Banff is a tiny town that packs a big culinary punch.
Don't miss the chance to partake in all the gastronomical joy this Rocky Mountain town has to offer. Just take the time to research what's out there and then make the reservations because these places get busy.
One of Canada's top attractions, Banff draws millions of people a year to its national park, glaciers, lakes, and mountains. A wide range of restaurants abound to keep people fed and watered, but a tourist town is a minefield of tourist traps. Deciphering among the good, the bad and the ugly can be tough, especially when you're hungry.
So we've done a round-up of our favourites. From plant-based to fondue to meat-centric restaurants, here is our list of the 10 best places to eat in Banff.
Tooloulou’s for Cajun
A real crowd pleaser in downtown Banff, Tooloulou's specializes in Louisiana comfort food like po' boys, gumbo, crawfish and other heart stoppers. You can hardly believe - given the breadth of the menu - the kitchen staff can whip up such delicious meals so quickly. Tooloulou's has service down to a fine art and they make it fun. Breakfast is extremely popular and often has a lineup, so get there early. But get there!
Bruno’s Bar and Grill for Breakfast
Breakfast is a bit of a "thing" in Banff. Maybe because everyone is fueling up for a big day in the mountains, morning meal spots abound and many do it really right.
Bruno's Bar and Grill is one such place that serves a killer breakfast and mounds of it at a reasonable price. Veggie options are available yet the menu is definitely pig heavy.
If you miss breakfast, worry not. Bruno's is open throughout the day and into the wee hours of the morning serving up diner-type fare like burgers and sandwiches.
Nourish Bistro for Veggie Lovers
Providing a welcome "yin" to all the Alberta beef "yang," Nourish Bistro features vegetarian and plant-based cuisine inspired by local ingredients.
Nourish Bistro gets pretty busy but not just because vegan and vegetarian options are limited in Banff. The chefs at this perfectly lovely, delightfully comfortable restaurant turn foods like fettuccine and even cheesecake into plant-based masterpieces. Stop shaking your head and just give it a try. You will be a believer.
Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel for Ambiance
AddressBanff, AB T0L, Canada
Though the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel rates are not unreasonable for the type of luxury accommodation it provides, not everyone cares to splurge to stay there. Nevertheless, a visit to this historic building is a must when in Banff and one way to soak up the ambiance is by having a meal or drink at one of the on-site restaurants.
The Bow Valley Grill breakfast or brunch buffet (reopens for dinners in summer 2017) is a bit of a splurge at $32 per person for the breakfast buffet during the week and $46 for Sunday brunch (prices as of 2017) but does offer a spectacular spread of hot and cold foods, excellent service, and glorious views of Banff National Park. This is a decent return on investment for a special Banff experience, especially if you have kids, who always get what they want at a buffet (children under 13 are half price).
Another option is to go to the Rundles Lounge for afternoon tea. Don't let the Victorian formality fool you. Youngsters are more than welcome and can enjoy "prince" or "princess" tea, scones, and sandwiches right along with the adults (and at half the price).
Reservations are recommended for any dining at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.
Grizzly House for Fun & Fondue
The Grizzly House menu says, "For Lovers and Hedonists." This will either frighten or entice you, but from the moment our host Francis greeted us, we knew this restaurant was more than just a place to eat food. The Grizzly House wants to activate many of your senses, including tickling your funny bone. The experience may be more novelty than serious gastronomy but this longstanding Banff establishment is doing something right because it's a perennial hotspot.
Shared fondue is the house specialty. Meat, which ranges from local Alberta beef to more exotic kangaroo and ostrich, is grilled on hot rocks right at the table.
Further adding to the jovial atmosphere, rotary phones at each table are relics from the restaurant's "swinging" heyday in the 1970s but still work. Wonder what delicious dessert your neighbour is eating? Dial up and ask.
Wild Flour Bakery for Your Daily Kale
Not every meal has to be a big sit-down, wallet-gutting ordeal. Sometimes you want to just fill up fast on something healthy and tasty and that's where Wild Four Bakery hits the spot.
Fresh soups, salads, homemade bread and pastries, coffee and hot chocolate are all on the menu to take away or have at one of the few tables that overlook Banff's Bear Avenue.
Don't know what they do to the kale at Wild Flour. Massage it perhaps? Talk nice? Whatever they do, the kale salad is divine.
Of course, if you haven't tried a Nanaimo Bar - an "only in Canada" specialty, second only to poutine in popularity amongst tourists - Wild Flour is more than worthy for your first time.
La Terrazza for Authentic Italian
The in-house restaurant of the Banff Park Lodge, La Terrazza has all the trappings of a fine Italian restaurant, including fresh, delicious food homemade with local ingredients. Hotel restaurants get a bad rap, but La Terrazza is not just a place to feed overnight guests mediocre grub. It's the real deal, standing impressively on its own merit.
The warm, spacious dining room is comfortable but not fussy. Menu items include typical Italian fare, like seafood, meats, pasta, wine and scrumptious desserts.
Chuck’s Steakhouse for Alberta Beef
Alberta is famous for its beef and there is no shortage of it at Banff restaurants. Like many of the best steakhouses, Chuck's offers its steaks "a la carte" and treats the steak selection process with reverence. Staff will dazzle you with their knowledge of local farms, marbling, grades, and cuts. All steaks are expertly grilled on an open flame. Side dishes are sold separately.
Also like many of the best steakhouses, Chucks is big on ambiance. Its Western theme extends to wood panelling and overhead beams, comfortable leather chairs, Navaho prints and wall art. The cozy, slightly macho interior is mellowed by lots of natural light, afforded by the abundant corner-lot windows.
And finally, like the best steakhouses, Chucks ain't cheap. Expect to drop close to Cdn$100 per person for steak, sides, wine and shared dessert.
Eden for Fine French Cuisine
Eden is renowned for its delicately crafted French cuisine, influenced by fresh local ingredients. Eden has been honoured since 2003 with AAA/CAA 5-Diamond and “Best of Award of Excellence” Wine Spectator awards.
If you want a splurge, Eden fits the bill. The luxurious atmosphere, exquisite decor, and mountain backdrop divinely complement the delectable, multi-course menus that include a chef's tasting menu, Table D'hote menus and the grand 10-course Degustation Menu.
Eden even caters to vegetarians, offering them their own tasting menu.
Of course, the wine flows at Eden and a certified sommelier is on hand to help you choose from one of the 17,000 bottles of wine the restaurant has in its cellar.
Juniper Bistro for Yummy Food Every Time
The Juniper Hotel Bistro gives its diners one of the best vantage points of Banff National Park, including of the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. Enjoying a view of the famous "Castle in the Rockies" while sipping a chilled Pinot Grigio is almost as good as staying there. Almost.
On a nice day, try for a seat on the outdoor patio. It's one of the nicest in Banff.
But this restaurant has its outstanding reputation for more than just its view of the mountains. The Juniper Hotel Bistro makes yummy, creative food, and pleasant, professional waitstaff serve it. Straightforward, consistently. What more could you ask for?