Tim Horton's: a Canadian Institution
Here we were in Canada for nearly a week and we had not had our Tim Horton's fix. I had introduced my wife to the Canadian institution on our first trip to Ontario together in 2003. She was anticipating a return engagement but we never saw one in Victoria or on our way to Banff coming from British Colombia. We were a bit surprised there was no Tim Horton's in Banff but were pleasantly surprised to come across one on about ten miles east of town heading towards Calgary in Canmore, Alberta. It also gave me a chance to use up some of my Canadian dollars before returning to the US.
Favorite Dish: We opted to split a few things to go with our coffees. We had a Baked Apple Dumpling, Boston Cream, and a Cheddar Cheese Scone. It came to C$7 and was a very tasty and satisfying snack, helping us to make it past Calgary and halfway to Glacier National Park in Montana.Related to:
- Food and Dining
- Budget Travel
- Road Trip
Lake Agnes/Plain of Six Glacier Teahouses: teahouses are a way of life in Banff NP
Teahouses have been a part of hiking in Banff since 1927 when the park was a climbing mecca and Swiss mountaineers introduced Canada to the sport. Their influence is evident in the chalet architecture of the small mountain restaurants.
For European countries like Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, this is very much the status quo. You do not hike in major tourist areas there without having such places to take a break. I must say I would prefer a more pristine environment and they take some of the beauty away from the areas where they are built. But these are historical structures and people seem to love them. For many who have not hiked in Switzerland and such places, it may be their first exposure to being able to not carry a lunch, and even get a hot beverage or soup while out hiking.
Enjoy them if that is your thing. Walk to a more serene area otherwise. One good thing about such places is most people congregate there so if trying to avoid the crowds, just avoid the teahouses.
Favorite Dish: Their menus are simple and prices are high but you must factor in their cost in getting food and fuel to the respective teahouses as well as transporting garbage back out. I did not use the facilities but to be honest you have to be lucky to get a seat. They are that popular despite the prices. Expect to pay C$13 for soup and sandwich combos, C$5 for a piece of cake, and C$6/12 for small/large pot of tea. Of course, they only take cash.Related to:
- National/State Park
- Hiking and Walking
- Food and Dining
Maple Leaf Grille and Spirits
The Maple Leaf Grille presents regional food in rustic elegance. The room is decorated in a way so popular in Western Canada right now -- lots of wood and river rock, which provides a soothing atmosphere just off busy Banff Avenue.
The service was quite good -- the bartender was our waiter one quiet afternoon when we stopped by for lunch, and was a very pleasant and efficient server. However, the hostess stood by the door after we were seated and scowled the whole time we were there, shooting dirty looks to the bartender. This was highly entertaining, as we were speculating what had gone on there!
Favorite Dish: The offerings on the menu reflect Canadian ingredients. It also appears that the restaurant serves breakfast on a daily basis with a wide range of eggs benny as well.
I had the fish and chips (as it was Friday) and the halibut was melt-in-your-mouth delicious with an order of well-made yukon gold french fries. However, I felt the serving was quite small for the $13.00 price tag, but, hey, this is Banff. If you do have a big appetite, order the shaved prime rib sandwich, which comes on a whole grain baugette, which my friend could not finish, us being delicate women and all.
Desserts are excellent, and appear to be high quality. The chocolate souffle was outstanding, and my apple torte was topped with yummy homemade vanilla icecream, visibly full of vanilla bean.
Cheap Eats -- Safeway (Supermarket)
Safeway has locations all over North America and is a supermarket. Their deli counters have been updated over the past year, and besides selling the usual cold cuts and salads, now serve pizza by the slice, soup, fried and baked chickens and made-to-order sandwiches. Cold drinks are available for purchase as well.
Favorite Dish: I am really impressed by the quality of food. The fried chicken is half-decent, as well as their potato wedges. I have not tried the rotisserie chicken, though people have told me it tends to be dry. The pizza is fantastic, and you would never know it was purchased from a supermarket. You can also purchase pizzas to bake in your own oven. They are on a special tray that you use, and the crust comes out pizzeria crisp.
The sandwiches are phenomenal, several levels above typical sub sandwiches, as they use their own baked specialty breads and have numerous toppings, meats, and spreads to choose from. You can also choose from their sandwich menu, "The Plymouth Rock" being my favorite -- roast turkey, havarti cheese, cranberry sauce. They don't have a problem substituting toppings in the sandwiches on their menu. You get a HUGE sandwich for $4.99.
Bow Valley Grill: Banff Springs Hotel
The Bow Valley Grill is one of the many dining areas located in the Banff Springs Hotel complex. The hotel can be overwhelming, but they do have staff stationed near the entrance to help out those wandering around with glazed expressions.
The Sunday Brunch here is pricey -- ranging from $37.00 - $45.00 CDN depending on if it's a holiday or not. A much better bang for your buck is the Saturday buffet lunch, which is approx $27.00 a person. It's the same buffet, without the breakfast dishes. Plus, they throw in a free tour of the hotel, make sure to inquire when you come into the restaurant. The lunch is seasonal, from May to October. Then, a buffet dinner is offered until spring.
Make your reservations well in advance for the brunch, and don't forget to request a window table, with beautiful views of the Rockies.
Favorite Dish: Even though the buffets here tend to be pricey, the quality is extremely high. Small pans of food are put out, so that the food is constantly rotated and fresh. The open kitchen environment allows for you to converse with the kitchen staff, and one even went to the fridge to get some brie cheese for me, even though it was not offered on the cheese tray that day. a must-try for dessert is the Chocolate Terrine, which is usually offered daily.
This relatively new steakhouse in Banff is easy on the eye and on the wallet -- it's hard to find elegant dining without paying big bucks in Banff.
The room is decorated in rustic elegance, with a copper-dome fireplace being the main focal point. The service tends to be a little uneven; the last time we were there it could have been better, as my husband had to flag someone else a few times for more water and drinks after we waited patiently for our waiter to do so. It would be understandable if the place was busy, but it was a slow day during the week and this shouldn't have been a problem.
Favorite Dish: There is a variety of foods to choose from if you're not into steaks, like seared tuna or salmon. I've had both, and the tuna is perfectly paired with a flavorful lemon basil pesto. The steaks are AAA Black Angus, and actually came done as ordered -- medium rare. So often, we have ordered steaks elsewhere and they or either overdone or underdone.
If you just want to go for lunch, try the burgers; they are house-made, and are not preformed patties which makes a huge difference in taste and texture.
Cheap Eats -- Barpa Bill's Souvlaki
Barpa Bill's serves up some of the best souvlaki I've ever tasted, besides the ones I've had in Greece.
You can also get burgers here as well, but I've only had the souvlaki -- don't go here if you don't like garlic. Also, don't go here if you're claustrophobic, or you may want to do take out -- Barpa Bill's is literally a hole-in-the wall. If you come over a busy lunch hour, you may have to sit outside. There are about 12 stools in this place, and you don't rub elbows, you knock elbows. If you turn around at the back stools, you may just fall into the bathroom. The place is clean and set up for efficiency, with small counters along the walls with the stools underneath, and there are pictures of scenes from Greece hung on the walls.
On your first time there, it is confusing, once you elbow your way to the front. However, all the choices are listed on the board above; just step forward and order, then pay. Your order is yelled out when it is ready. While waiting, it's best to keep your eye out for a free stool, as they get filled up rather quickly.
Favorite Dish: The chicken souvlaki -- tender chunks of grilled chicken with the garlickiest tzatziki this side of Athens. The pita is warm and fresh and I was told that it is shipped in daily from Chicago. The caesar salad is excellent: full of fresh, crisp romaine, cheese and covered with a light, creamy dressing.
Cheap Eats -- Aardvark Pizza and Subs
This is another tiny place besides Barpa Bill's that serves up good, fast food. The menu is charmingly misspelt, and most people take out as there really isn't anywhere to sit and eat. You can save a few bucks by walking to Keller's grocery (a couple of blocks away) to get your drinks while the pizza is cooking. You usually have to wait about 15-20 minutes if you are ordering one. They also sell by the slice, and have subs, chicken wings, poutine, nachos and donairs. They are open until 4 a.m., which is good for the after-bar crowd.
They also deliver if you don't feel like walking.
Favorite Dish: I've only had the pizza here; the crust is very crisp, and sometimes almost bordering on board-like, which is good, as we've walked over to take out from our hotel and walked back -- no sogginess here. They ingeniously put a small piece of dough in the middle of the pizza, which stops the box lid from crushing the toppings and cheese.
This restaurant serves lunch and dinner, but this is my favorite place to come for breakfast in Banff. As you can tell by the name, the theme here is southwestern, and portions are big.
The prices here are affordable, and service is fast and friendly. The food here isn't fancy, but it's reasonably priced and good. It's also kid friendly as well.
Favorite Dish: My favorite breakfast is the huevos rancheros; and it's huge! You get red chili sauce, refried black beans and corn tortillas with cheese along with your eggs. This is just as good as the Mexican breakfasts I got in San Diego. You may consider getting the half portion which is more manageable and extremely filling. The breakfast burrito is also a good thing to try as well. If you like very spicy food, you may have to ask them to turn up the heat. They also have conventional breakfasts on the menu as well, which are very good.
Like an old friend, Melissa's is dependable and reliable. It's a no-brainer place to go when you just want simple, good food at decent prices. Melissa's has been a long-time landmark in Banff, and also organizes a Banff marathon each year. You may see locals or Calgarians walking around with their brightly colored and uniquely designed t-shirts that they hand out to participants every year. Melissa's is also kid-friendly. It's a popular place for breakfast as well, and can get very busy.
Evelyn's Coffee Bar
The best coffee in Banff. Located on Banff Avenue, this coffee house gets really crowded. However, it's fun for people watching as the tourists parade down Banff Avenue. Service is friendly, fast and efficient, as it's a small shop and they have to accomodate the crowds that descend on this place. They also sell their coffee in refillable portable mugs for that long drive to Jasper or to your next location. Limited seating outside.
Melissa's Misteak: Fresh Food & Friendly Service
Melissa's serves one of the best breakfasts in Banff. The food is freshly prepared, nicely presented, and served piping hot. Breakfast dishes are in the $8 to $10 range, and there is a great selection of items on the menu.
They are also open for lunch and dinner. The service is fast and friendly. We had a short wait for a table, less than 10 minutes.
Favorite Dish: I ordered a deluxe omelette ($9.50) made with 3 eggs and containing an assortment of vegetables, ham and cheddar cheese. Served with multi-grain toast. The meal was cooked perfectly, hot and delicious. DH ordered a ham steak and eggs ($12) and was amazed by the meal he received. 3 eggs, hash browns, multi-grain toast and a grilled ham steak 1/4" thick served with grilled pineapple rings. Needless to say, neither of us wanted lunch that day!Related to:
Tommy's: Friendly Little Pub
Tommy's is downstairs below the Balkan Restaurant and both are owned by the same people. This is a friendly, unassuming little pub. They have many great beer selections on tap, including my new favorite, Rickard's White. They have a nice little menu. I'm told by our server that the burgers are "awesome". All burgers come in your choice of beef, chicken, bison, elk or veggie. That in itself is impressive.
Favorite Dish: Try the appetizer platter. A veritable feast for 2 or 3 people.Related to:
- Beer Tasting
- Road Trip
Eden: A Paradise for Serious Foodies
This restaurant is for foodies.... and foodies who have lots of cash. The Eden dining room at the Banff Rimrock Resort is for very special occaisions, or for a good splurge. Their menu is a prix fixe tasting menu of three, four, or five courses. We were there for my birthday, and for the November special, where they try out new dishes, so the tasting menu is HALF PRICE in November. A considerable deal, as the three course tasting menu usually runs $125 pp ; in November, a five-course tasting menu is $59.00 pp, plus you can add on additional courses. The restaurant has a very elegant, modern atmosphere.
The service at Eden is bordering on perfection, and it should be, considering the prices there. The extremely knowledgeable waitstaff work like a well-oiled machine, and any slight error is fixed promptly and gracefully. For example, they poured the complimentary Evian water for me instead of the San Perrigrino water I had in my glass, and the whole glass was replaced with profuse apologies while I was thinking "oh, well big deal". As soon as I put down my napkin, it was promptly whisked away and replaced with a fresh one.
There is also complimentary valet parking while you dine at Eden, and when you are nearing the end of your meal, the valet is notified and your car is brought to the front door.
Favorite Dish: Each dish was excellent, but what stuck out in my mind was the amuse bouche, a parfait of citrus, cream cheese, and wild salmon tartare in a glass cone dish that was held by a glass bowl with a Beta fish swimming around in it. That was so creative I was floored! I still wish I had my camera (yes, VT'ers do go out without their camera sometimes ;o) )
Other delights were a confit of guinea hen combined with crispy guinea hen breast, and a tiny omelette of herbs and swiss chard tied up like a purse. The highlight of the evening besides the salmon parfait, was the seared foie gras with the most delicious blood orange reduction.
The whole experience at Eden can be summed up with one word: Marvelous!!!!
Chef's Studio Japan (Canmore): Tabemashou! (Let's Eat!)
Known by word-of-mouth to have the best sushi in the Bow Valley, we finally managed to make the trip to Canmore to see if this was indeed true.
The restaurant is located in an off-the-beaten location near the main drag, the front entrance facing a public parking lot. The interior is done up in rich brown walls with pine tables and funky wrought-iron chairs. Food is presented artfully and beautifully in the spare, modern style the Japanese are famous for. We noticed an order of sushi carted by on a length of cedar, with a branch of bright green leaves, just burst from their buds, placed just so. Other dishes are arranged on ceramics plates and raku that is made especially for the restaurant. The sushi chefs were female, which is a rarity, and it's the first time I have ever seen a female sushi chef at work behind the counter.
Be aware that many of the wait staff are Japanese and don't speak English well, so you have to speak slowly and use simple words. However, they are always smiling and the service is fast and pleasant. If you need any in-depth info, it's best to talk to the manager, who speaks English quite well.
Their menu is quite small, but whatever is listed is done impeccably. The food here is incredible.
Favorite Dish: You MUST order one of their specialties, the delicious Soft Shell Crab Tempura. Our medium sized crab arrived in a small basket on a slate tile, accompanied by shaved daikon radish and salt in a length of bamboo. The crab was cooked just until done, and I could still taste the salty brine of the sea in each tender morsel.
The sushi is indeed the best in the Bow Valley. I have never tasted sushi this good in Calgary or even Vancouver. They serve Tataki style sushi (where the fish is briefly seared, but raw in the middle) and the nigiri they make literally melts in your mouth, it is so fresh. The Toro (tuna belly) is a total must-try, buttery and delectable. The special Unagi (barbequed eel) roll is a must-try as well -- rice and seaweed rolled around deep-fried rice vermicelli, and topped with sweet-salty eel. Heavenly.
My husband also had the teriyaki AAA beef, and I had the house-made tofu teriyaki. You have to order rice separately, and both dishes come with sauteed veggies on red-hot cast iron plates. The beef teriyaki was full of flavor and came with spicy sauce (by request) and the tofu was as tender and delicate as scrambled eggs.
Banff National Park Hotels
Friend's of mine were visiting Alberta so we decided to splurge and share a room at the Fairmont...more
This is a fantastic place to stay if you are on a budget. The rooms are well equip with everything...more
Icefields Parkway (Highway #93 North), (formerly Columbia Icefield Chalet), T1L 1J3, Canada
Good for: Solo
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