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One-week road trip - Calgary to Vancouver via Banff, Kamloops, Squamish ... where to chow?

I'm a Bay Arean heading for B.C. on business, then taking a week to see the Rockies and make my way back to Vancouver & fly home. I'm not focusing on chow this trip, but wouldn't disdain it if stumbled upon.

I'm staying in downtown Vancouver, and will likely have Friday evening free. Where's the best street/nabe for menu browsing? Where would I be likely to snag a solo seat or table as a walk-in, and feel good about it later?

I've got a morning flight to Calgary on Saturday, arriving before noon, with a rental car to get me to Banff for the first of two nights. Should I detour across Calgary to brunch at Big Fish, or press quickly on to the mountains, hoping for something satisfying en route?

Banff I don't hold out much hope for ... I'm not real willing to pop for high-season surf 'n' turf when I'm on my own. But then, I'll be new in town, and happy to chow in any available demographic: suggestions?

Heading out, I'll drive the Icefields Parkway as far as feasible, then double back to try to make dinner in Field at the Truffle Pigs Cafe, per recommendations here. I'm advised to get there by 6:30 to snag a table ... which should be OK, since I'm not exactly sure where I'm sleeping that night, and I should probably more or less eat and run.

Wherever I awake, it's on to Kamloops overnight. What's edible en route? For that matter, what's edible when I get there? (There's a farmer's market the next a.m. right outside my downtown hotel, so I'm psyched about that.)

The next day, it's on to Squamish via Cache Creek. Lillooet, Pemberton, and Whistler. I repeat my query from the preceding graf re chowability...

Last day: my flight out of Vancouver isn't until near dinnertime, so I'm trying to decide between an Asian lunch in Richmond (closer to the airport, I reckon) or something in West Vancouver. I have several Richmond recs in hand, but know nothing of West V., since I only just looked at a map (duh) and saw its propinquity to Squamish, all else being equal. Is there a notable leisurely lunch in that bailiwick? I'll be grateful for any counsel. (And if you could guesstimate how long it will take me to drive to the airport, dump the car, and make it to the gate from wherever you think I should eat, I'll be still more grateful...)

jonking

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  1. Jonking; one suggestion I would make is to head for the mountains as soon as you get your rental car in Calgary and lunch in Canmore if you can wait for a "late lunch".

    The drive will take you about 1.5 hours, give or take, depending on traffic, etc. My premier choice would be Crazyweed, always excellent food (many reviews on this board, admittedly service has been spotty at times) and they should be in their new, much larger location about mid-July (not sure when you're coming). There are other very good choices in this vibrant, not-as-touristy-as-Banff mountain town. I've attached a recent review of a new venture by the former sous-chef of Crazyweed in conjunction with Crazyweed's chef/co-owner.
    http://tinyurl.com/2m3ofo Sounds tantalizing, but I haven't heard any feedback. Banff is only a further 15 minute drive from Canmore.
    Hope you have a great road trip, sounds like fun!

    1 Reply
    1. re: bmacdon

      FYI bmacdon... The place in the review 'Mine' was closed for the season when we were there a few weeks ago, not sure when they plan to open back up.

    2. jonking, you are my linguistic hero- "propinquity"!

      I'd also suggest dining in Canmore vs Banff and have to recommend my 3 fallbacks: 1. Quarry for sit-down- and no matter what's on the menu , get it with the best fries I've had in Alberta, thin in a paper cone, just perfect. 2. Bella Crusta is a little bakery/pizza place that makes the best chicken salad sandwich I've ever had on their herb-y, lightly salty, tender house-baked foccaccia. 3. Communitea is a great newer coffeehouse that pulls lovely shots of Intelligentsia Black Cat espresso and serves outstanding pastries from a place in town called something-something Croissant. Killer.

      We overnighted in Kamloops when we drove to Van last summer and had very decent Italian at a place downtown that is owned by the Ric's group. We were hesitant because Ric's has acquired a poor rep here, but it was really delicious. It was also next door to a Cowboy Coffee, which is a BC chain but this one was tricked out with the best equipment (a Synesso machine) and the owners were very serious about the coffee, and that was a delight....

      There is a sort of "family" restaurant in Hope (b/t Kamloops and Vancouver, in Alpine beauty and before you get to the ugliness of Chilliwack) that had a restaurant inside and a take out window with picnic tables- I mention this place because it had insanely good burgers and fries, really memorable....

      Too much more to discuss I know but those are some suggestions.

      3 Replies
      1. re: John Manzo

        Oh yeah, Communitea in Canmore, what a great space! Best biscottti I've ever had, made in town by the Cookie Lady; I suggest taking some with you for the road. Also, can't resist mentioning their really cool bean-bag chairs made by a company in Quebec. We loved them so much, we ordered one for home. So comfy to relax on with a book, or watch a movie.....

        1. re: John Manzo

          I grew up in Kamloops and visit family there as often as I can, but mostly I confess to eat at Peter's Pasta (not the place John Manzo mentions - though it's good too). Peter and his wife make fresh pasta and sauces every day. Their pesto is fabulous. I highly recommend a visit - it's a homey, relaxed atmosphere with excellent pasta. It's on Victoria Street downtown.

          Another good place downtown is Nick's. Kind of a greek style steak house - really good steaks, great sides, generous portions.

          Chapter's Viewpoint is another great choice. The family used to run this fabulous mexican restaurant about 30 minutes out of town at a fish camp, then moved into town some years ago. This is their current restaurant, and it has some excellent holdovers from the mexican menu. Awesome sopapillas. Lovely salads. And a great view of the Kamloops valley and mountains to boot.

          I totally agree with John Manzo's rec about the family restaurant in Hope - really really great burgers and other diner fare.

          1. re: MrsCris

            I've tried Peter's Pasta. Was sorely disappointed. My pesto dish was salty - so salty I could barely eat it. In fact, I don't think I ever finished it. The gentleman who served us, who I believe is Peter, was curt almost to the point of rude. It was as if he was doing us an annoying favor having us sit in his restaurant. Huge pet peeve. My husband's spaghetti was fine, but nothing special.

            We ordered dessert, which turned out to be some sort of pre-fab, ordered in frozen affair. The waitress semi-shrugged as she served it, and quickly said their freezers had broken down and partially thawed their contents, which were re-frozen in time enough to prevent spoilage but had altered the look of the dessert we were being served. It looked like it had halfway melted and then froze again in its have-smooshed state. This "puck" was tossed on a plate and handed to us with this hurried explanation of it's condition. If my memory serves me correctly, there were the usual signs of freezer abuse: crystals and possible starts of freezer-burn.

            Needless to say, Peter's Pasta didn't live up to the expectations. I have heard this place raved about from countless people. Doubt I would ever set foot in it again. Will never recommend.

        2. claudio's in revelstoke is fantastic if you're up for italian.

          1. Be sure to check out Horstings farm market just north of Cache Creek (http://www.horstingfarms.com). If you don't load up on too many baked goods there, try the German bakery in Lillooet. Best bets in Pemberton are the Wildwood and Pony Espresso. In Squamish try Sushi Sen, Wigan Pier (fish and chips), Sunflower Bakery, Naked Lunch and Howe Sound Inn Brewpub.

            1. I will recommend the Watershed Grill in Brackendale (just north of Squamish). It's a smallish place right on the river with a wonderful patio and the food is fabulous.

              3 Replies
              1. re: dollykat

                I agree with going to Canmore instead of Banff. The croissant place is called Gourmet Croissant right on HWY 1A (Bow Valley Trail).

                The brunch at Big Fish is fantastic, I was just there last week and had the truffled white cheddar scramble with duck hash....amazing. If you are coming from the airport it is not that out of of the way, just off of 16th ave (hwy 1), you could get across the city and out of town faster via country hills blvd though.

                If you choose not to do this, then quarry is a great suggestion in Canmore. If you are looking for something more casual, actually better IMHO, then I recommend The Summit Cafe. It is a local favorite off the beaten path in Canmore on Cougar Creek Drive. Its a counter service style place with a great menu and a fabulous patio if the sun is shining, surrounded by mountains and not the busy main street.

                Enjoy your trip!!

                1. re: cleopatra999

                  Best Restaurants in Kamloops are:

                  1. Minos for Greek food.
                  2. Lucky Leung (lacks decor) -- great cheap Chinese eats.
                  3. Chapters Viewpoint for the sopapillas, the Chapter New Mexico plate and the view. Other fare is standard.
                  4. Swiss Pastry for homemade chocolates and lovely desserts.
                  5. Fratelli's Deli for a fab take out sandwich
                  6. The Grinder for a really good bowl of soup at lunch.
                  7. Brownstone -- a bit overpriced -- but their appies are fun.
                  8. Duffy's - best pub fare.
                  9. Arriogato's for Japanese (inexpensive and uncomfortable chairs)
                  10. The Stock Pot for a cheap and really good breakfast.

                  1. re: jkb13

                    1. agreed. haven't had better in town yet.
                    2. this is where i go for dim sum. haven't tried the bbq kitchen yet for that (across from minos), have you?
                    3. i don't think ive actually eaten here. i grew up in an area thats at least 60% mexican/southamerican, so i am always nervous about supposed authentic mexican food.
                    4. still need to go here. though ive had their cakes. fab.
                    5. like the grocery, havent tried the sandwiches
                    6. was there two days ago. they don't take debit. i couldnt spend money.
                    7. brownstone - want to try the risotto, have been recommended
                    8. i think i've been here once. wasn't blown away. wasn't upset either.
                    9. uncomfortable chairs, indeed. was disappointed with food last time i went, though.
                    10. where is this?

              2. If you are driving past the town of Field there is a very interesting restaurant in a corner store/liquor store called Truffle Pigs. The food I've had there has been very top notch, even under the recent new management. For a really nice setting you could drive up to the Emerald Lake Lodge for a bite as well. It's really lovely spot and the food is very good. http://www.crmr.com/emerald-lake-lodg...

                1. in Banff, how about Eden at the Rimrock hotel? not cheap, but excellent tasting menu, definitely not your average surf n' turf.

                  1. It seems that Truffle Pig may be closed and in the process of moving to another location. Cathedral Mountain Lodge between Kicking Horse Pass and Field is a great alternate.

                    1. um folks, since the original post is dated July 11, 2007 it is very likely jonking has already made his trip. :)

                      1. Oh well, it was a good conversation anyway.

                        1. I am not making any claims of fine dining, but the fries at Herby's Drive In in Cache Creek is a mandatory stop for our family. They also make a drink called a quencher that is truly thirst quenching.

                          Their burgers a ok (dh and ds love them) and the last trip dd and I shared fried chicken. They make it to order and it was piping hot. I am not a fried chicken expert, but this tasted pretty good to me. It was not battered, the skin was crispy and it was reasonable as we got 5 pieces, fries and coleslaw for about $10.00. It was more than the two of us could eat.

                          There is inside seating, no car service and picnic tables outside, some in the shade.

                          We tend to plan out trips to include at stop at Herby's coming or going.

                          It is about 1/2 a block North on Highway 97 from where the TCH heads South.