Ask anyone from Calgary (or even Alberta in general) and they’ll tell you that Stephen Avenue is an iconic hub for retail, entertainment and culture in the downtown core. Steeped in history, the pedestrian mall boasts a concentration of historic buildings like no other street. Between the 1880s and 1930, Stephen Avenue was lined with nearly three dozen commercial buildings that are now home to some of Calgary’s finest boutiques, bars and restaurants.

Whether you’re looking for an upscale restaurant with signature cocktails or a laid-back pub with sizable dishes, you’ll likely find it — and be thinking about it for weeks after — on Stephen Avenue. 

Can’t decide? Here’s our pick of the six best bars and restaurants Stephen Avenue has to offer. 

Bank Baron PUB Main Restaurant

Bank & Baron P.U.B.

Situated within a reclaimed Bank of Nova Scotia building on Stephen Avenue, the Bank & Baron is one of the classiest watering holes in Calgary. With multiple levels, a gleaming bar and a welcoming patio, the versatile space is casual enough for a bite with a few friends or a three-course meal with the entire family. The restaurant and pub has a wide-ranging menu designed to appeal to everyone, and everything — from the beef tartare to the white clam pizza — is delicious. Grab a pint of a Calgary craft beer or one of their signature cocktails, and try not to forget to head to the basement for a peek of the original bank vault.

Blink Restaurant & Bar

If you’re seeking a fine-dining restaurant with a modern and classy atmosphere, an ever changing tasting menu and an extensive wine list featuring family-run wineries, then step into Blink Restaurant & Bar. Originally built as a saddlery in the 19th century, the Stephen Avenue restaurant now boasts an exposed brick wall interior, open concept kitchen and seasonal dishes made with organic and locally-sourced ingredients. Come here for a romantic date night, casual lunch or dinner with family and friends, or just to sit at the bar solo with a 5 oz. glass of wine and one of their tasty desserts.

James Joyce Irish Pub & Restaurant

Situated in the old Molson’s (TD) Bank building, James Joyce Irish Pub & Restaurant has been delivering appetizing pub fare and drinks to Stephen Avenue (and downtown Calgary in general) since 1997. Named after the Irish author, the pub is decorated with hundreds of artifacts from Ireland’s history, making you feel as though you’ve stepped into the European country. As unique as the pub is, the real beauty happens in the kitchen and behind the bar. With dishes like the Irish potato boxty, lamb and pistachio burger, and beer battered onion rings, the menu is long enough to satisfy James Joyce himself. Order an Irish whiskey or beer, and just sit back for a while.

The Guild Wood Grilled Steak Salad 3066

The Guild

This downtown Calgary staple should be at the top of every carnivore’s list. Located in the historic Hudson’s Bay building on Stephen Avenue, the Guild is a spacious, industrial-chic steakhouse with one of the largest patios in the city and a menu that honours local beef, game and foul. But don’t worry, herbivores — you’ll find things like roasted cauliflower, vegan mushroom soup and gourmet grilled cheese here too. The Guild is also serves brunch on weekends, so you can come back for poached eggs, housemade bacon and mimosas. Most importantly, though, it features a cocktail menu that doesn’t disappoint with classic and tailored drinks for every occasion.

The Wednesday Room Bar

The Wednesday Room

If you’re after a swanky lounge in the heart of downtown Calgary that features classic cocktails and savoury dishes, make your way to the Wednesday Room. Nestled in the historic Tribune Block on Stephen Avenue, the upscale restaurant is cool and comfortable enough for a date, but also good for a casual night of oysters and wine at the bar. Opt for the rib-eye steak sandwich, any of the appetizers, the squash cannelloni or the Alberta lamb rack. Then stay for chic decor that pays homage to The Shining with it’s wall of vintage typewriters and orange-and-brown carpeting. The Wednesday Room is the kind of place where you’ll find yourself ordering an extra cocktail just to hang out a little longer.

The Unicorn

As a local classic on Stephen Avenue, the Unicorn has everything you want in a pub: plenty of authentic pub fare and a variety of beverages to please everyone in your party. Located in an iconic 19th century Lancaster building, the superpub boasts three-levels, each with a distinct vibe, meaning you don’t need to leave the building to bar hop. 

In the basement, you’ll find the Celtic Cellar with it’s cozy atmosphere, darts and live music. On the main floor is a laid-back Calgary bar with craft beer and elevated pub grub. And on the top floor is the Sports Cantina with classic arcade games, a Tex-Mex-inspired menu and enough screens to stream every type of sport. Whether you go for just a meal or a full night out, the Unicorn will always show you a good time.

Stephen Avenue Art

Now that you know where to eat and drink in the heart of downtown Calgary, why not explore it’s best attractions?

Special thanks to the staff at the Comfort Inn & Suites South in Calgary, AB for contributing to this piece.

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