The Ship. Photo: Steve Collinse

The Laid-Back Charms of Calgary’s Casual Bars

There’s no shortage of options for places to get a drink in this fine city. Sometimes it’s fun to check out the newest gastropub, or splurge at a high-end cocktail lounge, but sometimes you’re looking for a casual, low-key kind of joint.

Maybe it’s your neighbourhood pub, so familiar you call it your local, or maybe you love a good “Dive Bar” — what a casual spot might lack in classy sophistication, it makes up for in comfort and unassuming, even rustic charm.

The Ship and Anchor
534 17 Ave. S.W.

The Ship and Anchor is a Calgary icon and is nothing if it isn’t “real” in every sense. Its “more is more” aesthetic is simply a part of the charm – representing a considerable element of authenticity and true lack of pretentiousness. With events running from weekly Punk Rock Bingo to frequent live music to being home central for live soccer, including having a “live soccer info line” The Ship is home to a range of Calgarians. Just look around – you’re likely to see a diverse selection of people representing all corners of society. And that goes double on any warm day when The Ship’s south-facing patio is the place to see and be seen by those who don’t care if they are seen. Besides well-priced cocktails and delicious pub grub, one can also find an expertly curated selection of craft beer — or you could still grab a pint of Moosehead or PBR for under 8 bucks. There’s a reason this place has been one of the top bars in Calgary since time immemorial.

Leopold’s Tavern
(4 Locations in Calgary)

Regina-based hospitality firm, Leo’s Group has been steadily expanding their successful Leopold’s Tavern concept across Western Canada, including their recently opened fourth location in Calgary. Although each spot is unique, they each possess the same quirky aesthetic, including vintage decor and walls adorned with kitschy trinkets, photos, and punk rock memorabilia – truly a feast for the eyes. “The room, the decor, the food and beverage program, it all lends to what we feel is a fun, welcoming environment for people,” says Michael Ash, Leo’s Group VP and Chief Brand Officer, “We’ve tried hard to ensure that each location feels like the ‘community gathering spot’ right from opening day.” A great place for a drink, with elevated yet unassuming pub fare, and a comfortable laid-back vibe overall. 

Stonegate Pub
7640 Fairmount Dr. S.E.

If you’re looking for the perfect activity that combines just the right amount of fun and excitement, while pushing you to the edge of your comfort zone, then karaoke at Stonegate Pub might be just what you’re looking for. Located in a nondescript strip mall in the southeast community of Fairview, Stonegate is a fun little hole-in-the-wall kind of place and is a real karaoke hotspot on Thursday and Friday nights. The service is incredibly friendly and attentive, and the beers are cold and cheap. You know, one of my best buddies stands by the notion that he can learn everything he could ever want to know about someone based on their karaoke song choices. Now, I’m not entirely sure about that, but I know that I have never met a more welcoming group of bar regulars who were both interesting and entertaining. Stonegate is a real gem and a sure-fire great place for a good time.

Rip’s Pub and Eatery
25, 15 Millrise Blvd. S.W.

Located even further down south in the community of Millrise, Rip’s is a very popular neighbourhood pub that always satisfies by dishing out consistency and quality in a way that doesn’t break the bank. The bartenders can expertly mix up some tasty concoctions, but the go-tos here are the fantastic Caesars or the ever-popular paralyzers. The focus on classic, casual drinks lowers the overall expectations but in a very positive way — it helps to take the pressure off; there are no overbearing expectations, and this elevates the overall experience. A drink doesn’t need to be unnecessarily fancy to be completely delicious, after all. Come by for wing night on Wednesdays for possibly the best wings south of Glenmore Trail. Grab a beer, shoot some pool and see for yourself why Rips is a south-end favourite.