It’s no secret that there are a ton of great places to eat in Calgary. These spots, in particular, are must-visits, and they’re all in the Beltline district just off of downtown (or a few minutes’ drive from there, at most).
1. MODERN-RETRO VIBES
In the Design District, you’ll find Bridgette Bar, a cool space that rocks happy hour like no other, and boasts a mid-century chic look that would make the cast of Mad Men feel right at home. The food, on the other hand, is anything but retro.
Pop by in the afternoon (or late at night, if that’s more your jam) and snack on their Hummus Chips, Eggplant Fries, or the impossible to resist Chicken Sausage Pizza and a cocktail. If you’re around for lunch or dinner, be prepared to be greeted by the hypnotizing aroma of their wood-fired oven working its magic on dishes like Maple BBQ Alberta Rainbow Trout, Roasted Cauliflower, or, the always popular Avocado Toast.
2. FAMILY-STYLE GRUB
Ten Foot Henry (attached to the aptly-named café, Little Henry), is a cozy, bustling restaurant that somehow manages to feel simultaneously upscale and homey; like you’re at a friend’s place for a dinner party. Want to snag the best seat in the house? Grab a chair alongside the open kitchen and watch the magic of the chefs at work (not exaggerating, they’re magic. They have a Bucatini Cacio e Pepe dish that will make your knees weak, or a rabbit come out of a hat. Either way, magic!).
If you’re not sure what to get, don’t worry. The food is fresh and comforting, anchored by veggie-based items and a family (sharing) style menu. It’s the kind of place where you can actually blind-order off the menu and not be disappointed.
3. BETTER THAN TAKEOUT
Just a couple doors down from Ten Foot Henry, you’ll find Two Penny; a Chinese restaurant that pays homage to traditional cuisine, with a local twist. Fresh, house-made ingredients are the highlights of the family-style menu, elevating classic dishes like fried rice, Szechuan noodles, wonton soup, and eggrolls with tasty additions of items like bone marrow, wagyu beef, and cheeseburgers. Yes, cheeseburgers (*cue drool*).
Downstairs is the Teahouse, which serves up inventive bites in a cozy, dimly-lit space, and cocktails that, alone, are worth the visit. Stop by on a Wednesday for wing night (Chinese Fire Cracker Hot Wings, for the heat-lovers out there), on a Thursday for comedy, or on Sundays for a wee bit of ping pong to pair with your Two Penny adventure.
4. THE PROOF IS IN THE COCKTAIL.
Finish up the Victoria Park experience by popping into Proof, a decadent-looking cocktail bar that specializes in classic and house-created drinks. The space is divided into two rooms: one that features the bar, and another that is next to the open kitchen (you can’t go wrong either way). Despite the unique décor and sharp-dressed staff, Proof is anything but pretentious; with more than 300 bottles of liquor on hand (and a fun library-esque ladder behind the bar, to boot) the creative masterminds at the helm are just as excited to make you a lovely libation as you are to drink it.
The cocktail menu is well organized, so no matter what your preference, there’s something for you to imbibe in. Must-try menu items: A Little Bit of Northern Hospitality (Canadian whiskey), Fire in the Pharmacy (mezcal), and a nice plate of tartare to soak it all up.
5. SIPPIN’ ON JUICY BREWS
With the craft beer scene in Alberta growing at the rate it is, you’re basically guaranteed to stumble upon a brewhouse no matter where you are. One of the city’s newer breweries, Annex Ales, is located just east of downtown in the Manchester industrial area and it is certainly a must-visit.
The aesthetic at Annex is pure calm, with white-washed walls that are bookended by simple concrete floors and wooden planks on the ceiling. There are potted plants all along the front window, and in the summer, a garage door at the end of the room opens up to a small patio. The whole space is just drenched in natural light, making Annex a place that you can’t help but want to hang out at for hours on end. Thank goodness there’s enough delicious beer on hand to keep you hydrated during your stay.
Speaking of hydration, Annex boasts an award-winning lineup of brews, including the beloved Patience Pale Ale and a handful of temporary taps (plus some non-alcoholic choices like house-made soda and cold brew coffee from Monogram). So grab a pint (or a flight), some hop chips and string cheese to snack on, and enjoy all of the goodness that is packed into the beautiful little space that is Annex.