Elizabeth Chorney-Booth is a Calgary-based generalist freelance writer and one of the new authors of the Best of Bridge cookbook series.
Dan Clapson is a Calgary-based food writer and Global News Calgary’s restaurant correspondent.
Jeffrey Cobrana is a concierge at the Hyatt Regency Calgary, a member of Les Clefs d’Or Canada, and the winner of a Calgary White Hat award for Best Concierge.
Linda Garson operates Vine & Dine, is the Canadian National and Calgary Wine Examiner, and Editor-in-Chief/Publisher of Culinaire magazine.
Nicole Gomes is a chef and the owner of Nicole Gourmet catering company.
Diana Ng is the co-founder of Eat North, an online food destination with a focus on Canadian content.
Gwendolyn Richards is the Calgary Herald food writer and author of Pucker: A Cookbook for Citrus Lovers.
Cindy Stewart is the Chef Concierge of the Westin Hotel Calgary and the Regional Director of Les Clefs d’Or Alberta.
Julie Van Rosendaal wears many food-related hats, including one as the food and nutrition columnist on the Calgary Eyeopener on CBC Radio One, and writer of dinnerwithjulie.com.
Best New Restaurants in Calgary 2015
With the success of Model Milk — a go-to destination for fine food and cocktails — the anticipation of a second venture by chef and owner Justin Leboe was palpable in Calgary. When Pigeonhole opened in May 2015, it did not disappoint. “Pigeonhole is all about the overall experience of dining out: the room, the vinyl, the well-curated wine list,” says Julie Van Rosendaal. I love that the food is designed for sharing, so that you can stop in for a drink and a snack or stay for the evening, sharing small plates that enable you try a lot of new things.” The venue has a small-plates-meets-wine-bar vibe, Pigeonhole is the opposite of its name: it cannot be “pigeonholed” or categorized as any one type of restaurant. With unexpected mixes of ingredients and an always-changing menu. For Calgary, it’s a welcome first.
As one of the anchor tenants in the new East Village, Charbar is the second restaurant from chefs John Jackson and Connie DeSousa’s who also own Charcut (page xx). The food itself is inspired from dishes in Argentina, and much of it is cooked on their parrillas — Argentinian wood-fired grills.
For dinner, try the tableside ceviche paired with one of their thick-crust pizzas, or the melt-in-your-mouth ultra dry-aged porterhouse steak. On a weekend morning stop by Charbar for brunch where the Phil & Sebastian (page xx) coffee is hot and the menu is bursting with non-traditional breakfast items such as the baked eggs, avocado and pistachio bruschetta, and the cult favourite deep fried French toast bites with house made dulce de leche. The bar serves up food and drinks late, so Charbar can be enjoyed no matter the time of day, or season. In the summer, the rooftop patio is a must-visit.
Maison Birks Silver Spoon Award: The Nash & Off Cut Bar
The winner of this award is chosen by the members of Les Clefs d’Or Alberta (“the Golden Keys” Hotel Concierge Society). These individuals represent many of Calgary’s high-end hotels, and pride themselves on being local experts, at the forefront of Calgary’s dining and hospitality scene. Our members evaluate the nominated restaurants based on their ability to provide visitors and residents with an exceptional, luxurious, and authentically local dining experience.
— A. Warren Downs, Fairmont Gold Manager, Chef Concierge, Director Alberta Regions Les Clefs d’Or Canada
The Nash & Off Cut Bar
“The Nash offers guests a delicious, locally sourced menu that is both sophisticated and inventive from presentation to taste,” says A. Warren Sowns, Fairmont Gold Manager. “The design and décor pay homage to Calgary’s original boom days of the roaring 20s, a brilliant combination of old world charm and modern flair. The passion and knowledge of the staff is evident with every interaction; all are extremely well versed in all of their offerings, and are happy to answer detailed questions about any aspect of the menu, from wine pairings to preparation methods. Indeed, every facet of the Nash is exceptional, making for a one of a kind dining experience from start to finish, suitable for any occasion. Chef and restaurateur Michael Noble has once again created a culinary masterpiece, one that you will surely enjoy as a visitor to, or resident of Calgary.”
“The Nash has something for every mood,” says Linda Garson. “It’s a beautiful spot, with a great ambience that attracts all age groups. Every experience has been noteworthy for me — whether a business lunch, a shared group dinner or just sipping cocktails in the Off Cut Bar with some nibbles. The innovative dishes are really well-executed, the starters are as good as the entrees, which are as good as the desserts.”
Best Overall Restaurants Calgary
This contemporary Korean restaurant from Chef Roy Oh opened in its original location in 2008 and re-located in 2014, and now it’s one of our go-to places to recommend to visitors. “I’ve been eating here for years,” says Dan Clapson,“and have yet to have a lackluster experience. That’s what happens when you do your signature dishes to perfection.” Specializing in small plates, the food has been thoughtfully curated to compliment their selection of cocktails. “It’s a great place to drop in early evening for drinks or snacks, for dinner, or for late night munchies and a glass of wine,” says Linda Garson. “I love the fact that you can enjoy this type of [high quality] food until 1 am,” says Nicole Gomes. Popular menu items include the “KFC” Korean Fried Chicken, edamame beans, and the crispy tofu with kimchi (even if you don’t typically like tofu, you’ll love this). Start your weekend off right with Anju’s brunch — it’s served until 5 pm, so sleep in! Dig in to a pork belly Eggs Benedict, or the decadent French toast with chocolate mousse.
Tucked by the banks of the Bow River in a house from the 19th century is one of Calgary’s notable special occasion restaurants. “Entering Rouge is like walking into a friend’s home,” says Cindy Stewart. “Rouge offers a fine dining experience without the attitude.” “To me, Rouge is just a classic,” says Elizabeth Chorney-Booth.“I think guests feel special as soon as they walk through its doors.” The menu at Rouge changes each season, reflecting a commitment to working with local farmers for the best and freshest ingredients. Whether you’re looking for a romantic meal for two or a lunch with friends, Rouge impresses with its artful presentation and taste. “The joy of booking a meal at Rouge is knowing that it will be consistent: delicious, local and ethical food, professional service, and there’ll always be a wine from the extensive list that you want to drink,” says Linda Garson. We’ll toast to that!
A cozy downtown retreat, it’s not hard to see why Blink maintains a spot on our “Best Overall” list every year. “I can never decide what to order at Blink because when I read the menu, I want it all,” says Linda Garson. “There’s an excellent selection of wines for food to choose from too, and somehow Blink manages to carry it off humbly without any pomp and circumstance.” It’s just an overall exceptional dining experience without any trendy gimmicks, though the menu does change frequently to incorporate seasonal ingredients. It’s location — “one of the best restaurants to experience on Stephen Avenue,” says Jeffrey Cobrana — makes it easy to get to from the CTrain, downtown hotels, shopping at The Core, between downtown meetings, or a night out at Arts Commons.“Clean and classic, Blink manages to feel comfortable, yet suitable for a business meeting at the same time,” says Elizabeth Booth. “The food is consistently great and owner Leslie Echino’s carefully curated wine list is a perfect complement to what’s coming out of the kitchen.”
Best of the Rest
Best Dessert (To Go)
Yann Haute Patisserie
Best Dessert (To Stay)
Best for Families
Best for Hyper-local Ingredients
Sidewalk Citizen Bakery
Best for Business
Best Café/Coffee Shop
Best Multi-Location/Chain Restaurant
Best Vegetarian Food
Catch & The Oyster Bar
Briggs Kitchen + Bar
Over Easy Breakfast
Yellow Door Bistro
Sushi Bar Zipang
Ki Modern Japanese
Best Takeaway/Quick Service
Tuk Tuk Thai
Best for Beer
Best for Wine
Best for Cocktails
Oak Tree Tavern