Most people visit Western Canada’s iconic mountain region for its stellar scenery and bucket-list-worthy round-up of outdoor adventures. Fortunately, when it’s time to eat, the Canadian Rockies offer plenty of delicious discoveries, too.
We’ve started our road trip itinerary in Calgary, a gateway to the Canadian Rockies just 90 minutes east of Banff National Park. From there, we explored the glaciers and lakes through Banff north to Jasper, detailing both the scenic highlights and the most interesting places to dine along the way.
It’s all about the views at this swanky spot situated high above the town of Banff. To reach this stylish, recently revamped restaurant at the summit of Sulphur Mountain, take the eight-minute ride on the Banff Gondola and disembark at 7,486 feet. Head up to the dining rom where, through the wall of windows, you can take in the expansive vistas across the surrounding mountains, which are particularly lovely as the sun begins to sink behind the peaks.
Chef Scott Hergott and his team serve up creative, crowd-pleasing plates, from mussels steamed in Banff-made pilsner, to a risotto of ancient grains and wild mushrooms, to locally raised pork belly with polenta, pickled radishes and shaved fennel.
If you’re a peanut-butter lover, your dessert is the Gourmet PB&J Bar, a decadent treat layered with dark chocolate ganache, peanut butter mousse and grape jelly — although the summertime strawberry shortcake is also a hit.
Ten Foot Henry
A short walk from the landmark Calgary Tower and the city’s downtown, Ten Foot Henry — named for a 10-foot replica of a 1930s cartoon character — is cooking up imaginative, vegetable-forward plates, served family-style to share.
In this bright, plant-filled space, you might graze your way through jerk-spiced cauliflower with pineapple mayo, grilled asparagus with a savory almond vinaigrette, or seared pickerel with pickled grapes.
To drink, choose from the long list of wines by the glass or an unusual cocktail, like the Queen’s Orchard, a blend of Pimm’s, apple brandy, Benedictine, tonic and apple bitters.
To see what’s new in Calgary, head for the rapidly developing East Village district, home to the fantastic National Music Centre, a multimedia gallery featuring Canadian music, performers and composers past and present. Nearby, in a renovated former mattress factory with exposed brick walls and views of the river, Charbar is playing with fire.
From the blazing pit in this lively dining spot, you might start with blistered provoleta cheese and grilled sourdough or a charred napa cabbage salad before chowing down on grilled lamb with frijoles (beans) and chimichurri or an Argentine-style steak.
Another highlight is the selection of deep-dish pizzas, which might be topped with chorizo and pickled chilies or garlicky roasted clams.
Chef-owner Duncan Ly got his start washing dishes at Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Wickaninnish Inn on Vancouver Island before he brought his inventive Asian-inspired cuisine to Calgary. At his newest dining spot, decorated with wall-sized versions of vintage Asian photographs, Ly and his executive chef, Top Chef Canada competitor Jinhee Lee, are creating contemporary riffs on Vietnamese and Korean classics.
Sink into a red banquette and lunch on a steamed bun stuffed with crispy tofu or a char siu pork bowl with Korean chili sauce. In the evening, you might try butternut squash and green mango slaw, Alberta beef with baby bok choy, or the turmeric-scented cha ca la vong, a Vietnamese-style dish made local with Alberta trout.
The Vermillion Room
It’s time to head for the mountains, where no visit to Banff — Canada’s first national park — is complete without a stop at Four-Star Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. The “Castle in the Rockies,” constructed in the 1880s as one of the country’s first grand railway hotels, is known for its lavish complex of hot springs pools and its varied array of dining spots.
Opened in May, The Vermillion Room is a must-try eatery, whether you’re craving a cocktail on the patio overlooking the mountains or the lavish Sunday brunch buffet. The rest of the day, the fare leans French with updated classics like salade niçoise, steak frites and duck confit.
Save room for treats, like the rich and creamy chocolate pot de crème.
Back on the ground, add Juniper Bistro to your itinerary, particularly when the in-town crowds become overwhelming — it’s just off Highway 1 on Banff’s perimeter. The establishment is also en route up to Mount Norquay, offering easy access to outdoor winter fun and summertime adventures.
Whether you sit indoors among the mid-century modern furnishings and wood-burning fireplace, or under an umbrella on the patio with broad views of the nearby peaks, you’re in for a treat. The Juniper team is known for its morning fare, like a “brekky salad” of greens, goat cheese and poached eggs, or stuffed French toast with apricot coulis.
Later, you might find beet gnocchi sauced with sage brown butter, Alberta wild boar chops with grilled local fruit or a game duo with enough braised bison short rib, rabbit saddle and confit rabbit leg for two.
The Raven Bistro
After spending the day exploring the dramatic rock formations of Maligne Canyon or canoeing around Pyramid Lake, refuel back in town at the comfortable Raven Bistro. A block from the National Park Visitor Centre, this casual eatery brings international flavors to Jasper, with dishes like feta-stuffed falafel, Moroccan-style strudel layered with chickpeas and kale, or elk kebabs marinated in North African spices.
Jasper Food Tours
North of Banff, the scenic Icefields Parkway — one of Canada’s most spectacular drives — leads to Jasper National Park. From the expansive views from the Jasper Skytram, to the vibrantly hued Valley of the Five Lakes and the iconic vistas across Maligne Lake, Jasper is almost overwhelming with its dramatic beauty.
Food-wise, this compact town can seem less than inspiring at first glance. But for an insider’s view of Jasper’s culinary scene, spend an afternoon with Estelle Blanchette, owner and chief guide at Jasper Food Tours, launched earlier this year. She’ll take you to several local spots, filling you in on area history, present-day life and even a bit of town gossip. Along the way, you’ll eat and drink in copious quantities, from craft beer and elk burgers to churros paired with double-espresso-infused vodka.
A classic Jasper dining spot just south of town, Tekarra charms with its pine-paneled walls and classic Canadian style. On the plate, try the panko-crusted smoked trout roll, wild boar belly with white bean cassoulet, or bison short ribs braised with Saskatoon berries.
After dinner, stroll over to the nearby bluff overlooking the valley and watch the sun set on your delicious Canadian Rockies adventure.