One of the most defining elements of a boutique hotel designed for extended stays is the kitchen. If a hotel in this market doesn't have rooms equipped with full kitchens, it can't really make the claim that it is a comfortable place to live for an extended period of time. But, the flip side of the coin is that when staying in a new city it's important to get out of the apartment and get a taste of the local gastro-culture. So, to answer the perennial question that every hotel employee is faced with on a near-constant basis (Where's a good place to eat?), I've composed the following guide to help visitors to Calgary get out and sample the best this city has to offer.
The first thing to determine when looking for a place to eat is what KIND of food you are in the mood for. What sort of restaurant do you want to go to? To streamline this process I've organised this guide by restaurant and food type, with the best example of each.
First up is fancy restaurants. For a chic, trendy and above all discerning palate the best choice in the city of Calgary is Muse in Kensington. Muse is located at 107 10A St NW, in the heart of the trendy Kensington district. The restaurant serves a somewhat eclectic mix of French and Canadian cuisine, for a look at their menu head to www.muserestaurant.ca where you can also make reservations. Reservations can also be made the old fashioned way by giving them a call at 403-670-6873.
If you're in the mood for fancy, but maybe not too fancy there are a number of good choices in the city. The Gypsy Wine Bar and Lounge is easily the best of the lot, though. Especially for lunch. The ambience is relaxed and low-key and the Mediterranean style menu is full of delicious and intriguing items. My personal favourite is the lamb and dried cranberry burger. Lunch tends to be busy, but you can call ahead at 403-263-5869.
The best Steakhouse in Calgary is always a competition. Calgary, the self-styled Heart of the New West is located in the province of Alberta, which produces some of the best beef known to mankind. With strict treatment laws, rolling hills made for free-ranging herds, and all the grass an animal with four stomachs can eat life just doesn't get much better for a cow. That's why this entry is going to be a bit of a surprise. The best steak for your money in Calgary is not found in a steakhouse but an Italian restaurant-slash-market called Mercato. There are plenty of other steak houses in Calgary worthy of honourable mentions, (Ric's Steakhouse, Chicago Chophouse, and Ruth's Chris Steakhouse are all venerable choices) but pound for pound the best steak in the city is found at 2224 4 Street SW. Mercato is usually fairly busy at dinner, you probably shouldn't even bother trying to go there for lunch if it's after 11:45, though. Call ahead at 403-263-5535.
Landlocked provinces such as Alberta are never great places to get seafood in. The problem is simply one of transportation; fresh fish will always taste better than fish that's been frozen. Having said that, there are still some excellent places in Calgary to go and devour some former residents of the world's oceans. Strangely, one of the best places in Calgary to get seafood is a steakhouse. Yup, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse is also known for its excellent shrimp, crab, and halibut. Since the restaurant is located in the Calgary Tower, this is kind of a double win for anyone visiting the city. The address is 295-155 9th Ave SE, and their reservations line is 403-246-3636.
Sometimes all you want is a good, cold beer (or warm beer if you're English) and a burger. If you find yourself in this situation here in Calgary, you actually have two excellent choices. The first is the Kensington Pub, located in Kensington of course, and the second is Brewsters which is located in the downtown core of the city. While both places are fairly typical, if well executed, sports pubs there are some differences between the two. The Kensington Pub has better food that Brewsters, but Brewsters is also a microbrewery and therefore has much better beer than the K-Pub. You can find some great beer and decent food at 834 11 Ave SW, and you can see their menu at www.brewsters.ca. The Kensington Pub is located at 207 10A ST NW and their menu is available online at www.kensingtonpub.com.
If you're looking for some good Indian food, there's really only one place worth checking out. The place is a little restaurant called Mirchi, down on 12th Ave and 8th street. The food is incredible, portions are large, and prices are more than reasonable. The place is actually very, very small so it might be worth calling ahead at 403-245-3663. Try the Chicken Tikka, it's the best thing to happen to a chicken since the invention of gravy.
While we're talking about international foods, it might be time to discuss the state of Thai food in Calgary. Basically it boils down to this; there are many good places to get good Thai food in Calgary, but The Rose Garden (112 8th Ave SW) is by far the best of them. It's an extraordinarily popular place to go for lunch, so either go early or go for dinner. You can get a hold of them by calling 403-264-1988.
For Vietnamese in Calgary go to Vietnam Fortune. It's not miles ahead of the pack, but its better than most. Mind you, it's hard to go wrong with Vietnamese food. My favourite here is their subs. Not really any one in particular, they're all good. You can find Vietnam Fortune at 1443 Kensington Road NW, and if you're heading there for dinner they can get pretty busy. You can call ahead to make reservations at 403-270-7110.
For those fortunate to be travelling with their family with them, there's always Nellies. Nellies is almost an institution in Calgary, they're known just as much for their great service as for their food. The best part, from a family perspective, is how they handle children in the restaurant. They go miles above and beyond the usual crayons and placemat/colouring board with full on board games, action figures, dolls and two foot tall Godzillas. Hell, even I'd like to play with those toys, they're so cool. There are several locations spread out around Calgary, so your best bet to track one down is to go here.
Brunch is by far my favourite meal, and the best place to get it in town is at Diner Deluxe. The Diner has a slick, retro fifties-ish decor, the service is reliably excellent and the menu includes such astronomically amazing dishes as stuffed French Toast with home-made Yam Hash Browns. Diner Deluxe is located at 804 Edmonton Trail NE, and unfortunately you cannot call ahead to make reservations for brunch. However, you can always call ahead to check how full they are... their number is 403-276-5449.
There are thousands of restaurants in Calgary, and only a few are mentioned here. It's also good to keep in mind that the restaurants listed here are my own personal choices, so don't feel bad if your favourite isn't listed. The point I'm getting at here is that while this article makes for a good starting point, you'll find plenty of worthwhile venues out there on your own as well. Bon Appetit!
Jonathan Meier is the Marketing and Social Media Coordinator for Nuvo Hotel Suites, a small boutique hotel specializing in extended stays in downtown Calgary, Alberta. When he's not at the Hotel dealing with the daily dose of craziness he's usually out in the mountains near his hometown of Canmore where he can be seen climbing, skiing, or doing anything at all that doesn't involve computers.