As a tourist or visitor to a new location, choosing somewhere to eat can be nothing short of overwhelming. With so many options to choose from, and often not enough research done before the trip, it can be easy to spot a restaurant chain and settle for something familiar. However, the beauty of visiting a new place is the ability to immerse yourself in the culture of that area, and to experience the places the locals like to enjoy. In Alberta, Banff National Park welcomes millions of visitors from near and far, and that’s why this beautiful mountain town is a culinary mecca worth talking about.
Along Banff Avenue and the interwoven side streets, there are a variety of restaurants within close proximity, leaving tourists with a tough decision: should we go left, or should we go right? Leave A Trace has put together this article to help make your next visit an easy and delicious culinary journey. We have highlighted some dining establishments and menu items that, as locals to the area, we feel you need to experience. Click on any of the restaurant names for a link to their menu!
When creating this list, splitting it into two categories made the most sense:
1) Dress Shirt Recommended
2) Dress Shirt Optional
Dress Shirt Recommended
1888 Chop House – The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
The Chop House has an amazing selection of famous Alberta steaks and a great wine and sparkling selection to go with it. Although focused on prime cuts of Alberta beef, there is a great selection of sustainably sourced wild game and Ocean Wise seafood. It’s got a wonderful atmosphere and knowledgeable staff which are both sure to impress. When it’s on special, we think that the Waygu beef is the must-have, but you really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu!
Hours: Tues – Sun 6pm – 9pm
Opa! The Balkan has an incredible menu that satisfies all of your Greek cravings. The lamb shank is so good that every time you order it, the meat falls right off the bone. The Feats of Hercules dish allows you to choose three of chicken, top sirloin, pork or lamb, which then gets skewered with veggies and served with roast potatoes, rice pilaf, homemade pita and garlic tzatziki. Between the selection of Greek wines and the well-crafted cocktail menu, you won’t have trouble finding a drink to compliment your meal. Want some fun for the family or an exciting date night? Be sure to make a reservation on a Tuesday or Thursday as there’s a belly dancer that will have you dancing around the restaurant and smashing plates on the wall in no time!
Lunch: 11am – 3:30pm; Dinner: 3:30pm – close
Duck, steak, chicken, pork, fish, oysters, The Maple Leaf offers it all and does an excellent job of doing it all well. Their famous game platter is a must-try. They also pride themselves on having the largest wine selection in Banff with over 700 bottles to choose from. If you know your stuff, or if you just want to pretend you do, this is an amazing dinner spot with excellent drink options right in the heart of Banff. Keep an eye out for the various event that The Maple Leaf hosts too! Lobster Fest and The Big Taste are two of the big ones.
Enjoy the appetizers selection and entrées, but be sure to save room for dessert. The Maple Leaf’s feature dessert is a hot chocolate soufflé, and it’s absolutely worth the 20 minute prep time.
Lunch: 11am – 3pm; Dinner: 5pm – close
Dress Shirt Optional
The Waldhaus Pub – The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
If you are just visiting the area for the day, it could be easy to miss this hidden gem nestled in the woods behind the historic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. The building, which consists of a fine dining restaurant on the upper level and a Bavarian-inspired pub on the lower level, acted as the clubhouse for the golf course up until 1989. With its rich history, the Waldhaus Pub not only boasts a great pub menu, but also provides a quaint and cozy atmosphere, similar to what could be experienced in Europe. The menu includes a pork schnitzel sandwich, a bratwurst selection, cheese fondue, a pretzel sampler, and their “Best in the Bow Valley” award-winning chicken wings. Authentic Hacker Pschorr beers are on tap along with a wide selection of other beverages. The Waldhaus is a sneaky spot to watch the game as well, as there are two 70+ inch TVs.
Hours: Weekdays 4pm – 11pm; Weekends 11am-11pm
Arguably the best pizza in Banff. Bear Street Tavern has an amazing menu, but their pizzas are their bread and butter. There are many different options, some of which you’ve never seen before, but you really can’t go wrong. They have a secret dipping sauce that you would never have thought of either. Step 1: Make a circle on your side plate with honey; Step 2: Pour some chilli oil in the centre of the honey; Step 3: Dip and enjoy! If you eat at the Tavern on a Sunday or Monday, those amazing pizzas are only $10. Eat there on Tuesday and for $10 those pizzas turn into calzones! Interested in a cocktail? There’s a great selection and an underrated patio to enjoy them on.
Hours: Daily 11:30am – close
Thank you to Anna Robi Photography for the picture.
Sushi House, better known as Sushi Train, is right in the heart of Banff, just off Banff Avenue. Everyone is seated side by side in a semi-circle bar, waiting for the train to go by with the chef’s simple yet delicious creations. With no more than 20 seats available, this hot spot also allows for takeout for those who can’t snag a seat. The quality of the fish is incredible, especially when you remember that you’re surrounded by mountains and not an ocean, and the staff are amazing.
Magpie and Stump provides the perfect combination of a fun atmosphere and great tasting food. This Mexican-themed spot has the best burritos, quesadillas, tacos and nachos in Banff. If you sit on the bar side, you’ve got bottomless peanuts to tide you over until your feast arrives. Along with the amazing food, you’ve got a selection of Mexican beers and a long list of authentic cocktails to choose from! If you’re lucky enough to be in Banff for Cinco De Mayo (May 5th), the Magpie should be at the top of your list.
Hours: Daily 11:30am – 2am
Park is a recent addition to Banff Avenue, and this multi-level restaurant not only pumps out great food, but also operates as a distillery for vodka, gin, and rye. The “camp fire” inspired cuisine is both rustic and delicious. Our favourite picks include the chicken sandwich, a two hander that can be quite a mess, the Twenty-Five Dollar Burger loaded with cheese and bacon, topped with homemade ribs, and the calamari appetizer, lightly fried and served with tzatziki on the side. Park features a bar and patio on both levels of the restaurant, and an outstanding cocktail menu. If you only have time for a beverage, be sure to stop by and enjoy a Caesar made with Park’s own chilli-vodka, or better yet, try a refreshing Fi Fi’s Mule.
Park offers free Distillery tours daily at 2pm and 3pm.
Hours: Daily 11:30am – close
Thank you to Anna Robi Photography for the picture.
The restaurants above are a collection of our favourite spots in Banff from a local’s point of view, but that definitely doesn’t mean there aren’t others to try! Other locals may suggest heading up to Eden at the Rimrock Hotel for an incredible five course meal, visiting The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel for sushi at Samurai, or for wine and cheese at Grapes! The views around Banff are incredible regardless of where you are, but if you want a meal with an amazing one that you’ll never forget, you could stop in at either the Three Ravens Restaurant on the third floor of the Sally Borden Building at The Banff Centre, or the patio at The Juniper Bistro.
As you can seen, there are many options, but hopefully we’ve helped you find at least one place to make your visit to Banff National Park just a little more delicious!
Bonus Category: Best Morning Spots
White Bark Café: Maybe the best coffee in town, great baked snacks and breakfast options, sweet patio
Wild Flower: Great specialty coffee, bake their own bread, great breakfast sandwiches, sweet patio
Mel’s: Great sit-down breakfast, eggs every way you can imagine, lots of options
The Maple Leaf: Classic bacon and eggs breakfast is amazing, good spot for a breakfast Caesar
Bruno’s: Great hangover cure, all the classic breakfast options, delicious hashbrowns
Tooloulous: Amazing and refreshingly different breakfast menu with the classics still available, sweet patio
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