River Café | Calgary’s 25 Best Restaurants 2018

Go to Prince’s Island Park for a hyper-local meal in a memorable, riverside setting.

Wild boar with hakurei turnip. Photograph by Jared Sych.

FOOD | Hyper-local fine dining.
VIBE | Relaxed elegance.
DECOR | Upscale woodland lodge.
DISH | Hog Wild boar with seasonal vegetables.
TIP | Try the chef’s tasting menu for a truly seasonal experience.


For a restaurant to survive for more than 25 years is a commendable feat. To not only survive but to flourish and maintain relevancy is something that only comes with the leadership of a restaurateur like River Cafe‘s Sal Howell.

The success of River Cafe is partially due to Howell’s hands-on vision that can be seen in the carefully curated decor, which, like the menu, is designed to reflect the restaurant’s unique natural surroundings. But Howell’s willingness to foster kitchen talent like current executive chef Matthias Fong is what keeps River Cafe exciting. Fong’s creativity in working with sustainable and local ingredients (other than a few key imports like coffee and chocolate, he limits the use of anything that can’t be sourced from Canada) is impressive, but never comes off as a stunt. Be it a dry-aged duck with buttermilk parsnips and barley or a bowl of greens with a sumac vinaigrette, the flavour, quality and presentation are never sacrificed in the name of going local.

And, of course, the setting on Prince’s Island Park, accessible by footbridge, should not be ignored. Though it may be a challenge for people with mobility issues, walking or cycling to the restaurant is part of the experience, and the quietness of the park allows guests to focus on the food and wines from River Caf’s cellar. It’s like stepping into a different world.

25 Prince’s Island Park, 403-261-7670, river-cafe.com


River Cafe chef Matthias Fong plating a dish of wild boar with hakurei turnip. Photograph by Jared Sych.

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