Calgary’s Best Restaurants 2011: A Sampler

Here’s a taste of Avenue's 8th Annual Restaurant Awards

This year the Avenue Restaurant Awards includes102 great Calgary Restaurants selected by our readers and our esteemed judges in 34 delicious categories.

But first here are three categories to whet your appetite for Calgary’s great dining options.

Readers’ Pick: BEST PATIO

Winner: Bonterra Trattoria

It’s as if a Tuscan trattoria was scooped from Italy and dropped into Calgary’s Beltline complete with draping foliage, dripping water fountains and walls tall enough to make you forget the parking lot on the other side. While there, it is only right to dine as the Italians do, which means to savour every slow bite. A corner fireplace keeps the temperature comfortable as the sun sets while you polish off a plate of marinated olives and head into a course of homemade pasta. Follow that with mains of osso bucco or braised lamb shank and the classic tiramisu dessert. All of which taste better with fresh air and a bottle of wine. 1016 8 St. S.W., 403-262-8480, bonterra.ca

Runner-up: Cilantro

White lights woven through the Virginia creepers shimmer against a backdrop of charcoal-coloured walls tall enough to block out the bustle of 17th Avenue S.W. 338 17 Ave. S.W., 403-229-1177, crmr.com

Honourable Mention: Vin Room

Banquettes with tangerine cushions and lime-coloured tables are lit by lanterns hanging from oversized umbrellas on this cosmopolitan rooftop patio overlooking 4th Street S.W. 2310 4 St. S.W., 403-457-5522

Jaelyn Molyneux

Readers’ Pick: BEST CAFÉ

Best Café Winner Caffè Beano
Best Café Winner Caffè Beano
Winner: Caffè Beano

It’s a given that any place in the running for the "Best Café" vote is going to serve up a good, strong cup of joe. What sets Beano apart is the scene. At any time of day, this is where you’ll find Calgary’s most colourful crowd — blue-haired riot grrls and their band-member boyfriends, smartly dressed elderly men with accents, beret-wearing beatniks, artists in paint-splattered pants, sweet young things with sleeve tattoos and anyone else Starbucks wouldn’t have for a barista. This heady brew of humanity smunches shoulder-to-shoulder in the bright, L-shaped room that always smells like fresh-baked cookies, sipping potent black java and nursing giant lattes from white bowls. Beano’s been playing this game since 1990, and it’s not about to lose its edge anytime soon. 1613 9 St. S.W., 403-229-1232, caffebeano.ca

Runner-up: deVille Luxury Coffee & Pastries

Two stylish, contemporary cafés in two of the core’s coolest buildings — Art Central and Fashion Central — serving coffee concoctions crafted from beans by boutique roaster Intelligentsia. The corner windows at the Art Central location are a prime people-watching perch while the ground-floor Fashion Central space has a chic boutique vibe. 807 1 St. S.W., 403-263-0884,100 7 Ave. S.W., 403-452-7777, devillecoffee.ca

Honourable Mention: Kawa Espresso Bar

There’s a European ambiance at this sleek and inviting café-lounge, starting with the name, which is Polish for "coffee." Kawa also boasts an impressive selection of import beers and food offerings for breakfast, lunch and evening. 1333 8 St. S.W., 403-452-5228, kawacalgary.ca

Shelley Arnusch

Judges’ Pick: BEST SERVICE

Brava Bistro general manager Dewey Noordhof
Brava Bistro general manager Dewey Noordhof
Winner: Brava Bistro 

The past few years have seen dozens of restaurants open with all kinds of hoopla, boasting the latest and greatest in dining, decor and "concepts." All the while, since 1999, there’s been Brava Bistro, quietly catering to a clientele that’s staunchly loyal, largely because people know that, on any day or any night, at any table or at the bar, the service will be impeccable. Attentive, without being overbearing and knowledgeable, without being pompous, the servers operate in a way that’s polished and efficient, but never seems hurried. Combine that with Brava’s menu of modern comfort food and an eclectic wine list offering more than 30 wines by the glass, and you have a dining experience that’s as fine as any in the city. 723 17 Ave. S.W., 403-228-1854

Runner-up: La Chaumière

A model of old-world elegance and taste, this fine French restaurant has been setting the standard for spiffy service since 1978. 139 17 Ave. S.W., 403-228-5690, lachamiere.ca

Honourable Mention: Una Pizza + Wine

You can always count on the staff at this bustling, upscale-casual pizza place to go the extra mile to make customers feel welcome, comfortable and satisfied. 618 17 Ave. S.W., 403-453-1183, unapizzeria.com

Jennifer Hamilton

See all of the 8th Annual Food Award winners.