Slow food (and Paleo) Guide to Calgary and Lake Louise

This is a straightforward post to complement my longer spiels about my adventure to Skoki Lodge.

Oh Canada…

Both Calgary and Lake Louise are fantastic whole food destinations. So many of the places I checked out during my stay banged on about 100-mile-radius produce, pasture-finished meat and eating nose to tail etc. It was super refreshing. As a base for exploring the region, Calgary is great for 1-2 days and certainly some of the cafes and restaurants are worth checking out before heading off to nearby mountain adventures. I’ve included some Lake Louise information, too. Because it rocks the Rockies!

Just a quick note on Canadian service before we move on: It’s seriously the best in the world. Canadians are notoriously nice and they do hospitality with so much earnest care. Almost worth visiting just for this lovely touch.

And just so you know, half of my stay was hosted by Tourism Alberta, but as always views are all my own and I communicate this clearly to anyone wishing to host me. You’ll find my position on sponsored posts and advertising here.

River Café

This place is magical – a cosy, barn-like place with an open fire and a great bar area located on an island in a river that runs through the centre of town. Big windows look out onto the park (geese frolicking in the snow!) and you lose all sense that you’re in the middle of the city. I walked there from the Kensington Riverside Inn a little further up the river at sunset. I drank anamazing red from a list featuring lots of organics and ate…

Local pasture-finished Angus sirloin on an eggplant caponata with fiddleheads (fern buds that grow nearby at the start of spring) and cod served with cabbage rolls.


Wild boar terrine, bison prosciutto, fermented asparagus...local, pasture finished
A fish and game platter of Bison Bresaola and Chorizo, Steelhead Lox, Wild Boar Ciccioli & Prosciutto, Duck Liver Paté, Pickled Asparagus and local Olives

The lot was lovingly served by staff busting to tell you the story of the meal and non-bottled water.

The Post Hotel, Lake Louise

On first glance, this place does not match my vibe. A Relais and Chateaux hotel right on the edge of the national park, it’s very Swiss Chalet Kitsch, replete with pianist in the corner tinkling away through dinner and large bison and elk heads mounted on the walls. But. I could not help but be totally impressed. I don’t think I’ve experienced better service anywhere. In fact, I don’t I think I knew how good good service could be until I stayed and ate here. It’s been run by two brothers George and Andre for almost 40 years. Before that they worked for the original owner who set the lodge up in the 1930s.  They both circulate throughout dinner, cracking jokes in French, German and English. Every night. For 40 years. Totally delightful.

And to the menu. The Condé Nast Traveler’s Gold List awarded the Post Hotel & Spa “Best Food in the Americas”. Since 2002, Wine Spectator has awarded the Post its highest honour – The “Grand Award”…despite being in the midst of snow engulfed parkland, it boasts the largest wine list in Canada (25,000 wines). The sommelier seemed to know every wine on the list and talked with me at length through my preferences. The menu and food waiter (Karl) was equally detailed and high-end.

Bison and caribou at the most hospitable joint in The Rockies IMO... Phenomenal!
Bison and caribou at the most hospitable joint in The Rockies IMO… Phenomenal!

We went with the lobster salad, followed by a caribou sirloin with cabbage and rosti and bison steak with asparagus. Both meats are slightly gamey (only slightly), very lean and very sweet. Karl talked us through all this, and more.

All in all the whole experience took us back to another era. One of the finest dining experiences I’ve had – no false hyperbole intended.

PS The spa is also amazing. I indulged. I rate it highly. Stay here if you’re going to splurge somewhere (a good idea after doing the Skoki adventure).

Yellow Door Bistro, at Hotel Arts

Chef Duncan Ly runs this joint and the menu is inspiringly hearty. I ate an amazing Canadian Cobb Salad to start. Followed by Caramelized Sea Scallop, pork belly, cauliflower tapenade. And…Whole Grilled Alberta Trout with ratatouille vegetables, braised lettuce, herb roasted potato and brown butter sabayon. Karine Moulin is the pastry chef here and she’s quite open to sugar-free (the night I was there she made a chocolate mousse with coconut, avocado and brown rice syrup based on a recipe at Calgary-based holistic nutritionist Amber’s site).

My #iqs choc avo mousse for dessert at ... made with brown rice syrup!
My #iqs choc avo mousse for dessert at Yellow Door Bistro… made with brown rice syrup!

The same mob own Raw Bar around the corner, which is said to have a whole bunch of great gluten-free, grain-free and sugar-free stuff.

Boxwood, in Central Memorial park

As the name suggests, it’s a box of wood and glass, again situated on a lovely little inner-city park and run by the same mob as River Café. Locally sourced, whole food. Perfect lunch meals.

The Light Cellar

I didn’t get to this place, but I hear it has an elixir bar (homemade fermented tonics). They also run kombucha-making classes, make their own fermented vegetables, have a café and produce store, as well as make their own chocolate.

The Coup, 17 Ave

A quaint vegan/vego café serving big hot pots and their famous falafel quesadilla. I’m not entirely sure about the provenance of their veggies, but if you’re after a greenery hit, this is the place. I went for one of their veggie broths and it worked wonders.

Sunnyside Natural Market, Kensington

I didn’t get here either, but it’s an intimate neighbourhood market in Kensington specialising in local and organic produce, organic and hormone-free meat, organic dairy products and their in-house grab and go salads and dips.

Primal Soup Co (various locations)

The owner is coeliac and makes a selection of market-sourced, gluten-free soups, with gluten-free bread if required. Two each day are made with bone broth!

Amber Romaniuk * from Nourish This Life recommends:

Alloy, in Southwest Calgary just off McLeod trail.

Beautiful décor and a calming ambience at Alloy create the perfect mood to support digestion right off the bat. Chef Rogelio Herrera is extremely talented and kindly came out to chat about where they buy their produce and source their meat. (All from local farmers.) They also have gluten and dairy-free options and are able to accommodate substitutions well. Some of my favourite dishes there are the Roasted Squash Soup, Beet Salad and the Gluten-free Calamari, which has been claimed by some to be the best in the city.

Notable, Northwest Calgary on Bowness Rd.

This place is always packed, and for good reason, thanks to Chef Michael Noble’s creative culinary skills combined again with sourcing and supporting local ingredients. A favourite dish of mine is the Bison with sun-dried blueberry brown butter as well as the Rotisserie chicken “Greek Salad.” They have a very extensive gluten-free menu and have always been accommodating to substitutions as well.

* Amber runs Kingsland Farmers Market food tours, too. She’ll show you around the markets, teach about locally-sourced foods, answer your questions and supply you with plenty of vendor samples to try. You can find details here. (Her next tour runs Sunday May 4.)

Karen at Alberta Tourism also recommended these places:

Downtown Food: Home of Calgary’s first rooftop ecosystem.

Forage : Farm-to-fork foods to go.

Blush Lane organic markets.

Stacey Deering is a blogger I met in Calgary. She recommends:

CharcutRoast house serving amazing meats and house-cured sausage.

Extra bits to know:

  • I stayed at Hotel Arts. Central and bustling with a small gym and, of course, the Yellow Door restaurant.
  • I also stayed at Kensington Riverside Inn, owned by the same mob as Hotel Arts. A more intimate place and super friendly, smack-bang in the middle of the bohemian Kensington Village District. Their restaurant Chef’s Table is also really popular among locals.

 Been to Calgary or Lake Louise? Any places you’d add to the list? Please feel free to add to the comments below. And stay tuned for my post on Skoki. One of the best adventures I’ve ever been on!


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