A Foodie’s Guide to Alberta
Alberta’s culinary scene is flourishing. Bolstered by top chefs, local food and beverage talent, and award-winning restaurants, the province has become a foodie destination in its own right.
Most conversations about food in Alberta start with the beef–and for good reason. The province has close to two million more cattle than it does humans and is known for producing some of the highest quality beef on the planet.
Beef may be the start of the conversation, but it isn’t where it ends. Agriculture in Alberta is a major industry too, producing everything from honey, hops, and artisan cheese to berries including raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and saskatoons (ask for them by name, a true Alberta treat), vegetables, seeds and grains of all kinds. Many Albertans and local restaurants live by the farm to fork mantra. Within 100 miles of both Calgary and Edmonton there are farms supplying restaurants with fresh meat—including cattle, bison, elk, and even ostrich. Along with all the rest of what can be grown locally, these farm fresh ingredients set the scene when it comes to Alberta cuisine. Get a taste for the local scene and pick up some goodies at any of the many local farmers’ markets.
A conversation about the province’s food also needs to take in the multitude of cultural influences at play. The province’s immigrant Ukrainian roots mean the best hand-pinched pierogies, just like grandma used to make—and still does. Add to that the foods of the city’s Italian, German, Asian, English, Norwegian, and Finnish descendants for a delicious multicultural mix.
Alberta is also at the forefront of new and innovative food and drink creations, with the city’s creative chefs and bartenders cooking up fresh techniques, styles, dishes, and drinks every day. But did you know that Canada’s most popular brunch cocktail, the Bloody Caesar, was invented at Calgary’s Westin Hotel in 1969? Make sure you try a Canadian classic while you’re in town.
Clearly, Alberta brings more to the table than a fantastic steak.
With two major foodie cities, Calgary and Edmonton, and a bustling dining scene across the province through the Canadian Rockies, it’s impossible to talk about all the great places to eat in Alberta, but let us whet your appetite with a special few that never disappoint. The rest are tasty treat for you to discover.
Calgary is home to some of best restaurants not just in the province, but in the entire country, and Chef Justin Leboe can claim responsibility for two of them: Model Milk, his first restaurant, is housed in a former 1930s dairy, where the industrial look of the building belies the modern interior and innovative menu serving locally sourced lamb, pork,and steelhead trout; Pigeonhole, his latest effort, quickly earned top ranking with the help of dishes like ricotta dumplings, rabbit and bacon pate, and a Russian caviar service.
Ready for Alberta’s signature beef? Book a table in advance for the popular Charbar. What was once a mattress factory now houses a taste factory, infusing dry-aged beef with Argentinian flavours.
Fine dining staple Rouge Restaurant in Inglewood uses only the freshest ingredients–many of their herbs and vegetables are grown on their property.
An easy stroll from downtown, on an island in the middle of the Bow River, the Canadiana-classic River Café is dedicated to using local produce and has an impressive wine list— and one of the best outdoor spaces for summer dining.
Seasonal comfort food specialists at Charcut Roast House score with foodie fans thanks to dishes like sausage burgers topped with cheese curds and fried eggs, or bison brisket with boar bacon.
In Edmonton, Chef Daniel Costa does impeccable justice to the dishes of his ancestors at Italian restaurant Bar Bricco. They don’t take reservations, so be sure to come early. Another of Costa’s restaurants, Corso 32, pairs delicate hand-made pasta with locally sourced ingredients to delight the taste buds.
Many of the city’s favourite restaurants create ethnic dishes that redefine fusion cuisine. There’s the Spanish and Portuguese-inspired Sabor Divino, Tres Carnales Taqueria which puts a new spin on traditional Mexican fare, and the fine Indian cuisine of Guru Restaurant, which is hailed as the best of its kind in Edmonton. Three Boars Eatery serves up fusion foods such as beef heart Bolognese, Alberta lamb kofta, and miso-braised pork belly.
Head to Canmore in Kananaskis Country and prepare to be amazed by the number of eclectic eateries in this small alpine town, from microbreweries and Brazilian barbecue to tapas. With names like Crazy Weed and Iron Goat you know you’re in for a culinary adventure.
The mountain towns of Banff and Jasper have their own spin on culinary style. In Banff, start with cocktails at the famous Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel in the Rundle Lounge and then head into town for fine dining at the Maple Leaf Grill. The Grizzly House, a landmark restaurant that opened in 1969, has a lavish selection of fondue dishes. Try the legendary Melissa’s Missteak, a family-friendly restaurant where you pick out your own steak, or settle in at the Banff Ave Brewing Company for juicy burgers and locally brewed beers.
In Jasper start your morning at the famed Bear’s Paw Bakery or Papa George’s for a hearty breakfast. After a day of exciting outdoor adventures is done, stop for a refreshing pint at the Jasper Brewing Company and then have the delightful dilemma of deciding where for dinner: Oka Sushi in the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, Tekarra, or Evil Dave’s?
How do you know a place is passionate about food? When they celebrate it regularly—and with such passion! All across the province a host of food and beverage festivals put the local love for cuisine under the spotlight.
For 30 years, the Taste of Edmonton festival has gathered foodies into the heart of the city to try the best food and drinks with a tasty side of toe-tapping music. Taste of Calgary has been pulling in fans from around southern Alberta for 20 years with its can’t-fail recipe of local craft beers and tasty bites from popular bars and restaurants.
The Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival showcases a huge variety of wines, spirits—especially whiskey—and beers in both Calgary and Edmonton with a smorgasbord of gourmet food to pair with your new favourite drinks.
In the summer months, say cheers to the beer festivals in Banff, Calgary, and Edmonton, and if you attend a multicultural festival in any of Alberta’s major cities, there will always be traditional foods to try and tempt you into new culinary worlds from the Caribbean to Africa and beyond.
Finally, if you want to leave Alberta having tried something a little, shall we say, exotic, there’s Calgary’s Testicle Festival. Every summer around the time of the Calgary Stampede, Bottlescrew Bill’s Pub hosts an event centred on the prairie oyster—a nickname given to a bull’s testicle. Prepared in a variety of ways, the taste of this cowboy ‘treat’ might just surprise you. At the very least you’ll have a heck of a story to tell your friends back home.