Everywhere you look in Banff, the beauty of crystal-clear blue lakes and snow-capped mountains confirms why Canada’s oldest national park is a legend among outdoor destinations. Part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage site, Banff is home to waterfalls and hot springs, ski slopes and hiking trails, historic and cultural sites, and a number of excellent restaurants to keep visitors fueled and satiated between year-round adventures.
Apart from the elk, bears, cougars, deer, moose, wolf, and other wildlife that inhabit Banff National Park, approximately 9,000 people now live in the town of Banff, and another 30,000 or so people visit daily. A boon for visitors, Banff is a walkable mountain escape, and those who stay overnight at Elk + Avenue Hotel are steps away from restaurants, shopping, and nightlife. The hotel itself offers two dining venues that are worthy of a visit, especially if you choose to stay in its contemporary guest rooms, suites, or spacious two-story lofts.
From downtown to the mountaintops, here are five culinary experiences in Banff you won’t want to miss, plus a few outings to plan your meals around.
Where to eat in Banff
Start the day at Good Earth Coffeehouse
The key to making the most of an outdoor destination like Banff is to make sure your first stop of the day is an energizing one. For many of us, that means starting the day with coffee. Head to Good Earth Coffeehouse first thing in the morning for a cup of ethically sourced roasted coffee or hot tea and a fresh-baked pastry. The coffeehouse is attached to the Elk + Avenue Hotel’s lobby. It also stays open for lunch, serving soup and sandwiches to enjoy in the cozy dining area or to grab and go for a picnic lunch during a hiking adventure.
Good Earth Coffeehouse: 333 Banff Ave, Banff, AB T1L 1B1, Canada
Tuck into breakfast or brunch at Bluebird
For heartier fare, walk a couple blocks through the village to the charming Bluebird Wood-fired Steakhouse for souffle pancakes and a classic French omelet. Both pair nicely with a glass of cold-pressed green juice made with apple, kale, spinach, lemon, and celery. This will fortify you before taking an overview tour of Banff on an Open Top Tour.
Step on board a custom 1930s-style open-top touring vehicle for a 90-minute overview of the resort town. Learn about the people who helped make the world-class destination so unique while taking in the beauty of Mount Rundle and Cascade Mountain that dominate the skyline.
Bluebird Wood-fired Steakhouse: 214 Lynx St, Banff, AB T1L, Canada
Grab farm-fresh pizza before sightseeing
For lunch, head to Farm & Fire inside the Elk + Avenue Hotel. The bar makes creative and colorful mocktails and cocktails while Executive Chef Scott Hergott and his team make an array of wood-fired pizzas. Start with a tomato heirloom salad, and be sure to order the fig and brie pizza. Afterward, walk to the end of the main street to the log-built Banff Park Museum.
A National Historic site, the Banff Park Museum is the oldest federal building still standing in any Canadian national park. It’s also a museum of natural history with more than 5,000 specimens and artifacts. Beyond the museum is the Bow River Trail walking and biking pathway. Cross over one of the bridges to walk around the historic Brett Sanatorium and Hotel, built in the 1880s. When it burned down in 1930, the site was converted into a Parks Canada administrative building and 12-acre Cascade Gardens, with ponds, waterfalls, walking trails, and seasonal flora and fauna. Best of all, it’s free of charge year-round.
Farm & Fire: 333 Banff Ave, Banff, AB T1L 1B1, Canada
Experience immersive dining at Brazen
In the center of town at the historic Mount Royal Hotel is a lively restaurant called Brazen that offers an immersive dining experience. Start with a little showmanship by ordering the Garden Party cocktail, which is a light purple tea-infused beverage that arrives in a teapot and is poured into a glass at the table. Pair it with starters such as ramen eggs with nori and wasabi peas, bite-sized salmon gravlax on a beet chip, duck croquettes served with truffle dijon aioli, and seared tuna with tomato chutney on crunchy crostini.
Brazen’s Chef Dan Jiricka wows even the most discerning eaters with the creative flair he adds to classic dishes — sometimes even literally, as is the case with the flaming ginger certified Angus beef that’s set on fire in a skillet tableside. The flickering orange flames blister the shishitos served with the beef. Chef Jiricka also makes a crispy chicken served with harissa sour cream and chili honey that’s a shareable table favorite. For dessert, save room for the coffee-flavored creme brûlée or the Strawberry Fields dessert, made with an edible shell, coconut cream, strawberry sorbet, mint, and a strawberry rhubarb compote.
Brazen: 138 Banff Ave, Banff, AB T1L 1A7, Canada
Ride the gondola to a dreamy dinner or drinks
Take the Banff Gondola up to the summit of Sulphur Mountain for the most breathtaking alpine scenery. This is Banff’s top-rated attraction, soaring 2,292 feet high on a picturesque eight-minute ride. There’s no other place in town for sweeping views of six mountain ranges, plus a bird’s-eye view of Bow River and Bow Valley. For those who have the time, you can also hike along switchback trails to the top of Sulphur Mountain. It takes about one to two hours depending on one’s fitness and hiking ability.
Once at the top, there are observation decks and a boardwalk along the rim to take in 360-degree views. Around sunset, order a beet juice martini at the Sky Bistro bar. Stay for a round of drinks or sit at a window table for a full dinner while the sun disappears and stars begin to illuminate the sky. Sky Bistro’s menu features regionally sourced local meats and produce prepared by Executive Chef Claudius Wolf. Wine expert and sommelier Dhira Roy is happy to provide Canadian and International wine recommendations throughout the meal. Pair the strawberry salad with a glass of Tawse 2015 Chardonnay made in the Niagara Peninsula.
Sky Bistro: 100 Mountain Ave, Banff, AB T1L 1J3, Canada
How to get to Banff
The easiest way to get to Banff is to fly into Calgary International Airport, the largest airport in Alberta, Canada. From Los Angeles, the flight is 3.5 hours on several major airlines, including Alaska Airlines, WestJet, AirCanada, United Airlines and Delta Airlines.
The Brewster Express is located at Calgary International Airport and offers multiple daily shuttle services to Banff. Its luxury buses drive along the Trans-Canada Highway on a scenic 1.5-hour journey. Once in Banff, the bus stops at different lodges in town, including the Elk + Avenue Hotel. This is an ideal home base for a Banff culinary adventure.