10 Best New Restaurants in Calgary

Calgary recently had a bit of a restaurant boom and our waists are all a little wider for it. These are the best of those new restaurants.



*Note: Restaurants in this list opened by the end of summer 2014. It gave the restaurants time to find its groove and our judges time to eat there before the deadlines for our March issue.  Other restaurants have opened since and they are on our radar for next year. 

 

Black Pig Bistro

photograph by jared sych

Porchetta served with green beans, broad beans, edamame beans and mint.

Pork-centric restaurants are the current favourite fixation of the local dining scene, and no one is doing it better than chefs Alison and John Michael MacNeil, who are serving up Iberian pleasures to rave reviews in their buzzy little space in Bridgeland. The place was an instant hit when it opened in April 2014 — casual, mid-priced dining in a neighbourly setting, with food that’s creative and comforting. 

The inspiration for the menu came from a culinary trip Alison (formerly Bieber) took to Spain with now-husband John Michael MacNeil. (A few months after the Black Pig opened, John Michael left his post as executive chef at Teatro to join her as co-chef.) Featured prominently in the restaurant is a leg of Iberico ham, considered to be the best ham of Spain, which comes from the black pigs native to the south of the country. It’s served simply, as an appetizer with baguette, and, even at $26, is worth every dollar. Then there’s Alison’s take on pork and beans. It’s ridiculously flavourful and rich, and we all hope it’ll stay on the menu forever and ever. —J.H.

825 1 Ave. N.E., 403-460-0350, blackpigbistro.com, @blackpigbistro


​Posto Pizzeria and Bar

photograph by jared sych

There’s a warm, relaxed vibe about Posto that draws you in and envelops you, making it almost impossible not to linger over coffee or just one more glass of wine after a meal. And that’s good, because to rush a meal here is to totally miss the point of rustic Italian dining. It’s no surprise that Posto is good, as it’s brought to you by the people who run Bonterra Trattoria and Cibo. What may be surprising is just how good it is, especially the pizza with its thin, tender, flavourful crust. The potato, crème fraîche, leek and smoked pancetta pizza comes from heaven, via the wood-fired oven that only adds to the charm of the place. 

But Posto is much more than just pizza, with creative salads, platters of cheese and charcuterie, and small plates like scallops with squid ink gnochetti and pig tail croquettes. The wine list is excellent, more excellent than most pizza-focused places, since patrons can order from adjacent Bonterra’s stellar wine selection. While the vibe is less formal than the higher-end Bonterra, the level of professionalism shown by the service staff is another welcome spillover. —J.H.

1016 8 St. S.W., 403-263-4876, posto.ca, @postocalgary


​Goro + Gun

photograph by jared sych

Goro + Gun serves Hakata-style ramen with various toppings like barbecue pork, fresh veggies and a smoked egg.

If you ask Japanese expats in Calgary what they miss about their homeland, “ramen” is the near-universal answer. This Japanese salaryman staple is quickly surpassing sushi as the symbol of Japanese food culture. Goro + Gun in downtown’s Scotia Centre imports Hakata-style ramen for Calgary’s office workers. The piquant pork bone-based broth and a wide assortment of toppings, including the must-have house-smoked egg, provide a tasty respite in the middle of a long workday, or a satisfying post-work dinner. 

Of course, other Japanese favourites are offered: an assortment of grilled items, as well as sushi and sashimi are available alongside a wide selection of Japanese beers, sake and spirits, all of which can be enjoyed at a large communal wood table — an homage to the single, public wood bar and bench that pervade traditional ramen houses in Japan. —G.H.

225 7 Ave. S.W., 403-237-5596, goroandgun.ca, @goroandgun


The Lake House

photograph by jared sych

A few months ago, Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts (CRMR) was looking for a new home for the team that had run The Ranche in Fish Creek Provincial Park for more than a decade. Meanwhile, the former Inn on Lake Bonavista needed a new tenant. So, a few renovations later, The Lake House was born on the shores of Lake Bonavista with a fresh focus on lake dining. The windows open onto the water, elk-antler chandeliers dangle overhead and a large stone fireplace warms the room. A new bar, a huge wine room and a fresh patio add to the ambience while chef Thomas Neukom’s Rocky Mountain cuisine satisfies the crowd.

House-cured meats and seafood, slow-roasted wild boar shoulder and bison brisket are just a few of many meaty-gamey menu choices (CRMR raises its own game on its ranch south of Calgary). And classic CRMR service brings it all together in one of the nicest settings in the city, winter or summer. —J.G.

747 Lake Bonavista Dr. S.E., 403-225-3939, lakehousecalgary.com, @thelakehouseyyc


​Scopa

photograph by jared sych

Spaghetti alla carbonara with wild boar bacon and fresh egg, chilies, wine and grana Padano.

No one can ever argue that operations manager John Robarts and executive chef Glen Manzer don’t have casual Italian dining dialled in. People go to Cibo in droves, Posto has some of the best pizza in this city and Bonterra has been a top-notch place to eat for years, so should we really be surprised that Scopa hit the ground running when it opened last summer? Not really.

A great thing about Scopa is that it’s just outside of the downtown core (10-minute drive, maximum) if you’re headed north on Centre Street. So you won’t find the see-and-be-seen sort of dining crowd in this restaurant. What you will find is good service, arancini worth ordering twice, a polenta bread with smoked pancetta and honey that’s highly addictive, carbonara that you won’t want to share (or think about the calories of) and a whole lot more. ​ —D.C.

2220 Centre St. N.E., 403-276-2030, scopacalgary.com, @scopacalgary


​Shiki Menya

photograph by jared sych

Clean and modern, this ramen hot spot in Bridgeland seems to have little in common with its more traditional counterparts in the Land of the Rising Sun. But one slurp of chewy noodles and rich broth from Shiki Menya shows owner Koki Aihara is honouring humble ramen’s heritage while bringing it into a new era. A modern nod to traditional Japan, the small menu is almost entirely focused on classic and “new-school” takes on noodles, all of which are handmade. Aihara’s pedigree shows he comes by his recipes and skills honestly; his family owns Shikiji. Ramen is star here, but don’t ignore the rest of the menu, like the gyoza and the char siu tacos with pineapple salsa. Only a limited number of bowls of ramen are served up each day, so it pays to follow the restaurant on social media — or get there early. And don’t be afraid to slurp; that’s a time-honoured tradition, even in modern Calgary. —G.R.

827 1 Ave. N.E., 403-454-2722, shikimenya.ca, @shikimenya


Workshop

photograph by jared sych

If you’ve ever met him, you’ll agree that chef/owner Kenny Kaechele has got a lot of energy, and that really translates onto the menu here at Workshop, as it’s an extensive and ambitious one. Dishes like Kaechele’s gin and juniper-cured trout, sarsaparilla-glazed pork belly or the unusual combination of chicken skin, blue cheese, celery root and charred leek are refreshingly unconventional in a city where gastropubs and gourmet pizza places are king.

Designer Connie Young has created quite the feel for the room with its tartan banquettes, heavy chains hanging from the walls and fused workshop lamps formed into chandeliers found in two separate seating areas, as Workshop is split in two by the entrance to the Grand Theatre.

It’s arguably a tough location to lure diners in the evenings, essentially hidden inside the Grand Theatre, past the box office and just before the actual theatre, but culinary creativity abounds here and I know this will become one of the places to eat this year. —D.C.

608 1 St. S.W., 403-266-7062, workshopcalgary.com, @workshopyyc


​Symons Roadhouse

photograph by jared sych

Lobster poutine with shellfish butter sauce and mascarpone cheese.

The northern outskirts of Calgary are home to some mighty fine Southern barbecue now that chef Kevin Turner has moseyed on up with his “guaranteed flavour” cooking brand. Western (restaurateur) legend Witold Twardowski created a saloon-meets-prairie boarding house decor to welcome travellers to this former banquet hall-turned-roadhouse.

East-facing windows and French doors light up the room and provide a view to a bald spot of prairie (enjoy it while it lasts; sprawl encroaches). Turner’s got a fire in his belly that’s kindled by the spark of excitement he gets from ingredients sourced at the adjacent farmers’ market. Crispy chicken and lobster poutine could distract, but call their bluff and gamble on whatever hunk of meat is slowly smouldering in the giant wood-fired smoker. Local beers, salient wines and lip-smacking desserts like bourbon chocolate pecan pie ensure your stagecoach’s return. —K.A

14555 Symons Valley Rd. N.W., 587-296-4986, symonsroadhouse.com, @symonsroadhouse


Anew Table

photograph by jared sych

At Anew Table, the three- and six-course prix fixe menus change daily.

The menu says simply “mussels” or “duck” or “lamb.” Beneath each heading is a list of ingredients such as “sprouts, nasturtium, grapefruit, olive oil, butterleaf” below “mussels” and “carrot, kale, pine nut pesto, gnocchi” under “chicken.” At Anew Table, it’s all about the ingredients, skillfully prepared by chef/owner Chris Barton. The prix fixe menu — $45 for three courses, $65 for five; add $25 or $35 for wine pairings — changes daily, showcasing the freshest seasonal ingredients. (There’s no à la carte menu, but they will accommodate your requests as much as possible.)

With a background in high-end local and Parisian restaurants, the Calgary-born and SAIT Polytechnic-trained Barton presents contemporary, French-influenced dishes of well-structured food. Technique is strong, presentation is lovely and service is skilled at Anew. Revitalizing the former San Remo location in Garrison Woods with new floors, fresh paint and a buffed-up kitchen, the Anew team serves stylish lunches and discussion-provoking dinners. —J.G.

3574 Garrison Gate S.W., 403-727-1277, anewtable.ca, @anewtable


Bocce

photograph by jared sych

The newest spot to open its doors in Mission, Bocce brings a bright, green freshness and casual approach to Italian to the neighbourhood. With the cute Fiat out front, decked in the eatery’s signature green-and-white circles, and massive windows that span two walls — and into the room where all that dough is made, measured and readied for pizza — Bocce is airy and refreshing. Its take on classic Italian dishes is also fresh with inventive salads and starters. But it is the wood-fired pizza that serves as star of the show in this spot. Chef Grant Parry’s creations are unique and occasionally unexpected. The finishing touches, like the drizzle of rosemary honey over the Quattro Formaggi, take the pizzas to new places. And watching the chefs expertly shuffle the thin-crust pizzas in and out of the blazing hot oven is like dinner with a show. —G.R.

2207 4 St. S.W., 403-516-6162, eatbocce.ca, @eatbocce

See all of the 2015 Avenue Calgary Best Restaurants winners

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