When it comes to food, many cuisines around the globe have the French to thank for deep-rooted traditions of technique and flavours. But not all French food need be fancy or stuff. Take the bistro, for example. It’s a more casual, approachable, ingredient-focused way of dining out, which means a homier style of cooking and affordability.
In case you were wondering where the road forks between a bistro (or bistrot) and a brasserie, the traditional distinction in France is that brasserie means “brewery,” and the offerings include beers, and simple plates of food from a variety of regions. A brasserie would align most closely in nature to what we know as a pub, while a bistro serves more composed dishes and has wine service.
If you’re looking to get a taste of France right here in the city, you may want to start with five of Calgary’s essential French-style bistros.
The award-winning Yellow Door Bistro, located inside downtown’s Hotel Arts, offers Calgarians a modern take on bistro-style dining. In addition to classic bistro fare (like the ubiquitous Steak Frites), Yellow Door includes contemporary dishes like a Fried Chicken Sandwich, a take on Fish & Chips, and flatbreads on their lunch menu, while for dinner guests can order heartier mains like a Tamarind-glazes pork chop or opt for a three or five course chef’s choice meal with (or without) wine pairings.
Address: 119 12th Avenue SW
Cassis Bistro’s owner/operator Gilles Brassart hails from the south of France, and that’s from where the restaurant draws its inspiration. Along with chef Dominique Moussu, Cassis Bistro offers authentic dishes drawn from the culinary legacy of the south of France, made “with local, seasonal produce hand-selected daily from Market 17 next door.” Serving brunch, lunch, and dinner, Cassis Bistro’s menu includes staples like Steak Frites, charcuterie plates, and a daily “Plat du jour.”
Address: 105-2505 17th Avenue SW
You’ll find weekday lunch and nightly dinner being served up at this nouveau French contemporary bistro. Lauded for both its food and service, Avec has risen to become one of the city’s most beloved French dining experiences. Look for classic dishes like Boeuf Bourgingnon, Foie Gras Torchon, French Onion Soup, Duck Confit, and–of course–Steak Frites.
Address: 105-550 11th Avenue SW
Bistro Rouge is the “gourmet-casual” creation from the same team behind Calgary’s legendary Rouge restaurant in Inglewood. Serving dinner nightly starting at 4 p.m., the restaurant’s menu includes a tantalizing meld of classics and contemporary favourites, from Mussels with Fries to a Bison Bolognese. Nibble on share-able plates like charcuterie and cheese boards, as well as dishes like Cauliflower Fritters and Mini Panini.
Address: 308-1919 Sirocco Drive SW
Suzette is the product from the same team behind the aforementioned Cassis, however here the dishes hail from the north of France. Chef Dominique Moussu, who is originally from Brittany, brings his own culinary history to the table at Suzette. On “Le Menu” are a series of galettes (a savoury buckwheat crepe), fresh fish, Moules Frites, grilled dishes, and sweet crepes.
Address: 2210 4th Street SW