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Have you ever noticed that the words “national park” and “fine dining” don’t often seem to go together? Dining establishments in many popular tourist areas sometimes suffer from some common problems: pricey entrees, uninventive plating and indifferent service provided by staff more accustomed to serving tour bus groups than individual diners.
While this may be true of many North American national parks, Alberta’s Banff National Park is certainly an exception. Dining in Banff can be expensive, but the fine-dining options are excellent and varied — from sushi to Swiss fondue to classic Rocky Mountain cuisine. Some of the top chefs in Canada can be found in Canada’s first national park and many are dedicated to seasonal, locally sourced ingredients — in some cases going so far as to actually list the farms that supply their ingredients right on the menus.
For the connoisseur of fine food and wine, Banff has become a destination that simply cannot be ignored. Fortunately, after an evening spent enjoying fine food, there are plenty of ski hills or hiking trails to help you burn off the calories. Below are some dining venues in Banff, Lake Louise and nearby Canmore that make the effort of hiking even the most difficult trail worth every ounce of exertion.
EdenLocated in Banff’s Rimrock hotel, the Eden has won numerous awards and is one of only five AAA/CAA Five Diamond restaurants in all of Canada. Luxurious decor and spectacular views form a fitting backdrop for a constantly changing menu of regionally-influenced French cuisine. Dining at the Eden is an experience to be savoured – this is slow food at its finest prepared a la minute, so you should plan on spending at least three hours for dinner. The Eden has an excellent wine list and skilled onsite sommeliers to assist with wine-pairing suggestions. The prix fixe four-course menu runs $94. www.rimrockresort.com/eden
Le BeaujolaisThis family-run French restaurant has been an oasis of fine wines, outstanding service, and great food for more than 30 years in Banff. The wine list is the size of a small-town phone book, but the attentive servers are skilled at recommending pairings. Try the sole meuniere made with Dover sole or go local with a New York steak of Alberta beef with sauteed mushrooms. Hint: For a less costly dining option, consider the onsite Le Beaujolais Cafe de Paris, which features more casual French fare from the same great kitchen. The average price for a dinner entree is $32. www.lebeaujolaisbanff.com
The BisonTucked away on quiet Bear Street, this restaurant has received numerous accolades since it opened a few years ago. The emphasis is on slow cooking using fresh, locally-sourced organic ingredients, and the names of the farms they source from are included on the backside of the menu. Although you will find chicken, pork, beef, seafood and at least one vegetarian selection on the menu, as the name implies bison is the star here. If you like chocolate, try the five-layer chocolate cake for dessert. The average price for a dinner entree is $28.www.thebison.ca
Three Ravens Restaurant and Wine BarLocated at the Banff Centre, this fine-dining restaurant has one of the finest views of any restaurant in the national park. Food is creatively displayed and everything is made in-house — right down to the condiments. The menu changes twice yearly, but the white asparagus soup and the bison rib-eye with a sun-dried blueberry rub are both signature items. There is also a nice selection of wines at reasonable prices served by the bottle or by the glass. Average dinner entree price is $35.www.banffcentre.ca/dining
The Post Dining RoomThis restaurant is famous for having one of the best wine lists in all of Canada and is one of only four restaurants in the entire country to have received the Wine Spectator Grand Award — an honor they have consistently held since 2002. If you are dining in a group of six or more, you can get a close-up look at their incredible 24,000-bottle wine cellar by asking to dine in the private cellar dining room. The chef hails from Switzerland and his ever-changing menu is a combination of modern and classic dishes that can be best described as regionally-inspired fresh market cuisine. You can expect to see innovative dishes prepared with wild game, fresh fish or Alberta-raised meats. Average entree price is $39.www.posthotel.com
The Trough Dining Co.Cozy atmosphere, good service, great food and a seriously good selection of Canadian wines make an evening at The Trough a special experience. The locally sourced and internationally inspired menu includes such signature items as oriental duck confit with sweet citrus soy slaw, fresh orange slices and house-made crystalized ginger, Alberta beef tenderloin with herb sauce and caper berries or Red Thai Chicken Curry. The average dinner entree price runs $37. www.thetrough.ca