Calgary’s Lulu Bar and Le Petit Boeuf along with Canmore’s The Sensory make the longlist for Air Canada’s Best New Restaurants in 2019

A restaurant-bar with a Pacific Rim-inspired menu and tiki drinks. A French steak house featuring everything from oxtail and bone marrow to Wagyu striploin. A contemporary Canmore spot that echoes the rugged beauty of the mountains with ingredients foraged from them. 

Three disparate restaurants with one common thread: the trio have all made the coveted Air Canada’s longlist for Best New Restaurants in 2019.

The list of 35 nominees — that will be whittled down to just 10 when the official list is released later this year — includes restaurants from sea to sea, covering eateries in major cities like Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, as well as those in Moncton, Whitehorse, Ucluelet, Saskatoon and Kelowna.

For this year, the list includes Lulu Bar, the newest spot on 17th Avenue S.W. Once the site of Local 510, the space was reborn as an energetic joint with playful menu items. The highly Instagrammable Hot Dog Bao with banana ketchup are a must-order, as is the Fried Coconut Squid and House Spam served on a skewer. Save room for the Baked Hula, a play on Baked Alaska made with coffee, chocolate and macadamia. 

Le Petit Boeuf is the latest from the French duo of Gilles Brassart and Dominique Moussu, who are also behind Cassis and Suzette Bistro. Taking over the original Suzette space, this Mission restaurant is focused on all things beef, naturellement. Few cuts are overlooked as the menu includes tongue, short rib, ribeye and Chateaubriand. Of course, yes, there are vegetables too — local heirloom carrots, cauliflower gratin and Alberta beets. 

At The Sensory and Wit Bar in Canmore, Chef Tracy Little is embracing the freedom that comes from creating her own menu, weaving together local ingredients with her own appreciation for place. She and her staff forage ingredients which often inform the a la carte menu, while seasonal vegetables influence The Sensory’s menu. Wit Bar, on the main floor of the new building, features interesting plays on classic cocktails, as well as new libations. The Bullet Proof Old Fashioned, for example, is made with duck fat-washed bourbon, which adds a rich mouth feel to an otherwise standard drink. 

These three are just the latest to find a spot on the enRoute longlist. Calgary has a well-established history of creating restaurants to garner the honour of being highlighted, with some notable ones — Bar Von Der Fels, Model Milk and Pigeonhole — ultimately making the Top 10.

(Lulu Bar photo courtesy Julya Hajnoczky.)

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.