Calgary restaurants well represented on Canada’s 100 Best list including Shokunin, Model Milk, Pigeonhole and River Café

Calgary’s food scene continues to shine on a national stage with nine local restaurants earning recognition on this year’s list of the country’s 100 best restaurants.

Taking top spot on Canada’s 100 Best list is Alo, a contemporary French restaurant set atop a heritage building in Toronto. The rest of the Top 10 is rounded out by four restaurants in Montreal, an additional three in Toronto and one each for Vancouver and Cambridge, Ontario.

At a respectable No. 21, the first Calgary restaurant on the list is Shokunin, the izakaya-inspired Japanese restaurant run by chef Darren MacLean. This is another highlight in a big year that saw the Calgarian compete against chefs in Netflix’s The Final Table and work toward opening two new restaurants, which are anticipated to welcome diners this summer. Noting his passion for Japanese cuisine, Canada’s 100 Best highlighted the chef’s ambitious creations, such as the miso-cured bone marrow and bison tataki.

The Canada’s 100 Best list, now in its fifth year, is built by nearly 100 chefs, restaurateurs, food enthusiasts and critics from across the country — with each listing their 10 favourites from the year before. (A minimum of three must be from outside of the judge’s home base.)

This year, 12 restaurants in Alberta made the cut — with the majority in Calgary. Toronto is home to the most establishments to earn recognition, followed by Montreal and Vancouver. 

Justin Leboe’s Model Milk and Pigeonhole are not far behind Shokunin, taking No. 28 and 29 respectively. The former dairy building at 17th Avenue and 2nd Street S.W. has become a stalwart for Calgary’s restaurant scene as Leboe continues to push ahead with new ideas, including Pigeonhole’s new breakfast offerings.

The idyllic River Café, which will reopen next month following renovations, placed 42nd. However, it earned a special distinction for its eco-friendly approach to dining — something proprietor Sal Howell has long been committed to. Equaling her passion for local and sustainable ingredients is chef Matthias Fong who has made an art of showcasing ingredients and making his own versions of kitchen staples such as vinegar and soy.

Veg-forward Ten Foot Henry makes its mark at No. 47, while Bar Von Der Fels earns a spot at No. 58. 

Bridgette Bar (at No. 70), Calcutta Cricket Club (82) and Rouge (89) round out the list.

The three Edmonton spots on the list are Biera, Bundok and Uccellino.

Gwendolyn Richards is a Calgary-based food writer and the author of Pucker: A Cookbook for Citrus Lovers. She regularly contributes to Avenue Magazine and She shares her cooking and eating adventures – and occasionally some of her favourite outfits – on Twitter and Instagram at @gwendolynmr.