Fireside Dining in Banff and Lake Louise
Mountain settings and fireplaces go together like hot chocolate and marshmallows. While it seems that every restaurant from Banff to Lake Louise has a stone fireplace, a cast iron stove, or a fire pit, some add an outstanding dining experience to that romantic glow. Here are some hideaways where chef driven menus and twinkling firelight combine, turning a night out into a night to remember.
Get Away from it All at Baker Creek Bistro, Lake Louise
There’s no chance of a dinner interrupted at the Baker Creek Bistro. Cell phone reception is unavailable here, and frankly it’s a relief, and a chance to concentrate on more important things, like your dining companion. Baker Creek Mountain Resort is a collection of gleaming, golden log cabins and lodges that’s been welcoming travelers on the old TransCanada Highway, (now the Bow Valley Parkway), since 1949. It was named after a local prospector, who searched this site where the Bow River meets Baker Creek, before disappearing into the mountains, leaving only his name for posterity.
The Bistro cabin snuggles under a blanket of stars at night. There’s a comfy couch in front of the stone fireplace, and lap rugs for an extra touch of hygge at the tables. Fairy lights glitter around the windows and log pillars. Executive Chef Collin Rogers hails from the East coast, and the kitchen of Halifax Chef Michael Smith. Small plates are mezze influenced, but the entrees are mainly Canadian. Beautifully plated cuts of AAA Alberta beef tenderloin, thick grilled pork loin chops and delicate wild salmon from Vancouver Island make an appearance, along with a vegan peanut curry for non-carnivores. The wine list is heavy on BC offerings, including several ice wines. Local beers from Grizzly Paw in Canmore, and Big Rock in Calgary plus a modest cocktail list round out the drinks menu.
After a boozy hot chocolate with Fra Angelico and whipped cream, stumble over to the Heritage Trapper’s log cabin with a private porch that faces the wilderness, a Jacuzzi tub, and yards of plaid décor. That phone can stay off for the night.
On Highway 93 S, 15 minutes from Lake Louise. Phone: 403-522-3761.
It’s Time for The Juniper Bistro, Banff
People have been coming to the bluff where the Juniper Hotel and Bistro overlooks the Bow Valley for years. About 4,000 years, give or take a century. An archaeological dig by Parks Canada uncovered a kekuli, a type of pit house dwelling, used seasonally by the Shuswap people, on a site beside the property. More recently, the attractive mid-century mod hotel, built in the 1950’s, was acquired by Arctos & Bird, who updated the bistro with a light hand, reusing original elements from the former Timberline dining room. An original menu hangs in the foyer, featuring lobster appetizers for $1.00 and filet mignon for $4.25.
There are still bargains to be had at the Bistro. Head Chef Darcy Townshend, who hails from P.E.I, has created a signature “crossroads cuisine”, that draws from regions across Canada and her personal relationships with local producers and family run farms. Canmore’s Valbella Gourmet Foods supplies quality cured meats and artisan sausages, pork comes from Sunterra and 4K farms. Both use sustainable farming practices that eliminate the need for antibiotics and growth hormones. The Kuterra Atlantic salmon is raised on land in BC by the ‘Namgis First Nation to prevent contamination of the ocean. Cheeses are 100% Canadian. These carefully considered Ingredients come together In a seasonal feature menu, that changes weekly and runs Tuesday to Thursday until May 28th. Expect entrée items like a bone-in Canadian wild boar loin with bourbon apple sauce and thick, tender scallops with risotto. At a mere $39.00, it’s been voted Banff’s Best Dinner Menu. The price includes a free ride back into Banff, so you can add a signature cocktail or a glass of BC wine with no regrets.
Enjoy dessert by the fireplace, or watch the stars come out over the Rockies from the expansive picture windows, the same way they’ve appeared since the dawn of time.
1 Juniper Way, Banff, Alberta. Phone: 1-403-762-2281.
Let it Snow at Storm Mountain Lodge
Back in 1922 when Storm Mountain Lodge was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway, it was touted as a backcountry getaway. When Highway 93 South was built, things got a bit busier. The historic log cabins, now blackened with age, were joined by newer pine cabins with more amenities like private bathrooms and clawfoot tubs. But the lodge still remains self-sustaining, off the grid and fiercely Canadian.
Since there are no kitchens or coffee makers in the cabins, the dining room has to shine, and it does. Under the watchful eye of Executive Chef Mike Hesla, a delectable selection of organic, plant-forward dishes emerge from the kitchen, perfectly plated. Vegetarians will be delighted with the lunchtime beetroot burger, a beet, wild mushroom, quinoa and black bean patty draped with cashew cheese.
For dinner, wrap your hands around a warm bowl of wild mushroom bourguignon. It’s rich port and blackcurrant gravy are intoxicating. Or try the bison short ribs, mopping up the maple whiskey and peppercorn velouté with bread made in-house from organic grains and flours. And if you only have time for one course, have dessert. You’ll be glad you did.
The wraparound verandah of the original log lodge has been enclosed with windows that overlook Storm Mountain and the occasional visiting grizzly bear. The west side holds a narrow gift shop crammed with Canadian delicacies and a tiny book nook with a most inviting armchair. In pride of place is a perfect river stone fireplace, complete with buffalo head, and a table made from an antique sled. Curl up on the deep leather sofa while you watch the dancing flames. But try and get here this winter. The TransCanada Highway will be closed in the spring and fall of 2020 for repairs and this gem won’t stay hidden for long.
Highway 93 S, Banff National Park, past the Radium turnoff going north. Phone 1-403-762-4155. Closed in November, call to confirm opening times.