Ode to Calgary: my mini guide

by Lindsay Drew Wotherspoon


On June 20th, 2013 I arrived home from beautiful and sunny southern California only to find out my neighbourhood was being evacuated due to a major flood warning. Fortunately, my bags were already packed and I was able to move in with my parents until we were able to go back home eight days later. Calgary does not have a history of natural disasters. Extreme cold weather? Yes, but nothing 'seemingly' worse than that. Alas, later that Thursday night the neighbourhoods were filled with water, cars were overturned, and parts of buildings and homes floated down the angry rivers. Seeing everyone come together to help through these trying times has reminded me what a good-hearted and hard-working bunch Calgarians truly are. I have lived here most of my life and sometimes tend to dismiss the fact that overall Calgary is pretty darn great and there are in fact some very good places to eat, drink, and be entertained, even for the most discerning city dweller. We have emerged from what was once only a steak and potatoes cowboy clad kind of town into a burgeoning Canadian culinary and arts center with a population of over one million people. Calgary is young and energetic and if you haven't been here, I encourage you to give us a try. We are at the foot of some of the most stunning natural landscapes in the world and also host a pretty crazy party every July coined the "Greatest Outdoor Show on Earthwhich is definitely worth the visit! Yeehaw! :)

Without further ado, here is my mini-guide to Calgary: 

STAY: 

Kensington Riverside Inn  1126 Memorial Drive NW 1.877.313.3713

KRI is an intimate and charming boutique hotel just across the river from downtown Calgary in the funky neighbourhood of Kensington. I have enjoyed a few staycaytions here and some fabulous dinners at their fine dining restaurant, Chef's Table which you can read about here.

Sheraton Suites Eau Claire  255 Barclay Parade SW 403.266.7200

The Sheraton Eau Claire is a great hotel with a superb location to downtown and to the beautiful Prince's Island Park.

Hyatt Regency 700 Center Street SE 403.717.1234

Another big brand hotel but I have always thought the Hyatt on Calgary's historic Steven Avenue was quite classy with its expansive lobby and very Albertan decor.

Hotel Arts 119 12 Ave SW 403.266.4611

Young and hip boutique hotel located just a few blocks south of Calgary's core featuring an outdoor pool with a Miami-esque vibe for those warm summer afternoons.

Hotel Le Germain 899 Center Street SW Calgary 1.877.362.8990

A premium boutique hotel, Hotel Le Germain is an upscale chain from Quebec offering modern, elegantly designed rooms. The Frette linens and Molton Brown amenities are just an idea of what to expect. Charcut, the acclaimed restaurant from Top Chef Canada's Connie DeSousa and co-owner John Jackson resides on the main floor.

EAT:

Restaurants

$-$$$ (Cheap Eats-Fine Dining)

Cucina Market Bistro 515 8th Avenue SW, Calgary 403.353.6565

Out of all of the new restaurants that have popped up in Calgary during the last two years, this has to be my favorite. Cucina has a unique space in the new Eighth Avenue Place building just off the Stephen Avenue Promenade. Simple yet elegant Italian food made with great ingredients and matched with excellent service. If you don't have time for a sit down meal you can also grab and go from the café. Great spot for Saturday brunch too. $$

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Teatro Ristorante  200 8th Avenue SE 403.290.1012

Teatro is the mother hen of Cucina and has been around for nearly twenty years. The space, a former Dominion Bank building circa. 1911 is very grande and the bar is one of my favorite places to go for Champagne and antipasti on a nice evening. Request a booth if dining in the restaurant or enjoy the patio which overlooks Olympic Plaza. Great for special occasions and a good grown-up evening out. $$$

River Café  Prince's Island Park, Eau Claire 403.261.7670

River Cafe has to be one of the most beautiful restaurants in the city and was a pioneer in Calgary for all things sustainable and local. I adore coming here in the summer to sip rosé on the patio along with some oysters or house-made hummus. Wintertime is equally enchanting when you can cozy up by the fireplace while enjoying a house cured fish and game platter. The food is excellent and well worth the premium price tag. They also serve a beautiful brunch on weekends. $$$

Note: River Café was affected by the flood but will be up and running again late July, 2013.

Haida Gwaii Halibut at River Café.

Haida Gwaii Halibut at River Café.

Bonterra 1016 8th Street SW 403.262.8480

A great place to go early evening in the summertime for a plate of pecorino, olives, and a glass prosecco. Their European style courtyard patio is gorgeous. A little gem in the downtown core. $$

The Coup 924 17th Avenue SW 403.541.1041

Great vegetarian using fresh and local ingredients. The space is funky and cool and very bohemian vibe. My favorite item on the menu is the Falafal Quesadilla but have also enjoyed the Beachfront Hot Pot and Club Med Salad. Delicious whole food goodness. $

Vin Room 2310 4th Street SW 403.457.5522

One of my neighborhood spots, I enjoy Vin Room's rooftop patio in the summertime between 5 and 7 to enjoy their fabulously priced oysters and 20% off bubbles. Sun, oysters, Champagne, what else do you need? $$

Note: Vin Room is currently closed and rebuilding from the flood. They will reopen in the near future.

Divino Wine & Cheese Bistro 113 8th Avenue SW 403.410.5555

An old stand-by, I have never been disappointed with Divino. It has always reminded me of a restaurant I might find in an older, more "cool" city with it's brick walls and open kitchen. I enjoy stopping here for a downtown lunch on their patio in the summer or for some wine and cheese in the winter. I will frequently order the Lyonnaise or Niçoise salad and their Lobster Cannelloni is delicious!  $$

Blink Restaurant 111 8th Avenue SW 403.263.5330

Blink is a lovely grown up restaurant with excellent food to match. A little more "dressed up" than neighboring Divino, Blink offers exquisite European cuisine with a local Albertan flair, $$

Model Milk 308 17th Avenue SW 403.265.7343

Named one of Canada's best new restaurants 2012 by EnRoute magazine for very good reason, Model Milk continues to impress. Extremely cool space with innovative takes on classic comfort food. Fricasée of calamari with giuanciale, edamame, and pimenton? Yes please. Calgary is not in Kansas anymore... You can often find me sitting at the bar in their cozy lounge sipping on a MM gin & tonic. $$

Una Pizza & Wine 618 17th Avenue SW 403.453.1183

Love Una. Enjoy the bar style seating while sipping on some cava and enjoying the eclectic vibe and always happening scene. Great food at a great price, and also open until 1am for late night eats.

Ox and Angela 528 17th Avenue SW 403.457.1432

Another gem from the owners of Una Pizza. Authentic Spanish plates and excellent cocktails in a fun, Latino inspired space. $$

Two of my favourite dishes at Ox & Angela - seared tuna and fried goat cheese.

Two of my favourite dishes at Ox & Angela - seared tuna and fried goat cheese.

Farm Restaurant 1006 17th Avenue SW 403.245.2276 (NEW)

Farm is a great little casual restaurant neighbouring my favourite cheese shop, Janice Beaton Fine Cheeses. It has been around for awhile now but I never really a had a chance to fully experience it until recently.  I was super pleased with my dinner of Manitoba Pickerel served with brussel sprout and wild rice sautée, cherry gastrique and almond butter. Being right next door to the cheese shop, they also have a wonderful selection of cheese and specialty meats, etc. Clean and tasty food in a cute and cozy atmosphere. Brunch menu available on the weekends.

Bars & Cafés etc.

National 550 17th Avenue SW 403.229.0226 & 341 10th Avenue SW 

Okay, so I have only been here once as I am not really a bar goer but if you want to check out the local scene in Calgary, I would definitely recommend a visit to this upscale and bustling bar. Definitely one of "the" places to go if you're cool in Calgary. The Bourbon Room at their 10th Avenue location is particularly cool. $

The Commonwealth 731 10th Avenue SW 403.247.4663

I saw and met Common here. Common at Commonwealth. It's a sign. Go get your dance on. $

Vendome Café  940 2nd Avenue NW 403.453.1140

Vendome has excellent coffee and is a great place for a casual brunch/lunch with friends or just your book or laptop. I have never tried the desserts here but they tempt me every time. Also owned by the Teatro Group. $

Analog Coffee 740 17th Avenue SW 403.265.2112

Stopping in to get an americano at Analog is my new weekly treat on Friday mornings after a hot flow class at Yoga Santosha. I like to pretend that I am in London or New York City when I come here, as it has a wonderful old-school big city vibe to it. The staff are very friendly, the interior design rocks and best of all the coffee is excellent. 

Yann Haute Patisserie 329, 23rd Avenue SW 403.244.8091

In my opinion, Yann's is the BEST place in the city to get French pastry treats and baguette. His attention to detail and quality exemplified through his products would surpass even some of the patisseries in Paris. Trust me, I have compared! His almond croissant is one of the best I have tasted on this side of the pond as is his baguette. You're in for a treat!

Jeraldine Blanchard, co-owner of Yann Haute Patisserie proudly standing in front of her boutique's brand new macaron showcase.

Jeraldine Blanchard, co-owner of Yann Haute Patisserie proudly standing in front of her boutique's brand new macaron showcase.

Sidewalk Citizen Bakery 5524 1A St SW 403.457.2245 with a second location at Sunnyside Natural Market 338 10th Street NW Unit 10 403.270.7477 (NEW)

I first met Aviv, the founder of Citizen Sidewalk when he was still delivering his bread on a bike to various locations across the city. I remember telling him that his bread was so good and that I was certain there were many storefronts in his future. He humbly smiled and said, "hopefully one day!" Well that day came within a couple of years just as Aviv's bread came to be recognized as some of the best the city was offering. His sourdough is divine with olive oil and a sprinkle of Maldon salt, or just with a good pat of quality butter (major yum). Of course, he also sells a variety of sweet and savory baked goods. At the Sunnyside location I have tried the pizza, sandwiches, salads, and a few of the dips and let me just say that this is the closest thing to Ottolenghi that Calgary has to offer. So much flavor and so much organic goodness. Sandwiches and bread sell out fast during the day so make sure to call ahead and put something aside if you want to avoid being disappointed.

Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters 2207 4th Street SW 403.245.1111 (NEW)

The newest location of the Phil & Sebastian Coffee empire in Mission has been a welcome addition to my neighbourhood. There is a small café and WINE menu too! Chic coffee shop with benefits, wouldn't you say?

SHOP:

Uniquities Bay 2, 2501 Alyth Road SE 403.228.9221

If you are into Architectural Antiques, than you must make a visit to Uniquities in Inglewood. No, it's not the Marché aux Puces in Paris but I think you will be impressed with the quality of pieces at this lovely store in south east Calgary.

Adorn Boutique  1216 A - 9th Avenue SE 403.261.9199

I shop quite regularly at a few of the big chain stores such as Club Monaco, but it's always refreshing to find a great piece that not every fashionista in town owns. Adorn Boutique can offer you just that, and without the insanely high price tag.

Lauren Bagliore Atelier & Studio  Concept Shop 917 11th Street SE 403.455.4020

I had the pleasure of meeting Lauren at one of her fashion shows recently and couldn't help falling in love with her unique and feminine designs. A native New Yorker, Lauren has worked with some of the best in the industry and is hoping to help bring that standard of fashion to Calgary. Whether you are looking for something to wear for an upcoming event or just for your daily routine, make sure to get an appointment with Lauren at her concept shop in Inglewood.

Knifewear 1316 9th Avenue SE Calgary, AB 403.514.0577

Kevin Kent, the owner of Knifewear and I met back in my days working at the River Café and the guy would never stop talking about his knives. He was so passionate about them that a few short years later he opened up his own retail business at the back of a gourmet food shop. His hard work paid off and soon he had developed a huge customer following. Knifewear is now a full fledged knife store in the charming neighborhood of Inglewood with a second location in Kelowna, B.C. They offer an amazing selection of high-performance Japanese chef knives with a very knowledgeable staff. If you enjoy being in the kitchen and haven't already invested in a good chef's knife I highly recommend you check out Knifewear.

Leo Boutique 810 16th Avenue SW 403.410.9236

Founded in 1997, LEO is a men's and women's fashion boutique, featuring a carefully curated selection of designer collections chosen with an editorial eye. Beautiful jewelry as well. 

Primitive Culture 16th Avenue SW 403.244.4404

Right next to Leo is Primitive Culture, another high end clothing and jewelry boutique that has had it's doors open in Calgary for 24 years! Always fun finds here.

Cocoa and Violet 17, 2500 4th Street SW 403.244.6234

After running by this women's upscale fashion boutique a dozen of times I finally manged to get there to peruse the beautiful clothing recently. Gorgeous light filled space and super sweet staff. Lovely place to shop! 

Holt Renfrew 510 8th Avenue SW 403.269.7351

Although Holt's is a nationwide chain, the Calgary store recently underwent a beautiful transformation. I always enjoy perusing the latest designer goods a midst its well heeled clientele. Some of my favorite brands to browse here are Ippolita, Anzie, Tory Burch, Rag & Bone, Rebecca Minkoff and Laura Mercier cosmetics. There are also a few stand alone high-end boutiques such as Hermès and Tiffany & Co. shall the mood strike.

Harry Rosen, TD Square Location 317  7th Avenue SW 403.294.0992

Exquisite menswear with excellent staff. Some of the most beautiful brands are sold here including Brunello Cucinelli, Canali, Tom Ford, Zegna, Hugo Boss, Armani and more. Harry Rosen also offers a made to measure suiting service.

Inspirati Fine Linens 120, 2207 4th Street SW 403.244.4443

Right down the corner from One-Cycle is this fabulous little shop specializing in fine European linens. Wendy Brownie, the store's passionate owner will help you choose a linen for just about any occasion and you are sure to leave with a beautiful tablecloth or two.

Neal's Yard Remedies 130, 2207 4th Street SW 403.460.8400

This iconic UK brand just opened their first Canadian store and so far so good! I have only tried their lavender oil but will be back for more. Lovely atmosphere and very knowledgeable staff.

Saje Natural Wellness  Suite A-2308 4 St SW Calgary 403.451.7195

Another one of my favorite neighborhood shops, Saje relaxes you as soon as you walk in the door. Due to the toxicity of mega-brand perfumes and lotions I have now switched to using a touch of essential oil combined with coconut oil to moisturize my skin and Saje offers a fabulous selection. My current favorite is Neroli essential oil and I also like their Yoga Transitions Mist, which has a wonderful calming effect. Sample one of their teas while you shop, especially nice on a cold winter day.

Note: Saje on 4th Street is in recovery mode from the flooding but plans to reopen soon! 

Metrovino  The Cookbook Co.  722 11 Ave SW 403.205.3356 & 403.265.6066

I have nothing but good things to say about Metrovinoa unique wine boutique which specializes in hard to find wines and spirits from around the globe. Richard Harvey, the store's owner and locally known "wine guru" set up shop here over ten years ago before anyone knew what Prosecco or Malbec was. Today the shop is better than ever, having recently expanded to include a tasting room for classes and events and most importantly, more wine!  Metrovino has some of the best selection of French wine in the city, along with a great selection of rosé and grower, "farmer-fizz" Champagnes. Some of my favorites to buy at Metrovino are: Evening Land Wines (Oregon, U.S.A), Chateau de Rontets Pouilly Fuissé (Burgundy, France), Chateau de Beauregard Fleurie (Beaujolais, France), Champagne et Villages Camille Saves Brut Carte d'Or (Champagne, France), Domaine Houchart Provence Tradition Rosé (Côtes de Provence, France), & Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir (California, U.S.A).

Right next door is The Cookbook Co. which is where I go to stock up on hard to find gourmet food essentials and tools. Truffle oil, olives, local meats and cheeses, natural cleaning supplies, cookware, gadgets, and of course a huge selection of cookbooks. The Cookbook Co. also owns the adjoining cooking school offering cooking classes and culinary soirées with local and celebrity chefs. 

Vine Arts 1310 1st Street SW 403.290.0700

Coined Calgary's Most Creative Wine Store, Jeff Jameison and Jesse Willis have managed to do exactly that. Do you like your wine to be "Smooth and Sexy" or "Spicy, Earthy and Funky"? Vine Arts is a refreshing take on the wine boutique and the owners are extremely knowledgeable to help you find the perfect bottle no matter your budget.  

Janice Beaton Fine Cheeses 1017 16th Avenue SW 403.229.0900

Although there are less pricey places to buy good cheese in Calgary, I always end up coming here because it's so close to home and I think it's the chicest fromagerie in town. Great selection of product in a beautiful shop. Helpful & friendly staff.

Peasant Cheese Shop 1249 Kensington Road NW 587.353.3599

Great little neighbourhood cheese shop with great prices. Super friendly staff.

Kalamata Grocery  1421 11 Street SW 403.244.0220

This is the cutest little family run shop in one of Calgary's oldest neighbourhoods and has an incredible selection of Mediterranean food stuffs. The freshest feta and pitas, twenty-two types of Greek olives (yes, you read correctly), Turkish delight, and so much more. Not only is the feta amazing (all seven varieties of it), but they also sell haloumi, saganaki, and other hard to find items not common in supermarkets.

Daily Globe Newshop  1004 17 Avenue SW 403.244.2060

Just around the corner from Janice Beaton Fine Cheeses is this great little international news shop where G and I get our monthly fill of worldly publications. G goes for the acclaimed French Travel & News magazine, Geo. and I like to browse the imported European fashion mags. I always leave with the latest issue of the British Conde Nast Traveller and maybe a copy of Australia's Vogue Entertaining & Travel if it's in stock

 

DO:

Yoga Passage 200-524 11th Ave SW 403.277.3058

Yoga Passage is awesome. It's not the fanciest yoga studio in town, but definitely one of the best. I've been coming here for the last four years and can't break the habit. There is a wide array of classes for all levels of practitioners. For a guaranteed sweat fest try one of Gord's Tuesday or Thursday hot classes.

Yoga Santosha #3200 1800 4th Street SW 403.244.9642 (NEW)

I have lived in the community of Mission since 2007 and for some reason it wasn't until a few months ago that I finally gave Yoga Santosha a try. The studio is stunning, spotless, and very ZEN! I just love spending my early Friday and sometimes Wednesday mornings there for Kate Mak's hot flow class. She rocks and I can imagine all the other instructors there do to! Try it out!

Butter Beauty Parlour 2429 4th Street SW Calgary 403.215.3404

A blow dry bar with benefits, right in my very own hood! Designed by the lovely Tara Marshall with the prestigious Calgary firm, McKinley Burkart, the space is as relaxing as it is beautiful. Gather your girlfriends and a bottle of bubbles and spend the afternoon getting prettified.

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One-Cycle Spin Studio 2115 4th Street SW Calgary 403.244.4484

A great recent addition to my hood in Mission, this boutique spin studio modeled after SoulCycle in NYC is all the rage right now and I am 100% obsessed. Be prepared to get your ass kicked with these high intensity classes that incorporate not only spinning but a great upper body workout as well. Don't worry, you will leave the studio feeling stronger and more positive than ever! Classes book up well in advance so be sure to register on-line and don't be late!

YYC Cycle 1117B Kensington Road NW (NEW - OPENING SOON)

Get ready to sweat your spin socks off! No more getting a few workout's wear out of your exercise apparel, these classes are sure to leave you drenched and euphoric at the same time. And who doesn't love that? Located in the quaint and cool community of Kensington, YYC Cycle is set to open in March. I will be back with an update once they open their doors. Can't wait!

Company of Rogues Actor's Studio 2nd Floor, 1232 17th Avenue SW 403.228.5526

If you are an actor at heart (like myself) you must make time to check out this superb acting studio. I have been attending classes here on and off for the past eleven years and cannot say enough good things about the company. The owners, husband and wife team Joe Norman Shaw and Christianne Hirt Shaw are truly the best and because their standards are so high, you will not be disappointed with any of the instructors here.

Riverside Spa 110 Point Mckay Crescent NW 403.270.7500

I have been going to Riverside Spa for almost three years now and am a big fan. I like that any service includes the use of their eucalyptus steam room and rain showers, along with an array of organic skin care and hair products. Sip tea and relax by the fireplace before or after your service.

Shakespeare in the Park  Prince's Island Park, Eau Claire

One of my favorite ways to spend a summer afternoon or evening in Calgary is to bike along the Bow River and stop by Prince's Island Park to catch a bit of theatrical action at Shakespeare in the Park. Perfect to bring a picnic to, either from home or order one from nearby River Café.

Riley Park 800 12th Street NW Calgary

Growing up in Calgary I was a huge fan of summer visits to Riley Park. But of course life gets busy with all that school and growing up and it wasn't until I started working in Kensington area that I started visiting the park again on a regular basis. Because it is a wading pool, there are lots of young kids on a sunny day but if you don't have kids there is still plenty of green space around to enjoy. Another great spot for suntanning and a picnic in the park. Afterwards, check out the Hillhurst Farmer's Market just across the street. (Wednesdays from 3-7pm).

National Music Centre 134 11th Avenue SE 403.543.5115

A new development originating from the Cantos Music Museum, the new National Music Centre is currently in construction and will offer exhibitions, education, artistic incubation, and performances.

Representation of the future National Music Centre in YYC. Photo credit: www.nmc.ca

Representation of the future National Music Centre in YYC. Photo credit: www.nmc.ca

Calgary Zoo, Botanical Garden & Prehistoric Park  1300 Zoo Road NE 1.800.588.9993

I have been to many great Zoos, my favorite being Animal Kingdom in Disney World, and the amazing San Diego Zoo, but I have to say, I think the Calgary Zoo is pretty great too! There are some beautiful gardens to have a picnic in and a Prehistoric Walk for those who don't have time to get out to the Royal Tyrell Museum but who still want a taste of the dinosaur stuff. A great way to spend a warm day - best during the week to avoid crowds and stroller overload.

Note: Calgary Zoo is closed due to the flooding until July 31st, 2013 at which point they will re-open in phases. 

Elbow River Pathway Along the Elbow River, SW Calgary

This is my favorite pathway in the whole city but that is largely because it's just so convenient for me. When I have a bit more time on the weekends I will spend part of my day running, biking or walking along this pathway. Favorite spots are Sandy Beach (don't be fooled by the name - we are still in Calgary after all) where you can walk up to the Glenmore Dog Park or to the Bluff area in Britannia. A great spot to go rafting down the river.

Note: The Elbow River Pathway at Sandy Beach was affected by the flooding, but is still accessible. Clean up is in effect.

Glenmore Reservoir Between Glenmore Trail and 90th Avenue SW Calgary

For a great bike ride, continue on from the Elbow River Pathway up to the reservoir and do the whole loop back to downtown. Biking to the reservoir and Weaselhead  Flats area is great way to get out of the city without having to get off your bike. From here you can also access the Calgary Canoe Club which offers canoe and kayak rentals. Or, if sailing is more your style, check out the Glenmore Sailing School. For families, Heritage Park can be a hoot.

Note: The Elbow River Pathway at Weaselhead was affected by the flooding, but is still accessible and clean up is in effect.

Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park  GRPF 255001 Glenbow Road, Cochrane 403.851.9053

Thirty minutes west of Calgary on highway 1A, Glenbow Ranch is one of our go-to parks for sunny day Sunday walks.  The scenery is some of the best in the foothills and there are lots of trails to choose from for bikers and walkers alike.

Elbow River Pathway close to Stanley Park.

Elbow River Pathway close to Stanley Park.

The Alberta Landscape at Glenbow Ranch just north of the City on highway 1A.

The Alberta Landscape at Glenbow Ranch just north of the City on highway 1A.

View of the downtown skyline from McHugh Bluff Park.

View of the downtown skyline from McHugh Bluff Park.

A view of Prince's Island Park and the Bow River from McHugh Bluff Park.

A view of Prince's Island Park and the Bow River from McHugh Bluff Park.