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Banff and Lake Louise [Moved from Canada board]

Mrs. TravelPath and I are heading for a last minute trip(5 days) to Banff and Lake Louise...With the exception of a reservation at the Post Hotel for one evening, we are clueless where to go...a search on Chowhound came up with very little...Any suggestions for this SoCal chowhound will be greatly appreciated...especially for a great steak! Formal or casual, it does not matter...just good food!!

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  1. You can't go wrong with one night at the Post Hotel. It is an amazing place to stay. If this is your first trip to Banff make sure you visit the Banff Springs Hotel. It is truly a castle in the mountains. As to dining, as Anthony Bourdain says, 'get away from the hotel'. There are some wonderful dining experiences in Banff. For a good steak try Saltlik. They borrowed the name from the Saltlik in the US. Good steaks nevertheless. If you are looking for something more unique in steak, try Fuze Finer Dining http://www.fuzedining.com/ . They have a great indian spice NY strip.

    Work up an appetite by doing some nice fall hiking.

    1. Just as an FYI, Saltlik is a chain - they do decent steaks for sure, and great skinny fries, but if you are more interested in locally sourced restaurants, Saltlik isnt one of them.

      Anyway, some criteria around price, and some details around your preferences would be helpful. In that area, you are basically faced with 4 (even that's a stretch) towns for eating:

      Lake Louise

      Just off the top, not knowing your preferences, my favorites, i would suggest include:

      Crazyweed - Canmore : you can find a lot on crazyweed on the boards, but it's pretty much the best value one can find in canmore (15 minutes outside of Banff). Cheap for lunch, awesome food.

      Quarry - finer dining, it's a great space, with some great attentive service. Good solid food too.

      Bears Paw Pub - i know, it's a pub. But you can't fine dining it all the time. Their appetizers and burgers are good.. im not a huge fan of the rest. But they do their own brewing... and the beer is quite good.

      If you're craving Japanese, the best in town is Chef Studio Japan, but you'll find 100's betterin SoCal...well, LA specifically.

      For Banff, consider Buffalo Mountain Lodge for local game. I like Fuze as well... i found it quite tasty there. The Grizzly House is an interesting experience as well - fondue. It isnt cheap, but when it's cold, a nice bottle of wine, some cheese fondue, and some intimate moments make for a memorable meal. I've had a really nice meal at Beaujolais, but it's on the very high end. Miles always recommends Eden at the Rimrock, but i've never been.

      I like the brunch at the Banff Springs on Sunday's. Yes, it's a fairmont, and yes, it's like every other fairmont hotel brunch, and yes, it's expensive. But it's a nice treat once in a while. And the quality is never lacking.

      Lastly, Golden (about an hour west of Lake Louise) has a bistro that i havent been to for 18 months, but is quite popular with people on the board. It's called Truffle Pigs... and pretty good if you decide to head west on highway 1.

      Anyway, hope that helps. If you can detail more info about your preferences, price range, and how many days you are spending where, people will definitely be able to get you some more specific recommendations.

      1. Truffle Pigs is actually in Field,which is between Lake Louise and Golden. It is quite good.

        I agree with Crazyweed and Quarry in Canmore and with Fuze in Banff. Fuze has a web site at www.fuzedining.com if you want to check out a sample menu.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Richard L

          Truffle Pigs is amazing. We can't believe that something that good exists in the middle of nowhere. We were so fortunate to taste their White Chocolate Macadamian Nut Brulee. Yummy!

        2. It has been over ten years since I have been in the area...and the food scene has certainly changed!...Truffle Pigs sounds very interesting and I have been to a Saltlik(maybe Calgary?)...I remember it being quite good...and the restaurants at the Fairmonts are, well, consistant...I would go for the location and not the food(I did have a good brunch at the Chateau Frontenac)...maybe Lake Louise will surprise us! BTW, we will be staying two nights in Lake Louise and two nights in Banff.

          Thanks for all of the recs...if anyone has a recommendation for an excellent Swiss/fondue restaurant and local game, my wife would be very interested...I know there is one at Lake Louise...any reviews??

          1. Go to the bar in the Rimrock in Banff if you are a fan of single malt whisky. The dining room also had a very good tasting menu when I was there last but that's a couple of year's ago.

            1. We were just in Banff and actually really liked Saltlik. The menu is different upstairs and down- upstairs is more complete, while down is more of a bar with limited steak choices. All of our meal was excellent with the exception of dessert- the chocolate cake seemed to be salty! Totally bizarre.

              There is a fondue place that is part of the Fairmont Banff Springs. It has a lovely view of the golf course and valley is set apart from the main hotel. Very cute.

              1. Walliser Stube at the Fairmont Lake Louise is excellent. The Railroad Restuarant (can't thinkl of the "official" name) in Lake Louise is quite good as well

                1. In Lake Louise, I like the Post, Deer Lodge, and The Glacier Saloon at the Chateau Lake Louise.

                  In Banff, I STRONGLY second the recommendations for Eden, the Grizzly House and Fuze, and also like Typhoon for upscale Asian food.

                  In Canmore, I again STRONGLY second Crazyweed, but I really like Chez Francois and Sage Bistro.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: newJJD

                    I second Deer Lodge at Lake Louise, although I've been there only once four years ago. Fine hearty food including game, great atmosphere of old-mountain-lodge with sophistication, a really good and fairly-priced wine list, and very good service.

                    Deer Lodge photo: http://tinyurl.com/z72um

                  2. I am also a huge Crazyweed fan in Canmore.

                    In Banff, the Fairmont assessments are valid. If you don't feel like brunch at the Bow Valley Grill at the Banff Springs, I recommend trying the dinner buffet at the Bow Valley Grill instead. Quality & choice is excellent and slightly better value. I find I can't eat as much as during brunch.

                    If you do manage to find your way west to Field, go a couple more kilometres and eat at the Emerald Lake Lodge for a more local game experience. Same group of resorts as Deer Lodge in Lake Louise and Buffalo Mountain Lodge in Banff, although you'll get shuttled in from the parking area at Emerald Lake.

                    Have fun!

                    1. I also liked Crazyweed in Canmore. The Grizzly Paw Pub is also where we go when we just want some easy food and good beer. I had an excellent dinner up at Treo in Canmore. The highlight was the bleu cheese cheesecake - one of the best desserts I've ever had! Treo is not downtown, but is across the Trans-Can in the Cougar Creek area.
                      If you're asking about steak places, I don't know if a chowhound can recommend The Keg - it's a Canadian chain. But, at the 2 that I've eaten at (Calgary by the university and the one in Banff), I have had a nice steak, cooked the way I wanted it.

                      1. If you're looking for fondue and game, the Grizzly House is the place to find it. It's expensive, but a neat experience.

                        1. I came back from Banff recently and had a good cheese fondue at the Ticino Swiss-Italian Restaurant


                          It is at the Banff High Country Inn on Banff Avenue, just a short walk from the centre of downtown Banff.

                          1. Last weekend we were staying at the Fairmont in Banff and, not feeling like heading into the ripped-up township, we decided to eat at the Italian restaurant next to the castle called "Castello." We did not have high hopes. The place might as well have "we're pretty awful" painted in giant red letters on the outside of the building. (1) It's part of a hotel (2) it's badly advertised, for example, boasting of "pizza, pasta, and veal," (3) there are no reviews online that we could find (4) there's no menu online and (5) the decor says "hi, welcome to the 1980s." We were expecting Olive Garden food at triple Olive Garden's prices.

                            What a shockingly great meal! I started with lobster ravioli in brown butter sauce, which was fantastic, rich and tasty, topped with a half-dozen pieces of shaved black truffle. For my main course I had lamb two-ways, with a pan-roasted half-rack and a braised, um, shoulder I think it was, which was excellent. My SO had a capresse salad to start which she declared the best she'd had since Tuscany, and then a pasta with puttanesca sauce which she also enjoyed. Presentation was great, too, very modern without pretense.

                            Based on food alone, ignoring aesthetics and service (service was ok, though), I would rank Castello as comparable to Capo, which is the best Italian in Calgary in my opinion. Better, perhaps, as my last couple of meals at Capo were disappointing. Highly recommended hidden gem.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: ChrisA

                              Totally agree with you. One of our best meals was in Banff at Castello, we also had an excellent experience with their food, starting with an excellent minestrone soup, the salad was great too. My husband loved his pasta with puttanesca sauce. From start to finish we have no complains, I can't wait to go again.

                            2. IMO, Beaujolais is the best restaurant in Banff. A French restaurant with one of the best wine cellars in Western Canada.

                              The last time I ate there (last year) they had a 6 course tasting menu with wine pairings, for about $150. Hopefully they still do that.

                              ...Oh and high tea at the Banff Springs is fun...And on a side note I also highly recommend the Willow Stream Spa at the Banff Springs. A wonderful Spa with lots of coed areas and you can have high tea in your robe in their coed lounge after any treatments while looking out at the mountains...so much fun, my wife and I do this and get couples massages twice a year.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Major_9000

                                We've done the high tea tea the Fairmont, it was very nicet, as well as the Willow StreamSpa, we LOVE it. Yes, a wonderful spa experience, we last were there during winter, great experience, and the outdoor pool with snow falling on your head. We never tried Beaujolais, but we heard great things about it. The castle's pantry has great coffee, teas and snacks too. We also has a great Japanese meal at Samurai also at Banff Springs. I CAN'T WAIT to go back.

                              2. If you are hankering after a burger, Saltlik's is a great choice - I know it's a local chain but not much beats their Alberta beef sirloin burger with gruyere and the skinny fries. I haven't done much high end dining in Banff but can offer a few recommendations for lower end stuff. Also, as I prefer to have a few bevvies w/my dinner, all my picks are in and around Banff Ave, no need to drive or cab it:

                                Magpie and Stump - Name is british, food is Mexican. Kind of obscure to have Mexican in the rockies but the dinners are great, cozy pub atmosphere and they make a WICKED traditional margarita.

                                Silver Dragon - had great Chinese take out for our hotel room party ;)

                                Sushi - can't think of the name but it's across from the Mount Royal Hotel. Float-by sushi bar (charge by plate) and suprisingly fresh.

                                Breakfast - can't beat Phil's. Go early tho! http://www.phils.ca/banff.htm

                                Dessert - I don't have dessert when I dine in Banff - I save all my calories for the FUDGERY! Fresh hand made melt in your mouth chocolates, made in store while you watch from the street window and drool.

                                10 Replies
                                1. re: eastcoastgirl_westcoastlife

                                  We love Saltlick, I love their steak and their side dishes, great desserts too. We were in Vancouver couple of months ago and we were so glad to see that they also have a Saltlick, it was walking distance from our hotel, Fairmont Vancouver, and food was just as great as the one in Banff, but the atmosphere can't be compared, Banff is a very special place. We have been to Phil's since is walking distance from Banff Springs Hotel, good breakfast for a very reasonable price, very hot coffee and hot chocolate, and that's great on those very, extremely cold winter early mornings. Just by reading all of your comments I just want to go back NOW, but won't be until December 07, we're counting the days.

                                  1. re: lvgoodfood

                                    Myself also, I plan to pass back through there on my way back to Edmonton in November. Am already drooling thinking of the Fudgery :)

                                    1. re: eastcoastgirl_westcoastlife

                                      I'm in Banff for a week and pulled up this thread via search and wanted to thanks all for the input. Thanks to unput on this board we've had 3 excellent meals:

                                      Fuze - Great dining and a reasonable price point vs quality. The roated tomato soup was a highlight, also the chicken stuffed with chiorzo was amazing.

                                      Bison Mountain Bistro - Comfort food done well and with an edge. Pulled pork sandwhich was gurerre(sp) cheese and pineapple was delicious. Also the bison meatloaf was excellent and enough to feed three people. My partner had the meatloaf but I had the roasted chicken on pesto risoto which was equally tasty.

                                      Coyote - Best Huevos Rancheros I've ever had. Super fresh ingredients put this over the top. After a night of too many drinks it had the perfect balance of spice, grease and protien to settle things perfectly!

                                      Grizzly House - Was tasty and fun with the fondue and the hot rock to cook meats. Only issue was that it was a busy night and with like 10 tables using the hot rocks to cook meats at once, the place actually got sort of smokey inside. Imagine being in a resto where 10 or 12 orders of fajitas came out of the kitchen at the same time. You'll smell like cooked meats the rest of the night unless a change of clothes or some fabreeze is used!

                                      1. re: abigllama

                                        Thanks so much for your input, huevos rancheros is one of my favorite breakfast dishes. I have to try Coyotes. We will be there in two weeks, and we hope for tons of snow and lots of good food.

                                        1. re: lvgoodfood

                                          Oh reading this again has made me miss Banff so much!

                                          1. re: lvgoodfood

                                            Yes! I had to try Coyotes during my last vacation in Banff last December 2007. The Huevos Rancheros at Coyotes in Banff are so very good. Thanks so much for a great recommendation.
                                            An excellent version of the original dish, I can't wait to go back and order them again.
                                            We had an excellent time in Banff, I will try to write a report about our great eats in Banff.
                                            I can tell you now that we had great meals and great service at Bison Mountain Bistro and at Cilantros, and a very disappointing experience during brunch/lunch at Maple Leaf. We absolutely loved Wild Flour Banff's Artisan Bakery Cafe, great soups and great bread and pastries. I will be back to write more about it.
                                            I too miss Banff so much, we hope to be back next December for our third Christmas in Banff.

                                            1. re: lvgoodfood

                                              What about Maple Leaf, I had one of my favorite meals of all time there, 3 yrs ago. Is it still good?

                                              1. re: cleopatra999

                                                Oh Cleo! I too had a great meal at The Maple Leaf about 2 years ago! Well, to be specific, it was a gread "dinner".

                                                I went back to Banff over Christmas Vacation, and decided to go to The Maple Leaf for lunch, and it was BAD! I wanted a Panini with no tomato, and the waitress informed me that they couldn't do that because they already had the paninis prepped. I ordered something else, and it tasted like fridge.

                                                I overheard her telling other tables that the food was prepped, so they couldn't accomodate any requests.

                                                Someone at the table in front of me ordered a waffle, and it got to their table FROZEN! How hard is it to make a fresh waffle?

                                                Sadly, I left disenchanted. This was my last meal in Banff before returning to the states, and it was a memorable one, but not for the right reasons.

                                                I think they must only have an actual chef at dinner time, and stick to frozen foods during lunch time.

                                          2. re: abigllama

                                            I'm so glad someone mentioned Bison Mountain Bistro! The efforts they take to source local, organic ingredients is commendable and the food is excellent.

                                            1. re: Mawson Plan

                                              One of our best meals was there (Bison Mountain Bistro) during our last visit to Banff, December 2007. We plan to eat there as many times possible when we go to Banff this coming Christmas.

                                    2. Thank you so much for the recommendations on this board.
                                      Wife and I had some great meals. Fuze was amazing. Great staff. One of the best tasting meals that I have had in my life. Highlights were the lamb with the vegetable tart, the sablefish/lobster tail with the fruit salsa, and the chocolate fondant. A surprising highlight was the blueberry sorbet palette cleanser. AMAZING!
                                      Wife's favorite meal was at Ticino. Great food all around. Delicious mushroom soup and homemade pistachio ice cream. I tasted the venison, and wife stuck with the "best spaghetti she's had in her life".
                                      Ate every day at the Wild Flour Bakery and brought $25 worth of baked goods home. Wife couldn't stop eating the hazelnut orange cookies, and I went for the chocolate-cherry brownies that were surprisingly made with whole wheat flour.
                                      Thank you for all of the great recommendations.

                                      9 Replies
                                        1. re: sharonanne

                                          Just wondering what the latest rec's are since this question was posted. We're heading to Banff for my brother's wedding in August and my Aunt who is coming out from Montreal would like to go for a family dinner on the Sunday night. We're looking for something with a view, reasonably (and I chuckle when I say this!) priced, but tasty tasty tasty! She had mentioned the Terrace at the Banff Park Lodge, but I'm not sure since I see no rec's to go there!! Sounds like Fuze is a winner...and would be the atmosphere we're looking for. Just wondering if there is anything new and worthwhile that someone could recommend.
                                          Thanks and cheers!

                                          1. re: pnepszy

                                            If you've got the legs or a car, go up Tunnel Mountain drive to the Banff Centre and try out Three Ravens ( http://www.banffcentre.ca/Conferences... ). Not only does it probably have the best and highest view in Banff (unless you climb Sulpher mountain), it also has a renowened chef ( http://www.banffcentre.ca/media_room/... ).

                                            It's out of the way though, and the construction going on at the Banff Centre can make things a bit confusing... best to get there by car and ask the receptionist, but fantastic food, and very very reasonable prices, it's the first place I take friends and family when the come to town (followed by the Sushi Train).

                                            1. re: furtive

                                              Excellent! Thanks so much! We will have cars so we should be okay.

                                              1. re: furtive

                                                Thanks so much for sharing about Banff Centre eats, I hope they are open during winter/December, I really want to try Three Ravens. Oh, I can't wait!!

                                              2. re: pnepszy

                                                The Bison in Banff is a beautiful room, with a really inventive and delicious menu. Also a great patio with a view of the mountains.


                                            2. re: nomo_fan

                                              Thanks for letting us know how it went. Glad to hear you had a good eating time in Banff. When are you going back?

                                              1. re: lvgoodfood

                                                Just back from 2 weeks in Golden, Banff Lake Louise and Jasper. I gained a lot of information from this board, so thought I would share my experiences (without going into great details about the specifics of the food):

                                                Golden: Dined at the Kicking Horse Grill and while the ambience and food was good, the presentation and service was not. We stayed at the Copper Horse Lodge up at the Kicking Horse Resort and the restaurant in the Lodge (Corks) looked like a better choice. Should have tried Eleven22?

                                                Field: Truffle Pigs was great, as was the cafe across the street. Ate Bison burgers each .... we should have ordered one and split!

                                                Banff: Had reservations at Bison Mountain Bistro and Fuze. Had dinner at Bison the first night and it was excellent. Highly recommended by everyone here on the board and everyone we ran into up in Banff. After dinner we wandered into the Maple Leaf and were immediately drawn to the look of the place. We sat at the bar and started talking to some locals seated next to us discussing our plans for Fuze the next night. Everyone seemed to agree that they had had both good and bad experiences there and that business seemed off. Also echoed what I have read here about Beaujolais...stuffy, past its prime and overpriced. We booked that night at Maple Leaf and cancelled Fuze. The Maple Leaf dinner was fantastic. Stopped in at Saltlik for a drink before and really liked the bar downstairs. Looked like a great place for lunch or casual dinner, despite it being a "chain".

                                                Lake Louise: Dined at the Post Hotel and had the best dinner I have ever experienced. Also paid the most money ever for the experience! Worth every penny, and could have saved alot of $ if we didnt love wine so much! Everything on the tasting menu was a favorite and it was all amazing. Great service, wine, ambience.

                                                Jasper: On recommendations ate at Fiddlers and had a great meal. Nothing fantastic, but good service ambience and menu.

                                                1. re: 206travel

                                                  Thanks so much for reporting back. Nice to know that you also enjoyed Bison Mountain Bistro. I can't wait to go back.

                                            3. Thanks to this post and the advice of a friend I had dinner last weekend at Three Ravens (3 Ravens) at the Banff Center: partly because we were attending a music event there. It was a small challenge finding out how to get into the building given all of the construction at the Banff Center, and it was loud in the room: Three Ravens is cuddled into the corner of a big cafeteria style room on the top floor of the Sally Borden building, the night we were there it was busy with a large group dining in the cafeteria next door. Otherwise it was very pleasant: only a couple of other tables were occupied, service was very attentive, the food was nice if a bit precious. The white asparagus soup with lobster was very tasty, so was the salmon with some kind of fancy salsa that actually tasted much better than I thought it would. My wife had the scallops which were good as well. Wine by the bottle selection was good and very reasonably priced. Dessert, a mocha creme brulee was also very good. Couldn't enjoy the view because it was dark outside, but if I am at the Banff Center at least I would definitely eat there again.

                                              1. I went to Saltlik this weekend and I have to say, it was definitely in my Top Five Worst Service Experiences ever. I checked with the hostesses on my way in to see if they had any vegetarian choices and they said all they could do was take the meat out of the "rancher" salads, and that I could also have the daily soup (tomato and red pepper). I was definitely craving salad, so that was perfect for me. As a side note, they also have a vegetarian pasta main dish (not mentioned by the hostesses but I saw it before I ordered). Everyone else ordered meaty things, I ordered soup to start and then the salmon-y salad, sans salmon. I specifically told the server I was a vegetarian and made sure the soup was vegetarian. When the food came to our table the server put the soup in front of me and said, "They changed the soup over to a crab bisque. Okay?" Ummm... even if I wasn't vegetarian you'd think they would ask BEFORE serving something other than what the customer ordered. I said that wouldn't work for me, and the server replied with, "You don't even eat seafood?" I told her that I didn't, and she asked, "Do you wanna start with a salad instead?" What a great idea! There's nothing that I like more than salad before salad! If she had come to me earlier I definitely would have started with a salad and had the pasta as a main dish, but it was way too late by then. Her whole tone was rude, as though I had inconvenienced her by not just eating the crab bisque. Later on we were out on the town and met quite a few people who had either just started working at Saltlik or had quit after working there for just a few days- I don't think they are able to keep decent employees. It's too bad. The salmon-less salmon salad was okay (not worth the $17.50 however, I had kind of expected them to reduce the price a bit considering it didn't have any salmon in it) and the omnivores I was with all liked their food.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Jetgirly

                                                  We had a wonderful meal at Corks at Copper Horse Lodge up at the Kicking Horse Resort . They have avery talented chef.
                                                  Each night they have different features for their mussels, noodle bowl and soup. Last night we had the Mussels cooked in a saffron, white wine and tomato broth. I could have licked the bowl. The lamb chops(New Zealand) pops were to some of the best lamb I have tasted in along time. Pizza's were terrific. Fresh ingredients, and crispy crust.

                                                  Sadly, we had been referred to eat at the Eagle's Nest at the top of Kicking Horse. by at least 5 people. Although the view is wonderful and awesome, the food was horrible. The tenderloin was flavorless without seasoning and charred with a medium rare center. The accompained amuse bouche, Lobster Wonton had sit out to long, in the raw state creating a hardend shell and filling that had spoiled. When fried this morsel was tough with filling smelling like old fish. GAG
                                                  The chicken supreme was over cooked with no flavor. Service was attentive.
                                                  I have since learned that the chef has changed at the Eagle's Nest.