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How to Eat Like a Local in Calgary

From upscale Prairie cuisine to classic burgers and duck-fat poutine, here’s where to eat in Cowtown.

Pigeonhole Calgary Restaurant

Pigeonhole

For the small plates

Named Canada’s Best New Restaurant in 2015 (and located next door to chef Justin Leboe’s Model Milk), this spot is named for culinary mashups – European to Asian – that refuse to be pigeonholed. Small dishes on mismatched vintage china are set on green marble tabletops: past favourites include charred cabbage with jalapeno salad cream and mimolette cheese, or Japanese charcoal-seared veal with sliced mushrooms and umeboshi sour plum purée.

306 17th Ave. S.W., Calgary, 403-452-4694, pigeonholeyyc.ca

The Nash

For refined Prairie cuisine

In the restored National Hotel building, chef Michael Noble brings classic French technique to upscale prairie cooking. The pretty room, with moose antlers mounted above the fireplace, buzzes with the chatter of Inglewood diners. Classic by-the-glass are rounded out by cocktails like the Sundance Saloon: pisco, vermouth, white wine, lemon, prairie-flower cordial and cranberry bitters.

925 11th St. S.E., Calgary, 403-984-3365, thenashyyc.com

Charbar Calgary Restaurant

Photo: Courtesy Charbar

Charbar

For the fusion of flavours

In the restored Simmons Building, Connie DeSousa and John Jackson of Charcut, along with chef Jessica Pelland, fire up a South American, Spanish and Italian-inflected kitchen. The ceviche mixto, albacore, clams, Argentinian shrimp and more, is doused in yuzu and charred lemon for a sweet, citrusy leche de tigre. Recommended pairings include the wood-grilled porterhouse, dry-aged four months, with a glass of Locations, a meaty Argentinian malbec blend.

618 Confluence Way S.E., Calgary, 403-452-3115, charbar.ca

Whitehall

For a special occasion

British-born chef Neil McCue puts a modern spin on Euro cuisine in this century-old Bridgeland building to the sounds of Brit rock from Arctic Monkeys and Pink Floyd. Guests in button-down shirts sip a lavish Australian shiraz with lamb prepared three ways. For a special occasion, try the five-course tasting menu, available with wine pairings.

24 4th St. N.E., Calgary, 587-349-9008, whitehallrestaurant.com

Bar Von Der Fels Calgary Restaurant

Photo: Ian Holmes

Bar Von Der Fels

For the wine selection

A contender for Canada’s Best New Restaurants in 2017, this mod little wine bar on is home to some sneaky-serious good cooking. The tiny open kitchen serves aioli black with activated charcoal and ink to accompany grilled Humboldt squid. The assertively oenophilic owner plucks an open bottle of creamy Jura chardonnay from the 200-year-old enamel ice bucket. Call him over again and he’ll pair something biodynamic with a 10-year-old baked Cortez Island oyster flavoured with tangy yuzu kosho paste and house-dried scallop.

1005A 1st St. S.W., Calgary, 587-349-2656, barvonderfels.com

Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters Calgary

Photo: Vanessa Ng

Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters

For the breakfast sandwiches

Start your day with a trip to Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters for a single-source-origin espresso and an egg and crispy smoked meat sandwich. This Calgary chain’s latest outpost in the Mission neighbourhood is decked out with white-marble countertops, blond walls, original art and a state-of-the-art Kees van der Westen “Spirit” espresso machine.

2207 4th St. S.W., Calgary, 403-245-1111, philsebastian.com

Ten Foot Henry Calgary Restaurant

Ten Foot Henry

For that Saturday-night vibe

At this revelation of a vegetable-forward restaurant, plates of yellow fin crudo with chimichurri jostle with zesty gai lan and a briny Caesar salad splashed with tangy cashew dressing. With a luminous Hemingway cocktail in hand and vintage funk wafting up through the rafters, it’s like a perpetual Saturday night.

1209 1 St S.W., Calgary, 403-475-5537, tenfoothenry.com

Model Milk Calgary Restaurant

Photo: Courtesy Model Milk

Model Milk

For fresh, local ingredients

The welcoming room and staff, along with the cocktails and appetizers, are the complete package. (Think lobster steam rolls with pickled celery and lemon mayo and dry-aged beef tartare with fermented teff, ricotta and black cardamom). A large-format dinner, like the Model Milk burger with ham hock and cheese curd, seals the deal. The restaurant was chosen as one of Air Canada enRoute’s Best New Restaurants in 2012.

308 17th Ave. S.W., Calgary, 403-265-7343, modelmilk.ca

Sidewalk Citizen Bakery

For the perfect sourdough

A tasty fixture of the Simmons culinary hub, Aviv Fried’s Sidewalk Citizen Bakery offers legendary organic sourdough loaves and gorgeous pastries.

618 Confluence Way S.E., Calgary, 403-457-2245, sidewalkcitizenbakery.com

Charcut Roast House Calgary

Photo: Candace Bergman

Charcut Roast House

For the duck-fat poutine

When the modern steak house Charcut was opened five years ago by co-chefs John Jackson and Connie DeSousa, it brought competitiveness and camaraderie to Calgary’s chef-driven restaurant scene. The obnoxiously great duck-fat fried poutine and a butcher steak with smoked Poplar Bluff potatoes are must-haves. Though the name Charcut Roast House sounds as meaty as can be, their albacore tuna conserva is one of the best dishes on the menu: big chunks of tuna served with lemon pickled potatoes and Aviv’s sourdough.

899 Centre St. S.W., #101, Calgary, 403-984-2180, charcut.com

Chuckwagon Cafe

For the burgers

At the Chuckwagon Cafe – an hour outside of Calgary – not much has changed since the 1970s: not the wood panelling, not the carpet, not even the cast iron stove warming a Pyrex pot of coffee. The place is justifiably famous for its burgers since they taste more like a beautifully charred steak than a blue plate special. That’s partly because owner Terry Myhre started raising organically fed Murray Grey cattle (an Australian breed) on a ranch near Longview, in the foothills, but also because the beef for the six-ouncers is dry aged for about 28 days, assertively seasoned and cooked just as you like ‘em.

105 Sunset Blvd., Turner Valley, 403-933-0003, chuckwagoncafe.ca

Anju Restaurant Calgary

Photo: Courtesy of Anju Restaurant

Anju Restaurant

For creative takes on Alberta beef

More international steak spins can be found on 17th Avenue, where Anju does a creative take on beef tataki, spun out of striploin with daikon, truffle oil and black garlic. Then, for a super satiating main, move on to bone-in rib eye steak with lemongrass, mushrooms and kimchi.

344 17th Ave. S.W., Calgary, 403-460-3341, anju.ca

Vintage Chophouse & Tavern

For classic steak

Head to Vintage Chophouse & Tavern in the historic Beltline neighbourhood of Victoria Park. On offer are nine different cuts, including a dry-aged daily “butcher’s block special,” proudly presented tableside by gentlemen servers in white butcher coats. Order a tender steak, be it Wagyu or Canada prime rib eye, with killer doughnut-size onion rings, and a throwback baked Alaska for dessert.

320 11th Ave. S.W., Calgary, 403-262-7262, vintagechophouse.com