While our last Banff Ambassador experience took us back in time, this week we travel indoors and right to the tables and bars of some of my favourite restaurants!
After all, while we’re staying close to home for the time-being, we can still dream of the delicious possibilities for travels to come!
While Banff is well-known for its towering mountains, spectacular scenery and luscious landscapes, the amazing local food scene is often overlooked. With vibrant and diverse dining options, the city boasts modern restaurants in the downtown core, tasteful dining in grand hotels, and cozy intimate bistros in backcountry lodges.
When I first arrived, I took advantage of Taxi Mike, a local’s guide offering an overview of dining options in Banff. After a year of tasting the local cuisine myself, I’ve created with my own list. Keep reading to learn who made the cut!
Go-to breakfast spots:
I think any Banff local can attest to the fact that Tooloulou’s is an absolute must. If you don’t believe me, the lineup snaking out the door should have you convinced! I recommend swinging by when it opens at 8 a.m. (and 7:30 a.m. on weekends) to help secure a spot. As an eggs benny lover, the Benedict Bar had me drooling! I tried the Southern Comfort dish and it definitely did not disappoint.
If you come face to face with the dreaded Tooloulou’s line up, don’t worry because I’ll share a secret … Right next door you’ll find another local gem, Coyotes Southwestern Grill. The homey atmosphere creates a casual, laid-back experience, and when paired with fresh ingredients, and Southwestern and Mediterranean-inspired cuisine, it’s easy to see why it’s another favourite.
For a quick bite to eat, swing by Eddie Burger to sample some of their creatively crafted burgers. Craft beer, poutine, and boozy milkshakes that bring an adult twist to a childhood classic are also on the menu! I chose the Rocky Mountain burger made with an elk patty, because, well, when in Banff… Served with blueberry chutney, cheddar, romaine lettuce, sautéed onion and mayo on a brioche bun, this is a burger experience that’s stayed with me, even a year later.
If you have a bit more time to spare, wander over to Bear Street to the Bear Street Tavern. The rustic restaurant offers Canadian pub grub, including some of the best nachos I had while in Banff (it was up against six other places, can you tell I like nachos??). For me, the pulled pork and rich gouda cheese was the winning combination.
Must-try for dinner:
One restaurant that I often returned to was Banff Ave Brewing Co. Fuelling my obsession for their Banff Ave IPA, they definitely played a role in expanding my craft beer palate. It’s a great spot to grab a beer, kick back and relax.
If you get the opportunity to visit Banff during the warmer months, you absolutely need to make a trip to one of these three patios – or, visit them all and find your own favourite!
Topping the list is Rose and Crown, Banff’s oldest pub, established in 1985. The patio boasts stunning views of mountain ranges, with an especially beautiful angle of Cascade Mountain. The upbeat music and friendly staff make for an incredibly fun atmosphere — I spent more time than I’d like to admit soaking in the sun and admiring the scenery on the Rose patio!
With 360-degree views of the Rockies, Elk and Oarsmen is the quintessential lodge-style sports bar in the heart of downtown, offering great value and great taste.
Last but not least, there’s Magpie & Stump on Caribou Street. If the delicious Mexican fare and inspired cocktails aren’t reason enough to visit, the atmosphere will do it! Inside, the rugged, down-home decor contrasts with the lively and eye-catching outdoor space. Bright accents, vibrant umbrellas, colourful fabrics lining banquette-style seating create a fun and funky ambience.
Room with a stellar view:
If you find yourself in Banff during the colder months, bundle up for a gondola ride up Sulphur Mountain to enjoy panoramic views at Sky Bistro. While on the pricier side, the opportunity to enjoy award-winning Canadian cuisine while taking in expansive views of Banff and surrounding landscapes is a remarkable experience.
Most interesting spot to dine:
One restaurant that I can’t let slide under the radar is The Grizzly House, nestled in a lodge-like setting and serving fondue and exotic meats. Alongside the beef and prawn fondue, you’ll find options like rattlesnake and alligator, making The Grizzly House one of a kind.
Cosy up with a cocktail:
After a long day on the slopes, cosy up to the big fireplace at Sleeping Buffalo Restaurant with a glass of mulled wine before heading into the dining room when you’re ready for dinner. Fair warning, though: The couch is dangerously comfortable, so if you sit down for a cocktail you might find yourself eating dinner there too! In the mood to sip on something a little sweeter? I definitely recommend the feature S’more Martini – absolutely delicious.
Watch for more in our Banff Ambassador series coming soon!
– Author Carleen Nugent spent a year living, working and exploring in Banff as a Banff & Lake Louise Ambassador and shares her experiences with the West Coast Traveller.
RELATED READING: An Ambassador’s Guide to Banff: Exploring Local History
Please note that current Provincial Health Protocols currently advise against travelling outside your region to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
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