Banff National Park is objectively one of the most beautiful places in the world. At the foot of the Canadian Rockies, there really is something magical in the air at all times of the year. While the ski slopes and turquoise lakes have been pulling in steady streams of visitors, we think that the burgeoning food scene is worth a visit on its own. We have devised what we think is the best way a gourmand can spend 24 hours eating their way across the park. Just remember to bring your stretchy pants!
Breakfast at Coyotes
If you want a real taste of Banff, we recommend starting the day bright and early with breakfast at Coyotes. It is an absolute staple and one of the best loved spots downtown. The menu contains all of your favourites, including a dedicated Benny list for lovers of buttery hollandaise. You want pancakes? You got it! You want coffee? Your server will keep it coming, rest assured. Our personal recommendation is a fresh pressed orange and ginger juice to give your morning a little zing, accompanied by the signature Huevos Rancheros. We would suggest a single order because you have lots of eating to do today. But then, aren’t rules there to be broken?
The Bow River is particularly beautiful in the morning and in high summer season, it is best to get a stroll down by the river in early. We are not saying you should get a Beavertail to enjoy by the water, but if that is what your heart is telling you, you can never go wrong with classic lemon and sugar. Nature and nostalgia; what could be better?
Lunch at Block
Block may be small but it is mighty! Busting with unique flavours, Block’s popular Mediterranean fare comes replete with funky fusion flavours from all corners of the globe. Block is a restaurant fronted by Chef Stéphane Prévost who likes to warn visitors that the cosy space may cause friendships, so it may be your perfect chance to strike up a conversation with a local. Speaking of local, Block is dedicated to sustainability and brings as many locally sourced ingredients to the mix as possible, which is especially present in their cocktails, or “Blocktails” as they like to call them! We wholeheartedly recommend the inventive Unbeetable, which features local beets, gin from the only distillery in a Canadian National Park, the aptly named Park, and chickpea brine in place of egg white. You absolutely must try the Red Devil Calamari; it was impossibly tender and arguably some kind of park magic, considering how far from the ocean Block is! Bock is well known for their lunchtime flatbreads and we were in love with the Golden Beet and Za’atar offering. Save some room for desert, though. The White Chocolate Matcha Mousse Coup will have you swooning for days.
Tunnel Mountain Trail
Okay, so you are full? We get it. Luckily you are in a beautiful national park and the trail opportunities from Downtown Banff are very accessible. If you want medium effort, high view payoff, the Tunnel Mountain Trail is for you. It will take you around two hours round-trip from Block to the summit and back if you are keeping a good pace, but if your full belly only allows for a slow ramble, be our guest! The views are best enjoyed at leisure, anyway. Wave hello to the Fairmont Banff Springs which you will pass on the right on your assent and start to get thirsty as you pass it again on your way back down. I bet you can guess what is coming next…
Vermillion Room at Fairmont Banff Springs
There is no way you can take a trip to Banff without visiting the Baronial castle that is the Fairmont Banff Springs. The Vermillion Room is a Art Deco style Brassiere with a beautiful menu and devine cocktail list. For a touch of class to match the views, we recommend the Lumière, with Wild Life gin, St-Germain, Chartreuse, lime juice, Angostura Bitters. The Fairmont Banff Springs is also home to a unique food tour if you have room; the Beef Tartare from the 1888 Chop House is a particular delight and is a chance to taste that much famed Alberta Beef. Plus, Alberta Food Tours will teach all about the history of the magnificent castle, interweaved with its food story. Did you know the Banff Springs has a zero waste policy? Educational and delicious, it is worth investigating, but if you would rather sit back and relax in the comfort and class of the Vermillion Room with your Lumière, we wouldn’t dream of judging you.
Dinner at the Sky Bistro
A trip up Sulphur Mountain really is a must while you are in Banff. The reason is threefold; one, the mountain is home to the hot spring that defined Banff’s history as a destination, two, the views from the mountain are absolutely breathtaking and, best of all, three, the mountaintop is home to one of the most delightful restaurants you will ever dine at, Sky Bistro. Cochon555 winner, Chef Scott Harnot, runs a team in the clouds who will serve you farm to summit delights as you watch the epic theatre of nature outside your window. The menu is seasonal and sustainable so always changing, but highlights for us include the gorgeous Sweet Potato Gnocchi, the Salmon from First Nations Kuterra Farms served with a delectable citrus butter as well as wild rice and rapini, and of course you’ll need to complete the set with something sweet like an All-Canadian Butter Tart! There is something magical about charging a glass 7,500ft in the sky, and you can do so with excellent Canadian wine here too. Our personal favourite was BC Winery Burrowing Owl’s Athene 2015, a ravishing red. Of course if cocktails and sunsets are your thing, the Sky Bistro has you covered, too.
A Post-Dinner Dip at Mount Royal
Life is as hard as you make it! If you want to decompress before bed in the newly renovated rooftop hot tub at the Mount Royal hotel, we’ll encourage you. If you want to do so with a glass of cold prossecco in hand, we will straight up applaud you for living your best life. Roof-top mountain views and a glass of fizz? Cheers to that!
I LOVED Banff, and I think you will too. No matter what time of year you visit, the food scene is thriving! So if you would like to taste Banff, www.banfflakelouise.com