Bites: Cilantro refreshes room and menu, Donna Mac doubles down in Beltline, and New Central Library to have coolest cafe

With the winter holidays now history, the restaurant scene in Calgary is getting back into the regular swing of things. For most, it’s business as usual, but others are starting off the new year with new ideas, new coats of paint and new ventures.

• Cilantro is closed until next month as it undergoes a facelift in advance of its 30th anniversary. The CRMR staple is getting a fresh look with new seating, tables, colours and lighting.

Also getting a refresh is the menu, which will begin to echo the cuisine of the other Canadian Rocky Mountain Resort properties — including The Lake House, the new Loft at Granary Road, just south of the city, and Buffalo Mountain Lodge in Banff.

Taking advantage of CRMR’s ranch, the new Cilantro menu will feature more elk and bison, adding a Canadian influence to the California cuisine it’s known for.

• Donna Mac, the newest venture from the team behind Vine Arts and Proof, is now open and bringing a friendly neighbour approach along with creative dishes and cocktails to the north end of the Beltline — and doubling down on that with the creation of their Good Hood Feast Series, which starts next month.

Executive chef Tino Longpre will be joined by Anju’s executive chef and owner Roy Oh for the six-course collaboration dinner on Feb. 5th.

It’s a good first pick considering the tight relationship between Donna Mac co-owner Amy Turner — the restaurant is named after her grandmother — and Oh. Turner served as general manager at Anju when it relocated to 17th Avenue S.W.

Between Longpre’s imagination and Oh’s deft take on modern Korean food, you can bet the menu will be both inventive and flavourful.

The bonus is that you’ll also feel like a good neighbour for going — $5 from each dinner will be donated to CUPS.

Tickets are $50. Reservations can be made by calling the restaurant at 403-719-3622 or emailing

• A unique drug store, known for selling vinyl and soft serve, and an award-winning restaurant are coming together to create what will arguably be one of the best cafes in the city. Even better? It’ll be serving patrons in Calgary’s New Central Library, which is set to open in November.

Lukes Drug Mart in Bridgeland is combining forces with Bar Von Der Fels, the Beltline winebar-restaurant which landed a coveted spot on enRoute’s list of best new restaurants in Canada for 2017.

Already, the two establishments have a sweet relationship. Von Der Fels’ executive chef Eric Hendry creates the unique soft-serve flavours swirled onto cones at Lukes.

The new café will occupy 2,000 square feet in the new library set in East Village.

(Photo courtesy Donna Mac.)

Gwendolyn Richards is a Calgary-based food writer and the author of Pucker: A Cookbook for Citrus Lovers. She regularly contributes to Avenue Magazine, the Calgary Herald and She shares too many pictures of food – and occasionally shoes – on Twitter and Instagram at @gwendolynmr.