This just in. There’s food, good food, in Banff. You can spend weeks reading food blogs, publications, and review aggregators like Trip Advisor and Yelp without getting the proper understanding on Banff’s food scene. My expectations were of similar to touristy, seasonal resorts like a Lake George, Ogunquit. But we were pleasantly surprised by the depth of the offerings, and overall quality, especially of that tender Alberta beef. And six people meant a glorious amount of samplings. Heres the good and the not so.
Juniper Bistro – A few kilometers away from the city in the Juniper hotel. Comfortable setting, large windows offering nice views, albeit over the highway. Elevated, creative combinations, and great for sharing which was the case in most places. Excellent silky smooth chicken pate, wild truffle scented (probably oil) mushrooms. A gorgeously cooked wild boar loin, and Duck were the undisputed stars of the mains. Recommend!
The Bison – The second best meal of the trip. A meat extravaganza. I easily surpassed my annual Bison intake in just one plate. The magnificent Bison platter includes Bison sausages, the exceptional short rib and rib eye. Bison is leaner meat so leaner short ribs can be especially appreciated. But the star of show was the Elk Poutine which didnt resemble poutine much (good thing). Five hefty gnocchi with slowly braised pulled Elk meat and cheese curds. So good we ordered another round. By round I mean one.
The Balkan – Good Greek food. Sort of what you’d expect from a place like this. Appetizers (hummus, dips) were forgettable, but mains were solid, especially the lamb shank. If you are more than four, get the feast and the shank. Less than four, share the shank and another dish or two. Fridays and Tuesdays are belly dancer, “Opah” nights, where you can finally participate in a tradition you didnt know missing in your life. Smashing plates against the wall.
Chuck’s steakhouse – Best meal of the trip as expected. Superb quality especially from the striploin/New York cuts surprisingly over the Wagyu and Rib Eye. Very clever sides (cauliflower!) and even better desserts. I would skip appetizers here altogether and just concentrate on the prize. If you are more than three, share some cuts that add to about 8-10 ounces per person, a few sides, and you are golden. This is NYC quality stuff.
Indian Curry House – We know Indian. We love Indian. This is good Indian. By the last day we were craving something spicy and tall buildings. ICH took care of one part, while Calgary took care of the other. Not everything was super authentic like the too tomatoey Chana and the surprisingly mild beef (yes, beef is allowed here) Vindaloo (get it still), but really excellent Chettinad among other dishes
Bear Street Tavern – We know pizza. We love Pizza. This was not good pizza. But its popular pub fare, with a solid beer lineup. Skip the mooshy wings
Truffle Pigs – This serves as a nice break between Emerald Lake, and Takakkaw Falls in Yoho. Its in a little village called Field thats worth a stroll while waiting for your table in one of the only options around. Serviceable burgers and flatbreads
For breakfast head to Wild Flour Bakery and get the Frittata sandwich. One morning we picked up their fine baguettes and just bought butter elsewhere for a Parisian breakfasts in the hotel room. Best full breakfast was at Coyotes Southwestern Grill. Marginally better offerings than the busier Tooloulous next door.
Best ice cream was at….. Shell Gas Station! A fridge full of rare Magnum bars. Better than the top rated ice cream on the strip.
Try to avoid the Fairmont Lake Louise deli or Icefield visitor center cafeteria and plan lunching at the Post Hotel instead. We didnt and it was a mistake.
And dont forget to remove your bear bells from your pants before entering any of these establishment. You are safe now.