A Foodie’s Guide to Alberta
Alberta’s culinary scene is flourishing. Bolstered by top chefs in award-winning restaurants, using local produce to create imaginative cuisine, the province is considered one of Canada’s finest foodie destinations.
Most conversations about food in Alberta start with the beef – and for good reason. The province has as 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 150 kilometres of both Calgary and Edmonton there are farms supplying restaurants with fresh meat, including cattle, bison, elk, and even ostrich. Along with locally grown fruits and grains, these farm fresh ingredients are at the very heart of Albertan cuisine. Get a taste for the local scene and pick up some goodies at the many local farmers’ markets.
A conversation about the province’s food must also encapsulate the multicultural influences. The province’s immigrant Ukrainian roots are the basis for the best hand-pinched pierogies, just like grandma used to make (and still does), together with a modern mix of Italian, German, Asian, English, Norwegian, and Finnish gastronomy.
Alberta is at the global forefront of innovative food and drink creations, with the city’s renowned chefs and bartenders cooking up fresh techniques, styles, dishes, and drinks every day. 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.
Whet your appetite in Alberta’s two major foodie cities, Calgary and Edmonton, as well as the bustling dining scene across the Canadian Rockies. Here’s just a few of the best places to eat in Alberta.
Calgary boasts some of best restaurants in Canada, and Chef Justin Leboe can claim credit 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, with many of their herbs and vegetables are grown on the 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, along with one of the best outdoor spaces for summer dining.
Seasonal comfort food specialists at Charcut Roast House score points 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, putting a new spin on traditional Mexican fare, and the fine Indian cuisine of Guru Restaurant, 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 destination is serious about food? When they celebrate it regularly and with passion! Right across Alberta 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 fill your belly at one of the many multicultural festivals in Alberta’s major cities, where you’ll experience new culinary worlds from the Caribbean, Africa and beyond.
Looking for something a little more, shall we say, exotic? Calgary’s Testicle Festival takes place every summer around the time of the Calgary Stampede. Head to Bottlescrew Bill’s Pub to sink your teeth into a ‘prairie oyster’, but beware! This is merely a nickname for a bull’s testicle. Prepared in a variety of ways, the taste of this cowboy ‘treat’ might just surprise and delight you. At the very least, you’ll have an impressive story to tell your friends back home.
Learn more about food and dining in Alberta.