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NY foodies need help in Banff/Jasper

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ellen23 Jul 30, 2011 09:20 AM

My husband and two young teen sons are leaving Monday for Banff. We are spending 4 nights in Banff & 3 in Jasper. When I originally scoured Chowhound for our trip, I was looking on the wrong boards for this area, and decided to check again as I knew Chowhound would not let me down. At last I found the right spot. I've started to go through older posts, but with limited time left, I was hoping you'd help me out and give me some recs. The places that have caught my eye so far are Bison, Wild Flower, Barpa Bill's, Walter's and Tekkara. Are these good choices? Any others we shouldn't miss? Thanks!

  1. g
    graemejw Jul 30, 2011 12:30 PM

    Good choices for Banff, especially the Bison - if you are mobile, head 20 minutes east up the Highway to Canmore - a Food Lovers Paradise & a contrast to Banff...

    In Canmore you should check out Communitea/Moutain Mercato for tea/coffee, Valbella/Railway Deli for excellent in-house made picnic food, Grizzly Paw for great microbrews made in Canmore, the two Mexican restaurants (especially if the weather is nice), Le Chocolatier & the Iron Goat next to it (sadly the food sucks at The Goat but grab a cold beer or glass of wine on the patio, for the views are truly incredible). If you want a great bottle of wine - the wine merchant underneath the Wood at the bottom end of Main Street is a wine lovers heaven. The Yellow School Ice Cream Bus & The Thai Bus on main street are great fun on a hot day - take your goodies into the park behind the old RCMP log cabin a few yards up the road.

    Rocky Mountain Flatbread is always good & the pizzas are innovative & taste great from the wood fired oven.

    There's a lot more (Trough Dining Co, Rocky Mountain Bagels, JK Bakery, Crazyweed & the patio at The Wood to name but a few).

    Have fun - the weather today is beautiful, the mountains are glorious at the moment but watch out for the bears!!

    10 Replies
    1. re: graemejw
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      ellen23 Jul 30, 2011 02:17 PM

      Thanks, graemejw! Those sound right up our alley. I do recall seeing Crazyweed mentioned in other posts. We will have a car and 20 minutes is not a problem. We will def'ly check out Canmore.

      1. re: ellen23
        g
        graemejw Jul 30, 2011 02:27 PM

        No problem - be sure to come back on here & let us know what you think!!

        1. re: ellen23
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          nonlinear Jul 31, 2011 03:27 PM

          i agree with graemejw that you should drive to Canmore if you're looking for good food. That said, I would recommend avoiding Crazyweed - that place is totally over-rated and I don't understand what the hype is about. i've been only a couple times, but am turned off and won't go back. Imagine a cold and sterile room where they play 15-year-old downtempo music, full of mid-40s soccer moms... I can't think of a more unappealing setting. And then the menu... completely predictable dishes that appear to have been picked right off of epicurious.com or from Gourmet Magazine. not kidding, go elsewhere.

          1. re: nonlinear
            e
            ellen23 Jul 31, 2011 05:15 PM

            But I'm a mid-40's soccer mom! lol. But I appreciate the feedback on the food. And will keep that in mind. Thanks!

            1. re: nonlinear
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              graemejw Jul 31, 2011 05:24 PM

              have to agree here, to be honest in 6+ years living here i haven't really felt the need t go there

              two other places i forgot

              the fantastic Belle Patate for great poutine & homemade burgers

              Pizza Construction Co - make awesome pizzas & its fun to get one & eat it by the river in the little park to the right of the bridge

              1. re: graemejw
                n
                nonlinear Jul 31, 2011 08:41 PM

                I second pizza construction, they make outstanding pies!

                1. re: graemejw
                  Ecobaker Oct 22, 2012 08:46 AM

                  Pizza construction has been awesome since it opened in the '80's! I loved it when I was a kid - good to hear its still open and yummy!

            2. re: graemejw
              g
              graemejw Jul 31, 2011 09:24 AM

              i should also include both sushi places downtown - Mara's Way & Chef's Studio Japan - both are very good, a little out of the way is Wild Orchid which used to be good, but we haven't been there in a while. Sage Bistro has an excellent reputation, it is probably the best wine/cocktail bar in town & is a welcome relief from all the other multi-sportsTV wielding/Sysco menu offering bars elsewhere in town - I haven't eaten there but i know they don't skimp on the quality of their ingredients.

              Thursday is Mountain Market day - lots of edible goodies in the outdoor market opposite the town hall. If the weather is nice - it's well worth a visit.

              -----
              Sage Bistro
              1712 HWY 1A, Canmore, AB T1W 2X3, CA

              Chef's Studio Japan
              709 8 St #108, Canmore T1W 2B2, CA

              1. re: graemejw
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                ellen23 Jul 31, 2011 09:40 AM

                Are these in Canmore? The Mountain Market day is esp'ly appealing.

                1. re: ellen23
                  g
                  graemejw Jul 31, 2011 10:12 AM

                  yes - every Thursday 10-5

            3. vanderb Jul 31, 2011 03:07 AM

              When you are enroute to Jasper, I recommend a slight detour to Field for a meal at Truffle Pigs Bistro. It's just about 15 - 20 minutes past Lake Louise on the TransCanada highway and is a quick drive back to the Ice Fields Parkway when you're done.

              You won't regret the side trip, scout's honour.

              4 Replies
              1. re: vanderb
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                ellen23 Jul 31, 2011 05:26 AM

                Thanks, vanderb! Had Truffle Pigs in my notes, but wasn't sure when I was getting there. But now I know!

                1. re: vanderb
                  m
                  mountaincachers Sep 22, 2011 08:04 PM

                  We stopped at Truffle Pigs for lunch yesterday after going to Yoho National Park. We had an excellent and reasonably priced lunch there. Thanks for the recommendation! We wouldn't have found it otherwise.

                  1. re: mountaincachers
                    vanderb Sep 23, 2011 03:44 AM

                    If you're ever looking for a good New Year's eve dinner choice I cannot recommend Truffle Pigs enough. We've been 4 times and had some of the most memorable NYE's of all time. If you do go don't forget your skates, after dinner you'll find most of the town at the community hall and skating rink across the street from the restaurant... a ton of fun.

                    1. re: mountaincachers
                      m
                      mountaincachers Oct 1, 2011 05:31 AM

                      Incidentally, I wouldn't really consider the trip to Field to be much of a detour as there are plenty of beautiful and interesting things to see close by (Emerald Lake, Takakkaw Falls, spiral tunnels). It's not like you are missing out by taking this time away from the Ice Fields Parkway...it's all breathtakingly gorgeous. It's just a bonus if you find a great place to eat in the middle of it all.

                  2. c
                    CulinaryRD Aug 2, 2011 07:31 AM

                    If you are going to Jasper, definitely try to make it to Tekarra. I have dined there 3 times now. We even chose to have our wedding reception there because the food is so great! Unfortunately I have not been able to make it there this season yet, but have checked out their menu online (they change it each season) and it looks great!

                    16 Replies
                    1. re: CulinaryRD
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                      ellen23 Aug 2, 2011 04:40 PM

                      Yes, we have 3 nights in Jasper, so we'll check that out. Thanks!

                      1. re: ellen23
                        e
                        ellen23 Aug 2, 2011 09:46 PM

                        Here's the start of our trip report:

                        Banff
                        arrived today. We stopped in Canmore on our way to Banff. We strolled for a bit and stopped in Mountain Mercator, where my DH thoroughly enjoyed an Illy latte & oatmeal cookie. The paninis look great and we'll keep it in mind for later in the week.
                        Tonight we wanted to be in Banff, so we headed to Bison, where we were underwhelmed at best. The food was overpriced and did not live up to the reviews. The service started out fine, but then we felt ignored.  The apps came out quickly & then we waited forever for the entrees. My favorite thing we ordered was the bison French onion soup. My DH and I also shared the shrimp & crab tacos, which was more like tuna fish salad. The seared scallop was barely seared and bland, but the risotto cake that accompanied it was tasty. For our entree, we shared the bison burger. It was fine except for the raw bacon on top. When my DH managed to flag down our waitress for the check, I was finally able to show her the bacon when she brought the check. She was disgusted as well by the raw bacon, promptly reporting it to the kitchen, and bringing us a revised bill, not charging us for the burger. So she redeemed herself. My two sons ordered steak, which was good, not great, especially because the fries were tepid and not crispy. For a $29 steak & fries, I expect better.  Hopefully Canmore will deliver on the promise of better food.
                        Day two, we enjoyed a lengthy hike and walked from the trails into town. It was about 1:45 when we reached Wild Flour and they were sold out of nearly every sandwich! We were quite hungry and saw lots of folks dining at the outdoor patio across the way. Turns out it was the downstairs tavern of Bison. Despite our experience the night before, we decided to give it a try. DH and I shared a pizza with grilled chicken, bacon (cooked this time!), pesto and goat cheese. It was quite tasty and satisfying. Our server brought over a big bottle of honey & another of chili oil, and explained that they were for the pizza. Hmmm? We gave it a try and have to say it was an interesting addition. Our sons had grilled cheese and a spicy tomato based soup, and a grilled chicken & bacon sandwich on a croissant. They were both thrilled with lunch. And one of the servers knew we just came off the trails and gave us a full pitcher of water, which we greatly appreciated. Post lunch we visited The Fudgery and were not disappointed. Everything looked yummy and fresh.
                        For dinner tonite we were tired, so bailed on Canmore. We decided to go to Coyotes as there was something on the menu for everyone & we weren't all that hungry. We started with the foccaccia & cornbread basket, which was delicious. It could have been even better if the bread was served warm. Then we shared the goat cheese salad & the tortilla soup. The salad was fine and the soup very tasty.  For entrees we shared a flank steak and a chicken with fresh tomatillo sauce. Both were nicely cooked and flavorful. 

                        1. re: ellen23
                          c
                          CoffeeGal43 Aug 3, 2011 12:03 PM

                          We actually had a very similar experience at Bison this spring. The food was just ok, and we were abanonded for over half an hour before being asked about ordering dessert. I guess it just didn't live up to the hype for me.

                          While I'm sure it's too late for you now, we did end up having an absolutely phenomenal meal in Banff at the restorant in the Delta hotel!

                          1. re: CoffeeGal43
                            e
                            ellen23 Aug 3, 2011 04:36 PM

                            Thanks coffeegal43. We are actually here 2 more nights & finally heading to Canmore for dinner. I think we may try O Bistro. The menu works for my whole family.

                            -----
                            O Bistro
                            626 8 St #2, Canmore T1W 2B5, CA

                            1. re: ellen23
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                              graemejw Aug 3, 2011 07:13 PM

                              The Bison did change hands a while ago, it was an independent restaurant now its part of a local chain. Pre-change it was truly fantastic, post change well we've only had the pizza there & it was good but the other restaurants in the chain don't thrill me too much. Best restaurant pizza in the Bow Valley is at Rocky Mountain Flatbread in my opinion.

                              1. re: graemejw
                                e
                                ellen23 Aug 3, 2011 08:58 PM

                                That explains why Bison didn't live up to earlier reviews. We ended up at Rocky Mtn Flatbread tonight, which was on our list. Everything was great! The host was warm and enthusiastic, the food was creative and Delicious. And best of all, it,s a nut-free restaurant. My son is allergic and he was ecstatic to know he could everything safely. This was our favorite dinner so far.

                                1. re: ellen23
                                  n
                                  nonlinear Aug 4, 2011 09:14 AM

                                  ^^great to hear, they do make great pies there. Hopefully you can continue eating in Canmore - the dining scene is quite excellent there, and leagues beyond Banff (and at a cheaper prices, too).

                                2. re: graemejw
                                  b
                                  Bob Mac Aug 4, 2011 04:30 PM

                                  graemejw:

                                  What constitutes the "chain"?

                                  1. re: Bob Mac
                                    maplesugar Aug 4, 2011 05:11 PM

                                    As I understand it the new(ish) owner of Bison is Mike Mandelman who also owns iirc Maple Leaf Grille, The Eddie, and is a partner in Wurst. so not a chain per se but part of a larger restaurant group.

                            2. re: ellen23
                              e
                              ellen23 Aug 4, 2011 10:21 PM

                              For our final two days in Banff, we finally made it to Canmore for dinner. The advice given by my fellow Chowhounders was accurate. Canmore is a better dining destination than Banff. The restaurants are better and it's less touristy. Rocky Mountain Flatbread lived up to the recommendations. We had a delicious salad and shared a pizza that was on special with pork tenderloin, goat cheese, figs and arugula. One son had the kids' mac & cheese, which he loved and the other had the kids' pizza, which was the perfect size. Wed night is Local's Night and even the tourist received 15% off of the food portion of their bill, which was a nice bonus. Tonight we at at O Bistro, which we found on our own. The place is somewhat small, but we had no problem getting a table. There are also a few tables outside on the sidewalk. Everything we had was a winner! My older son had the French Onion soup and Steak & Frites. My younger son had the kids' grilled cheese and fries. My husband and I shared a spinach salad, covered in seasonal fruit and goat cheese, with a fruity dressing. I had a curried shrimp and rice dish with at least 9 good size shrimp included, and DH had the pork tenderloin and mashed potatoes. Everyone was happy with their dinners and the service was the best we had received yet. The bistro is across the street from the School Bus Ice Cream, which we felt compelled to visit. The ice cream was nothing to get excited over, but we enjoyed the experience. The added bonus for us travelers, is that the laundromat was only a couple doors down from dinner and we could take care of that while enjoying our evening. Thanks for all of your help and advice. We head to Jasper tomorrow.

                              -----
                              O Bistro
                              626 8 St #2, Canmore T1W 2B5, CA

                              1. re: ellen23
                                c
                                CulinaryRD Aug 24, 2011 01:15 PM

                                ellen23, I'm curious about where the rest of the trip took you. Did you try any great places in Jasper?

                                1. re: CulinaryRD
                                  e
                                  ellen23 Aug 24, 2011 05:24 PM

                                  CulinaryRD, I thought I had posted our experiences in Jasper, but I don't seem to be able to find it. Tekarra was our best meal in the Rockies. We all loved it. Great food, warm service, pleasant ambiance. Although if I didn't have a rec for it, I never would have guessed that they would offer gourmet meals because it doesn't look like anything special when you are driving up. Here's what I posted on TripAdvisor: We dined here on our final night in the Rockies. Even though we enjoyed several good meals during our week, this far surpassed all of them. This service was warm and personal, and the atmosphere was relaxed and casual for food of this caliber. The food was inventive and creative, and all of the flavors worked. My son is still talking about his tomato/carrot soup. he and my husband loved their filets. My other son was able to get grilled chicken and French fries from the kids menu. I wasn't very hungry, so ordered Farm Market salad and an app of scallops and pork belly. Both were delicious. My husband also had a marvelous risotto for an app with habanero pepper and fiddlehead ferns. We shared a yummy chocolate souffle for dessert! We also enjoyed dining at Fiddle River. Can't recall the details of our meal, but I know we all liked it there. We also ate at the restaurant below Fiddle River called Downstream (I think). It was more of a bar atmosphere, very casual. The kids loved that they had a pool table. We had tzatziki, hummus, pretzel loaf and another app that I can't recall. The night we ate at Fiddle River, we played another round of pool in Downstream and had another pretzel loaf while waiting for our table. My kids would have gone back again for that. For entrees we had burgers and the like. Our other recommendation is to go to Bear Paw Bakery. We went there every day. Go early in the day for best selection. They have an amazing french bread that we ordered sliced. It was not a baguette, but the best loaf of white bread you will ever make a sandwich on (and I'm a die-hard whole wheat eater). We then went to Robson's market to get turkey and cheese. We also bought cookies and various other baked goods at Bear Paw and the coffee is great also. When they run out of something, that's it for the day. As for the rest of the trip, we went to Vancouver for 2 nights and then Vancouver Island for 3. We stayed in the Cowichan Valley in Cowichan Bay and had an amazing time. The food was awesome there, a foodie's paradise. I did a post trip report on Cowichan Valley on that board.

                                  1. re: ellen23
                                    c
                                    CulinaryRD Aug 25, 2011 06:49 AM

                                    Glad to hear you enjoyed the trip. We actually had our wedding reception at Tekarra and loved every minute of it, and had our wedding cake made at Bear's Paw. Jasper is definitely a special place.

                                    1. re: CulinaryRD
                                      e
                                      ellen23 Aug 25, 2011 02:19 PM

                                      Sounds wonderful, CulinaryRD. We loved our time in Jasper too.

                                      1. re: ellen23
                                        m
                                        mountaincachers Sep 22, 2011 08:07 PM

                                        We just had a great dinner at Tekarra, and also fairly good meals at Fiddle River and Evil Dave's in Jasper. We love, love, loved Bear Paw and wound up going there every morning we were in Jasper so that we could keep trying different things. Great coffee too!

                                        1. re: mountaincachers
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                                          ellen23 Sep 23, 2011 04:08 AM

                                          So glad you had some awesome meals. Truffle Pigs was on our list too, but we were never in the area at mealtimes. Bear Paw was highly addictive!

                        2. m
                          masha Aug 3, 2012 06:42 AM

                          I'm bumping this thread. Any updates as to the restos already recommended or additional ones that should be considered in either the Banff or Jasper area?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: masha
                            plateofshrimp Oct 24, 2012 08:49 AM

                            Taste of Sri Lanka in the Cascada Plaza food court. I'm serious. It is fantastic. We always get the kottu roti which is a steal as one order can feed two normal people. It's the best deal in Banff and the best Sri Lankan food I've had in Western Canada.

                            You cannot beat Communitea for coffee in Canmore- well maybe now you can because Mountain Mercato serves Phil & Sebastian but Communitea has nice seats and isn't just for takeout, but there's some very decent coffee in Canmore!

                          2. m
                            masha Aug 12, 2012 09:04 AM

                            We just returned from a week in Banff & Jasper. The best meal that we had was at the Maple Leaf in Banff. Food there was delicious, room was very comfortable, and our server was both knowledgeable and gracious. Particularly tasty were the tuna tacos that were on the appetizer duo, as well as the duck that my husband had for a main course.

                            We also ate at the wine bar at the Fairmont, "Grapes," where we had a very pleasant meal, with a server who was particularly helpful with wine suggestions -- no surprise given the wine-focus of the place. Food was good, but not outstanding.

                            For a more lowkey meal, we went to the Bear Street Tavern, which is next door to Bison & evidently has the same owner. The interior of the restaurant is nothing special, but we sat on the patio in the back, which was very pleasant. It was a Tuesday evening and they were running a special where any pizza shown on the menu could be ordered instead as a calzone, accompanied by a side salad, for $11. Since the pizzas are priced between about $12-$18, and include no salad, this was a good deal & we both opted for it. Calzones were very good - toothy crust, tasty fillings. I am sure that the pizza would be equally good. Unfortunately the salads were a miss as the dressing contained an overwhelming flavor of onion.

                            We also dined at Tekarra in Jasper. The meal had hits & misses. I had a salmon trio for a first course that was excellent -- especially the smoke salmon component. For the main, I ordered duck, which included both the breast & leg portion. It was evident that both my husband's and my mains had been held, waiting for when my duck leg was cooked, as everything arrived tepid, with the exception of the leg, which was quite hot. Too bad, because the duck leg itself was excellent, but the rest of the course just meh. At many restaurants I'd just let this pass, but Tekarra styles itself as serving highend food (e.g,, a note on the menu that the chef will not substitute any sides), and with prices to match. In fairness to the management, they were exceedingly apologetic and comp'd our apps, when we complained. But, we would rather have paid full freight & have been wowed by the entire experience.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: masha
                              j
                              jim bachinski Aug 15, 2012 07:12 PM

                              if you're in jasper- try the whistle stop - they have a $6 burger and fries deal. i know it's not gourmet, but the burger is pretty good and they have live music.

                              1. re: masha
                                s
                                Shazam Oct 23, 2012 11:47 AM

                                I really enjoy Bear Street Tavern. The pizzas are very good. They make their own pepperoni, which was awesome. Also they're quite kid friendly.

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