by Shelley Boettcher and Richard White

2018 July/Aug

When Everyday Tourist Richard White emailed food and wine writer Shelley Boettcher to ask for a list of her favourite local eateries, it opened a conversation
about Calgary’s must-try restaurants and extraordinary dishes. 

There are the obvious things that others have written about, such as ginger beef (invented in Calgary) and the Caesar cocktail, also a local creation. But there are
traditional eateries that have set Calgary apart for ages.

Here are 10 classic places we tell non-Calgarians about – and take them there to eat whenever they’re in town.

BLACKFOOT TRUCKSTOP is an authentic truck stop, so be prepared to dine with a cast of characters. Come for the food (typical diner menu) but stay for the pies. Founded in 1956, this place is world-famous for its skyhigh (8 inches of meringue) flapper pie, but the banana cream and lemon meringue are fab, too. Kids will love the model train that circles overhead.
1840 – 9th AVENUE SE

BOTTLESCREW BILL’S PUB/BUZZARD’S RESTAURANT AND BAR has been serving beer from around the world since 1985, and now there’s a big list of local brews, too. During the Calgary Stampede, however, Shelley takes fearless out-of-town family members looking for something they’ll never get at home – prairie oysters, only available at the Testicle Festival.
140 – 10th AVENUE SW

CAESAR’S STEAK HOUSE AND LOUNGE was founded in 1972 and is still family-owned. When you’re in need of some good Alberta beef, and you can’t be bothered to cook it yourself, this is the place to go. The steak is just as good as it was way back when, but, thanks to Alberta’s privatized liquor imports, the wine list is considerably better.
512 – 4th AVENUE SW (the original location) or #110, 10816 MACLEOD TRAIL SE

CHICKEN ON THE WAY has been serving chicken that’s crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside at its flagship Kensington location since 1958, but the corn fritters and handmade fries are musts, too.

NICK’S STEAKHOUSE AND PIZZA opened in 1979, and when you walk in, you’ll wonder if anything has changed since then. (The answer: Very little.) This is the place to go for celebratory pizza after a Calgary Stampeders win, or to mark the end of a term at the University of Calgary. It’s mobbed every Mother’s Day and Friday and Saturday nights, too.

PETERS’ DRIVE-IN has been serving up great milkshakes since 1964. Today, this popular drive-through offers more than 25 flavours. Some are traditional; some (licorice-lime, toasted marshmallow), not so much. All the milkshakes are famous for being so thick, your cheeks hurt by the time you finish one.
219 – 16th AVENUE NE

PULCINELLA serves up authentic Napoletana pizzas, as chef Domenic Tudda is one of only a handful of North Americans who are certified by Italy’s Associazione Pizzaioli Napolitani. It’s kind-of like having the blessing of the Pope. Pulcinella offers more than 15 pizzas with names like Nduja Sausage, Crudo and Quattro Stagioni. We haven’t had one we didn’t like.

THE SHIP & ANCHOR PUB’s patio is the place to be on a sunny chinook afternoon in February, or any time during the summer. And if it’s raining? Head inside to watch soccer or live music, while enjoying a pint of Big Rock Trad and some hand-cut fries and mayo. Minors welcome until 7 p.m.
534 – 17th AVENUE SW

SPOLUMBO’S was founded by three former CFL football players in 1991 and it’s famous for its sandwiches – cutlet parmigiana is very popular. But Richard’s favourite is the savoury meatball sandwich. Bring an extra shirt, as eating here can get very messy.
13 – 9th AVENUE SE

TEA TRADER is worth the climb up the stairs, as you’re transported from the new world to the old world. At any given time, Tea Trader has 100 to 160 teas in stock, imported directly from India, China, Sri Lanka and Taiwan. Try Richard’s favourite lapsang souchong, or pick up SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) to make kombucha.
1228A – 9th AVENUE SE

Our top five contenders for the next-generation legends, local eateries and what to eat when we have out-of-town guests:

CANNIBALE — This tiny cocktail bar-restaurant-barbershop lets you get a shave and a cocktail simultaneously. We can’t make it out the door without
at least one Hanky Panky pre-prohibition cocktail.

THE CHOCOLATE LAB — We love the names of the chocolates just as much as the taste. If you’re only eating one, don’t miss the Scotch on the Rocks, 12-year-old scotch with dark chocolate and a layer of pop rocks.

JELLY MODERN DOUGHNUTS — Shelley prefers the crème brulee; Richard loves the maple-bacon. Either way, you may want to schedule a workout when you’re done eating one of these big, rich beauties.

MADE BY MARCUS — The lemon curd with blueberry ice cream is always a favourite at dinner parties, but so is the salted caramel. Try something new, too; the team here regularly introduces unusual new flavour combinations.

SIDEWALK CITIZEN — The cheese sticks. Oh, those cheese sticks. Warm them up a bit, and serve them with a glass of fruity red wine, and you have a dinner for champions.

Shelley Boettcher is a local food, wine and booze writer; find out more about her at or on Twitter @shelley_wine.
Richard White, also known as the Everyday Tourist, loves to be a “flâneur,” strolling the city in search of off-the-beaten-path places to eat, drink and browse. Follow him on Twitter @everydaytourist.