Calgary is a thriving city in Canada’s Alberta province that straddles the Bow River and is historically known as a hub for oil and cattle. Recent years have brought the city an impressive skyline and a thriving public art scene, including Santiago Calatrava’s Peace Bridge. That’s where I witnessed a parade of Canadian geese, a far different kind of Calgary Stampede. Learn about 10 compelling places to eat and drink coffee in this increasingly dynamic city.
Establishments appear in alphabetical order instead of order of preference.
Analog Coffee is a corner cafe that Russ, Chris & Jason Prefontaine opened in 2012, building on decades of experience with Fratello Coffee Roasters and one year running a Calgary Farmers Market coffee bar. The space features art-lined white walls, black cushioned banquettes, sidewalk tables, shelves of vinyl records, and sign for bygone BUY RITE STORE, a former tenant. Analog has a pourover bar, but I ordered Evolve espresso, pulled on a three group La Marzocco Strada. Brother business Corbeaux Bakery makes sure kouign amanns are also in full effect.
MUST ORDER: Evolve Espresso
Local baker Karen Kong wears a “happiest eating croissants” T-shirt and imparts similar spirit to her customers. She’s run Butter Block & Co. since 2017 after wholesaling select items to Calgary coffee bars. Her double-baked black sesame croissant was fantastically flaky and nutty. I also enjoyed a savory cheese knot and Madeleine.
MUST ORDER: Black Sesame Croissant, Cheese Knot
Calan Beef Noodle is a small, 25-seat restaurant that opened in 2017 in a strip mall on Calgary’s north side. The name is an amalgamation of Calgary and Lanzhou, the owners’ home city. An exhibition kitchen for hand-pulled noodle making leaves no doubt about their focus. They craft thick, flat & narrow, and flat & wide noodles behind glass in dramatic fashion. Thin hand-pulled noodles arrived in a clear, savory beef broth with scallion shavings, thin-sliced daikon, tender beef cubes, and a slick of spicy chile oil. Variations with soy-bean paste and chicken & peppers were similarly stellar. Complementary sides included cool slices of simmered beef shank, tea-flavored boiled egg, cucumbers and carrots.
MUST ORDER: Hand-Pulled Noodles in Soup, Hand-Pulled Noodles with Chicken and Peppers, Hand-Pulled Noodles with Soy-bean Paste, Simmered Beef Shank, Tea Flavored Boiled Egg
Native Frenchman Gilles Brassart arrived in Calgary in 2008 and has become a prolific restaurateur. In 2011, he teamed with Chef Dominique Moussu on Cassis Bistro and sister businesses The Little French Market and Vélo Café. Para Commencer, Cassis impressed with two salads co-starring tangy gobs of Fairwind Farms goat cheese: Walnut Salad with tomato confit, watercress, frisée, endive, walnut & honey vinaigrette; and invigorating Salade de Tomates with heirloom tomatoes and sauce verte. Steak frites featured rosy, lean slices of seared Alberta strip loin, which came with a gravy boat of sauce au poivre (peppercorn sauce), duck fat fries and a mixed salad.
MUST ORDER: Steak Frites, Salade de Tomates, Walnut Salad
5. Little Henry
Little Henry is a casual cafe from Stephen Smee and Aja Lapointe fronting Ten Foot Henry that focuses on pastries and cakes galore, plus salads and toasts. I squeezed in a quick stop after lunch in back before heading to Calgary International Airport. I scarfed down a warm, sugar-coated donut filled with sweet-tart sour cherries and planted in a shallow pool of crème anglaise. I also drank a textbook Gibraltar fueled by a blue two-group La Marzocco espresso machine.
MUST ORDER: Donut, Gibraltar