Eat with ambiance: Calgary restaurants with great atmosphere

When you’re shelling out for a restaurant meal the quality of the food is obviously important, but so is the experience. Some restaurants just feel good. These Calgary spots offer both great meals and appealing atmosphere for an always-special dining experience. [Image: Bow Valley Ranche Restaurant]

River Cafe

1
25 Prince's Island Pk, Calgary, AB T2P 0R1

River Cafe’s serves impeccably prepared meals, but the location and cottage-chic interior of the restaurant are also part of its magic. Located on beautiful Prince’s Island, the rustic dining room, complete with mounted fish, decorative snowshoes, an outdoor patio in summer and a fireplace that cozies the place right up during colder months.

Model Milk

2
308 17 Ave SW, Calgary, AB T2S 0A8

In a building that was originally a creamery, Model Milk’s interior pays tribute to the room’s industrial roots with an exposed brick feature wall, some vintage touches and a cool multi-level design. The room is gorgeous, but the atmosphere is really heightened by the music – a turntable and vinyl collection on the mezzanine level provide a perfect soundtrack for fun dining.

Bonterra Restaurant Ltd

3
1016 8 St SW, Calgary, AB T2R 1K2

Bonterra Trattoria is a lovely Italian-style dining room, and, in the warm months, the restaurant’s heart is in its back patio, which has the feel of a Tuscan oasis. With overhead vegetation hanging from the pergola, an outdoor fireplace and heaters that lengthen the eatery’s outdoor-dining season, there is no better place to enjoy a plate of pasta and a fine glass of wine, indoors or out.

Rouge

4
1240 8 Ave SE, Calgary, AB T2G 0M7

Ensconced in a heritage home right on the Bow River, Rouge features atmosphere that’s a match for its spectacular food. The restaurant’s individual rooms make for homey, intimate meals. If the weather is nice, take a stroll through the secluded side-yard garden to cap off your meal.

Yellow Door Bistro

5
119 12 Ave SW, Calgary, AB T2R 0G8

Hotel restaurants aren’t typically known for their atmosphere, but this eatery in Hotel Arts is a different beast. Decorated with distressed wood shutters and doors that create a dynamic feel in the large room, the atmosphere is quirky, cosmopolitan and relaxed all at the same time.

Bow Valley Ranche Restaurant

6
15979 Bow Bottom Trail SE, Calgary, AB T2J 7A7

This restaurant in Fish Creek Provincial Park is housed in one of the city’s finest historical homes, a handsome ranch house formerly inhabited by Senator Patrick Burns. These days, it’s an elegant dining destination with romantic atmosphere and a big verandah that faces south onto the park.

Parc Café and Brasserie

7
818 16 Avenue SW, Calgary, AB T2R 0S9

With its black-and-white checkered floors, white subway-tiled walls and giant portrait of Serge Gainsbourg in the back, everything about Parc feels authentically French. With a menu featuring French mainstays like beef tartare, steak frites and cassoulet, the look of the place accentuates the spirit of the food.

Teatro

8
200 8 Ave SE, Calgary, AB T2G 0K7

Housed in the grand Dominion Bank building (the wine cellar is in the old vault!) with high ceilings, white columns and smooth marble surfaces, Teatro is one of Calgary’s most elegant dining spaces. Pair your dinner reservation with a concert or a night at the theatre (Arts Commons is located directly across the street), and you’ve got yourself a dream date.

Ox Bar De Tapas

9
528 17 Ave SW, Calgary, AB T2S 0B1

Originally conceived to have both a light and a dark side, Ox and Angela is split into two halves, both serving flavourful Spanish tapas. While each side does have a slightly unique vibe, they’re both decorated with bulls, hearts and Spanish-themed knickknacks that create a kitschy-chic effect.

Hy's Steakhouse

10
116-751 3 St SW, Calgary, AB T2P 4K8

Although Hy’s current incarnation is relatively new, the room reflects the restaurant’s history in Calgary, where the small, upscale steakhouse chain was established in 1955. With dark wood, red velvet banquettes and tableside Caesar salad and flambé service, Hy’s old-school Mad Men-esque touches make it a luxurious blast from the past.

Some restaurants are cavernous, giving patrons room to spread out and feel anonymous. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to get seriously cozy and settle into an intimate dining experience. These restaurants may be small on space, but they’re big on atmosphere. [Image credit: iStock.com/Predrag Vuckovic]
Shawarma – a Middle Eastern dish consisting of roasted meat shaved off of a spit and usually served in a pita wrap sandwich or as part of a meal platter – has become a grab n’ go staple food in countries all over the world. These Calgary spots serve up some of the best shawarma in the city with all of the traditional accouterments as well as other favourite Middle Eastern dishes. [Image credit: iStock.com/Lauri Patterson]
With its distinctive flavour and fatty richness, duck is a poultry ingredient that is considered a luxurious treat. Particularly prominent in both French and Asian cuisines, duck can be prepared in many different ways, all of them almost universally delicious. Here are a few spots in Calgary where you can get your duck fix. [Image credit: iStock.com/giovanni1232]
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