Uptown 17th Avenue
The area immediately south of downtown offers a diverse choice of dining options. The major concentrations of restaurants are along 17th Avenue SW as well as south for a couple of blocks along 4th Street. For gourmet coffees, hot chocolate made with locally made Bernard Callebaut chocolate, and exotic teas, join the crowds at Café Beano (1613 9th St. SW, 403/229-1232, daily 7 a.m.–11 p.m.).
Nellie’s Kitchen (738 17th Avenue SW, 403/244-4616, Mon.–Fri. 7:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 8:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m., breakfasts $8–11), in the heart of Calgary’s trendiest dining strip, is a pleasant surprise. It’s a small, outwardly low-key place with a big reputation (so much so that it’s now one of five Nellie’s restaurants in the city). Service is fast and efficient and, most importantly, the food’s great. Breakfasts claim the spotlight—if you’re hungry, don’t bother with the menu, just order the Belly Buster.
The Galaxy Diner (1413 11th St. SW, 403/228-0001, Mon.–Fri. 7 a.m.–3 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 7 a.m.–4 p.m.) is an original 1950s diner where cooked breakfasts start at $7.50, including bottomless coffee and a second serving of hash browns.
Typifying the modern wave of slow food is FARM (1006 17th Ave. SW, 403/245-2276, daily 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m. and from 5 p.m., $9–21), where the emphasis is on local, seasonal ingredients prepared in simple and tasty ways. Many diners concentrate on the meats and cheeses listed on a large chalkboard hanging on the back wall before moving onto house specialties such as killer BLT salad. The room itself is appealing, with stools along the open kitchen allowing diners to watch their meals being prepared by the friendly kitchen staff.
Formerly a brewpub, Wildwood Grill (2417 4th St., 402/228-0100, daily for lunch and dinner, $18–36) has evolved into a respected restaurant serving up a wide selection of Canadian cuisine in a modern mountain setting. Think leek and sweet corn soup or bison carpaccio as starters and grilled medallions of elk loin with spiced chocolate sauce for a main. In the adjacent pub, bring back childhood memories with a meatloaf ($15) that substitutes veal for beef.
Few restaurants in the city are as popular as Chianti (1438 17th Ave. SW, 403/229-1600, Mon.–Fri. for lunch, daily for dinner, $10–20). More than 20 well-prepared pasta dishes are featured on the menu, and all of the pasta is made daily on the premises. Among many specialties are an antipasto platter and salmone cappesante, baked salmon with scallops and mango in a creamy coconut and curry sauce. Most regular pasta entrées are less than $12. The restaurant is dark and noisy in typical Italian style. The owner often sings with an accordionist on weekends.
La Chaumiere (139 17th Ave. SW, 403/228-5690, Mon.–Fri. 11:45 a.m.–2:30 p.m. and Mon.–Sat. from 5:45 p.m., dinner reservations required, $26–36.50) occupies an elaborate space east of the main restaurant strip. Generally regarded as one of North America’s premier French restaurants, diners here enjoy combinations like lobster bisque and roasted rack of Alberta lamb. The formal service is meticulous.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition