Après ski is looking a little different in Banff. In spite of all the challenges this year, determined restaurateurs are opening new venues offering out-of-the-ordinary dining experiences and excellent takeout options. Here’s what to do while visiting Banff.
Settle in at Park Distillery and experience its unique campfire-inspired menu, or order online and bring the picnic to wherever your pod is camped. The ultraportable craft Cocktails On Call kits are made with floral Park Distillery Alpine Dry Gin or Classic Vodka, and premixed, barrel-aged cocktails include a bottled Negroni, Martinez, or Manhattan.
Open-air seating looks out on busy Banff Avenue, and inside, diners are surrounded by a dark-hued, contemporary take on the classic lodge theme. Food selections range from vegetarian salads and bowls to seared B.C. salmon with maple rye glaze or melt-in-your-mouth Alberta striploin. Don’t miss the toothsome red-pepper-flaked broccolini. End with warm smoked s’mores—firepit not required.
Everything old is new again at the Radiant. The fin de siècle glory days of the historic Harmon Block have been reimagined by Sebastian Hutchings, the great-grandson of the original owner. Hutchings, an opera composer, and his wife B Watson, an art historian, are committed to expanding the roster of arts and cultural happenings. In the cozy art nouveau–inspired lounge and restaurant, the best of Alberta’s drag performers take the stage at weekly shows and brunches, as do live jazz ensembles. With an international menu and fine-tuned attention to detail, the Radiant is poised to become a beacon of art, music, and fine dining in Banff. Its eclectic craft cocktails hit the mark every time. Try the Living Larch (gin and homemade larch bitters), Sugar Snap Peas (vodka, St. Germain elderflower and peas), or a classic French 75. Get in while you can—predictions are for standing room only once restrictions lift.
A winner on so many levels, literally, from the main floor open-concept brewery to the airy second-floor dining room with its retractable skylight, Three Bears is all about fun and fancy. Executive chef Justin Leboe has taken the reins at the hugely successful Banff Hospitality Collective, following his outstanding successes at Pigeonhole and Model Milk in Calgary. Winner of multiple awards including the Pinnacle Award for Canadian Chef of the Year, and Canada’s 100 Best awards for Most Innovative Chef, Leboe is innovating again at Three Bears.
Light-as-a-feather pizzas emerge from a 72-hour ice-water fermentation process, and spent grains from the main floor brewery become toast, topped with mounds of edamame, feta, raisins, and walnuts. Beers are classic for the most part, with one innovative infusion line where the brewmaster plays with botanical, herbal, and flavour notes of tea syrup and maple bacon.
Farm & Fire is sparking conversation with flatbreads from its woodfired forno oven and a menu that’s rich with vegetable dishes roasted to a perfect char. The airy, sunlit, Scandinavian-influenced design by Frank Architecture of Calgary encourages groups to linger over long daily brunches. Head chef David Ryc creates simple but deeply satisfying dishes that bring to mind the best home cooking. An intuitive online website presents takeaway orders when items are at their peak, for example, the golden chickens turning on the rotisserie imported from France.
Reopening after a $5-million renovation, Rundle Bar at Fairmont Banff Springs is more than just a beautiful place to enjoy cocktails while gazing out at its namesake, Mount Rundle. Executive chef Robert Ash presents pan-Asian dishes such as char sui pork belly folded into delectable, soft banh mi bao buns, and fork-tender petite filets of local AAA Alberta beef with chimichurri sauce. To celebrate its reopening, the soaring two-storey brass and glass bar commissioned Rundle Bar Gin from Canmore’s Wild Life Distillery. Try the violet-hued floral spirit in a Negroni-inspired Wild Flower cocktail. Claim a window seat and enjoy two varieties of Fairmont’s famous afternoon tea: traditional style with cucumber and egg sandwiches or the Canadian variety with Nova Scotia salmon and Tofino tuna, plus scones and delicious desserts.
Note: Masks are compulsory indoors and out in Banff, and COVID-19 protocols are in place with social distance markers, directional arrows, and hand-sanitizing stations in abundance.