Don't Miss These Hard-to-Forget Restaurants in Calgary
If you are looking for a unique dining experience in YYC, you'll want to check out any of these restaurants with insane levels of character -- and delicious food, I might add!
These establishments each have a more-than-memorable ambiance made possible by the stylish and sometimes historical buildings they reside in. Combined with a unique selection of quality food and drinks that each one offers in its own respect and you also have some of the best restaurants in Calgary!
Here are Calgaryism's top six selections for restaurants with the most character:
The Nash and Off Cut Bar
- Address - 925 11th Street SE, Calgary, AB
- Phone Number - 403-984-3365
The Nash and Off Cut Bar restaurant wasn't always a go-to spot in YYC for fine meat cuts such as steak, chicken and lamb. Located in Inglewood's historic National Hotel - built in 1907 to accommodate railway labourers - the three-story brick building was owned by A.E. Cross' Calgary Brewery for a few decades and operated as a sales outlet for the company's beer, which just happened to be made down the street. Eventually, the National Hotel gained somewhat of a shady reputation and closed its doors in 1998. In 2010, it was bought by Ansonia Property Management and has been undergoing renovations on its structure ever since.
A few years has passed since the owners of The Nash and Off Cut Bar signed up for lease in spring of 2014. They have done a wonderful job of maintaining the historical character of the National Hotel while incorporating the latest restaurant equipment into its design during renovations. Inside you'll find an open-concept, large L-shaped white room with a large harvest table on one end and both high and low tables spread throughout the rest of the seating area. The bar section, a.k.a. Off Cut, has the look and feel of an old school bar room with a pewter-topped counter, pressed tin ceiling and wooden floors with a cool mosaic tile feature on one section. This restaurant really does have some character to it and some incredible bites you must experience for yourself.
- Address - 618 Confluence Way SE, Calgary, AB
- Phone Number - 403-452-3115
Next up is Charbar, a local favourite found in the redeveloped community of East Village not only because of its awesome food and riverside address, but also due to the restored Simmons Building - full of character and life - that it resides in. The life we are referring to is the fact that it houses Sidewalk Citizen Bakery and Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roaster alongside Charbar; you literally can grab anything from a quick bagel and coffee to a full steak and cocktail if you`d like, all just a few feet from RiverWalk. The Simmons Building was one of several warehouses built in the pre-First World War era along the Bow River; today, only it and the Eau Claire Lumber Office (1886 Café) still stand. Its builder, the Alaska Bedding Company, produced everything from mattresses and pillows to chesterfields and other types of bedding and furniture up until 1966 when it closed its doors for good. Today the Simmons Building is fully owned by the Calgary Municipal Lands Company (CMLC) who is also responsible for the redevelopment of East Village.
Simmons Building restorations by architect firm McKinley Burkart left many original features inside like the 12-inch fir beams, solid wood floors and red bricks while also adding a slew of designer-savvy / modern ones like a glass elevator and metal stairways leading up to the rooftop patio - one of the best in the city for river views I might add. This project tied for winner of Alberta Construction Top Projects - Commercial - Under $50 million in 2015 too. It's a must visit when it comes to character and food.
- Address - 113 Stephen Avenue SW, Calgary, AB
- Phone Number - 403-410-5555
Divino's longevity as a local restaurant that's been around for nearly three decades should tell you something about its top-notch food selection and overall dining experience. This place was a huge hit back in the 1980's and still today offers some of the original menu items you would have seen then - the black pepper linguine being one of them. Since 2003, the restaurant has resided in a long and narrow sandstone building built in 1887 which just happened to be the first home of what would become a local beloved newspaper called the Calgary Herald. The building was constructed out of sandstone due to a mandate that was issued by city council after a devastating fire spread throughout downtown and destroyed most of the wooden buildings in 1886. The mandate required that all public construction projects be made out of a fire-resistant material (such as sandstone) to prevent such occurrences from happening in the future. Since sandstone was easily accessible and mined from the Bow River's embankments, it became the material of choice.
Walking inside Divino you'll find a middle-set open kitchen that divides the interior into smaller and more private dining sections. The kitchen is adept at serving up dishes from a wide range of culinary tastes including those from Italy, France and of course, Canada. For the quality and gourmet nature of dishes like the lobster cannelloni, duck confit melt, pan-roasted halibut to name a few, you really can't go wrong with the prices which tend to stay in the mid to upper twenty's. Divino is by far one Calgary restaurant that will not disappoint when it comes to character in both the ambiance and food served!
- Address - 306 17th Avenue SW, Calgary, AB
- Phone Number - 403-452-4694
Justin Leboe's Pigeonhole made a huge entrance onto the new restaurant scene not only in Calgary, but across the country as the food and drink establishment managed to place 1st overall on Air Canada's enRoute magazine's list of Canada's Best New Restaurants in 2015! Funny though, because Leboe's first restaurant called Model Milk - directly beside Pigeonhole - was ranked 2nd by enRoute when it first opened back in 2012, of which he is the co-owner and chef at (as of 2015).
This place isn't in some crazy old historical building like all the other restaurants on this list, however. It gains its character from a marvelously refinished 68-seat interior sporting refurbished green marble tables, pressed-tin ceiling tiles and other characterful additions like smooth leather chairs and banquettes. One unforgettable feature is the recycled crowned sign of Victoria's (the previous tenant), with the word Pigeonhole displayed in pink neon overtop the old black-and-white logo. It just happens that this was the perfect fit as Pigeonhole's logo has a pigeon sporting its very own Victorian crown! Wildly eclectic tapas dishes like the wild sockeye salmon crudo, herbed crumpets and Russian caviar service plus an extensive wine list go hand-in-hand with Pigeonhole's characterful interior, creating an exciting dining experience every time.
Rodney's Oyster House
- Address - 355 10th Avenue SW, Calgary, AB
- Phone Number - 403-460-0026
When it comes to reputation, there are few YYC restaurants that have as much of a story to tell than Rodney's Oyster House. The whole idea of this top-notch seafood resto' stems from 36 years of providing oysters and a plethora of other ocean delights from P.E.I. to the habitants of downtown Toronto. The second Rodney's opened not too long ago in Calgary on the corner of 10th Avenue and 4th Street SW in a historical building that was originally built in 1907 and functioned as a warehouse for an American farming manufacturer. Since then, the building has had two expansions in the 1930's and 50's and multiple owners, but none of them sport the high-ceilinged, double-floored interior like Rodney's.
Inside you'll notice a large skylight and a classic white interior from top to bottom with some cool nautical-themed additions such as netted glass floats overtop the bar and portholes as windows on the front door. The bar is a pretty fancy sight too with an eight-ton obelisk and massive piece of rundle rock from the Exshaw quarry. Apparently the rock - when filled with ice - remains cold for hours, which helps a seafood specialty restaurant like Rodney's keep all them fresh oysters properly chilled. Rodney's has a ton of character and a superb menu to go with; this is truly a haven for seafood lovers and those who love dining out in a memorable setting.
- Address - 200 8th Avenue SE, Calgary, AB
- Phone Number - 403-290-1012
Few restaurants in Calgary have a venue with as much historical charm and character as Teatro Ristorante. Built in 1911, The Dominion Bank Building is a four-story sandstone and marble structure clad with a terra cotta façade, and within, an impressive classical-style interior with high ceilings. The heritage value of this building lies in its Beaux-Arts architecture and location on one of Calgary's oldest downtown streetscapes - Stephen Avenue. To add, its patio section backs out onto one of downtown's most vibrant park areas - Olympic Plaza. Apart from the architecture, the building possesses historical significance as one of the first national banks to expand west and open a location in Alberta during the pre-First World War Era.
Paired with one of Calgary's most historic restaurant locations is some of the best gourmet Mediterranean cuisine found in the city. Strongly rooted in Italian tradition, Teatro's selection of tapas, pastas and meat entrees make it hard to choose exactly what you'll be having for lunch or dinner. It's massive (and award-winning) selection of wines ensures you can select a chardonnay to go with that meaty fish, or perhaps a cabernet sauvignon to go with that pasta dish. Over the past two decades, Teatro's reputation has been shaped by its ultra-gourmet food, historically charming venue and overall high-end dining experience that keeps locals coming back for more, time and time again.
What restaurants in Calgary do you think have the most character? Leave us a comment below and we will include them into our next blog!
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