One of the greatest pleasures in visiting a city is discovering the food that is special to that place. Calgary is full of restaurants offering almost every kind of cuisine imaginable, but there are a few dishes that are uniquely Calgarian. Whether you’re in town for a quick visit to connect with family and friends or planning a trip to explore the city’s vibrant restaurant scene, these 10 dishes are must-tries that are not only delicious but worth building a trip around.
10 Signature Dishes to Build a Trip to Calgary Around
10 Signature Dishes to Build a Trip to Calgary Around
Kale Caesar Salad at Una Pizza + Wine
Una’s bread and butter is obviously its pizza, but the chic Beltline restaurant’s Kale Caesar Salad is probably its most famous and satisfying dish. The anchovy-rich dressing is an essential part of this dish, but the secret to its success lies in the high ratio of crispy prosciutto and pecorino cheese to hardy kale leaves. Finished off with breadcrumbs and boiled egg, it’s a delicious exploration of flavours and textures.
Lasagna at Teatro Ristorante
Teatro is one of the jewels of Calgary’s fine dining scene. Located in a historic bank building right adjacent to both Arts Commons and Olympic Plaza, the restaurant has been Calgarians’ special occasion go-to for over 25 years. Many of Calgary’s best chefs and restaurant professionals have come through Teatro’s kitchens. The menu changes regularly, but one of the restaurant’s enduring dishes is its much-loved seafood lasagna. Full of fresh lobster, scallops, and prawns, it’s a surprising signature dish for landlocked Calgary, but easily one of the most luxurious.
Vietnamese Sub at Bánh Mi Thi-Thi
Obviously, Bahn Mi (or as they’re more commonly called, Vietnamese subs) are not a Calgary-specific item, but the city’s robust Vietnamese-Canadian community has resulted in a significant number of excellent Vietnamese restaurants. There are few Calgarian food quests more quintessential than standing in line outside of Bánh Mi Thi-Thi to get one of these shockingly affordable sandwiches. The subs are delicious and made to order, dependent on your tolerance for heat. The restaurant is takeout only, which gives sub lovers a chance to sit by the Bow River and enjoy a delicious lunch.
Flapper Pie at Blackfoot Truckstop Diner
Flapper pie is a Canadian prairie classic. The cream pie consists of rich vanilla custard on a graham cracker crust with a meringue topping. The pie has been a highlight of the Blackfoot Truckstop Diner’s menu for decades, famous for the six-inches of meringue that towers atop every slice. The diner itself is also noteworthy for its pure authentic kitsch with waitresses in pink uniforms and a model train that circles around a track installed around the ceiling of the restaurant.
Modern Benchmark Black Angus Steak at Modern Steak
No list of Calgary’s signature dishes would be complete without a perfectly cooked steak. Modern Steak’s Benchmark Black Angus isn’t just locally sourced from a ranch in Warner Alberta, but the cattle that provides the steaks are exclusively sired by a bull owned by the restaurant. Both dry and wet aged and available in a range of cuts, including a 40-day dry-aged 40-ounce tomahawk for two, this is the most authentically local beef experience in the city.
Red Lentil Hummus at River Café
With the restaurant sitting in one of the most picturesque spots in the entire city, any meal at River Café is a signature Calgary experience. But since the restaurant is built on the concept of seasonality and sustainability, not many of its dishes stay on the menu for long. The red lentil hummus is one the few mainstays that has become a true signature of the iconic restaurant on Prince’s Island Park. Since Canada is the largest lentil producer in the world, this regional dish, served with locally sourced canola seed flatbread and Okanagan sumac is a delicious representation of River Café’s culinary philosophy.
Pig’s Head Mortadella at Charcut
Charcut is one of Calgary’s most heralded restaurants and while the lively contemporary eatery is also known for its duck fat poutine and deliciously sloppy alley burgers, the house charcuterie board is the star of the show. And the superstar of that board is Charcut’s house-made pig’s head mortadella, studded with pistachios. While the mortadella has long been Charcut’s signature, anything on their charcuterie boards is going to be incredible and made in house.
Sourdough Bread at Sidewalk Citizen
It may seem odd to name a loaf of bread as a city’s signature dish, but Sidewalk Citizen’s sourdough captures the soul and spirit of Calgary. The bread was developed by Sidewalk co-owner Aviv Fried who set his mind to learning how to bake the best bread in the world and delivered his small batches to customers via bicycle. These days Sidewalk is a small empire, with a counter in the Sunnyside Market, a sit-down bakery in the Simmons Building, and a full service restaurant in Central Memorial Park.
Hot Dog Bao at Lulu Bar
Creatively-stuffed bao buns can be found at a few restaurants in Calgary but the most fun (and delicious) version is the mini-hotdog baos at Lulu Bar. What looks like a cocktail wiener is actually a very flavourful house-made char siu sausage. It's stuffed into an ultra-pillowy bao along with tangy pickled mustard greens, peanut powder, and some cilantro. It isn't a hot dog without ketchup, and Lulu dresses up this little dog with its own banana ketchup to fit with the chic restaurant's pan-Pacific theme.
Chili Goma Ramen at Shiki Menya
This is another exclusively Calgarian dish that has become a local favourite. Shiki Menya’s Koki Aihara got the idea to make this bowl of rich ramen topped with spicy ground pork, mushrooms, pickled radish and bamboo shoots when he tried a similar dish in Japan, then helped to make it a reality at his family’s now defunct Shikiji restaurant. The soup lives on at Aihara’s very popular Shiki Menya noodle bar where patrons line up daily for a bowl made with the restaurant’s deeply flavourful 20-hour pork bone broth.