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Bison Mountain Bistro, Banff

A new one for me and a great find. Dropped by for a midweek lunch and a break from the cold. Received a nice, warm welcome to a really nice space. Great decor and a nice modern take on the usually dated or stuffy Banff lunch spots or chain places. Yes, there are bears and mountains on the walls, but on huge canvases and wood boards with a fresh, contemporary take on the mountains theme. There's a cool little bar area with comfy white leather bar stools that I imagine is a nice spot for evening drinks. Huge, thick wood tables split the daytime dining area made up of smaller tables with big windows letting in plenty of natural light. Menu was really well priced and everything sounded like I wanted to eat it, which is always a good start. After much deliberating I opted for the Bison burger (with saskatoon berry chutney, comte, pickles on a wild flour organic brioche) and (great!) fries with a small side of house smoked ketchup washed down with a pint of Grizzly Paw beer, from down the road in Canmore. Service was great, space was great. Everyone really friendly. I will certainly be back for more, maybe dinner next time.

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  1. Yeah, now that Fuze is gone, Bison is the best in Banff.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Dan G

      Dan G:

      Any idea where Chef Gary has gone now that Fuze is no more?

      1. re: Bob Mac

        No. their website mentioned something about maybe starting up again in Calgary, but if that has happened it would have been on CH by now, and I also read the most recent Calgary city palate, no mention... hopefully he shows up somewhere not too far away, not too long from now.

        1. re: Dan G


          Coming to Calgary. Count on it. 3 to 5 months

    2. Bison's one of my fav restaurants in AB.

      Love the Duck Benny for brunch, the Bison Burger with a good bowl of Bison Onion Soup is also awesome any time.

      My boyfriend and I love the charcuterie board best though. We recently booked a photoshoot there (mostly just for the charcuterie board). I haven't seen it on the menu in awhile but they used to have this truffled duck poutine - so yummy!

      2 Replies
      1. re: foodkarma

        Yes, the duck benedict is very good. My favorite Bison menu item is the trout, beet and goat cheese sald, which evolves over time. I've probably had it 6 times, and I don't think it has ever been the same but it is always amazing.

        1. re: Dan G

          Good to know - never had the trout. I've had the Tuna twice and the Halibut once and all were great! Agree about the dishes evolving each time... it's a great experience every time too.

      2. Not to be missed:
        The Ceasar's.. I think they put some of their smoked ketchup in them, they are fantastic..
        Lavender Smoores. homemade lavender-infused marshmallows, I wish there were more deserts like this around.

        1. Is this the same place as The Bison Restaurant and Lounge (located at 208 Bear St)?

          2 Replies
          1. re: djdragan

            Yes. Not sure if they changed the name or not, but same place.

            1. re: djdragan

              It appears to be - the sign, a photograph, on their website shows 'The Bison Mountain Bistro'. They name themselves on the website as 'Bison Restaurant & Lounge' . Their website address is 211 Bear St not 208. Definitely the same place.

              The Bison Restaurant & Lounge
              #213, 211 Bear Street, Banff, AB T1L 1B5, CA

            2. We went up to Lake Louise this weekend to spend our first anniversay and stopped by the Bison on the way up for dinner on Friday. Unfortuantely we failed to make reservations, and the upstairs dining room was full so they could only seat us in the Deli/Lounge on the ground floor. (too bad as I really wanted to try their merguez corn dogs).

              It was a smaller menu, and my wife and I ended up sharing a few different things. The roasted mushroom pizza, the shrimp and crab mini tacos, and the Alberta cheese hog plate.

              Wow, what a great meal! The pizza was amazing, tons of different types of mushrooms, a very intense flavour, and the lemon was a nice touch.

              The cheese hog was also very tasty. Excellent cheese ( a creamy goat cheese, and gouda) and some lovely prosciutto and wild boar pancetta (although I think it was supposed to be a sausage - the pancetta was great so we didn't mind). This also came with some great bread as well as crackers, dried fruit (cranberries and figs), pickles, and some seasoned cashews. On fridays all their deli stuff was 50% off, so this was a great deal for $9!

              The taco's were our least favourite, they were quite fresh, but we found them a bit bland.

              All in all, it was still a great meal. So good in fact, that we decided to try them out for brunch on Sunday on our way back to Calgary. Another great meal. I had the Broeck Back Benny, and my wife ordered the omlette of the day (which was roasted mushroom and goat cheese).

              One of the best bennie's I have ever had. Great hollondaise over a perfectly poached egg, back bacon, and caramalized onion compote on a homemade biscuit. Even the potatos on the side were excellent.

              I tried a bite of my wifes omlette and thought it was a bit dry, but she had asked for it without the cheese and really enjoyed it. The ketchup they served (looked homemade) was also very nice, with a smokey taste.

              We also split a side of banana bread, which was also great, very moist and not too sweet.

              4 Replies
              1. re: djdragan

                Great to read your review! I love Bison, and always make a point of stopping when I'm in Banff. I am curious where you ate in Lake Louise. My husband and I are heading out there in two weeks for the weekend, and neither of us have spent any time there. There doesn't seem to be much info on the boards either.

                1. re: sebell

                  Hi Sebell,
                  We ate at a few different places around around our hotel (Chateau Lake Louise). We got in late Friday and had some dessert/coffee at the Lakeview Lounge. Pretty nice setting as the Element Skating event was going on and we were able to watch some of the action.

                  For late breakfast/early lunch on Saturday we went to the Deli. The sandwiches are all pre-made, but they tasted pretty fresh to us, and we both enjoyed ours (roast beef for me and a tuna salad for the wife).

                  We went back to the Lakeview Lounge that afternoon, and had the High Tea. It was a bit pricey ($39pp), but everything was great (loved the scones) and we had a really nice table by a window.

                  We tried Poppy's Brasserie for dinner that night, They offered a buffet for about $29pp, but we decided to order off the menu. We had soup to start (seafood chowder and french onion). Both were pretty bland and watery. I had the lasagna which was ok, and my wife had a veggie and noodle stirfry with tofu. She wasn't a big fan of it saying it was a bit bland. I tried a bit and other then the tofu (which I can't stand) I thought it was decent. We skipped dessert as we had a lot of sweets at tea in the afternoon.

                  All in all the food was decent, but I felt the quality should have been a bit better (particularily for the dinner we had) given the prices we charge.

                  I remember reading that the Post Hotel, located in the village has good food. You might want to give them a try. BTW the village is only about a 5 min drive from the Chateau. We took a quick drive around the village on Sat afternoon, but it didn't look like there is much there. There is a strip mall there, and I think I may have seen a pizza place and a coffee shop. Some of the other hotels may have some options as well.

                  Have fun, its beautiful up there!

                  1. re: djdragan

                    Laggan's at the Lake Louise village is pretty good - they've been there for at least as long as I've lived out here ('99) - solid food, nothing mind blowing but good soups. muffins and such.

                    Last time we were there I went to a new coffee place next to the candy store (same side of the strip as the grocery) I'm no expert (plus it was late and the kids were out of sorts) but the coffee & sandwiches we picked up there were quite good... and as a plus they're open later than Laggan's.

                    1. re: djdragan

                      Thanks for the tips. I think we'll check out the Post Hotel, I've also heard good things.

                2. As of July, 2010 this restaurant has gone down hill miserably. We recently dined at this restaurant based on reviews here and on TA. Very disappointing. A requested medium rare cut of Alberta AAA was served well done with chunks of fat throughout. The server took it away and delivered the replacement which was exactly the same. We were not charged.
                  The server and manager (who came over at the server's request to observe the overcooked and fat laden piece of meat) were fine with handling this problem. After discussing this with them (they seemingly didn't understand how this could happen) we felt we had to mention that the meat the restaurant is buying is not quality meat, but cheap fatty cuts.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Francine

                    Unfortunately it seems that Bison has been sold and there is a new Head Chef and Management. My sister, who lives in Banff, just gave us the news. Most of the staff are appalled at the changes being made. The Bison Burger is off the menu and they are no longer making their own ketchup, it seems lots of changes are coming. The owners are apparently the same as Giorgio's and other mediocre restaurants in Banff.
                    Looks like we have lost all the great places in Banff (Fuze, now Bison).

                    1. re: sebell

                      Interesting...that might explain why when on OpenTable it lists Giorgios and Maple Leaf as 'affiliated' restaurants. I was at Bison about 5 weeks ago and it was still as good as ever; will be in Banff again on Labour Day weekend and will check it out to see how it is doing.

                      1. re: Dan G

                        That is sad. I was at Bison last on July 10 and their brunch was awesome.

                        1. re: Office Broccoli

                          No! We were just planning to head there for a special dinner this weekend. After all the good things I've heard, I was looking forward to it. With Bison off the list... what would be people's top recommendation for a good restaurant?

                    2. re: Francine

                      i guess that would explain why i haven't been that impressed the last few times - it's too bad because i have had a number of delicious meals there. We were there a couple weeks ago for brunch and i have to admit it was not as impressive as the previous visit a few months ago. I always order the bison burger when there for lunch and the last 3 times have been very dry, but i kept trying....

                      i remember just two short years ago, the bet bison burger ever - a wonderful winter set menu and the best salad dressing i've ever had - pumpkin maple vinagrette, which the chef at the time gave me the recipe.

                      1. re: Francine

                        Spent today in Banff for a relaxing mini-getaway. Was apprehensive to go to The Bison because of the news here that ownership had changed. Glad we went.

                        The dinner tonight was as consistently great as all previous 6-7 visits. I did ask the server about the change in ownership/chef and she let us know that Ryan Rivard had sold The Bison and it is owned now by the same group who owns Giorgio's and Maple Leaf. The good news is that Grant Parry, the original exec chef of Bison who had left when the restaurant changed ownership is now back.

                        We had the Bison Charcuterie board, the feature dinner which was Duck Breast over truffled risotto and wilted arugula, and the berkshire pork rack with green beans and mashed sweet potato surrounded by a fig jus.

                        The charcuterie board was yummy as always - amazingly we had this great chevre where the fresh goat cheese was in the middle and on the outside aged goat cheese forming a harder shell. Both entrees were cooked perfectly and as with previous visits we were very impressed with how well suited the flavours of the accompaniments are to the entrees.

                        The Bison had always been one of my top 5 restaurants in Alberta and I'm happy to report tonight was consistently as great as all my other visits. To date (knock on wood), I haven't had a bad meal at The Bison.

                      2. Four of us had dinner there last weekend in the upstairs dining room. With all this talk about it going downhill since it changed ownership, I was somewhat apprehensive. I'm happy to report however that our meal was excellent, as was the service.

                        We started with marinated wild mushrooms + pine nuts on organic sourdough toast and the rocky mountain charcuterie + cheese board. The wild mushrooms seemed a touch overcooked to me, but the flavours were excellent. The charcuterie were excellent with small tastes of air-dried beef, smoked bison and duck prosciutto. The cheeses were also very good, with a great creamy blue and two other knobs of something I don't remember the names of.

                        For mains, two friends had the fresh torn pasta, one had the beef rib eye, and I had the broek acres berkshire pork rack. The hand-made pasta was excellent, and served with gorgeously tiny asparagus spears. My friend raved that the rib eye was the most tender she'd ever had. My pork rack was more of a pork chop, but it was wonderful; cooked to perfection with some pink in the center - it was tender and seasoned beautifully. The accompanying bean salad was nicely excecuted as well.

                        We started quite late and were too full to get dessert, so we left it at that. Our meal with wine and tax came to ~$230 pre-tip. Our service was efficient, low-key, but also very pleasant and fit perfectly with the space and mountain town ambiance. I'd have no reservations about recommending this again, and will no doubt return.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: marcopolo

                          good to hear, as I am going to be in banff for labour day weekend and am booked in for one of the evenings. As for "all this talk" it has really only been one person who said first-hand they had a bad experience.

                          1. re: Dan G

                            I made reservations for the Bison the first week of July to treat my parents and brother, who were coming here from the East Coast to visit for the first time. Having never experienced the mountains before, we wanted to choose the best the town had to offer to make it even extra-special. Boy, were we disappointed.

                            Firstly, they did not even have a bison dish!! We had made reservations well in advance, and not for an unusually late hour of the evening either. But, when we got there, we were informed that they were all sold out of the bison. What a rip.

                            The menu also had a highlighted main along the lines of their featured summer entree. When we inquired as to it, the response was that they actually hadn't yet added that dish to the lineup. It would be coming in the future weeks. Okay, that sucks, and this during the July long weekend to boot.

                            Finally, two guests ordered steak and neither were done to their liking. Both were over-cooked and the waiter proceeded to argue that the particular cut of meat would actually be better if cooked a bit longer. Whether that is true or not, if the customer asks for it to be prepared a certain way, that's the way it should be done. Or, the waiter could have informed us of his cooking nugget of information prior to serving us the dish.

                            Overall, unimpressed.

                        2. I was at Bison last weekend, once for brunch and once for dinner. Was a bit worried given that there has been a change in ownership and we were with another couple to whom I have been raving about this place to for a few years.

                          Brunch, we did more of a lunch thing, having had an eggy breakfast elsewhere much earlier. I had the butternut squash pizza with smoked bison added, and it was possibly, no - make that definitely - the best pizza I've ever had. Flavours were odd and amazing, thin crust perfectly crisp but not hard. Absolutely stunning. Others also raved about their meals.

                          Dinner was also great. My only issue was that the smoked trout, beet and goat cheese salad is now a trout and potato salad which though good was not a replacement for what was my favorite single dish in western Canada. Disappointing to see it gone. I had halibut on a bed of lentils with mushrooms and peas. Perfectly cooked, well seasoned... nothing I could fault. Other dishes ordered were steak (tender and cooked to perfection) and pasta dishes. The only complaint I heard was that many of the dishes, especially the apps, were too big to finish!

                          Desserts were also a hit: 2 of us had Smores, which are better now that they removed the lavendar; one had the banana caramel cheesecake which she passed around and everyone was amazed at how great it was, and I can't remember what the 4th was but it also got good feedback.

                          So, no worries about Bison going downhill. Definitely the food highlight of a long weekend in Banff. (which I may report on at length, if only to complain about how horrible everything else was!)

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Dan G

                            PLease do the Baff report Dan - interested to hear what you have to say good or bad!