Travel: Places To Eat in Calgary and Banff

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On our first visit to Canada, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. On top of extremely hospitable people, we were surprised at how low key the every-day seemed to be. Used to the rush of daily living in California, a visit to Calgary showed us that city life could be slow, too. The openness of the people we met was also a surprise, one that I was not accustomed to, but that I was also very in love with. Calgary, to me, was a bit sleepy though, and if I could have a do-over, I would have gone straight to Banff, because I can never have enough time in the wild. Banff was everything the pictures showed us, and even more. We were actually surprised to rate Banff as an equivalent to our beloved New Zealand. We will definitely be returning here again to explore more of the sights we haven’t seen (with the hopes of encountering bears and moose and the like).


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Not worth the time.

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Good, but ordinary.

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Great. Worth a visit.

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Exceptional. A must-do experience.

$
Frugal friendly

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Reasonable

$$$
Pricey


Alforno Bakery and Cafe

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222 7 ST SW
CALGARY, AB T2P 0E4, CANADA
$$

Always in search of bread, Alforno Bakery and Cafe has been on my radar since we first set eyes on visiting Calgary. It was a rainy morning on our first day, but we chose to walk a mile along the river anyway to the cafe shop. The bread was absolutely delicious! The baguette was amazing, not at all what I expected. The outside was crisp and light, not the typically heavy crust that you would expect. The inside though was extremely soft. My husband had a sandwich on toast and his bread was great too. I definitely would go back! They had so many sandwiches on the menu that I wanted to try, and loaves of bread on the shelves. Can we open one in SoCal?

Analog Coffee

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♦♦♦
740 17 AVE SW
CALGARY, AB T2S 0B7, CANADA
$

As a Californian, a summer in Calgary was cold for me. Add to that a bit of moody drizzle, and it wasn’t long before our quest for fresh-out-of-the-oven bread became a quest for coffee. We swung by a large food court area where Analog coffee was housed, got two lattes, sat down, and watched the World Cup with fellow Canadians taking a lunch break from their work day. It WAS a Tuesday, after all! It’s always hard to judge coffee in a latte, so I am not even going to try. I liked the drink, worth coming back to try the actual coffee. But on this particular dreary day, I wanted the comforts of a mug full of milk.

Tuk Tuk Thai

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♦♦
636 17 AVE SW
CALGARY, AB T2S 0B4, CANADA
$

Tuk Tuk Thai was rated as one of the best cheap eats in Calgary. It may be that we were extremely tired from walking ten miles in the city, but we found the food to be okay. It was good, but definitely not even close to being memorable. In fact, the pad thai was a bit bland, and the beef was doused in a vinaigrette. I do give them props for their lotus flower paper bowls, and extremely eco-conscious restaurant though!

Wild Flour Bakery

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♦♦♦♦
211 BEAR ST #101
BANFF, AB, CANADA
$

Off course, we had to stop by the highest rated bakery in little old Banff. I loved it so much that we actually ate breakfast there TWICE! This was the very first stop we made since we had driven up to Banff in the morning. Once you walk into the place, you knew that this was a place for gathering with a group of friends over hot bowls of soup, warm sandwiches and coffee. That morning, we ordered coffee and two panini sandwiches, perfect for our hungry stomachs after an hour drive.  Interested in the bread loaves sitting on the shelves, we took one home for our peanut butter lunches during the hikes. They always say that you know the bread is REAL when it only lasts 2-3 days. It bothers me to see bread on shelves lasting more than a week, and I shudder thinking about how much preservatives we put in our food. This definitely passed the test. Since we were only in Banff for three days, it hardened up right when we were finishing the loaf. Just the way our home made bread lasts! We returned on our final day here, interested in the warm porridge that we had seen the first morning we came, but we mistakenly ordered granola instead, which was actually a blessing in disguise because I remade this exact same granola and ate it every day during our first week back from our trip. It was so delicious! Next time though, I’m going to definitely get my hands on that steamy bowl of porridge. Between this and Al Forno, it is evident that this is not the typical commercialized bread that you would normally buy. This bakery focuses on making really nourishing bread. They use only organic flours, natural starters, and bake in a stone heart oven for that beautiful crust. They are a kindred spirit, and their passion for leavening is apparent in their product.

Banff Ave. Brewing Co.

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♦♦
110 BANFF AVE
BANFF, AB T1L 1A9, CANADA
$$

After a day of hiking, we thought we wanted to eat bar food on our first night in Banff. Turns out, a day of hiking followed by bar food only makes you groggier and sloth-like. The food was very typical, with my fish and chips and fries taking similar to one I would order at a diner back home. The view though was great, since the balcony of the bar looks down on the main street. Lots of people watching opportunities, followed by an early night in.

Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse

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TO GET HERE, YOU MUST HIKE THE PLAIN OF SIX GLACIERS
$$

This was by far, my favorite eating experience on our trip. Getting to this teahouse means hiking up the Plain of 6 Glaciers Trail. After trekking through flat land, icy mountain slopes, and gravelly dirt paths for four miles, reaching this teahouse two thirds of the way up was just extreme paradise. To this day, they carry all their supplies up and down the mountain via donkey or in backpacks. It was summer, but still cool enough to drink tea, so I cannot imagine how heavenly this must feel after a trek in early spring or late fall. They housed a lot of tea options from Banff Tea Co. and Mike and I loved ours so much that we visited Banff Tea Co. in downtown Banff and got some tea to take home for our house and as a gift for my sister’s upcoming birthday. Mike got some homemade tea biscuits (more bread!) that was extremely delicious! Meanwhile, I was resisting the urge to get a slab of chocolate cake, until the picnic table next door ordered one of their own and I caved. It came cool, moist, and with a generous dollop of chocolate icing on top. Absolutely no regrets. This to me was almost as cool as the hike itself. I think just being out in nature and stripped from things we take for granted make reaching places such as this a great opportunity for finding gratitude in something as simple as a slab of chocolate cake.

Nourish Bistro

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♦♦♦♦
110-211 BEAR ST
BANFF AB T1L 1B4
$$

This was by far the BEST restaurant we ate at. We learned our lesson after the first night of bar food. This place was SO good that we actually ate here two dinners in a row. It is a vegatarian oasis, serving a number of different cuisines. They support local farms and you can absolutely tell in their fresh farm to table food! Elegant, GMO free, Organic, Gluten Free, Raw, Local, Seasonal, Compassionate, + Green. They even take their sustainability to the bar, serving organic cocktails as well as house juices, elixirs, smoothies and locally crafted teas. If that was not enough, the food itself was extremely creative! I mean, the loaded nachos had everything from strawberries and mandarins to beans, quinoa and lentils. The roasted cauliflower is also pictured above. Not pictured but worth mentioning are the King Kong Noodles and the Mac and Squeeze. I think when we go back to Banff, this would be the first place we visit.

Other places worth visiting:

 

Travel: Hiking through Banff National Park

Crystal blue lakes, sheer glacial faces, lush evergreen valley floors, and powerful roaring waterfalls. Falling into a glacial lake, swinging on a hammock, canoeing towards glaciers, a million mosquito bites. These are only some of the memories from our trip to Banff National Park. Most of all, I will never forget the thunderclap sound a glacier makes, as avalanches of snow tumble off the cliffs. The main reason I wanted to go to Banff was because I wanted to see what was left of the glaciers before our deleterious effects on the environment and contributions to global warming result in nothing left to be seen. What we found was way more than could be seen in the meager few days that we were there. Obsessed with seeing the most beautiful parts of the world since trekking through the Routeburn Track in our New Zealand honeymoon, Banff did not disappoint! This was probably the most exhausting three days that we have ever done, but the views were so worth it. My photos cannot do this place justice, and I definitely wish I had more time to go on even more hikes. At least that’s incentive to come back!

For the curious:

Hikes that we did included:

  • Johnston Canyon
  • Plain of 6 Glaciers
  • Lake Agnes Trail
  • Johnson Lake
  • Fenland Trail
  • Ink Pots

How we did the hikes:

Johnston Canyon Lower and Upper Falls and on to the Ink Pots – This is a very easy hike leading up to the lower and then upper falls. There is a designated path that is well-traversed, so be ready for crowds especially in the summer time. Viewing the falls did result in a few lines, but to be fair, we started the hikes mid-afternoon, which is pretty late in the summer-time. After the Upper Falls, there is a 0.6km trail that leads to the beginning of the Ink Pots, which is a moderate trek. I would really recommend for people to continue on, because the Ink Pots are a sight to see. Plus, it ends in a beautiful valley that is right next to the river, surrounded by looming mountains. The entire trip is approximately 6km one way.

Lake Moraine – We did no hikes in Lake Moraine. We headed here before 7:30am and barely made the cut off before they closed the road down. I would suggest getting there even earlier, maybe by 6am in the summer time, in order to get a spot in the parking lot. We had to park 2 miles away from the lake and walk to the car and back, which was fine. Once the road is closed, it will remain closed for the rest of the day. We bee-lined straight for the canoes and got one of the last canoes in the first batch going out to the lake. It was a hefty fee (about USD $90) but it was so worth it to glide on the glacial waters and eat croissants on the boat. After the canoeing, we attempted to climb the boulders to get a view of the lake but didn’t get far before once of us fell into the freezing glacial waters! After that, we decided hiking was not in the cards for the day, especially after a grueling 10 miles yesterday. We hung a hammock up lakeside in a secluded area, took off wet boots and socks and laid them out to dry on the sun, and took naps and a two hour break at the hammock. Socks and shoes still wet, and a couple mosquito bites later, we called it a day and hiked back up to the car.

Lake Louise – We did a loop, starting with the Plain of 6 Glaciers and returning via Lake Agnes. I would recommend doing it this way, since the Lake Agnes trail has a very steep climb for the majority of the trail. The Plain of 6 Glaciers is a very mellow flat walk for the first 2 km along the lake, beautiful for the morning. We started at 7am, which was great because by the time we got to the Plain of 6 Glaciers tea house, it was not yet crowded and we easily got a seat. Breakfast entailed tea and chocolate cake and biscuits (yes it was amazing!) before we continued on to the glaciers. Afterwards, it was downhill until we took the connecting trail to Lake Agnes. A slight uphill climb that afforded amazing views of Lake Louise and the hotel was worth it. You will also have the option of going to the Lake Agnes teahouse on the way down, but we just continued to journey on, eating peanut butter sandwiches as we took the steep descent to the lake.  

Hikes on my bucket list, for next time:

  • Larch Valley/Sentinel Pass
  • O’Hara Circuit Trail
  • Healy Pass
  • Bourgeu Lake/Harvey Pass
  • Parker Ridge Trail

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