Elizabeth Chorney-Booth’s notable new restaurants of 2023 in Calgary

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This is the time of year when I, like almost everyone else, like to get reflective. I’ve been considering not only last year, but the ones before it and how much Calgary’s restaurant culture has evolved. Pandemic aside, over the last decade we’ve gone from being a city with a few outstanding restaurants to a place where we expect multiple excellent (or at least interesting) new places to eat every year.

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2022 had a bumper crop of fabulous new restaurants – it felt a little like we were playing catch-up after the pandemic-related pause – but 2023 has surprisingly also seen some significant openings. Even with many of us tightening our restaurant budgets, a recent report from ATB Financial shows that Albertans have been eating out more than ever, likely at least in part because there are so many new places to try.

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These are the 10 new restaurants that got me most excited to go out for a meal this year:

Salt and brick
Chef de cuisine Alejandro Buzzalino and executive chef Dave Bohati at Salt and Brick. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

1. Salt and Brick
One of Calgary’s newest restaurants, Salt and Brick opened with a bang this November – it’s already become tough to snag a reservation in its expansive dining room. While the glamorous atmosphere is certainly a draw, the food is the main attraction here, with a “fresh sheet” menu that changes weekly, showcasing the talents of executive chef Dave Bohati and chef de cuisine Alejandro Buzzalino, who work together to put out dish after dish of beautifully balanced and playfully flavoured food, including one of the city’s best raw seafood programs. Make a night out of it with a pre- or post-dinner drink at Charlie’s Watch Repair, Salt and Brick’s onsite speakeasy.

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211 10th Ave. S.W., 403-371-3429, saltandbrick.ca

Class Clown
The Szechuwannabe hot chicken sandwich at Class Clown. Jim Wells/Postmedia

2. Class Clown Hamburgers
A small, unassuming, retro-style hamburger joint qualifies as one of the best new restaurants in the city? Yes, thanks to its irresistibly tasty burgers, this little spot in Mission has earned its place as one of Calgary’s hottest new restaurants. The impeccably designed room is fun and nostalgic, the natural wine list is intentionally a little weird, and the smash-style burgers – made with Alberta chuck and brisket ground in-house – are easily some of the most delicious the city has ever seen.

#106, 1711 4th St. S.W., 403-243-8284, classclown.ca

Milpa
The Coconut Ceviche appetizer at Milpa in Calgary’s Beltline. Gavin Young/Postmedia

3. Milpa
Chef Elia Herrera’s Beltline restaurant is an homage to her childhood in Mexico, though with a decidedly contemporary atmosphere. The room, with its signature turquoise arches, is a knock-out, but Herrera’s flavourful small plates – vegetarian coconut ceviche, crisp empanadas, braised meats – are just as impressive. Bar manager John Fairholm’s clever cocktails only add to Milpa’s whimsical energy.

1531 5th St. S.W., 403-452-6155, milpa.ca

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Rachel Yu and Duncan Ly
Rachel Yu, GM and operating partner, with Duncan Ly, chef-owner at Bar Chouette. Jim Wells/Postmedia

4. Bar Chouette
2023 saw the closure of chef Duncan Ly’s much beloved Foreign Concept, but the pain of losing that restaurant was soothed with the almost simultaneous opening of Bar Chouette, Ly’s cool little French wine and cocktail bar. The drinks are lovely, but so is the food, with luxurious bites like consulting chef Neil McCue’s signature Le 1608 cheese soufflé and a variation of Foreign Concept’s much-beloved squid ink spaghetti.

#130, 227 11th Ave. S.W., barchouette.ca

Primary Colours
Pictured is Primary Colours in Britannia. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia

5. Primary Colours
The partnership between renowned chef Matthias Fong (formerly of River Café) and the crew at Monogram Coffee initially seemed a bit odd, but it turned out to be the perfect pairing. This all-day Britannia restaurant has it all: coffee, cocktails, baked goods, brunch, dinner, and special tasting events, all with an emphasis on carefully sourced local ingredients and from-scratch cooking.

802 49th Ave. S.W., 403-764-2607, primarycolours.cafe

Barbarella Bar
Fried Halloumi cheese, ricotta crostini, ravioli, prosciutto and albacore at Barbarella. Jim Wells/Postmedia

6. Barbarella Bar
Barbarella technically opened at the tail end of 2022, but 2023 was its year to shine. A massive two-level bar and restaurant from the Concorde Group, it’s become the go-to for downtown business lunches and happy hour drinks. Dining at Barbarella is a solid step up from the familiar chain restaurants often favoured by the downtown crowd thanks to an approachable menu full of interesting Italian-themed food.

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240 8th Ave. S.W., 403-888-1658, barbarellabar.ca

My Little Italia
My Little Italia in Mission. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia

7. My Little Italia
A homey neighbourhood spot in Mission, My Little Italia is run by chefs Miran Won and Kevin McGill, who have a shared passion for exquisitely prepared Italian cuisine. Their house-made pastas are outstanding, all made with richly complex sauces and a lot of love.

#5, 2015 4th St. S.W., 587-356-1408, mylittleitalia.com

Mumbai Bites
Chef and co-owner Mayur Kunte with some of the dishes at Mumbai Bites in Inglewood. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

8. Mumbai Bites
This Inglewood restaurant offers a wide selection of “progressive” Indian fare, but the must-tries are its Mumbai-style small plates (street food classics like dabeli, vada pav, and pani puri) and Indo-Chinese dishes, all served in a comfortable modern room.

1214 9th Ave. S.E., 587-319-6600, mumbaibites.ca

Satsuki
May Ng at Satsuki in Kensington. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

9. Satsuki
Chef May Ng’s unassuming restaurant in Kensington is a celebration of fine Japanese food, with premium sushi, sashimi, and other traditionally mined dishes. For a full experience, book the interactive multi-course omakase dinner.

1130 Kensington Rd. N.W., 403-300-2405, satsuki.ca

Veranda
From left: Marko Cilic (Burwood Distillery), Jordan Ramey (Burwood), Andrew Gass (Vaycay Brew Co.), and Ivan Cilic (Burwood). All are co-founders of Veranda, a collaborative restaurant featuring handcrafted beer at Currie Barracks. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

10. Veranda
A collaboration between Burwood Distillery and Vaycay Brew Co., this casual restaurant boasts one of the liveliest patios in the city as well as delicious unfussy fare that makes the most of both partners’ core products.

#200, 2566 Flanders Ave. S.W., 403-300-2221, verandayyc.com

Elizabeth Chorney-Booth can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Instagram at @elizabooth or sign up for her newsletter at hungrycalgary.substack.com.

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