The restaurant scene has come a long way in Canmore in the last decade. While you can still get inexpensive bar meals at the many pubs, other choices run the gamut, from the lively atmosphere of dining in the front yard of a converted residence to an upscale French restaurant.
Downtown, Bella Crusta (702 6th Ave., 403/609-3366, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mon. to Sat.) is the purveyor of the best gourmet pizza in the Bow Valley. Heated slices to go are $6.50, or pay $15 to 18 for a family-size version and heat it yourself, on a barbecue as the friendly staff recommends.
Away from the downtown core, JK Bakery (1514 Railway Ave., 403/678-4232, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon. to Sat.) supplies regular and European-style breads to shops and restaurants throughout the Canadian Rockies. A small cafe out front serves up soups, sandwiches, and pastries, as well as selling gourmet breads over the counter.
Tucked away in an industrial park beyond the south end of Bow Valley Trail is Valbella Gourmet Foods (104 Elk Run Blvd., 403/678-3637, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mon. to Fri., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sat.). Valbella mainly supplies gourmet meats to Bow Valley restaurants and grocery stores; head there for Canadian specialties such as buffalo, venison, and salmon; fresh cuts of marinated Alberta beef, lamb, chicken, and pork; and cured sausages.
Best Canmore Cafes
Rocky Mountain Bagel Company (830 8th St., 403/678-9978, 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily) is a popular early-morning gathering spot. With a central location, it’s always busy but manages to maintain an inviting atmosphere. It’s the perfect place to start the day with a good strong coffee and fruit-filled muffin.
Down one block, Beamer’s Coffee Bar (737 7th Ave., 403/609-0111, 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily) is a smaller space with equally good coffee. Out on the Bow Valley Trail (between Dairy Queen and Boston Pizza) is another Beamer’s Coffee Bar (403/678-3988), this one anchored by a long comfortable couch wrapped around a fireplace–the perfect place to relax with one of Beamer’s complimentary daily papers or take advantage of the free wireless Internet.
Away from downtown, near where Cougar Creek enters Canmore from the Fairholme Range, is the Summit Cafe (1001 Cougar Creek Dr., 403/609-2120, 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily). It features a health-conscious menu including lots of salads, but many people come just to soak up the sun on the outside deck or relax with the daily paper and a cup of coffee.
Off the top end of Main Street, Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. is a lovely space of natural tones dominated by a clay wood-fired oven in one corner. The oven is also the main attraction when it comes to the food–gourmet flatbread-style pizzas for under $20. My advice: Start with a bowl of made-from-scratch chicken noodle soup ($6.50), then move on to the chicken, apple, and cheery tomato pizza (the $16.50 size is enough for two people).
Located in a converted early 1900s residence one block back from the main street, Tavern 1883 is an inviting restaurant with exposed wooden beams, a polished hardwood floor, and a huge patio with mountain views. The menu uses lots of local ingredients and offers something for all tastes and budgets, ranging from a quinoa burger to AAA Alberta beef tenderloin. In between are local specialties such as an elk burger and creative options like duck tacos.
The innovative Canadian-oriented cuisine and flawless presentation make Sage Bistro a longtime Canmore favorite. Mains include familiar favorites with a local twist: bison strip loin smothered in maple blueberry butter, and braised lamb shank with sweet potato fries. Finish up with maple syrup creme brule (trust me, you’ll love it). The patio is a wonderful place for lunch.
Duck down an alleyway off main street to Chef’s Studio Japan, a Japanese restaurant open daily for lunch and dinner. Seating is at a sushi counter or at regular tables surrounded by original art. The cuisine is not overly inventive, but the portions are generous and the tempura–always a good litmus test–is light and delicate. Educate yourself in the variety of Japanese cooking styles by ordering one of the hot and cold platters designed for sharing between two (from $28).
Wild Orchid Bistro is my favorite Japanese restaurant in the Canadian Rockies. It features all the usual choices, all expertly crafted in the open kitchen, as well as many with a western twist. Perfect presentation, mountain views, and a large deck add to the appeal.