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Worth stopping at TEATRO en route to Banff Springs for a quick wine lunch?

It looks to be on the way to the Trans-Canada from YYC; perhaps a slight detour... is it worth a quick stop just after noon for a light meal and wine?

We have 12:45 pm reservations - I believe we're scheduled to land at 12:15 pm so that's quite ambitious. I'll probably push back to 1:00 pm if it's decided to keep the res. I was hoping to get to the Banff Springs before 4:00 pm so it would not be the whole drawn out tasting menu thing. I have never been to Calgary before; is it worth stopping along the way for a glass of wine and a few small plates and sweets, or should we just push on and eat at Grapes Wine Bar in the Fairmont?

How special is Teatro and how would you rank it as representative of the best of the local dining scene? The space itself looks beautiful, which is admittedly why I decided to add it to our itinerary. A wise choice?

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  1. And IF we have time for a quick meal before returning to the airport on Sunday 12/32, which of the following would you suggest above the othersmboth for dining quality and ambiance:

    - River Cafe
    - Model Milk
    - Rouge

    Thanks!

    2 Replies
    1. re: OliverB

      Based on the criteria you have for your meal in Calgary, I would recommend at least one of your trips be to River Cafe. The rustic atmosphere, in the wintery park, with the local ingredients, by the fire... Very "Calgary" for this time of year.

      Teatro is probably my favourite restaurant in the city, but as was mentioned earlier, I don't think it's really that unique. The food is great, the space is great, the service is great, but coming from SF, I suspect you've got enough "great" available to you. Dining while travelling should be great [i]and[/i] a little unique.

      That being said, if you have time for both, even better. If you're running a little low on time on your trip back through town, Model Milk is a fantastic, if more casual, option.

      Do you have your other dining plans set for while in Banff?

      1. re: Chow_Down

        Thanks very much for that!

        Yes, we have reservations at The Bison and we're planning on eating at Grapes in the B.S. and Waldhaus as well. I forget the other dining options; perhaps Maple Leafe Grille too. They all look like pretty solid choices, though I can't say that I'm expecting anything exceptional - but that's secondary to the reason we're travelling. I've packed all kinds of seasonal treats and artisanal goodies from around the Bay Area (and some via mail order like the eggnog brandy caramel corn!) so we'll be happy eitherway!

    2. River Cafe looks like a lovely dining room as well; I've made reservations at both upon arrival in Calgary on Dec. 19th at 1:00 pm to be safe.

      Which would you pick between the two (Teatro vs River Cafe) for lunch and drinks prior to driving up to Banff?

      Again, weighing both quality of meal (local ingredients, interesting preparation and presentation, service, etc) and overall atmosphere/ambiance...

      River Cafe is obviously more rustic and I believe it's situated in a park beside a river, correct? It looks like it would be quite pretty surrounded by a wintery landscape and provide a possibly more cozy and intimate atmosphere; especially beside the stone fireplace. Teatro on the other hand looks to be in a gorgeous historic art deco building (once a former bank?) with large windows and from what I gather, seems to be more suited to a fine dining venue. Both sound very good to me - As locals, which would you suggest we (as visitors) should experience? Which would be more fun, memorable food-wise and feel more special?

      1 Reply
      1. re: OliverB

        Both River Cafe & Rouge are situated near the Bow River. River Cafe is in a park so you'll get a panoramic winter scene. Rouge is in a heritage house but bordering streets on two sides. I have eaten at both one time each and I would say they are pretty close in terms of food quality. I would recommend River Cafe to you since you seem to want more of a Winter in Calgary scened meal.

        Teatro IS in a nice building... but I think the other two are more suited to the scenarios you want to experience.

      2. River Cafe would be my choice, setting, food and service have all been very good on many past visits, but your plan is very ambitious. 45 mins from landing to table... not sure you'll make it without added stress your vacation may not need. Remember for either Teatro or River Cafe you'll need to find parking, Dec 19th is a work day so parking will be at a premium in the core.

        I'm not saying you shouldn't do it, just trying to gauge if the stress of trying to make this is warranted... only you can answer that. If you plan to go ahead with either hit Google maps and search out the nearest public parking so you have a destination in mind. For River Cafe that would be Eau Claire Market parking and for Teatro I'd go with the Telus Convention Centre parking.

        1 Reply
        1. re: vanderb

          Thanks vanderb!

          We could always call and push the table back 15 min. Unless Calgary airport is exceptionally large and busy (I've never flown in before) then I think 45 min. to 1 hr. seems like a pretty safe range, if not just a bit tight. I'm not too worried about added stress from it though.

          If you give the nod to setting, food and service at RC then that's good enough for me! Perhaps we'll stop off at Teatro before our return flight for a glass of vino.

        2. if you land at 12:15, there is absolutely no way you're making a 12:45 reservation. In fact, by the time you deplane, get your luggage, get your ride and fight traffic, you'd be lucky to get downtown by 2-2:30. This is assuming you've been to Calgary before and know exactly where Teatro is. Otherwise, you should also add on time for map reading and finding a parking spot on a working day!

          Traffic has been brutal for the past few days due to very cold temps and snow. I would highly recommend going straight from the airport to Banff.

          Teatro is a nice restaurant but I think you'll be satisfied with the setting at Grapes. Save yourself the fuss. I will say the food is better at Teatro because there's more variety.

          For a QUICK meal, out of MM, RC or Rouge, I would suggest Model Milk. River Cafe & Rouge are fancier and feel like places you would want to savour your dishes instead of feeling like you have to leave right after eating.

          3 Replies
          1. re: cellophane_star

            Thanks so much!

            Here's the thing... we originally planned to eat at Grizzly House in Banff on the first night but I'm starting to feel as though that's a big misfire based on comments and reviews I've read here on CH. I knew about the touristy scene already but figured it would be fun nonetheless what with eating in a vintage 1960's a-frame modeled as a faux Swiss mountain lodge... but the grease and smell and everything has kind of turned me off that plan. We were going to arrive at the Banff Springs between 3:00-3:30 (based on our 12:15 arrival, departing immediately along the Trans-Canada and 1A) and then check-in, enjoy charcuterie and wine at Grapes, explore the property, private cutter sleigh ride from Warner Stables at 7pm and then dinner at the Grizzly... Now I'm thinking skipping the charcuterie and wine thing on arrival, skip the Grizzly, and simply have dinner at Grapes that evening - which would afford us more time to relax and enjoy a more leisurely schedule.

            The only thing is that I want to be certain to drive into Banff while the sun is in the sky, and I imagine it sets early this time of year... probably getting dark by 5pm-ish. I'd like to arrive with some daylight.

            Sooo, I don't mind eating at River Cafe first and spending a bit more time then planned (1 - 1.5 hrs) on lunch, before driving to Banff. So long as we arrive before 5pm so that we can check-in and relax a bit before heading out into the snow.

            Anyhow, according to Google Maps, River Cafe is roughly 18 minutes from the airport and not really out of the way of the TC Hwy. We're flying in from SFO on a short early morning (8:30 am) weekday flight so I imagine baggage claim and everything will be relatively quick.

            It sounds like River Cafe would be ideal from what you described, and certainly the combo of RC and Grapes for dinner that night would be preferable to anything at Grizzly House... so I'm thinking we'll almost certainly do that.

            Rouge sounds lovely too and I wish we had an extra day in Calgary, just for one more meal! If we end up with a few hours on the tail end of our trip, I'll likely make reservations there.

            Thanks again for your help!!

            1. re: OliverB

              If the stars align and customs/immigration isn't backed up, your flight isn't delayed out of SFO and the baggage arrives quickly you could probably be out of the airport in an hour. If you've got a GPS in the rental and there isn't the usual Calgary traffic mess, you could make it downtown in 20 minutes, plus another 10 minutes to park (if the gods are on your side). I think the 2 - 2.5 hour estimate above is a bit excessive, although if the stars don't align and a couple of the varriables don't go your way it is not unrealistic.

              River Cafe is a very good restaurant, in Calgary, but will it meet the expectations of someone used to dining in your part of the world... will you walk away saying that was 100% worth it and the delay in getting to Banff was also worth it; I'm not sure. If your real reason for this trip is Banff, the national park, the scenery, the atmosphere that Banff has to offer, then I'm not sure a stop at River Cafe is worth it. If you were coming from less of a "food city", I'd be more likely to say "you must stop at River Cafe", but coming from Frisco and everything your food scene has, I'm not sure you'll feel that strongly about your visit.

              To answer your other question, the sun will be down by around 4:30pm and because of the moutains you won't get much of a sunset afterglo, you will want to be almost in Banff by 4:00pm if driving in the dark isn't what you want to do.

              Not sure I've helped with your decision making process and I'll likely get trashed for saying Calgary's food scene is lesser than Frisco's... but I'll take my lumps.

              1. re: vanderb

                Thank you so much, I really appreciate the honest advice and it's indeed very helpful! I think we'll play it by ear... if we're running late then we'll cancel our reservations and drive straight into the park. The purpose of our trip is really just to enjoy a snowy white Christmas in the mountains. We'll be down in LA over the actual holidays and I couldn't let the season pass without experiencing the magic of snow in the mountains. So we're heading up to the Rockies for several nights to escape, cozy up with toddies and spiced buttered scotch, sleigh rides, a leisurely half-day of skiing at Lake Louise, some snowshoeing, ice skating and several laidback winter hikes, watching lots of classic holiday movies, etc. To answer your question, yes, the Nat'l Park is our biggest incentive however it's my understanding that where we'll be staying in the town of Banff is quite developped and not as secluded as say, the Timberline in OR. Taking that into consideration, I suppose the motivation behind the trip is first and foremost a fun, spirited, romantic winter holiday. I think there may be room for the River Cafe if all things allign and we touch down on or ahead of time, avoid traffic, etc. I'd like to hit the HWY no later than 2:30 pm based on your assessment of when the sun dips below the mountains as I definitely do not want to be driving into the park in the dark. So I think that a 2:30 pm estimate for hitting the Trans-Canada seems reasonable. If we're able to squeeze in an hour's lunch before doing so, then I think we will. I've never been to Calgary before so I think it would be fun to enjoy a good lunch in a pretty setting by the river. I also don't expect to be eating very well in the Park itself. We have dinner reservations at several places which seem fine, but I don't think any of our dining experiences will be more than that - I hope I'm pleasantly surprised! Thanks again for your help and we'll leave it to chance and schedule to determine whether we make it... if it doesn't work out for whatever reason, we can always enjoy a late afternoon meal prior to flying home on our last day/

          2. Calgary's airport is as big and busy as is yours in Montreal- in fact it's projected to be busier than Montreal's (in terms of pax volume) in 2014. We don't have as much transatlantic traffic, but if you're expecting North Battleford, don't. It's a big city airport with big city congestion and you will absolutely not get downtown from a 12:15 touchdown in 30 minutes. IMPOSSIBLE. You should not plan any reso for earlier than 1:15.

            That said, of course Calgary is worth a visit; it's worth a couple of days. Too many tourists head straight to Banff and that's really unfortunate; Calgary is Canada's urban future and in addition to having a fantastic, vibrant city centre (especially in light of the fact that Montreal, for example, had a head start of almost two centuries) it has great dining options.

            Have lunch and head out to Banff Springs. I don't get why the urgency to get there by 4pm but you really have to give the city a chance.

            2 Replies
            1. re: plateofshrimp

              Hi plateofshrimp,

              I grew up in Montreal (past 30 years) but am now living with my wife in San Francisco. The reason I want to drive in before 4pm is simple: I want to drive in day light. My wife has never been to the Rockies and we've chosen Banff as our holiday destination. While it would be nice to spend more time in Calgary (we'll surely be back and have future opportunities) I wouldn't want it to be at the sacrifice of our time in the Parks.

              We'll be driving in a rental most likely w/o snows, in the high elevation, with an abundance of large wildlife surrounding. I definitely do not want to enter after dark. Beyond which, I'd like to experience the scenery in daylight, and hopefully have some time afforded for the old byway route which passes over the former CP rail lines. We'd like to enjoy the scenery and hopefully the wildlife without headlamps/brights or concerns about our schedule. We have to check-in to the hotel (I always like to try and score an upgrade), settle into our room and unpack, relax, etc. before having to run back out at 7pm for our scheduloed activity, followed by dinner. 4pm is standard check-in time and it seems like a reasonable plan.

              I would like to try and eat lunch at the River Cafe if we could be back on the road for 2:30-ish, which might be possible, but we definitely will not be sightseeing in the city. We'll be back to do Yoho and Jasper next summer and I'll be sure to reserve at least a full day/night for Calagary itself.

            2. How was your trip to Banff, OliverB?

              1. Let us know how it went and also if u r OliverB @flyertalk