Shining Culinary Stars: A Guide To Calgary’s Dining Scene

The city best known for its annual summer Stampede is now being touted as a 2014 travel hotspot

Credit: Curt Woodhall, Arrivals

Calgary’s restaurants are redefining the city’s culinary landscape

Over the last few years, Calgary’s restaurant scene has exploded. And now the city best known for its annual summer Stampede is being touted as a travel hotspot by international media, including The New York Times. Calgary’s restaurants are also taking centre stage on two of Food Network’s hit shows. This season, three Top Chef Canada competitors hail from Cowtown, and You Gotta Eat Here recently discovered a handful of the city’s best comfort food eateries. From brunch to late night cocktails, Calgary’s restaurants are harnessing innovation and redefining the city’s culinary landscape.

Credit: Curt Woodhall, Arrivals

Brunch: Grumans Catering and Delicatessen

Until recently, Jewish-style deli Grumans, named in honour of owner Peter Fraiberg’s mother, has prided itself on being one of Calgary’s best-kept secrets. After the debut of Grumans’ Reuben on You Gotta Eat Here, that cat is officially out of the bag. Head to Calgary’s Beltline district on weekends for a unique twist on traditional brunch. Black-and-white pictures from Fraiberg’s parents’ wedding day and photos of the restaurant’s celebrity customers line the walls of the delicatessen. Highlights from the menu include smoked and poached breakfast poutine with Montreal smoked meat, cheese curds, eggs, hasbrowns and lemon hollandaise, and the lox Benedict served on a potato latke.

Credit: Curt Woodhall, Arrivals

Lunch: Clive Burger

The masterminds behind Calgary’s critically acclaimed Model Milk have done it again. Clive Burger, in the city’s famous Red Mile district, operates under the philosophy of less is best. With a simple menu of made-to-order all-natural 100 per cent beef burgers, hand-cut house-made fries and quite possibly the best shakes in the country, Clive has set a new bar for burger joints. Locally sourced ingredients, antibiotic and hormone-free Alberta beef and 100 per cent compostable packaging are a few of Clive’s sustainable initiatives. Design your own gourmet quarter pounder with extra fixings, like bacon or a fried egg, and if you’re feeling brave, go for the triple burger with cheese. No matter which burger you choose, be sure to save room for one of Clive’s rich and thick cherry custard shakes.

Credit: Curt Woodhall, Arrivals

Cocktails & Share Plates: Raw Bar by Duncan Ly

Start the night with cocktails at the award-winning Raw Bar by Duncan Ly in Hotel Arts and you probably won’t make your dinner reservation. Restaurant manager and mixology maven Christina Mah and her team literally shake up the city with their chic libations. Those with a puritan palate can still enjoy perfectly prepared classics, but the real magic happens when you choose a Raw Bar craft cocktail. The Blossom Cooler with Hangar 1 mandarin vodka, maraschino liqueur, orange blossom water and house-made Chinese five-spice syrup is delicate, refreshing and dangerously easy to drink.

All of Raw Bar’s cocktails are designed to celebrate and complement Executive Chef Ly’s creative Vietnamese-inspired menu. The restaurant’s signature small plates include beef short rib steamed buns (ordering just one per table is near impossible) and the heritage Angus beef carpaccio with Thai basil, spicy peanuts and chillies. Dessert, which should not be missed, is care of Pastry Chef Karine Moulin – a recent competitor in Top Chef Canada season four.

Credit: Curt Woodhall, Arrivals

Steak & Seafood: RUSH Ocean Prime

Premium cuts, exceptional seafood, a swanky lounge and a $1.2 million wine cellar await you at RUSH Ocean Prime in downtown Calgary. Start with bubbles and East Coast oysters flown in daily. Signature mains include the gloriously rich lobster pot pie and a melt-in-your-mouth Wagyu beef striploin. Sides are ordered separately and are equally as impressive. House favourites include the lobster-stuffed baked potato and bacon jalapeno mac and cheese. Ask the sommelier for wine recommendations and a tour of the impressive cellar. Live music in the lounge Tuesday through Friday offers great entertainment and spectacular people-watching.

Credit: Curt Woodhall, Arrivals

Tasting Menu: Chef’s Table

For an intimate, foodie extravaganza, book at Chef’s Table in the Relais & Chateaux Kensington Riverside Inn. The seasonal fine-dining tasting menu, prepared in the restaurant’s vibrant open-style kitchen, is one of Calgary’s best.  Passion for extraordinary food and wine is a requirement for all who work at this cosy 40-seat dining room, as guests are brought on a culinary journey throughout the course of the meal. The spring menu includes asparagus with fresh cheese, cured yolk, balsamic and lemon paired with a South African Chenin Blanc, and a tom yum style shellfish broth with squid and sea bass paired with a German Riesling. Reservations are recommended as Chef’s Table is always in high demand.