Last year I ticked off another item from my bucket list: A visit to the Canadian Rockies. We visited Banff National Park in mid July, an extremely popular time of the year for the park because it’s typically the warmest month all year long (with highs in the 70Fs).
Our home base during our visit was the wonderful Tunnel Mountain Village I Campground (which is run by Parks Canada), just a 10 minute drive to Banff town. We decided not to bring any camp cooking gear with us from Denver, which meant I could happily explore a number of local Banff restaurants and eateries.
Despite it’s small town appearance, Banff is jam-packed with places to eat. Here are my top recommendations for restaurants to snag a table at during your stay in Banff.
Note: All prices are listed in Canadian Dollars.
Park Distillery is a multi-level bar and restaurant overlooking Banff Avenue with a menu inspired by wood fire camp-style cooking and a distinct appreciation for local ingredients and spirits – including those created from their in-house distillery.
The atmosphere is Canadian lumberjack chic, with cozy red and white plaid covered seats, antler adorned chandeliers, and a bar area surrounded by actual logs.
As you would expect, the food carries through on the refined rustic theme. For example, the Tin Foil Trout ($36 half / $70 whole) comes with the trout wrapped in shiny aluminum, sides in cast iron skillets, with some grilled lemon and broccoli rabe adorning the sides of the wood cutting board that acts as the sturdy serving tray for the entire meal.
Items like the Rotisserie Chicken with campfire drippings gravy ($16.50 quarter / $23 half / $44 whole) and the Crispy Cauliflower ($17.25) may be plated more traditionally, but still embody the restaurant’s casually elegant ethos.
This place can get pretty packed during dinnertime, so either book reservation in advance or arrive early (prior to 5:30pm) to beat the crowds.
Block Kitchen and Bar
Shortly after arriving in Banff town on our first day, we needed to find a place to eat for lunch so we stopped by Block Kitchen and Bar.
This cute little restaurant on Caribou Street features a global menu that is heavy on Asian influence but also pulls in flavors and techniques from South American and European cultures.
I enjoyed my Chilled Ramen Noodle Salad ($15), which came in a nice light Tsuyu seasame broth with slices of Tandoori chicken.
This intimate restaurant has limited seating and does not take reservations, so arrive during off hours or just be prepared to wait during peak meal times.
Balkan the Greek
Balkan the Greek is a great place to eat for vegetarians or those looking for some lighter fare. In fact, we liked this place so much ended up eating here two nights in a row during our stay. The restaurant is spacious, with plenty of seating and a relaxed atmosphere and seems to equally attract families with kids and adult couples.
As someone who doesn’t really drink alcohol, I’m always on the lookout for excellent non-alcoholic beverages and a virgin version of Balkan’s Strawberry Smash ($13) is notable. The mix of lemonade, strawberry purée, and fresh lemon was the ultimate refresher after a long day on the trail and a drink I’m going to try recreating at home.
The restaurant’s strengths lay in their appetizers and small dishes. The Warm Haloumi Salad ($17) came with a pile of mixed greens and grilled vegetables, sprinkled with roasted walnuts, toasted almonds, rosemary balsamic vinaigrette.
The Spanakopita ($15) was another favorite, as was the Grilled Octopus Salad ($16). The Dolmathes ($16.50) were particularly yummy, and since they are using Beyond Meat instead of ground beef, they are completely vegan.
Out of the entrees, I’d fully recommend getting the Gemista ($25), which is an order of a stuffed bell pepper and tomato filled with risotto and feta, served with a small arugula salad.
I found the Linguini Santorini ($29), a pasta dish with prawns, scallops, mussels, garlic, tomatoes in a white wine cream sauce, good, albeit a bit forgettable.
One of the nights I ordered the Athenian Chicken ($32) after getting a glowing recommendation from our server. However, I found the chicken a bit dry, and liked some of our other items much more.
Lake Agnes Tea House
Although technically not in Banff, I’m including the Lake Agnes Tea House in this list as it’s well-entrenched within the boarders of Banff National Park in the small town of Lake Louise.
The Tea House is only open June 4 through October 10: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm and is the most adorable lunchtime or snack stop on the very popular Big Beehive Trail hike. The way to get to the tea house is 3.5km on foot along the Agnes Lake Trail and the log cabin-style structure has a picturesque location on the shore of the lake.
Situated in a remote location, the tea house does not have electricity and the staff hikes in supplies on a daily basis.
During lunchtime the tea house is incredibly busy, with tourists taking up every seat along the wrap-around porch. It’s first-come first-served, so make sure to keep your eyes peeled when people are leaving and snag a spot as soon as you see one.
During our visit, the outside seating area was packed, but I spied through the window that there was an empty table for two inside the tea house, so I ran in and grabbed it. This was particularly clutch on this day since it was a bit chilly, so it was extra pleasant to be sheltered from the wind as we ate our lunch.
The food menu is limited, but sufficient, and much nicer than the meal bars we had in our bags. We shared the Hummus Sandwich ($9), served on hearty bread and mixed with slices of cucumbers, the Soup of the Day ($7.50) — vegetable soup on the day we were there, one Mountain Bar ($5) — a sweet mix of dried raisins, nuts, chocolate chips, coconut, and granola that is touted as a staff favorite, and a pot of tea for two ($7).
The restaurant is cash only so don’t forget to bring your Canadian dollars. (They also take USD, but you’ll pay a little more for using foreign currency.)
Have you made a trip to Banff National Park in Canada? What were some of your favorite spots to eat there? Let me know in the comments.