Hotel Restaurants You Need to Check Out in Calgary

Hotel restaurants aren’t just for tourists, offering elevated and creative dining experiences that appeal to discerning patrons, whether they’re at home or away.

An array of dishes from Little Chief Restaurant. Photo by Jared Sych.

There once was a time when hotel restaurants set the standard for fine dining, with well-heeled socialites flocking to hotel ballrooms for gourmet food and of-the-moment cocktails. Many famous drinks and dishes — the Waldorf salad, the Boston cream pie and Calgary’s own Caesar cocktail — were invented at hotel restaurants during that golden age. But something happened towards the end of the 20th century and many hotel eateries turned into quaint relics or, worse, mediocre-service amenities designed to do little more than fuel hungry travellers as they arrived in or left the city.

That pendulum has started to swing, with more and more hotels electing to install restaurants that not only attract overnight guests, but residents of the city looking for a night out on the town. These local restaurants may all live within hotels but fit seamlessly into Calgary’s overall restaurant landscape.

 

Charcut

Chefs John Jackson (left) and Connie DeSousa (pouring) with selections from their meat-forward menu at Charcut in the Le Germain Hotel Downtown. Photo by Jared Sych.

It’s easy to forget sometimes that Charcut is part of the Le Germain Hotel downtown. Co-owners and co-chefs John Jackson and Connie DeSousa have always branded Charcut as a stand-alone entity, even though the pair have long operated within the hotel world, initially working together in the late ’90s at the Westin Hotel’s Owl’s Nest restaurant and later teaming up to help open the San Francisco St. Regis Hotel. That hands-on hotel knowledge helped the two chefs effectively partner with Germain Hotels (owners of the Le Germain and Alt chains), which trusted them to create a destination restaurant as a value-add for hotel guests, while also staking its claim as a local hot spot. “From the outside, it looks like the hotel and restaurant are two separate entities,” DeSousa says. “But, on the inside, there has to be a cohesiveness to operate smoothly.”

The strategy to position Charcut as its own entity has been intentional: Highlighting its house-cured meats and urban-rustic food style earned the restaurant the credibility to captivate an audience of non-hotel guests. The formula worked so well that Jackson and DeSousa have continued to grow their company within the hotel group, opening Chix Eggshop in the Alt Hotel East Village in 2019 and a brand-new Charcut location in the University District Alt Hotel this spring.

899 Centre St. S.W. and 4150 University Ave. N.W., charcut.com, @charcut

 

The Wilde

Located on the 27th floor of the Dorian Hotel, The Wilde is an elevated experience. Photo courtesy of The Wilde.

While many boutique hotels hand their restaurant spaces over to outside partners, the Oscar Wilde-inspired Dorian Hotel (part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection portfolio) elected to operate its fine-dining restaurant in-house, with the intention of making it feel like an independent restaurant. The Dorian team aimed high, both literally and figuratively, with a rooftop-level dining room and imaginative high-end food from executive chef Joshua Dyer. As such, The Wilde sees more local diners than it does hotel guests, attracting Calgarians through wine dinners, luxuriant Sunday brunches and chef’s tasting menus.

“We had the opportunity to set the tone for what Calgary can do with a hotel restaurant,” says restaurant director Brye Ponto. “I very much feel like I’m running an independent restaurant.” The Wilde is not the only restaurant within The Dorian: guests can grab more casual fare at the main-floor Prologue Cafe or at Bistro Novelle in the adjacent Courtyard by Marriott. This leaves The Wilde to showcase its opulent dinners in the kind of style of which Oscar Wilde certainly would have approved.

525 5 Ave. S.W., thewilderooftop.com, @thewilderooftop

 

Fonda Fora

A taste of contemporary Mexico at Fonda Fora in The Westley Hotel. Photo courtesy of Fonda Fora.

When Thank You Hospitality founder Cody Willis opened Fonda Fora in 2021, he wanted to make sure the Mexican restaurant had a completely different identity than his popular Native Tongues Taqueria. The location on the ground floor of the boutique Westley Hotel certainly helped Fonda Fora develop a distinctive groove: the hotel had room for a spacious dining room and an enormous bar, with high ceilings and calming curves setting the scene for the restaurant’s upscale-Mexican fare.

Above-average food and cocktails is characteristic of Hilton’s Tapestry Collection, which The Westley is part of. While Fonda Fora runs very much like a regular urban restaurant in the evening, it’s also open for breakfast and operates a private dining room often used for corporate meetings to accommodate hotel guests. It’s a shift from his other restaurants, but Willis says the hotel and Fonda Fora thrive off one another.

“This is a mutually beneficial relationship,” he says. “They want to run a boutique hotel where the restaurant is important and chose to partner with someone to provide that elevated experience.”

630 4 Ave. S.W., fondafora.com, @fondafora

 

Hawthorn

Hawthorn Bar at the Fairmont Palliser. Photo courtesy of Fairmont Palliser.

Over the last 110 years, the Palliser has been a glitzy gathering place for Calgary society. As a result, its in-house food service has morphed considerably over those years. In 2019, after a lengthy renovation, the hotel opened Hawthorn Dining Room, the first new major restaurant change-up to hit the Palliser in more than six decades. The modern-vintage-inspired dining room is worthy of the grand hotel, spilling out into the main lobby with the Hawthorn Bar to welcome guests as they check in for a stay.

It’s taken Hawthorn a while to find its culinary footing (opening months before the COVID-19 pandemic was not optimal), but the restaurant has hit its stride with the help of chef de cuisine Rupert Garcia, who won silver in the Canadian Culinary Championship earlier this year. The combination of Garcia’s luxurious dishes, all designed to reflect the bounty and flavours of Alberta, the signature cocktails at the bar, and a swishy afternoon tea have all put the Palliser back in the position of being a place to see and be seen.

133 9 Ave. S.W., hawthorndiningroom.ca, @hawthorndiningroom

 

Little Chief Restaurant

Little Chief’s Pickerel and pemmican with sage and brown butter, birch syrup and puffed fish skin. Photo by Jared Sych.

Little Chief is on the hotel side of the Grey Eagle complex, away from the hustle and bustle of the events centre and casino. From the outside, it looks like a typical hotel restaurant, and, while it is the kind of place where you can grab a wholesome breakfast or a quick burger, Little Chief is also much more.

Since the Grey Eagle is located on and owned and operated by the Tsuut’ina Nation, Little Chief specializes in what it calls “Indigenous-inspired” cuisine. Chef de cuisine Brandon Dashnay is not Indigenous himself (his wife is a member of the Nation), but he has a deep understanding and appreciation for Indigenous philosophies and ingredients, which he rolls into an innovative menu. Along with bannock, fry bread and bison hamburger steak, there’s also warm saskatoon berry soup, juniper-braised boneless short rib and a show-stopping charcuterie board stacked with house-cured fish and meats. This is food that tells a story of not just the hotel, but of the land and people.

3779 Grey Eagle Dr., Tsuut’ina, greyeagleresortandcasino.ca/little-chief-restaurant, @littlechiefyyc

 

Yakima

The charcuterie offerings at Yakima showcase a range of local products. Photo courtesy of Yakima.

Creating a destination hotel restaurant is one thing, but driving local traffic to an airport in-terminal hotel is a much more difficult challenge. Yakima, the Marriott restaurant that sits between YYC’s domestic and international terminals, manages to create a taste of place in a utilitarian building that most people would like to spend as little time in as possible.

The Marriott doesn’t hide the fact it’s in the airport — the people-watching opportunities are part of the charm — but executive chef Eric Beaupré (who also oversees the Codo Agave Social House restaurant at Delta Hotels Calgary Airport In-Terminal across the street) still manages to offer a distinctively Calgary experience.

Local ingredients are front-and-centre, with items like baked Alberta brie topped with Fallentimber honey and served with house-made bannock, as well as a charcuterie platter stacked with VDG meats. A partnership with Bridgeland Distillery provides Yakima with three bespoke “berbons” that appear in a number of sauces, as well as the smoked Old Fashioned. To sweeten the deal, the restaurant offers complimentary parking for up to four hours.

2008 Airport Rd. N.E., yakimayyc.ca, @yakimayyc

 

Five More Calgary Hotels with Dining Destinations

Alt Hotel, East Village

Calgary’s first Alt Hotel is where you’ll find chef Darren MacLean’s renowned Nupo and Eight restaurants (both on the list of Avenue’s Best Overall Restaurants for 2024). Those looking for something more casual can opt for the breakfast-focused Chix Eggshop, operated by the team behind Charcut and Charbar.

635 Confluence Way S.E., germainhotels.com, @althotel

 

Hotel Arts, Downtown

Hotel Arts’ Downtown property is home to the Yellow Door Bistro, known for its epic brunch buffet and European bistro-style dinner menu. The hotel also features the Freestyle Social Club lounge, which includes a golf simulator studio and offers poolside service for the ultimate inner-city staycation.

119 12 Ave. S.W., hotelarts.ca, @hotelartsyyc

 

Calgary Marriott, Downtown

In addition to its hearty comfort-food menu (including an amazing burger), Downtown Marriott’s One18 Empire restaurant offers one of the city’s most comprehensive selections of whiskies.

110 9 Ave. S.E., marriott.com, @calgarymarriott

 

Delta Hotels Calgary South

This southeast Calgary landmark features two notable eateries: the casual-but-chef-driven Southland Yard Bar and Table (a games and sports bar) and the family-oriented Sage & Co. Market Bar, both overseen by chef Michael Frayne.

135 Southland Dr. S.E., marriott.com, @deltacalgarysouth

 

Hyatt Regency Calgary

The Downtown Hyatt Regency is conveniently adjacent to Modern Steak, but it’s also worth checking out the in-house restaurant, Thomsons Kitchen and Bar, for its cocktails, Canadiana dinner menu and legendary brunch buffet.

700 Centre St. S.E., hyatt.com, @hyattcalgary

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This article appears in the May 2024 issue of Avenue Calgary.

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