asian standards.
Runner up: Pho Dau Bo
• Balo Vietnamese Restaurant, www.facebook.com/BaloRestaurant
Map and reviews

THAI: White Elephant Cuisine
Lovingly presented and deeply flavourful Thai classics served in a quaintly comfortable setting.
Runner up: Thai Sa-on
• White Elephant Cuisine, www.whiteelephantcuisinecalgary.com
Map and reviews

MEXICAN: Xocolat
This elegant eatery is making a name with fine Mexican contemporary cuisine that’s inventive and wildly delicious.
Runner up: Añejo Restaurant
• Xocolat, xocolat.ca
Map and reviews

REGIONAL CHAIN: Local Public Taverns & Kitchens
A restaurant and tavern with several city locations (002, 510, 522) serves craft brew and hip ‘n’ delicious pub food.
Runner up: Redwater Rustic Grille
• Local Public Taverns & Kitchens, www.localtavern.ca
Map and reviews

FOOD TRUCK: Farm Girls Food Truck & Catering
Serving crazily comfy comfort-food creations, these girls’ sumptuous down-home dishes are heavy on fresh-from-the-farm meat and veggies.
Runner up: Cheezy Bizness
• Farm Girls Food Truck & Catering, farmgirlsfood.com
Map and reviews

HIDDEN GEM: The Himalayan
Hearty dumplings, grilled meats, stir-fries and succulent, simmered stews; The Himalayan’s warm, wonderful Nepalese cuisine satisfies.
Runner up: Spice 7
• The Himalayan, himalayancuisine.ca
Map and reviews

BIRKS SILVER SPOON: Vintage Chophouse and Tavern
The members of hotel concierge organization Les Clefs d’Or (“The Golden Keys”) annually honour one restaurant that has outdone itself in serving their guests. Congratulations, Vintage Chophouse.
• Vintage Chophouse and Tavern, www.vintagechophouse.com
Map and reviews

Editor’s Pick – BEST NEW RESTAURANTS: Yellow Door Bistro
With a French bistro-inspired menu by Duncan Ly, one of the city’s top chefs, this inviting restaurant in Hotel Arts serves brilliantly delicious food. Consider the best-ever duck cassoulet, superb sous vide beef tenderloin or grilled Alberta trout (you’ll be hooked!), and pair these sumptuous selections with wines by the glass from its enomatic vino system.
• Yellow Door Bistro, www.yellowdoorbistro.ca
Map and reviews

Editor’s Picks – BEST NEW RESTAURANTS: Bistro Rouge

Bistro Rouge's beef burger with bacon, cheddar and remoulade sauce. Photo: Jason Dziver

Bistro Rouge’s beef burger with bacon, cheddar and remoulade sauce (Photo: Jason Dziver)

Sister to the internationally acclaimed Rouge, the more casual Bistro Rouge is a classic French brasserie. Chef Paul Rogalski’s traditional bistro fare includes melt-in-your-mouth sweetbreads and paillards grille (thin, tenderized and grilled meats). The bistro’s three intimate dining areas feature a stellar view of Calgary’s downtown skyline.
• Bistro Rouge, bistrorougeyyc.com
Map and reviews

Editor’s Pick – TOP COCKTAIL SPOT: Caesar’s Steakhouse & Lounge
Long a dinner ‘n’ drinks hangout for oil patch movers and shakers, the legendary oak-and-velour steakhouse is the spot to enjoy Calgary’s signature cocktail, the Caesar.
• Caesar’s Steakhouse & Lounge, caesarssteakhouse.com
Map and reviews

Cozy Carino is winning prestigious dining awards, including this one. Photo: Jason Dziver

Cozy Carino is winning prestigious dining awards, including this one (Photo: Jason Dziver)

Editor’s Pick – TOP WINE SPOT: Carino Japanese Bistro + Wine
An elegant hole-in the-wall restaurant serving Euro-Japanese cuisine, owner-sommelier Toshi Karino’s wine list and service are superb.
• Carino Japanese Bistro + Wine, carinobistro.ca
Map and reviews

Editor’s Pick – TOP BEER SPOT: Bottlescrew Bill’s Pub
Bottlescrew Bill’s Pub and Buzzard’s Restaurant & Bar compose a two-in-one drinking and dining landmark, sharing an elevated pub grub menu and featuring a seemingly endless international beer selection. This is a Calgary beer institution.
• Bottlescrew Bill’s Pub, bottlescrewbill.com
Map and reviews

PUBLISHER’S CHOICE: Iconic Eateries

A number of restaurants appear repeatedly in the pages of Where Calgary because they are the city’s top signature eateries. These are the cuisine hotspots that visitors must know about.

Buchanan’s Chophouse
Celebrating its 25th anniversary, this acclaimed bar and restaurant serves one of the city’s best burgers and the best whisky selection on the continent.
• Buchanan’s Chophouse, buchanans.ca
Map and reviews

Murrieta’s West Coast Bar & Grill
A downtown fixture, Murrieta’s is big with locals and visitors alike, for its fun atmosphere, evening-time live music and great food.
• Murrieta’s West Coast Bar & Grill, murrietas.ca
Map and reviews

Divino Wine & Cheese Bistro
The crown jewel of Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts restaurants, Divino is warm and welcoming and its local game-ranch dishes are excellent.
• Divino Wine & Cheese Bistro, crmr.com/divino
Map and reviews

La Chaumiere
The ultimate Calgary “power” restaurant, La Chaumiere is frequented by the city’s wealthiest and most famous residents, and its fine French menu is impeccably superb.
• La Chaumiere, www.lachaumiere.ca
Map and reviews

The Belvedere
For locally focused fine dining on Stephen Avenue Walk, it doesn’t get better than The Belvedere, a Wine Spectator award winner.
• The Belvedere, www.thebelvedere.ca
Map and reviews

The Rimrock
You don’t have to stay at the Fairmont Palliser to dine here, and feel like royalty doing so.
• The Rimrock, www.fairmont.com/palliser-calgary/dining/therimrock
Map and reviews

Alloy
A gorgeously appointed hideaway, Alloy practically defines contemporary fine dining.
• Alloy, alloydining.com
Map and reviews

DINING IN CALGARY? CHECK OUT:
• A Guide to Calgary’s Best Cocktail Lists
• The 5 Best Gourmet Pizzerias in Calgary
• The 8 Best Restaurants on Calgary’s Edmonton Trail

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