What am I thinking? Walking into the gaping maw of Banff townsite on a sunny summer Friday. During the height of a historic tourist season.
I do have an excuse, of sorts: doing research for a new edition of my Day Trips From Calgary book (out next year!). And if I’m already there, rubbing shoulders with the hordes, might as well eat.
So I head in late morning to what I call restaurant row: three narrow joints within a span of about 50 feet on Caribou Street. At longstanding Coyotes Southwestern Grill, folks are cutting into slabs of sourdough French toast, dipped in free-range, organic eggs. It looks tempting, but I’m more interested in lunch.
Next door at Tooloulou’s, they have both meals covered, serving big plates of eggs, po’ boys and other Cajun cuisine. But the line is out the door, and I don’t do well with waiting.
Fortunately, a few doors down, tapas-focused Block Kitchen + Bar has just fired up the lunch grill, and other than one occupied outside table, it’s just me, co-owner Andy Burke and the cook. Perfect.
It takes no more than five seconds of menu scanning for my eyes to fix on a winner: a house-roasted pork belly naanwich, with pea shoots, house pickles and tangy mango sauce, plus a mess of fries on the side. This honking big sandwich is delicious and, for a resort town, great value for $15.
Indeed, I nibble on it all afternoon as I drive around the town’s tourist hot spots, before heading up to Lake Louise, where the traffic is so heavy I have to park a kilometre down the road from the fabled lake. What am I thinking?
Block Kitchen + Bar
Corner of Caribou Street and Banff Avenue, Banff, Alberta
Daily 11:30 am-2 am
I know what you mean. The tourist season is the worst time to visit any tourist site.
I was in Titusville in the 1980’s and toured the Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral at the height of the tourist season and just when the space shuttle was in the process of being moved out of the “barn” and onto the launch pad.
So much space, and yet there was no way to walk without bumping into someone.
A day after my Banff visit, I did a mostly trailless hike into a nearby, stunning alpine basin. Not a soul around. It can be done.