Calgary’s Restaurant Scene is Increasingly Varied and Delicious

Forget the corn dogs and steak, and try the pork belly tacos or gravlax benedict

The delicious food at Ten Foot Henry's. 

When one thinks of food in Calgary, Alberta, one thinks corn dogs and fries or steak with mashed potatoes and green beans.  That’s because that’s the usual fare around Calgary’s famed Stampede, one of the largest and longest-lasting rodeos in the world.

The Stampede continues, but in the last few years, Calgary has become an incredibly adventurous, creative, and delicious foodie town.  Green beans?  Sure, but at the year-old whimsical restaurant Ten Foot Henry, named after the American cartoon character, the beans are prepared with citrus, walnuts, and manchego — just one of a dozen other gourmet vegetable preparations at the top of the menu — hinting that the owners enjoy being mistaken for a vegetarian establishment.  

Who could resist roasted carrots when they’re prepared with avocados, pistachios,  and shoots?  With this lineup, you won’t even need the pan-roasted halibut with charred cucumber or the chargrilled hanger steak with roasted onion and mustard greens.  The “sides” on this menu include handmade bread dumplings with borscht, sour cream, and dill or spaghetti cacio.


Photo by Julie Hatfield

Salt brick chicken with chimichurri from Charbar.

The variety of restaurants in Calgary is impressive.  In what used to be the old Simmons mattress building, renovated but still with its bones, three restaurants now bring in the crowds.  Charbar features a custom-made Argentine wood-fired grill for preparing choripan sausage sandwiches with red chimichurri or burger gaucho with provoleta cheese and crushed avocado, among other delicacies.  Chef Jessica Pelland hunts, fishes, and specializes in whole animal butchery, and in curing, grilling, and roasting.  You could fish right alongside the chef from the restaurant’s rooftop patio overlooking the Bow River, where locals often throw a line and hook trout.

Sharing the same huge building are Sidewalk Citizen Bakery, owned and operated by a couple from Israel who hold a monthly tzavta, or cultural dinner salon hosting curators, animators, writers, installers, and scientists, creating dinners in honor of the speakers; and Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters, owned by a couple of would-have-been engineers. Perfectionists so in love with coffee that they brought an antique UG-15 Probat roaster in from Holland and reconditioned it, they now travel from Costa Rica to Ethiopia looking for perfect coffee beans.

Superior tacos, including pork belly pibil with achiote-marinated pineapple, pickled red onion, and cilantro, and dozens of other original tostadas, tortillas, and ceviche, can be found at Native Tongues Taqueria.  Don’t let the mouth-watering selection of pastries at Alforno Bakery & Café fool you into thinking this place doesn’t hide their full breakfasts, lunches, and dinners with wine and beer, in back.  Sure, the croissants are freshly made that morning, but how could you resist Alforno’s gravlax benedict with house-cured salmon, dill cream, and pickled red onion on a fresh baguette?


Another gourmet breakfast awaits you at the pretty, whimsically decorated Yellow Door Bistro inside the lovely Hotel Arts.