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Mar 16, 2008 04:07 PM

Need rec for Calgary dinner

Need some help from Calgary CHers - we are foodies in TO and want to take some family for a nice, not too "fussy" (read: no jackets req'd places or mega steakhouses need apply), interesting place. In order of importance: food, ambiance, price/value. Would prefer a local, chef-run place. Need not be big or fancy. Not a big beef fan, so a place with fish, seafood, poultry, &/or veg options would be great. Love places that focus on local products etc. Thanks!

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  1. The only place I know in Cgy that requires "jackets" is La Chaumiere, unless it's changed.

    I'd recommend River Cafe, full stop, but it's expensive... but NOT fancy, unless you want to dress up.

    Edited to add that I can't think if any restos in Cgy that meet your requirements that isn't expensive- well maybe The Coup, which is a superb vegetarian place, but they are tiny and don't take reservations. Line-ups are the order of the day unless you arrive right at opening.

    6 Replies
    1. re: John Manzo

      Price doesn't really matter as long as the food and service are very good. I should add that reservations are a must - nothing ruins an evening like standing around outdside starving for an hour.....

      Will check out River Cafe - any other rec's from anyone?

      1. re: jcanncuk

        I second the River Cafe, it is the best example of regional fare and it's in the middle of a downtown park. Beautiful setting.

        Rouge is also good for regional fare, although there has been some word about a 18% gratuity (website says for groups of 8 or more but one CH as charged the grat for a party of less than 6 ...details in this thread:

        Other faves on this board (which may not epitomize local food) are:
        **John, yen, et al, feel free to correct me/add to the list :
        Il Sogno

        HTH :)

        1. re: maplesugar

          It's pretty well documented im not a huge fan of River, but it definitely meets all your criteria.

          Other places which i enjoy include:

          Your biggest issue in Calgary will be value/price. Most prices are extremely expensive/inflated for a variety of reasons... the best value is Divino imo. It's also has the least amount of focus on regional cuisine, being more bistro.

          If you would be willing to make a drive, going to Canmore and Banff would add a tremendous number of restaurants onto your list.

          1. re: yen

            We will be in Banff for part of the trip - what would you recommend in Canmore/Banff? What is the best sushi in Banff these days?

            1. re: jcanncuk

              For owner operated restaurants I can comment on Canmore, since I live here.

              Chef Studio Japan can have some really excellent and creative sushi in Canmore, but steer clear when it is busy, it can take forever. I am not sure it is at the top of my recommendation list for Canmore though. Instead I would go with:

              The Trough
              which is a really unique spot with two very hands on owners that do a great job of taking care and creating a unique and memorable dining experience. The room is cozy and warm, although small so you need reservations. The food is very good prepared by chef/ owner Rosie Gair who will be sure to drop by your table during your evening. The service is professional and attentive but not pretentious... which leads me to mention the next restaurant:

              I am rather tossed these days if I should recommend Crazyweed or not to people. The service can be brutal. This is a small town and it is no secret how poorly the staff are treated, so no doubt your server probably won't be the same that we had. It is sad for a place that has such amazing food, that I no longer feel comfortable supporting. However, it deserves a mention because the chef/ owner Jan is a wonderful talent and it is a great experience for an outside foodie. John Gilchrist gave them a 10 out of 10 in his review in the Calgary Herald/ CBC radio. Not sure I agree, it is good, but not perfect. The latest addition to the stark white room is a weird glow from bluish tinged (I kid you not!...) grow lights underneath the large plants. Weird?!

              A restaurant out of the way in Canmore, it is a destination in itself, but the few times I have been, it was a really nice experience. A thoughtful menu and fairly good value gourmet fare. I believe the chef is the owner as well. The room felt a little cold though.

              Quarry Bistro
              I keep wanting to like their dinner menu, but am often disappointed. The food rarely lives up to my expectation. They do a nice brunch on the weekends though.. and the pomme frites are spectacular. I really like the location on Main Street and the room is one of my favorite in Canmore. Good wine selection so I would go here for a drink anytime. The chef is the owner as well.

              Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co.
              A great place for a family. Fantastic thin crust wood oven fired pizza with mostly organic ingredients. Pretty casual and decent value (not too many cheap options in Canmore though!)

              Communitea Cafe
              If you are going out for lunch, go here! The brie & portabella mushroom panini sandwich is the best sandwich I have ever had in my life. This place is a great value when you consider the quality and often organic ingredients. They also happen to have the biggest salad I have ever seen called the Fresh Bowl. For sure the only place to get a good coffee in Canmore (great latte with art on top), and they have a huge wall of loose leaf tea to choose from. It is more cafe style than restaurant, where you order first and a server will bring your order... which brings back good memories of Dean & Deluca in New York. It has a modern, fresh room with lots of windows, tables and even bean bag chairs! I like to support such a business because it is affordable, unique, creative, healthy and they are environmentally friendly too.

              In Calgary I have been liking Piq Niq, which is downtown by the Palliser and they a really great live jazz club downstairs to check out a show after dinner. Capo is too hard to get into these days. River Cafe is a nice Calgary experience that has an island park location that can't be beat. Haven't been in a while though, so I can't comment on food.

              Enjoy your trip!

      2. re: John Manzo

        I was at La Chaumiere last year and the boys didn't wear jackets :-) And they didn't even kick us out!

      3. I would add Wildwood and Bonterra.

        1. For your criteria, I would second Rouge.

          1. I would also add Centini -- wide range of entrees plus pasta. And their desserts are fantastic.

            1 Reply
            1. re: sweeterpea

              I second Centini's on Stephen Ave. I've had superb service everytime I'm there (lunches, early / late dinners). I find their atmosphere extremely relaxing, not stuffy - great for a family dinner. I find their menu has a good variety too.

            2. GROAN...if I have to read one more suggestion that people go to River Cafe I will gag. Everytime I've been there the service has been awful, the flavours bland and the prices outrageous.

              I may be old school but La Chaumiere definitely offers incredible quality (they've been around for 30 yrs) and not at the inflated prices of the other DT restaurants. I really enjoy their fish selection. I was there recently with some guests who were vegetarian and the chef whipped up an incredible mushroom and veg dish which one vegetarian guest commented that it was the best meal she ever had.

              5 Replies
              1. re: martinigrl

                Please don't gag. Welcome to the board.

                1. re: martinigrl

                  Well, we're in the minority on River but i agree with you. Im happy for the additional support! The walls to my fort are besieged by River Cafe fanatics! :)

                  1. re: yen

                    Yen, I'll join you on the ramparts! Never been a big fan. Martinigrl, as a matter of interest how would you currently compare La Chaumiere to other so-called high-end restaurants in town? I'm dating myself but when La Chaumiere opened years ago it was definately the best high-end restaurant in town. Having said that, back then they didn't have much competition. Anyway, I've found that since they moved to their new digs some years ago that for one reason or another the quality is just not as good. Consequently it has been a while since I have eaten there albeit
                    if there has been a return to form I would definately give them another go.

                    1. re: Hart50

                      Welcome to Fort Yen :)

                      It's been almost 2 years since i've been to La Chaumiere. Like you, i felt post-move, there was a drop off in quality. I found the food to be ok, but as mp puts it, the atmosphere is overly stuffy. For the $$, it isnt as expensive relatively speaking as it used to be, but it still doesnt meet the good value standard in my books.

                  2. re: martinigrl

                    i thought the food was really good at river, but the service was pretty green and wooden (but that's city-wide pretty much). i wasn't expecting the fishing cabin decor, though. overall, i thought it would be better, but i had really high expectations given its reputation. i think given it's reputation, it's got a lot to live up to when people head there.

                    I used to eat pretty regularly at la chaumiere 1-2 yrs ago when i knew a lot of the front of house staff (most have moved on, so i don't go there as much now). i found the food to be of the same caliber as the other mid/high end spots in town (brava, divino, cilantro), and of slightly better value. But the atmosphere is a bit overly stuffy.