It's not just about the food at these 9 restaurants

Where the setting and the food compete for your attention

Dining out isn’t always about high-end, expensive meals or trendy menus of updated comfort foods. Sometimes, it is fun to eat at places where the attraction is a unique draw other than the expected, whether it be an out-of-the-box (or as you will see, in-the-box) location, or an eccentric theme. Here are some quirky restaurants across the country that offer something a little different from your predictable cookie-cutter dining establishments.

Container Bar – Calgary, Alberta

The brainchild of Chef Cam Dobranski and co-owner Matt Leslie, Container Bar is squeezed into an alley between Winebar and Brasserie, also his restaurants. Not only can you order some amazing beverages and specialty gin cocktails out on the patio on a hot summer day, you can order dishes like crispy pig ears, salted chicken skin and duck wings from the shortlisted menu, catered by none other than the sister restaurants next door. It’s the best thing to happen to shipping containers since Container Wars.

The Grizzly House – Banff, Alberta

Walk through the haze from sizzling meat on hot rocks as you get seated for an old-school fondue dinner at the kitschy, cabin-like Grizzly House in Banff. Not only is it hard to say no to bread, meat and vegetables bathed in melted cheese; the entire dining experience is bizarrely intriguing. Where else can you make phone calls to neighbouring tables? Just try not to act like a creep if you are thinking of calling that cute guy/girl at the table next to you.


Earls – Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Few Earls locations have the same history as the restaurant in Saskatoon. Located inside of an old bread factory, tourists and locals flock there for a trip back in time – and some good food to go with it. Earls owns the entire building, and there is a little something for everyone: restaurant, lounge, micro-brewery and market. Whether you are dining in or picking up some food and wine to make dinner at home, it’s worth swinging by.


Photo by Daryl Mitchell on Flickr.

The Elbow Room – Vancouver, British Columbia

Generally, servers are expected to be nice to customers, but not at The Elbow Room Cafe. The bluntness and rude remarks are all part of their shtick. Don’t take their sassy attitudes too seriously, though; they’ve got a heart, too. For every meal that isn’t finished, they contribute a donation to charity. I guess we can forgive them for the verbal abuse.

La Ferme Rouge – Gatineau, Quebec

Cross the river from Ottawa to Gatineau for a cabaret-style dinner at La Ferme Rouge. Sure, the meal comes with song and dance, but the nostalgic 80’s buffet is really what has everyone talking. It’s probably the only place on the planet still serving dishes like Mushrooms Neptune and Chicken Brochette. Frogs legs? Why not! La Ferme Rouge will have you jumping for joy.

The Old Country Market – Coombs, British Columbia

The Old Country Market

What started out as a roadside fruit stand back in 1973 is now a hodgepodge of different culinary experiences, complete with goats on the roof. You read correctly; the Old Country Market has goats on its roof. Story has it that they were supposed to be a temporary way to “mow” the grass on their green roof, but now, they reside there permanently.

Photo by Michelle Lee on Flickr.

Muvbox – Montreal, Quebec

Shipping containers are all the rage these days, mostly transformed into bars, dining spaces and even homes. Unlike the Container Bar in Calgary, Muvbox in Montreal is a fully functional restaurant operating out of what is essentially a portable, fold-up box. There are two different Muvbox concepts in the city: one offering lobster rolls and one doing porchetta sandwiches, both open daily from May to September in Old Montreal.

Chez Sophie – Winnipeg, Manitoba

Chez Sophie

The only thing more romantic than a lakeside or beachside dinner is dinner right over water. Chez Sophie is a French restaurant located on Winnipeg’s Esplanade Riel pedestrian bridge over the Red River. It’s the perfect place to enjoy French classics like Quiche Lorraine and beef bourguignon. Just make sure you visit its “Sur le Pont” location, and not its bistro and pizzeria counterpart, or you might think this was all a bunch of lies.

Photo from Travel Manitoba on Flickr.

Esplanade Riel photo from Travel Manitoba on Flickr.

Bullock’s Bistro – Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

Bullocks' Bistro

Dining in a shack isn’t as seedy as it sounds if you head to Bullocks' Bistro. The inside is a bit of a hot mess (graffiti on the walls, pictures and memorabilia everywhere) but it surely has character. Not only that, but it has some of the freshest fish around. Deep fried, pan fried -- you name it, they will hook you up.

Photo by Anson Chappell on Flickr.