Calgary restaurants let the ingredients shine in dinners and desserts.

Los  Chilitos Taco & Tequila House
Los Chilitos Taco & Tequila House Entree

A Taste of Mexico
If there is one style of cuisine in which Calgary falls short, it is Mexican, so Los Chilitos Taco & Tequila House is a welcome addition to 17th Avenue S.W.

The small menu has just a few appetizers (tostados: one tortilla for $7, two tortillas for $12; totopos and guacamole, $7), soups and salads, but when it comes to a main dish you have plenty of options.

Entrees like the tacos (three tacos, $13), burritos ($13) and quesadillas ($13) all come with rice, refried beans and your choice of one of Los Chilitos six traditional-style meats. There’s tinga, shredded chicken in a chipolte tomato sauce; pastor, adobo-marinated pork; carnitas, tender pork; spicy chorizo sausage and carne asada.

Or, if you just can’t decide on one, consider the Chilitos taco special ($20), which allows you to mix and match six tacos of your choice, perfect for sharing. The tacos are simple and tasty, just steamed corn tortillas, meat, cilantro and onions, and you can top it off with a tasty margarita ($6.95). While it might be too late to enjoy the large sun-soaked patio, the cozy interior adds to the homestyle feel of the food. 

Chinook Centre at Night
Chinook Centre at Night
Steakhouse with Style
Chop Steakhouse & Bar is the latest concept from Moxie’s Classic Grill and Chinook Centre’s newest restaurant. Defying most expectations associated with chain restaurants in mall locations, Chop is a bit swanky, with oversized light fixtures and lush leather banquette seating. The main-floor dining room and second-floor lounge feel cool and casual, with dark chocolate wood and a glossy white bar.

At the helm in the kitchen is chef Ryan Stone, Canada’s competitor in the 2011 Bocuse d’Or. The menu is full of tasty nibbles and interesting dishes, including a lobster, scallop and gorgonzola dip ($11) and parmesan bacon chicken wings ($11).

The fresh ahi tuna tataki salad ($17) is a good light option, while hungrier diners should go for the Chop burger with bacon and chipotle aioli ($13). All steak cuts have been aged for 28 days and cooked in a specially designed oven that sears the meat at 1,800 degrees, so you can’t go wrong with the stuffed gorgonzola steak filet ($33), peppercorn New York steak ($32) or the top sirloin and Alaskan king crab legs ($34). The dessert menu has all the usual suspects, but the not-to-be-missed sweet is the Caribbean rum cake served with vanilla bean gelato ($8).

People enjoying dinner at Juniper
The Juniper Hotel and Bistro
Road Rules
Unobstructed views of the Rundle Mountain Range from the dining room make it hard to believe the Juniper Hotel & Bistro is essentially a highway hotel.

Even the Bistro menu’s “crossroads cuisine” theme has more to do with the original settlers of the land than it does with the exit off the Trans-Canada into nearby Banff.

First Nations people considered the place where Juniper is located a sweet spot between the salmon region to the west and the buffalo plains to the east, and the bistro’s menu has a similar reverence for land and water with dishes including Carmen Creek bison short ribs ($30), Brome Lake duck ($28) and Qualicum Beach scallops ($16). 

Keeping it local, the T-Bar Menu of custom-blend loose-leaf teas from the Banff Tea Company pairs well with the Wildflower Bakery’s raw chocolate hazelnut pate ($10) for dessert. And, in an ode to its first heyday in the 1950s, the Blue Plate Special offered between 5 and 6 p.m. daily is a prix fixe three-course meal for $30 ($45 with wine). That alone is worthy of veering off the open road to enjoy. —Jaelyn Molyneux

Homemade Glory
The sweet pastries, crepes, waffles, organic bread and the famous lemon tarts are big draws at A Ladybug Bakery and Cafe’s booth at the Calgary Farmers’ Market.

But, if you’re craving for owners Marie and Yves Ghesquiere’s popular homemade desserts outside the market, there’s all that and more at their stand-alone Aspen Woods café. The spacious, white, 50-seat eatery accommodates both eat-in diners and shoppers picking up desserts, meals to go and a quick cup of coffee. Menu items are made in-store from scratch, using as many organic ingredients as possible.

Try the cheesy meat lasagna made with Hoven Farm beef ($13.50), pick from an array of panini sandwiches (spicy tuna; roasted turkey; baked lamb with thyme, $10.50) or go for the Valbella ham-and-cheese macaroni with Bechamel sauce and bread crumbs ($13.50). A not-to-be-missed weekend brunch item is the organic eggs Benedict on a homemade English muffin with frittata ($14.50).

There are also mouthwatering sweet and savoury crepes ($6.99 to $12.50), such as the banana dulce de leche crepe or ham and sausage crepe. If you prefer to have your dessert first, the patisserie case is filled with delectable delights such as chocolate croissants, tarts, cakes, danishes and cookies to indulge in. 

Avenue Magazine: by Anthony Charron and Lynda Sea; photos by Jared Sych

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