Beef is back baby

Calgary has been trying hard to shake its redneck meat-and-potatoes image over the years and our food and restaurant scene has definitely expanded to include many talented and innovative chefs. Still for many of us a big juicy steak will never lose its appeal. Whether it’s the classic steakhouse or a more contemporary take here are some places in the city to go and get your beef fix.

Hy’s Steakhouse & Cocktail Bar

After an eight-year hiatus the 60-year-old Calgary-based chain made a grand return this past winter opening in a 10000-square-foot space in The Core Shopping Centre. Hy’s has kept the classic steakhouse look with rich burgundies mahogany accents and studded leather booths throughout the space. Diners can watch chefs prepare steaks behind glass on Hy’s signature charcoal grill in the dining room or sip on old fashioneds and boulevardiers surrounded by old newspaper clippings of founder Hy Aisenstat in the restaurant’s large open lounge. There is even a small “library” available for customers looking for a quieter experience. The menu sticks mostly to the classics and Hy’s does them well — start with a Caesar salad expertly prepared tableside or their fresh light steak tartare. Their steaks are all tender and flavourful — even when shaved into a sandwich — and served with familiar favourites like stuffed baked potato or fries. For more adventurous eaters Hy’s has some modern dishes too like ahi tuna tartare served with taro root chips and edamame or vegetarian rice flour dosas.

(C116 – 751 3 St. S.W. 403-663-3363 hyssteakhouse.com/calgary)

Vintage Chophouse & Tavern

Oft considered one of the best steakhouses in the city the flagship restaurant of the Vintage Group (which also includes Redwater Rustic Grille Bookers BBQ & Crab Shack and the recently opened The Butcher and The Baker just to name a few) certainly embodies the image of the classic steakhouse; the dining room and tavern area are done up with dark wood and leather furnishings and there is even an exclusive private dining room that houses a single high-top round table for 12. Their dinner menu doesn’t stray far from classic steakhouse offerings but for a lighter meal share some appetizers with your friends in the tavern like the calamari which comes with a spicy ponzu sauce.

(320 11 Ave. S.W. 403-262-7262 vintagechophouse.com)

Caesar’s Steakhouse

Not much has changed at Caesar’s since it first opened in 1972 and that seems to be just the way people like it. The old-school restaurant has a slightly Roman-inspired theme with opulent columns and gold accents in the mostly plush red space. The menu uses playful headings like “Introduction of Business” (appetizers) and “Incidental Motions” (sides) but otherwise Caesar’s is serious about steak. Their expert preparation of classic cuts like filet mignon and New York strip as well as dishes like Steak Neptune and Chicken Amandine are what keep people coming back. Being recognized by the staff many of whom have been with Caesar’s for over 20 years probably helps too. For a more modern dining experience head down to Caesar’s Willow Park location (110 — 10816 Macleod Tr SE) which was renovated just a few years ago into a brighter more modern space — including a tile mural of Sophia Loren — while staying elegant.

(512 4 Ave. S.W. 403-264-1222 caesarssteakhouse.com)

LeVilla Chophouse

While it seems like many of Calgary’s inner-city restaurants are moving west (think: Vin Room Mercato and Diner Deluxe) LeVilla opened its Mission location just over a year ago after serving customers for many years in its Signal Hill location (404 – 1851 Sirocco Dr S.W.). Chef/owner Rick Chuk cut his teeth working at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Hong Kong and that may be why LeVilla offers a little more variety on its menu than most steakhouses including a wide selection of seafood dishes — their creamy lobster bisque is a must-try. For diners feeling extra indulgent LeVilla offers a foie gras burger topped with bacon cheddar grilled tomato and kale and served with Stilton cheese fries.

(150 – 1800 4 St. S.W. 403-453-3670 levilla.ca)

Modern Steak

Taking over the former Muse space in Kensington Modern Steak is a more contemporary take on the classic steakhouse. One of its main focuses is an emphasis on local producers; the ranchers that it partners with are proudly displayed on the menu and website and all of the seafood dishes are recognized by the Ocean Wise program. Familiar appetizers and sides have been given a slight upgrade — instead of steamed broccoli there’s roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon or asparagus topped with parmesan cheese and a sunny side egg. Instead of cocktail shrimp try the “prawn bong” featuring spicy grilled shrimp served with a minty crème fraîche.

Modern Steak tries to keep its atmosphere casual with weekly specials as well as a late-night menu featuring burgers sandwiches and light appetizers for sharing.

(107 10A St. N.W. 403-670-6873 modernsteak.ca)