Where to Eat in Calgary – Mallory’s Picks

If there is one thing I feel really privileged to have grown up around, it’s good restaurants. Even as a little kid, my parents always emphasized making restauranting an experience. It is definitely something I have learned to appreciate more and more over the years. You could say I’m now addicted to wining and dining – let’s make that dining and wining. I am still learning to enjoy the wine part (as long as it’s white or rose, I’m good, red, not so much).

Over the past 2 and a bit years of blogging, I have contributed restaurant reviews on a fairly regular basis. More than 25 now for anyone who is keeping track. And that only includes the places I actually committed to taking pictures and writing about. So I figured, why not combine my years of eating out in Calgary into one cohesive “best picks” list? Whether you are from Calgary, or just visiting, hopefully it can provide some insight about where to eat in Calgary!

Best Vegetarian (entree) – Model Milk

If you have even the mildest understanding of the Calgary food scene, I know what you are expecting me to say. Go to the Coup for the best vegetarian food in the city. While it is true that they offer the best variety of vegetarian and vegan dishes (they are basically the only exclusively vegetarian restaurant Calgary has to offer, being the meat-loving city that it is), they don’t have my favourite entree, not by a mile.

Mushrooms at Model Milk

That honour goes to Model Milk. Although it changes with the seasons, they always have some variation of this braised mushrooms dish that is absolutely surreal. It’s so far from your boring portabello “burger” or “steak” that it is really mind blowing. When I last went it was served with a luscious carrot puree, braised kale and gremolata. For a place that offers a lot of meat, Model Milk is spot on with their vegetarian option.

Model Milk on Urbanspoon

Best Pizza – Without Papers

Without Papers is the winner here. To me, what sets them apart from other places like Cibo, Double Zero or Famoso is their dough. It has that combination of doughiness and chew, with the perfect amount of char on the bottom and around the edges. As for toppings, you have to go with the Shroom (are we noticing a theme here?). Wild mushrooms, arugula and truffle oil (don’t scoff at this, they know how to use it sparingly without killing your palate). No tomato sauce, the way pizza should be.

Pizza at Without Papers

Without Papers on Urbanspoon

Best Pasta – Villa Firenze

I have been going to Villa Firenze for as long as I can remember. I can’t think of too many other places in the city where nearly all of the pasta is made from scratch and Nona even pops in now and then to whip up a batch of homemade sausage or gnocchi. I always order the pappardelle, always. The thick cut noodles are my favourite pasta shape by far. Whether you get them tossed with the signature smoked salmon sauce or any other sauce on the menu, they provide that “melt in your mouth, I must have died and gone to heaven” experience. Oh and while you are at it, keep asking for refills of the homemade focaccia bread.

Villa Firenze on Urbanspoon

Best Breakfast – Cucina

Ok we are really on a roll now. My best breakfast item has to go to the wild mushrooms on toast at Cucina. I like mushrooms, ok? Keep in mind that all of these places have plenty of “non-mushroom” options as well, that are just as good, if not better (depending on your tastes).

But back to those mushrooms on toast. How can something be so simple yet so complex? Black pepper and parmesan cheese are a combination made in heaven. They are like the savoury cousins of peanut butter and jelly. Let them meld together in a creamy sauce, toss in some earthy mushrooms, pour over crunchy baguette and let a runny egg yolk ooze all over the place, breakfast time indeed!

Breakfast at Cucina.

Cucina on Urbanspoon

Best Bread (and Pastries) – Sidewalk Citizen Bakery

Sidewalk Citizen Bakery
Just look at that and tell me you don’t want to sink your pie-hole into it right this instant! Sidewalk Citizen is where it is at for artisanal baked goods. And whether you want a pain au chocolat or a rustic loaf of bread (all leavened with sourdough starter), they have variety (make sure you go on Friday or Saturday for the best selection). Danishes, cookies, muffins, scones, you name it. They even make sandwiches and pizza at lunch time. Their brownies are also divine. Rich and fudgy, none of that cakey brownie crap.
Sidewalk Citizen Bakery
Sidewalk Citizen

Sidewalk Citizen Bakery on Urbanspoon 

Best Brunch – The River Cafe

I’m not sure whether it is the food or the atmosphere that makes The River Cafe so memorable. It feels like you just got out of your canoe in the Bow River and stumbled upon this quaint little fishing lodge. Except that it’s a really upscale fishing lodge and there are cooks and servers giving you whatever food you desire.

The menu at River changes constantly so I can’t really recommend one thing or another. But that is ok because everything is good. Fresh, local and always paying homage to the integrity of the ingredients, The River Cafe knows what food is all about. Sure, it may be pricy, but that’s why I suggest going for brunch. You get the same quality food without the hefty cost of a $40 dinner entree. See, I’m looking out for you!

River Cafe

River Cafe

River Cafe on Urbanspoon

Best Sandwich – Boxwood Cafe

Ok so I’m biased towards Boxwood, I used to work there. But so what? Good food is good food. And more importantly, a good sandwich is a good sandwich. Most importantly, a good chickpea fritter sandwich is basically the best sandwich on the planet. The ciabatta buns are baked fresh every morning (I know, I used to get there at 6am just to ensure this) and the chickpea fritters are fried until light and crispy. My insider tip; ask for it with mayo instead of cilantro salsa verde. Or you can get really crazy and ask for mayo on the sandwich with salsa verde on the side for dipping. Now we’re talking. All you carnivores out there might prefer the bite beef sirloin or porchetta sandwiches. I won’t judge. If you are going to eat meat there are worse places to do it. Boxwood gets all of its meat locally from small scale producers so these animals lived pretty happy lives.

Boxwood Cafe on Urbanspoon 

Best Falafel – The Chick Pea

A couple summers ago I went on a hunt for the best falafel in Calgary. Come to think of it, I never officially crowned a winner. Well there is no better time than the present so congratulations to the Chick Pea for making my favorite falafel in the city! It wins for having the right combo of ingredients and textures, all wrapped up in one, not too messy and falling out all over the place, manageable package. Man, now I’m craving falafel.


Chick Pea Mediterranean Cuisine on Urbanspoon 

Best Macarons – Yann Haute Patisserie

Sure some might say that macaroons are so 2010. I won’t argue with that. It doesn’t stop me from liking them though. And for the best in Calgary, check out Yann Haute Patisserie, in a cute little house right off 4th Street. They have some flavours that stay consistent and others that are seasonal.  If macarons aren’t your thing there are plenty of other fancy French desserts to suit your hearts content.


Yann Haute Patisserie on Urbanspoon 

Best Ice Cream – Village

Last but certainly not least on my list of favourite eats in Calgary is Village Ice Cream. Once you find the place (it’s located in the most obscure spot at the end of 10th Avenue) you are going to keep coming back, I promise. Whether it’s their signature salted caramel or a classic, Tahitian vanilla, be sure to sample all of the flavours before you ask them to start scooping. And all you vegans out there better be paying attention because they almost always have a seasonal vegan option (which in my opinion is often even better than the non-vegan varieties). This summer they had both vegan chocolate chili and toasted coconut varieties. Oh baby. No more driving out to Cochrane for Mackays, Village is where it’s at!

Village Ice Cream
Village Ice Cream
Village Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

So from dinner to dessert, that’s my list! Calgary has a ton of amazing dining options and really, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I would love to hear your favourites so feel free to share what this great city has to offer!

5 thoughts on “Where to Eat in Calgary – Mallory’s Picks

  • October 3, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    The Coup isn’t Calgary’s only all-veg restaurant. There’s also Gratitude Cafe in Kensington. The Coup is MILES better than GC but I thought it was worth pointing out.

    • October 3, 2013 at 4:45 pm

      Very true, I have not yet tried Gratitude Cafe but it’s been on my radar for awhile. Living with meat eaters, it generally means that we try to pick a restaurant with a little of both!

  • October 28, 2013 at 4:05 am

    Probably not on your radar, if you aren’t gluten intolerant…but if you are, or just want to cut back on gluten, there’s a great little place called Heaven on 17th. Love their food. And then about 4 doors down, there’s a place called Crepes and Cravings, serves wonderful crepes and the best home made gelato I have ever had anywhere in Calgary. This stuff is the real deal. Noticed your love of chocolate. You have to try their chocolate shorbet. Unfriggin believable.

  • December 16, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    love the veggie alternative and insight – thx!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *