When you are choosing among all of the fine Banff restaurants, you will find that they have the full range of price points and culinary experiences available. And simply because Banff happens to be in Alberta does not mean that you can only find beef on the menu in its restaurants, although admittedly you can't do much better than the beef in Banff's restuaurants! Plus, there is just something about being out in the fresh air (even if it is just to shop on Banff Avenue) that makes food just taste better in Banff...
Rather than attempt to categorize Banff's restaurants arbitrarily into the usual dining categories (i.e. asian, asian fusion, contemporary, french contemporary, etc), we will simply divide them into "Great Dining Restaurants" and "Great Pubs" and then set out the bare facts for each restaurant so that you can let your stomach decide. Food purists may disagree with our methodology, but as we are only recommending our favourites, we hope they will forgive us and just get down to eating. Since most of Banff's restaurants are within four blocks of each other, you can easily print this page off and take it with you as you wander in search of breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Great Dining Restaurants
What better place to start than Le Beaujolais, a french restaurant on the second floor of the corner of Banff Avenue and Buffalo Street, at the end of Banff Avenue closest to the Bow River and the Administration Building that has been a mainstay in the Town since the early 80s. Open for lunch and dinner, the food, wine, service, and, as with most restarants or places in Banff, the view, are all extraordinary. Naturally, this translates to a bill that will be a bit more than someone on a beer and burger budget would be willing to splurge on, but we can, without hesitation, recommend Le Beaujolais as one of the best restaurants in Banff, Canmore, and Calgary combined. You can order a la carte or simply pick from the three and six course menus as well if you are willing to let Le Beaujolais' capable hands take your taste buds on a hike.
To get a better glimpse of the restaurant and the menu, click on this link.
THE GRIZZLY HOUSE
If you take a stroll down Banff Avenue, there is no way you can miss The Grizzly House (207 Banff Avenue): the smell of fondue and meat sizzling on hot rocks, together with the lines to get in, piques everybody's interest in this Banff restaurant. If you are in the mood for a slightly more smoky (from the fondue, not people smoking) and fun atmosphere, take a table at The Grizzly House. In addition to the excellent fare, you can telephone strangers at tables across the room, as every table has a phone and table map. Perhaps you are interested in how their meal is going or someone striking is giving you "the eye" from across the room ... Those looking for a slightly more intimate meal can ask for the partitioned table, which has a flag that you can raise and lower when you want attention from the wait staff (be warned, however, as there is also a phone in there!).
Check out The Grizzly House's menu here.
THE KEG STEAKHOUSE & BAR
With two restaurants in Banff (one located downtown at 117 Banff Avenue across from McDonalds and one located in The Caribou Lodge at 521 Banff Avenue), you can take care of your craving for steak no matter what end of Town you are in. The downtown Keg is open from 4pm on, but the Caribou Keg is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. As one of our Insiders can attest to having worked at the Keg for three years, the best way to enjoy the Keg is to eat like it's Fat Tuesday and you are in Rio: just enjoy yourself and the fact that the delicious flavours you are tasting are on the fatty and buttery side. If you aren't planning on driving, take the plunge and make your drinks "Keg-Sized". For maximum value, you can't go wrong with the Keg Classic Dinners (sirloins, filets, and New Yorks) that come with a full size "starter" salad and veggies. The garlic mashed potatoes are a must as well, especially if you are relying on your Banff dining experience to power you through a day of hiking or skiing the next day.
THE BALKAN RESTAURANT
The Balkan Restaurant. Talk about great Greek in Banff! Located on Banff Avenue near the MacDonalds (across the street from the Bay), the Balkan has always been a restaurant we liked going to for our Greek-fix, but we admit that it has been a number of years since we were there. We went on a busy Saturday night in May around 8 o’clock without a reservation as we thought it would be after the dinner rush, but the place was packed and bumpin’! As we waited in the bar area with some cocktails for our table to come up, we had a chance to really look at the 100% interior renovation that the Balkan has carried out. The look and feel of the restaurant is culinary contemporary – loft meets Greek restaurant with Greek statuary. Super high ceilings, lovely lighting and a vibrant atmosphere. The food is excellent as well. We ordered their dinner for two because we love sampling all of the great Greek delicacies and we were stuffed to bursting.
The Saltlik is another fine steakhouse (and is the Keg's main competitor among Banff's restaurants) and is located at 221 Bear Street, which is one block off of Banff Avenue. From Banff Avenue, you can either head down Caribou Street and turn right onto Bear, or head down Wolf Street and turn left.
MAPLE LEAF GRILL & LOUNGE
Not surprisingly given its name, the Maple Leaf serves up truly exceptional Canadian cuisine and those feeling adventurous can try out their taste for bison or elk. The menu and wine list are excellent and the interior atmosphere and decor is contemporary lodge-y, making this a must for those seeking out a true Canadian Rockies - Banff dining experience.
Maple Leaf is located at 137 Banff Avenue.
MAGPIE AND STUMP
At 203 Caribou Street, you will stumble upon a Banff restaurant/pub that is really a Tex-Mex restaurant and cantina. However you categorize it, this is one fine restaurant-pub and it is very reasonably priced. The exterior and the interior are finished in dark wood and the well-worn tables, riding regalia, and sombreros will let you indulge your taste for something a bit more old-west and caliente, all at the same time! Open until 2am every night and all you can eat peanuts as an added bonus.
Wild Bill's is another Banff restaurant/pub on the second floor at 201 Banff Avenue and is a large saloon and cookhouse that often has live bands on tap. If you are really getting into the western spirit, you can dance the night away in their dance hall, take line dance and two step lessons, or simply get yourself a seat on their patio and take in the views of Banff Avenue. This restaurant/pub/all 'round good time has tons of seating available, which, in addition to its hearty fare, makes it a good choice if you can't get in anywhere else.
THE ROSE AND CROWN
Like "The Regal Beagle", it seems like every city or town has a Rose and Crown, but that does not mean that you should pass by Banff's Rose and Crown! Located upstairs at 202 Banff Avenue, the Rose and Crown has all of the favourite pub food, drinks, and atmosphere that any pubgoer could want. Particularly lovely for a mid-afternoon or pre-dinner drink ... or two ... or three, heck just stay for dinner too!
Most hotels put on a big breakfast, but Saturdays and Sundays are typically the days you can sleep in late and still have a chance to enjoy a leisurely brunch until early afternoon.
SUNDAY BRUNCH AT THE BANFF SPRINGS
If you have a healthy appetite or really want to do brunch in style, head to the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel for Sunday brunch which is held in the Bow Valley Grill. The range of foods available is amazing and you will definitely not leave hungry. Reservations are recommended as it is only held from 11am to 2pm on Sundays and is very popular with hotel guests as well. Call (403) 762-6860 to reserve.
The Keg located in the Caribou Lodge also puts on an excellent brunch on the weekends. This is also a good spot for breakfast any day of the week, as it is open from 6am to 12am every day of the week.
THE BISON - MOUNTAIN BISTRO
This Banff restaurant has some proper hours for a true brunch - from 10am to 4pm on Saturday and Sunday. Give it a try at 211 Bear Street.
JUST GOOD FOOD - CANMORE BBQ GARDEN
On a recent visit to Canmore, we had a hankering for Korean cuisine and decided to give Canmore BBQ Garden a try. It is located in a strip mall at 1306 Bow Valley Trail in Canmore (Bow Valley Trail runs parallel to the highway). While the decor is a tad tired, the booths are large, the restaurant is clean, and - most importantly - the food is excellent. We had a true taste of Korea, with bibimbap (a rice, egg, and vegetable mountain salad), chapjae (glass noodles and vegetables), bulgogi (marinated beef), and a wonderful spicy seafood soup. As is typical with Korean restaurants, the side dishes of kimchi, candied potato, and shredded daikon were almost a full meal of themselves.
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