Gone are the days when the Calgarian restaurant scene offered a vast array of dishes featuring Alberta beef -- generally acknowledged as some of the best in the world -- and little else. Recent economic boom times and an influx of outsiders from around the country and all over the world have bestowed upon the city a vibrantly eclectic, cosmopolitan dining scene. As is the case with most things here, a fresh, contemporary take dominates most menus, and the emphasis on organic and local ingredients seems to grow by the day. Don't be shocked to find local bison and elk on a great many menus around town, if accompanied by such cutting-edge culinary trends like molecular gastronomy (ginger-celeriac foam, anyone?).
The city's most vibrant dining districts can be found either in or on the edge of the city core. Downtown, both workers on their lunch breaks and travelers lodging in the many nearby hotels have a huge variety of options, most along Stephen Avenue Mall or 9th Street. The handful of blocks around 17th Avenue SW, between about 8th Street and 2nd Street, and 4th Street SW, between 17th Avenue and 25th Avenue (also known as the Mission) are also dense with choices.
Calgary sprawls into distant suburbs in every direction, making culinary adventures in the far-flung corners a time-consuming, confusing affair. However, at least a couple of spots, new this year, are worth the geographical challenge. Near the Calgary Zoo is the acclaimed and decidedly high-brow Rouge (tel. 403/531-2767; www.rougecalgary.com), which was recently listed amongst the top 60 restaurants in the world by the esteemed S. Pellegrino awards. Their French-inspired cuisine is dainty and precise, and a summer meal on their patio is a perfect special-occasion splurge. On the far south side of Calgary is The Ranche (tel. 403/225-3939; www.crmr.com/theranche), set inside a heritage ranch home in Fish Creek Park. The menu is heavy on meat and game. Great for weekend brunch.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.