2015 was a huge year for restaurant openings and culinary happenings in and around Calgary.
The year ahead will likely be a bit quieter — restaurant openings often come in cycles — but we have some tasty things to look forward to. Here are a few highlights.
1. First out of the gate will be Darren MacLean’s Shokunin at 2016 4th St. S.W. MacLean, who previously owned and cooked at Downtownfood, has spent time in Japan studying culinary techniques and will bring these ideas to the restaurant-heavy Mission district. Shokunin will open early this month.
2. Calgary will see the first Canadian outlets of Blaze Pizza early in the New Year. They call it “Fast-Fired Custom Built Artisanal Pizza,” a style that allows the customer to order top-quality ingredients that are baked into pizzas in three minutes. Look for locations popping up in Sunridge and in Mission. (The Mission location will be in the same building as Shokunin.)
3. One of the hot trends for 2016 is fried chicken. And who better to open a fried chicken shop than Top Chef competitor Nicole Gomes in tandem with her sister Francine. Their new fried- and rotisserie-chicken takeout joint has the enticing name of Cluck’n’Cleaver and a menu of high-quality, fast-casual dishes. Look for C’n’C at 1511 14th St. S.W. soon.
4. Market, the fine 17th Avenue restaurant, will open a retail outlet in the Calgary Farmers’ Market in January. We’ll be able to take home many of their products from pickled carrots to hand-crafted chocolates.
5. Phil & Sebastian will launch a line of cascara cocktails in their Simmons Building location, using the skins (cascara) of coffee beans. Popular in coffee-growing countries and a growing trend in North America, cascara brings yet another nuance to the world of coffee.
6. Also in the Simmons Building, Charbar’s rooftop restaurant will gain its own identity this year. When the snow melts and the umbrellas come out, we’ll see a menu distinct from Charbar’s and a new name — Rooftop at The Simmons.
7. Duncan Ly, former executive chef at Hotel Arts and the Kensington Riverside Inn, is working on his own Contemporary-Vietnamese-Pan-Asian concept that he hopes to open by mid-2016. Located somewhere in the city centre, the name will be La Vong.
8. Airport dining will receive a huge upgrade when the new International Terminal opens later this year. Included in the mix will be local favourites Vin Room, Spolumbo’s, Green Chili and Hana Suhsi among the eighteen confirmed food outlets. Also, look for a Wolfgang Puck restaurant plus the first airport location for Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt, a Belgian Beer cafe and a Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut outlet.
9. In addition to the airport itself, dining in the area north of the airport should improve with the opening of a number of hotels. Tonic Kitchen+Bar is already open in the Clique Hotel as is Pacini in the Acclaim (for a couple years now). Look for more food outlets to spring up here as the airport district grows.
10. Garth Brown, the mastermind behind Test Kitchen, will be back with a new concept in a new location shortly. This time Test Kitchen will showcase the talents of young, emerging chefs not only in a restaurant setting but in a television format as a series of eight shows will be taped.
Brown is also working on a series of pop-up restaurants in Hong Kong and Australia to be followed by repeat performances here in Calgary. Look for more on the new Test Kitchen project early in the New Year.
11. Oliver & Bonacini, the large Toronto restaurant group, has signed chef Ryan O’Flynn, the reigning Canadian Culinary Champion, to play a major part in the development of the new food services operations at The Bay Downtown. Construction dust should be flying soon.
12. An icon of the 1980s — 10 Foot Henry — makes a return in 2016 in a different form. The cartoon mascot of a former club and One Yellow Rabbit has been resurrected as a Mediterranean restaurant under the vision of restaurateur couple Steve Smee and Aja Lapointe. Look for Henry — all 3.048 metres of him — at 1209 1st St. S.W., soon.
13. Following a flood closure, Norma Jean and Kai Salimaki’s The Block will reopen by the end of January. During the reconstruction, the owners have built a new menu and added an all-day breakfast. The Block is at 2411 4th St. N.W.
14. After a busy 2015 opening Eighth Avenue Trattoria (E.A.T.) and refurbishing Vendome, the Teatro Group will continue to be active this year. Their Alforno bakery is slated to open in February.
15. Mhairi O’Donnell, owner of The Loop, is in the process of shifting her Grate & Barrel grilled cheese cafe from Mission to 17th Avenue S.W. Expect it to open early in the New Year in the former Cosmic Cafe at 1001 17th Avenue S.W with perhaps a slightly different name. (Apparently there’s a similarly named housewares store that doesn’t like her choice of words.)
16. Construction paper and hoarding are up at the former Melrose spot in the 700 Block of 17th Avenue S.W. The east section should become Trolley Five brew pub sometime this year and we wait for a new concept to appear in the former Corbeaux spot.
I’m sure there are more projects in the planning stages as we move into the New Year. I’m looking forward to all of the above and many more.
Source John Gilchrist, Calgary Herold
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