Image credited to Banff Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka Photography
Apr 6, 2016 by Michael Cochrane
Planning a holiday is not totally unlike writing a song, there are good songs and then there are great songs. Equally so, there are good holidays that you will talk about over the next year or two, and then there are those true classics that will linger on your mind for decades. But what does it take to compose that perfect holiday?
If your means of travel represents the beat, your accommodations the melody, and the activities you have planned are equal to the lyrics, then you have really put something together. Though, maybe it feels like something is still missing, that feature which will resonate throughout your flawless escape. Just as the perfect chorus separates a tune from a timeless classic, an harmonious dining experience is just the thing that will turn your everyday vacation into a legendary getaway.
Don’t let the town’s size put you off, for Banff serves up true culinary bliss prepared by expert hands and is set among one of the most pristine landscapes on the planet. This article will escort you to some of the not to be missed tables in the town ranging from good old greasy spoons to cloth and candle bistros. If you aren’t hungry going into this article, I can guarantee you will be by the end of it.
We are going to kick off the article by featuring some of our top pics for the most important meal of the day. With a seemingly endless selection of activities to keep you busy while in Banff, you would be wise to get in a hearty breakfast before striking out.
Our first point of call would have to be the family run and critically regarded Ticino Swiss-Italian restaurant which has been an institution in the town since 1974. Representing cuisine of the region north of Milan straddling the boarders of Switzerland and Italy, you are going to be sure to walk away satisfied after your meal. You will be treated to true hospitality upon entering the restaurant’s warm and welcoming interior. Locally owned by the Widmer family, you would be doing your trip a real disservice if you did not stop by for a sampling of their breakfast menu. Have a taste of European inspired morning dishes where you will discover tones of Swiss, Italian, and Spanish cuisine. Particularly well known for their assortment of gourmet Valbella smoked meats, Ticino is certainly a gem that needs to be experienced in the flesh.
Interior of Ticino’s Swiss-Italian Restaurant
Venture off Banff Avenue high street towards the picturesque Bow River and you will eventually find yourself standing in front of the cozy Melissa’s Missteak Restaurant, situated in a building which has been landmark in town for 88 years. The wooden chalet like interior makes for a welcoming atmosphere any time of the day, but where Melissa’s has really made a name for itself is in their assortment of hearty breakfast options. The rich selection of Bennies, eggs any style and of course pancake varieties has been drawing in locals for decades, and pleasing visitors from around the globe.
Exterior of Melissa’s Missteak Restaurant
Interior of Melissa’s Missteak Restaurant
Also located towards the southern end of town and relatively new on the scene you will find Tooloulou’s, a Cajun, Creole inspired restaurant whose name means fiddler crab. The venue has developed a reputation for the freshness of their ingredients, huge selection of “Hot Shotz” and glowing praise on numerous travel sites such as Trip Advisor and Yelp, touting it as having a memorable breakfast experience. You certainly won’t be left wanting in terms of selection when you feast your eyes on the extensive breakfast menu which clearly goes out of its way to please any and all tastes for that sweet or savoury morning meal.
Front View of Tooloulous Restaurant
Breakfast Waffles at Tooloulous Restaurant
As you begin your journey out of town heading towards Banff’s local lifts at Mt. Norquay, be sure to set a little time aside before your ascent up the slopes for one of the wonderful breakfasts offered by the Juniper Bistro. Located just north of the town with stunning views of Mount Rundle, namesake to our own grand Rundle Stone Lodge, you will be floored by their gourmet eggs including the signature Juniper benny, distinctive stuffed French toast, and hearty steak and eggs breakfast. Drink in the local landscape while enjoying a hot coffee or tea and mull over the endless possibilities for the day ahead while supping on what some describe as the best breakfast in Banff. Also worth considering is Juniper for their dinner list which will certainly have your jaw on the table while studying their Gnocchi, Mackerel, or signature Juniper Burger. Traveller’s Tip: During winter season, Tri-Pass holders receive 50% discount on breakfast.
Enjoy Great Views at the Juniper Bistro
Enjoy Great Views at the Juniper Bistro
On the lookout for sweet and savoury morning options that are not to be overlooked? With expertly prepared eggs and fluffy delicacies originating from the restaurant’s crepe pans and griddles, you would do well to find your way into the welcoming atmosphere prepared by El Toro restaurant located just footsteps away from our own Red Carpet Inn on the Banff Avenue High Street. Known for their utmost dedication to customers, you will note a welcome not unlike one you might expect from family as the restaurant enthusiastically offers open arms for all into their warm and comfortable dining area.
Breakfast at El Toro
Wild Flour Bakery is a real hub for foodies in Banff and latte lovers right at the town’s core. Whether you are after a delectable fresh-baked muffin or white chocolate and cranberry scone to go with your morning organic caffeine injection, this is a place for locals and tourists alike. Guests are greeted warmly by attendants and a real cottage feel. Perhaps you are more on the lookout for a savoury option? Once again, Wild Flour certainly won’t disappoint. The bakery has set itself on a cornerstone of artisan breads and baked goods made on site in their large stone hearth oven. Laden with mouth-watering panini, wraps, salads and homemade soups, the Wild Flower blooms onto our list as a must visit breakfast and lunch stop.
Organic Bread & Coffee at Wild Flour Bakery
Wake to a Nice Cup of Cappuccino at Wild Flour
The town of Banff has successfully chiselled out a name for itself in terms of hospitality, luxury accommodation, unsurpassed outdoor recreation, and of course tantalizing dining options. Curators throughout have recognized that visitors come to experience as many daytime adventures as possible. With that in mind, we have dug up a few delectable lunch tables to keep you nourished and your taste buds singing while your recharge for the second half of your day.
Looking for a rich selection of java from around the globe and fresh deli style sandwiches during your midday breather? Head down to the southern hub of Banff Avenue and you will have your pick from two of the locally owned and operated Evelyn’s Coffee Bars, both of which are happy to warm your bones before you set back off into our stunning Albertan terrain. Owner Wout Pauw describes his and his Wife’s establishment as very friendly offering freshly made delicacies each and every day. Serving up an assortment of lighter options such as freshly baked cakes and sweets in addition to their more filling menu of artisan sandwiches along with homemade soups and salads will certainly leave you with energy to spare as you get back on your feet.
Great Coffee & Lunch at Evelyn’s
Find yourself wanting for something a little smokier and perhaps char grilled to rejuvenate your adventurous spirit? You may want to take a stroll down to Caribou Street at the southern end of Banff Avenue and pay a visit to Eddie Burger Bar. Once there the team will help you select between their custom built masterpieces where you can choose from one of their Alberta Angus, Elk, Bison, Chicken, or Vegetarian Patties. Wash it all down with a signature blended milkshake, crafted cocktail, or something from their draft selection and you might just consider returning for dinner.
Enjoy a Beer & Burger for Lunch at Eddie Burger Bar
Fancy a Caesar with your Lunch at Eddie’s?
Nothing says warm lunch like a piping hot thin crust pie with bubbling mozzarella and stacked with the freshest ingredients you can find. If I have managed to pique your interest, you would do well to have a gander at the Bear Street Tavern, located on, (You guessed it!) Bear Street tucked snugly between the southern end of Banff Avenue and the picturesque Bow River Trail. Known for a packed selection of thin crust pizzas which are delicately constructed by their in house forno gurus, the casual atmosphere also offers a collection of other tavern favourites to suit all tastes.
Fantastic Pizza at the Bear Street Tavern
Our next restaurant has been saved for the end of the lunch list not because we feel it lacks anything in terms of ingredients or taste, but because it makes such a delightful transition from your midday meal to supper. Offering sublime comfort food to coax anyone in from the great outdoors, Nourish Bistro has made a name for itself by presenting a special array of dishes prepared by expert hands while supported by friendly and knowledgeable staff. The restaurant has received glowing customer reviews on Trip Advisor, Zomato, and Yelp, and by the way, did we mention that it’s entirely vegetarian menu has won praise from print sources such as the Calgary Herald. This alternative venue will queue up your taste buds for an unforgettable experience.
The Food is Fantastic at the Nourish Bistro. Check out the Burritos!
The Food is Fantastic at the Nourish Bistro. Check out the Nachos!
As you find your day coming to a close, with a feeling of satisfaction at all that you have accomplished, there is really only one thing left to top off all those new experiences, and that is an unforgettable dinner! Once again, the unique town of Banff has proven itself up to the challenge, offering epicurean delights accompanied by genuine Canadian hospitality.
Not to be missed on your journey to our wonderful town is the long-established, and locally praised “El Toro Restaurant”. Their eclectic menu derives its inspiration from Latin, Spanish, and Canadian roots with breakfast options that have been bringing guests back for more than 30 years. Spend a few minutes on Trip Advisor and you will discover page after page of rave reviews from satisfied diners. Adhering to only the most rigorous expectations when sourcing their meat, El Toro has been flooring guests with their exceptional grill work of which particular note has been given to the wildly popular Chateaubriand.
El Toro Scallops
Cheesecake for Dessert at El Toro’s
Looking to capture a bit of Mediterranean hospitality while exploring the sweeping panoramas of Banff and its surroundings? Make your way south down the main drag, beyond Caribou Street and gambol up a short flight of stairs into the warm and unique atmosphere you will find at Balkan Restaurant. Once inside you will be greeted by great hospitality, award winning cocktails, and Greek inspired cuisine including braised meats, herb infused vegetables, and a vegetarian Moussaka which chimes overtures of authentic Mediterranean home cooking. The friendly and vibrant atmosphere in addition to the occasional belly dancer is sure to make your experience a memorable one.
Live Dancing at the Balkan Greek Restaurant
Food Plate at the Balkan Greek Restaurant
Located outside the main hub of town on the inspirational campus of the Banff Centre of Excellence you will find the luxurious “Three Ravens Restaurant and Wine Bar”, which grants guests exceptional culinary delights, highly competent and knowledgeable experts, and some utterly breath-taking scenery. Having already won high praise from an assortment of critics, guests can expect to be greeted by a menu that accentuates all the possible highlights of the freshest Canadian meat, fish and produce, all of which is topped off with a generous and artistically chosen wine list. Their dessert menu is no trifle of an accomplishment either, allowing guests the rare opportunity of multi sample platters which will be inspiring most towards a prompt return.
Dining at the Three Ravens Restaurant. Image credited to Banff Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka Photography.
Dining at the Three Ravens Restaurant. Image credited to Banff Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka Photography.
A visit to the Rocky Mountains would not be complete without an authentic dining experience in the ultimate alpine backdrop. For that reason, The Maple Leaf Grill is a must stop for a sampling of carefully selected Alberta beef, game, and fresh coastal seafood. You will be immediately drawn in by the warm and woody interior, grand fire place and tasteful décor which will make your eventual departure a real struggle. The restaurant’s menu definitely leans towards a more carnivorous diet, however, its seafood, gnocchi, and stroganoff alternatives promise that most diners should be able to discover a gem on their list to enjoy.
Dining at the Maple Leaf Restaurant. Image credited to Banff Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka Photography.
Also to be considered is Ticino’s as a truly unforgettable and masterfully catered dinner alternative. Affectionately considered by many locals for its singular Fondues, guests would be remiss not to keep in mind their assortment of options or simply multiple visits in order to best experience the breadth of this multinational menu. Adhering to their dedication of Swiss-Italian cuisine it would be ill advised not visit this established institution without devoting at least some of your appetite to their utterly delectable dessert menu.
Ticino’s Chicken Breast
Ticino’s Elk Dish
With a history entrenched in Banff itself, Bumpers is a place that you will really be able to sink your teeth into. Located inside the Rundlestone Lodge, the fare on offer here, while it has changed location over the years, has been satisfying guests since 1975. Long practiced in sending diners out for their daily excursions after a generous and satisfying breakfast, Bumpers is more than just a one trick pony. Known for their amply proportioned salad bar and sought after for plates such as their “Pile O’ Bones” and Prime Rib cuts, guests are treated to that traditional Sunday supper feel that will have them fondly remembering family dinners of years gone by. Add to that the fact that the management demands only the highest quality cut of AAA Alberta beef should see guests flocking to Bumpers’ door for years to come.
A Modern Makeover for a Banff Institution, Bumpers the Beef House
As with all of the delights that make the town an utterly unique destination, it is our aim that you and your companions leave without a doubt in your mind that you had an unprecedented and memorable journey. It is our absolute pleasure to welcome guests from all over the world and to greet innumerable cultures and tastes into our outdoor wonderland, then back inside again to re-energise. Part of the experience of being an indelible host is to provide our guests with the facilities and recommendations for an ultimate dining experience so they may take as much love for Banff away with their hearts as they do with their stomachs. It is our ultimate goal to help you compose a timeless holiday that will remain a classic in your mind for years to come, and with luck will develop into more than a one hit wonder, because at the end of the day, a satisfied customer is music to our ears.