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Best of Canada

On A High Note: Calgary’s Intimate Live Music Venues


Hired Guns play to an excited crowd at the Ironwood Stage & Grill (Photo: Jason Dziver)

Hired Guns play to an excited crowd at the Ironwood Stage & Grill (Photo: Jason Dziver)

When the sun sets, the sound of live music and laughter escapes the historic Garry Theatre just east of downtown Calgary. The comfortably worn-in brick heritage building that’s home to the Ironwood Stage & Grill, a music club featuring live performances every night of the week, with two shows daily on weekends. It seats 140 yet maintains a cozy, intimate vibe.


5 French Finds


Steak tartare topped with an egg yolk, at Bistro Wagon Rouge. (Photo: KK Law)

Steak tartare topped with an egg yolk, at Bistro Wagon Rouge. (Photo: KK Law)

Bistro Wagon Rouge Beef cheeks Bourguignon, cassoulet and steak frites are just some of the top draws at this East Side diner, reinvented and rediscovered by locals.

Les Faux Bourgeois This bustling room brings new life to the unlikely backwater of Kingsway and Fraser. Go for the tarte flambée, choucroute, duck confit and more.

Salade de Fruits Cafe South Granville’s worst-kept secret is a tiny space in Le Centre Culturel that packs ’em in for frogs’ legs and coquille St. Jacques.

Provence Mediterranean Grill Polished West Side retreat not far from UBC welcomes with a sunny disposition and classic variations such as West Coast bouillabaisse, prawns provençale and more.

The French Table Long-time downtown chef Hervé Martin pulled up stakes for South Main and never looked back. Go for the croque monsieur, Burgundy fondue and friendly but polished service.

Bean Around Town


Discover Vancouver’s neighbourhoods with a cup of the city’s most celebrated beverage in hand

A lineup of pour-overs at the ready, at Revolver. (Photo: KK Law)

A lineup of pour-overs at the ready, at Revolver. (Photo: KK Law)

The city’s oldest neighbourhood is a hotbed for fashionable boutiques and trendy watering holes—coffee houses included. Diminutive and wood-trimmed, Revolver is regularly crammed with connoisseurs. The menu rotates weekly, with beans chosen by blind taste test. At the forefront of the slow-coffee movement, the cafe’s brewed-to-order methods include pour-over, syphon, French press, AeroPress, Chemex and, of course, espresso.

ALSO VISIT Luke’s General Store for the quaint shop and celebrated Stumptown roast. Or wait for a carefully crafted pour-over at Timbertrain, where it’s all aboard the slow-coffee movement.

Just like the heart of the city, much-loved JJ Bean is always lively, and diverse. Settle into the beautifully appointed location inside the art deco–style Marine Building, or people-watch from the sleek Yaletown location. The third-generation roaster and cafe takes its small-batch house-roasted coffee seriously—and Vancouverites swear by it.

ALSO VISIT Charming Finch’s Tea & Coffee House for fair-trade and organic coffee, and baguette sandwiches with a cult-like following.

A barista pulls an espresso at Milano. (Photo: KK Law)

A barista pulls an espresso at Milano. (Photo: KK Law)

West End
The vintage bikes and reclaimed wood in Greenhorn Espresso Bar capture the essence of the West End, nestled between downtown and Stanley Park, and encircled by the seawall. A retail shop, gallery and light-fare menu round out the coffee shop’s devotion to a great cuppa. Beans are sourced from North Vancouver’s Moja Coffee, which features fair-trade and organic beans, roasted on-site.

ALSO VISIT Milano for the complex and award-winning blended espressos.

At 49th Parallel, easygoing cafe meets top-notch coffee in a neighbourhood known for its beach scene and West Coast vibe. The beans from this coffee roaster can be found in cups across the city—and North America. To round out the experience, bite into a made-from-scratch indulgence from Lucky’s Doughnuts.

ALSO VISIT Elysian, a neighbourhood favourite known for first-class coffee and house-made baked goods.

Main St. & Commercial Drive
Matchstick Coffee fits right into trendsetting East Vancouver, where cutting-edge meets quirky. This micro-roaster and cafe serves meticulously crafted pour-overs and espressos, and fresh bites prepared with local and organic ingredients.

ALSO VISIT Bump ‘n’ Grind for the rotating menu of coffee prepared with a Clover brewer. Art lines the walls at Kafka’s, but with four brewing methods available, the real art is in the cup.

You Gotta Eat Here! 12 Restaurants That are Worth the Drive from the Big City

You Gotta Eat Here host John Catucci (photo: Geoff George)

You Gotta Eat Here host John Catucci (photo: Geoff George)

Canada’s big cities are home to all manner of acclaimed restaurants. Each year local and visiting foodies flock to by the thousands to the likes of Vij’s and Hawksworth in Vancouver, Canoe and The Black Hoof in Toronto, and Chives in Halifax. But there’s also great food to be had off the beaten path. On his Food Network Canada show You Gotta Eat Here, John Catucci travels across the country in search of the most mouth-watering dishes at hometown-favourite eateries. In advance of You Gotta Eat Here‘s season-three premiere on April 4, Catucci tells Where about some excellent restaurants that are well worth a road trip.

Click onward to see the restaurants that are worth the drive from Canada’s big cities!

Best of Toronto: 30 Things We Love About Our City This April

Each and every month we scour the city to bring you all the very best that Toronto has to offer! Check out our latest favourites below.

Best of Toronto #1: Jessica Bradley Gallery

Best of Toronto #1: Jessica Bradley Gallery

1 Awesome—and often local—contemporary art displayed in an industrial-style space at Jessica Bradley Gallery.

2 Relaxing at friendly Swedish-inspired café Fika with a cardamom-spiced latte.

3 Getting fitted for a high-quality yet affordable blazer at Dutch import Suitsupply.

4 Singing along with the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, when she performs her greatest hits at Roy Thomson Hall.

5 An artfully interactive fam-jam courtesy of the AGO’s Family Sundays program.


B-Side Dinner & Drinks: Eat at the Bar in Calgary


Bartender Travis Whitney shares a laugh with patrons at Avec Bistro (Photo: Jason Dziver)

Bartender Travis Whitney shares a laugh with patrons at Avec Bistro (Photo: Jason Dziver)

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


Things to Do in Toronto: Festivals, Concerts and Events This April

There are always so many things to do in Toronto. Get out and enjoy some of the many great events and concerts taking place throughout the city this month!


Jose Reyes and the Toronto Blue Jays try to bounce back from a woeful 2013 (photo: Toronto Blue Jays baseball club)

Jose Reyes and the Toronto Blue Jays are back on the field this month (photo: Toronto Blue Jays)

STARTS APRIL 4  Twenty years after their last playoff appearance, the Toronto Blue Jays went into the 2013 Major League Baseball season with a clutch of stars and a surfeit of confidence. Injuries and general poor play, however, intervened to turn the campaign into an entirely forgettable one. This year’s hype is duly tempered, but the team is once again whole and healthy, and stocked with major stars like Jose Reyes, Jose Bautista, R.A. Dickey and Melky Cabrera who now have a lot to prove. The bird-boys in blue and white host the New York Yankees for an opening-weekend homestand. Later in the month they’ll seek to shut down division rivals the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox. Rogers Centre, $14.25 to $216.25; call 416-341-1234 or visit bluejays.com for a full schedule and tickets.


Oodles of Noodles in Calgary


Chili goma ramen at Shikiji Japanese Noodles & Sushi (Photo: Jason Dziver)

Chili goma ramen at Shikiji Japanese Noodles and Sushi (Photo: Jason Dziver)

Beat the late-winter chill at one of Calgary’s warm and wonderful noodle houses.

Shikiji Japanese Noodles and Sushi
Chili goma ramen is the top-selling noodle bowl at this cozy Japanese restaurant. Served piping hot, it features ground pork, bamboo shoots and shiitake mushrooms in a spicy, golden sesame broth topped with peanuts and green onion.
• Shikiji Japanese Noodles and Sushi, 1608 Centre St NE, shikiji.ca
Map and reviews

King & I Noodle House
Located inside The King I Thai Cuisine, this casually elegant room serves pan-Asian noodle bowls. The succulent house-made wonton soup features a light broth with lettuce. Also try the spicy udon seafood noodle soup with shrimp, squid and crab sticks in a sour-and-spicy broth.
• King & I Noodle House, 822 – 11 Ave SW, www.kingandi.ca
Map and reviews


30 Things We Love About Calgary in March and April

There are countless reasons to love Calgary, even in the dead of winter—but, we’re still pretty excited to move on to spring. Here are 30 things we absolutely adore about Calgary in March and April.

WinSport's Canada Olympic Park (Photo: courtesy Tourism Calgary)

1: WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park (Photo: courtesy Tourism Calgary)

1 Skiing and snowboarding as late as mid-April at WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park.

2 Slurping up a bowl of spicy chili goma ramen at Shikiji Japanese Noodles & Sushi.

3 Canada’s Queen of Improv, Rebecca Northan, whose off-the-cuff comedy Legend Has It is part of the Enbridge playRites Festival of New Canadian Plays.


Best of Toronto: 30 Things We Love About Our City This March

Each and every month we scour the city to bring you all the very best that Toronto has to offer! Check out our latest favourites below.

Best of Toronto #1: Rock 'n' Horse Saloon

Best of Toronto #1: Rock ‘n’ Horse Saloon

1 Strapping on our spurs, downing a few drinks and taking a ride on the mechanical bull at Rock ‘n’ Horse Saloon.

2 The numerous sushi restaurants in the Annex and Koreatown neighbourhoods, especially the two locations of New Generation Sushi.

3 Sonic Boom‘s vast selection of used and new music plus unexpected musical accessories.

4 The consistent laughs to be had at Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club

5 Stumbling across one of the locations of used bookstore BMV, and once inside, stumbling across so many books you want to buy.


Molluscs & More in Vancouver


Frank Pabst with herring, an Unsung Hero at Blue Water Cafe. (Photo: KK Law)

Frank Pabst with herring, an Unsung Hero at Blue Water Cafe. (Photo: KK Law)

Vancouver leads the way in serving sustainable seafood. No further proof needed than chef Frank Pabst’s Unsung Heroes menu, offered through Feb. at Yaletown’s polished Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar. Pabst celebrates more unusual species, like herring, octopus and mackerel, in eminently tasty style, in addition to house classics such as Arctic char, ling cod and sablefish. For a bowl of the tastiest, creamiest spot prawn chowder in town, head to two-time Chowder Chowdown winner Forage. To track down the nearest sustainable seafood dish, download the Ocean Wise iPhone app, with 3,000 partners listed across the continent, including Coast Restaurant and The Fish House in Stanley Park.

For more by Tim Pawsey, visit hiredbelly.com

10 Best Breakfast Spots in Calgary


Diner Deluxe's salmon eggs Benedict (Photo: Jason Dziver)

Diner Deluxe’s salmon eggs Benedict (Photo: Jason Dziver)

Breakfast and brunch are serious business in Calgary. Diners are willing to line up around the block for the best spots, and it’s worth the wait at these excellent eateries.

OEB Breakfast Co.
This little 36-seat diner is a local favourite. Chef-owner Mauro Martina cooks with natural, local ingredients—OEB even has its own egg-laying flocks of free-run chickens.
MUST TRY: Soul ’n a Bowl incorporates potatoes fried in duck fat topped with St. Albert cheese curds, slow-cooked bacon lardons and brown-butter Hollandaise.
• OEB Breakfast Co., 824 Edmonton Tr NE, eatoeb.com
Map and reviews

Diner Deluxe
Just a few doors from OEB, this funky retro diner serves hearty plates with ingredients from local producers such as Missing Link Extraordinary Sausage. The walls are adorned with vintage metal signs, but the food is fresh and modern.
MUST TRY: Maple Fried Oatmeal, a thick slab of oatmeal fried in maple syrup and topped with lemon curd and vanilla bean cream.
• Diner Deluxe, 804 Edmonton Tr NE, www.dinerdeluxe.com
Map and reviews