The Big Taste of Calgary’s River Cafe

Don't you want to just run down to Calgary's River Cafe and dive into this divine tuna dish?

Don’t you want to just run down to Calgary’s River Cafe and dive into this divine tuna dish? (Photos by Helen Corbett)

Really, is there a nicer, cozier place to have lunch on a winter’s day than *River Café, in Calgary’s Prince’s Island Park? The imaginative and immaculately prepared food is usually beyond my road tripper’s budget. But during downtown Calgary’s Big Taste week (on until March 16), I can savour a three-course, scratch-made lunch for the bargain price of $15.

It starts with a sublime celeriac and kale soup—the garlicky polenta croutons are fabulous—accompanied by a complimentary basket of warm bread and a two small glasses of paired wine, if you want to kick in another $12. This is followed by the standout: Seared, line-caught tuna with puffed wheat, wild rice, roasted heirloom carrots and a few things I’ve never heard of—purslane, a tonnato sauce and vadouvan spices. I know it sounds pretentious, but it adds up to one of the best, most beautifully presented meals I’ve had in quite some time.

The polenta croutons knock this celeriac and kale soup out of the park

The polenta croutons knock this celeriac and kale soup out of the park

We finish off this leisurely lunch (believe me, you don’t want to rush a meal at River Café) with a little bag containing two cookies, featuring chocolate, cranberry and oatmeal. I pair this treat with an Americano that would put many high-end coffee shops to shame.

Rustic comfort, lovingly curated architecture and the park setting make River Cafe maybe the nicest place to savour a leisurely lunch in Calgary

Rustic comfort, lovingly curated artistic touches and the park setting make River Cafe maybe the nicest place to savour a leisurely lunch in Calgary

We drag things out with an animated conversation with our server, Leah, about wild game and the exemplary efforts of River Café to lessen its impacts on the environment. And then we just quietly gaze out the window at snowy nature, a stone’s throw from the chrome-and-glass towers of downtown Calgary.

River Cafe
25 Prince’s Island Park, Calgary
Weekdays 11 am-10 pm, weekends 10 am-10 pm
Note: Reservations highly recommended during Big Taste (403-261-7670); you might find some available tables for a late lunch
River Cafe on Urbanspoon

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