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Alberta's Dining Options

• A WorldWeb.com Travel Guide for Alberta, Canada.
Alberta's diverse population, colourful past and bountiful landscape have created a unique Canadian culinary experience. First Nations people found a way to live off the land that was not just satisfactory, but delicious. They honed recipes that have lasted generations and their knowledge of local food influences Alberta’s cuisine even today.

Western Europeans were the first newcomers to enhance the regional cuisine; chuck wagon recipes, cowboy pot roasts and hardy root stews made by settlers were added to the growing mosaic. The promise of a new life brought many pioneering farmers to the plains and they began to build Alberta’s famous agricultural heritage. Livestock became a key ingredient in local fare, complemented by other regional delicacies. Award-winning restaurants now pride themselves on using Alberta-grown ingredients as inspiration for their culinary creations.

As more immigrant populations came to the prairies, each brought a taste to add to the growing diversity of Alberta’s regional fare. Today the influences of Alberta’s multicultural heritage have expanded into a rich restaurant scene that includes virtually every world cuisine.

FIRST NATIONS FARE IN THE FOOTHILLS

Driving through the rolling foothills, one inevitably wonders how First Nations people lived off the land, a terrain that seems sparse in the absence of agriculture. A closer look reveals an amazing diversity of natural vegetation and wildlife. First Nations hunters and trappers knew that the deep flavours of wild game such as bison, elk and venison are perfectly complemented by nourishing carrots, parsnips, beets, potatoes, wild sage and plump berries.

Some restaurants continue this traditional food preparation: Chief Chiniki is conveniently located off Highway 1 on the drive from Calgary to Canmore, while the Head Smashed In Cafe near Fort Macleod has been serving a wide variety of western and native cuisine for over 30 years.

COWBOYS & CONTEMPORARY CUISINE IN THE PRAIRIES

Alberta is famous for its steaks and burgers, found at many southern and central Alberta restaurants, including: Ric's Grill, situated in Lethbridge's old water tower, 46 m (150 ft) high with panoramic views of the city; the Last Chance Saloon near Drumheller, well known for its big bison burgers and eclectic atmosphere; and Calgary's Buzzards Cowboy Cuisine, serving authentic cowboy grub, including beef, bison and even “prairie oysters.”

Restaurants cultivate relationships with ranchers, farmers and producers to secure local ingredients for their traditional and contemporary rural fare. Savour these flavours in Bragg Creek where the Bavarian Inn Restaurant serves organic and free-range home cooking and the Buttercup Country Bakery boasts old-fashioned baking.

Prairie menus often feature classic desserts with Alberta flair: Saskatoon berry crumble, zucchini cake and maple creme brulee. And a trip out to family-run MacKay's Ice Cream Parlour in Cochrane is perfect for a hot summer day.

A FEAST FOR THE EYES AND PALATE IN ALBERTA’S ROCKIES

Visitors to Alberta's Rockies can appreciate amazing scenery while dining in some of the province’s finest restaurants. Jasper, Banff and Canmore have several award-winning international eateries such as the Overlander Mountain Lodge near Jasper, Juniper Bistro in Banff, and Trough Dining Co. and Sage Bistro in Canmore.

Summer visitors are treated to emerald-coloured Lake Louise while dining at the Fairview Dining Room in Chateau Lake Louise but in winter this venue is even more dramatic as the great glacier pours into the frozen lake. In Banff, stunning panoramic views can be enjoyed while dining at the Primrose and Eden dining rooms in the cliff-top Rimrock Hotel.

For a more affordable but equally rewarding treat, admire the amazing views from the Treeline Restaurant at the top of the Jasper Tramway, look out over a glacial lake from the cafe at Maligne Lake Chalet, or take in the Three Sisters mountain range while lunching at the Iron Goat in Canmore.

NORTHERN ALBERTA: EUROPEAN INFLUENCES & LOCAL INGREDIENTS

Northern Albertan cuisine is heavily influenced by a strong Eastern European heritage, with Ukrainians and Russians representing the largest ethnic groups. Specialties like perogies, cabbage rolls, sausages, borscht and a side of sauerkraut are often enjoyed best at casual restaurants such as the D & R Family Restaurant in Vegreville, famous for the World’s Largest Easter Egg, and the Perogy Cafe situated next to the world's largest perogy in Glendon.

Berries grow well even in the harsh climate of northern Alberta. Saskatoon berries and kalyna berries were originally used to flavour dried bison meat but are now staple ingredients of pies, crumbles and jams served in most family restaurants.

COSMOPOLITAN DINING IN CALGARY & EDMONTON

Beyond traditional Albertan steakhouses, contemporary influences and a multicultural heritage have shaped the restaurant scene in these big cities. Find every imaginable international cuisine in Calgary and Edmonton, where the large number of restaurants keep prices affordable compared to other Canadian cities.

Critically acclaimed, Calgary’s River Cafe offers seasonal Canadian cuisine in the tranquil setting of Prince's Island Park. Consistently voted the most romantic restaurant in Edmonton, the Creperie has a menu as inviting as its atmosphere. Calgary’s Chinatown has a wealth of choices for dim sum, lunch and dinner, while Mexican choices such as Julio's Barrio (with locations in Edmonton and Calgary) and Three Amigos in south Edmonton are also popular. Italian, Indian, Greek and Vietnamese cuisines are major players in Alberta’s urban gastronomic scene, too.

It’s easy to find a good eatery while wandering among the plethora of restaurants, bistros, cafes and pubs on Edmonton’s Whyte Avenue and Calgary’s International Avenue as well as Kensington and Inglewood neighbourhoods. Taste a wide variety of dishes at Calgary’s Farmers' Market or enjoy the annual Taste of Calgary, Taste of Edmonton and Country in the City (hosted in St. Albert) events.
Original Joe's on 4th St.
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Photos of Alberta  Original Joe's on 4th St.


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