It was 1883 and CNR rail workers were busy laying track through the Rocky Mountains when they stumbled on a series of natural hot springs. Then, as now, developers quickly angled and investors queued behind them, so the government stepped in to protect the rare find—and our first National Park was born.

Soon the world was beating a path to Banff’s majestic front door and a resulting mountain cuisine bubbled up—one part local, one part European. Today, from Lupo’s handmade pasta with raclette and fresh truffle to this summer’s blend-your-own-gin experience on the Banff Cocktail Trail, that adventurous spirit remains. Here are a host of new and newish eateries offering fuel for that next mountain experience—be it peak or patio.

A couple enjoying a meal at Louiza
The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is home to Louiza, a new restaurant that brings a taste of the Mediterranean to the mountains. Photo courtesy of Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

1. Louiza

The postcard-amazing Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise’s new restaurant, Louiza, serves Mediterranean-style share plates inspired by Canadian Rocky Mountain flora. In collaboration with Canmore’s Wild Life Distillery, the hotel recently launched two premium spirits, Fairview Winter Gin (juniper, grapefruit, saskatoonberries) and Untamed Signature Whisky (Alberta rye aged in white American oak, with notes of muscovado sugar, black pepper and “forest floor”). 111 Lake Louise Dr., Lake Louise


2. Brazen

Inside the historic Mount Royal Hotel (it opened three years after Alberta became a province), Brazen pays homage to the intrepid explorers who first checked in when it opened on a prime spot on Banff Avenue. Duck croquettes, fried artichokes with smoked tofu mousse and smoked striploin with cherry juniper jus are modern takes on rustic mountain cuisine.  138 Banff Ave., Banff

Bluebird Prime Rib Jus Pour
Bluebird Wood-Fired Steakhouse. Photo courtesy of Bluebird Restaurant and Lobby Bar

3. Bluebird Wood-Fired Steakhouse

Chef Justin Leboe earned his chops at Calgary’s acclaimed Pigeonhole and Model Milk before joining powerhouse Banff Hospitality Collective’s newest 180-seat gem, Bluebird Wood-fired Steakhouse. Located in the former iconic Melissa’s Missteak (don’t worry, that institution just moved down Banff Avenue), the reimagined chalet-meets-’70s lounge in the nearly 100-year-old building features a newly built 15-meter fireplace with stonework in a facsimile of the town’s main bridge. Prime rib looms large with shareable sides (gluten-free Yorkshire pudding; fried Manchego cheese with cantaloupe and macadamia nuts) while a half-price fondue happy hour and tropical-friendly cocktails on the newly opened patio make for perfect après.  214 Lynx St., Banff


4. Sudden Sally

For decades, the Inns of Banff was the first lodging to greet visitors to town, but it’s been revamped as the new Hotel Canoe and Suites with an onsite café, Sudden Sally, that offers breakfast (Canoe rolled oats with dates), lunch and dinner (sweet potato and date salad; buttermilk panko onion rings with a smash burger; house pickles). 2000–600 Banff Ave., Banff



5. Hankki’s

In a sea of price-elastic upscale eateries, Hankki’s Korean street food clocks in as one of the most affordable meals within sight of the Great Divide. The popular Calgary transplant’s KBBQ bowl with sweet and savoury marinated grilled pork costs just $11, while the Hankki Original, a battered beef and chicken sausage hotdog on a stick, sits at a pioneer-priced $6. 206 Buffalo St., Banff

Where to Stay in Banff

Banffchella pool party
Photo courtesy of Fairmont Banff Springs

One of Canada’s earliest iconic railway hotels, the Fairmont Banff Springs feels thoroughly modern with its Banffchella pool party vibe. This year’s new theme—Parisian garden party—sees pool and patio kitted out with natural florals and lawn games.

This story was originally published in the May/June 2024 print issue of Western Living magazine. Get your free subscription here