Date: 12th August 2016
Note – If I’ve left your favorite place off the list please drop me an email I’ll include it.
Canmore has really taken off in the last ten years–better food, coffee, more choices, and of course rapidly rising prices–most everything has gone up about 50 percent in the last few years.
Communitea: Canmore is too expensive for hippies, but Communitea is where they would go if they could afford. Really nice owners, best cappuccino in town, organic foods, a really good addition to Canmore Downtown. A good “rest day” place to chill out. Healthy organic bowls and such, lots of moms with strollers and people using the place as an alternate office (free wifi). They also book some surprisngly good acts in the evenings too.
Summit Cafe: Good breakfast food, crowds of active people scheming activities every morning, nice atmosphere, good morning sun on the deck. Canmore’s best breakfast place. Lunch a little variable but the chicken club is solid. No dinner.
Bagel Bakery (two locations): Good prices, good food, weak coffee, open late on main street (busy during the day), occasional live music in the evening. Their breakfast bagels are great morning food.
Beamers (two locations): OK coffee and simple food, open very early in the morning, fast service (a rarity in Canmore) zero attitude. One locaiton on the 1A, one right across from the post office (Rusticana on main street). Common meeting place for guides and clients.
Harvest, beside Switching Gear: A bit limited menu but good food, the “Stuffed French Toast” seems like an odd idea but is awesome. Popular with locals, unknown to tourists in general.
Bella Crusta: Best deal in Canmore for lunch, good and reasonable bread-style pizza (toppings on big pieces of round bread, excellent) lunch stuff across from the huge Stonewaters furniture store just off main street. I sometimes take some of his “heat and bake” pizzas, cook ‘em up, and take them climbing, excellent lunch. The owner is a Canmore classic and good guy.
Valbella’s Deli: High-quality and great tasting food, surprisingly reasonable given what you get. In the industrial park near the police station on Elk Run, green awnings. The lunch special here is a real meal; usually something like a big plate of curried chicken and rice, or some Austrian thing, but definitely the best “real food” lunch buy in town. They also make their own meats, great place to get trip or BBQ food.
La Belle Patate: Low-end, friendly, Quebec-style awesome food! Poutines of all styles, hamburgers, steamy hot dogs, limited tourists, always popular and just an awesome greasy slice of something different in Canmore. Inexpensive, and where you want to go after a day out in the mountains. No beer is the only drawback.
Red Rocks Pizza: A really good value, nice owners, also have good beer on top, local favourite for when you just want a decent pizza without feeling gouged or dealing with a scene. Limited seating in winter, but a big deck in summer.
Georgetown Inn: Good climbing memorabilia, decent food, Brit-inspired pub. Cosy, chill, good for a mellow dinner and a few beers. Nice place to stay too.
Spice Hut: An informal, post-climbing reliable go-to, always popular with my friends. Order it 9 on the scale of 1-10, go on, I dare you…
Grizzly Paw Brewery: Good solid middle of the road pub food and beer. Not greasy, not gastro-pub, just good pizza, burgers, salads and a good staff.
Ramen Bar: Ramen. Love it.
Iron Goat: Up in Cougar Creek (the sunny side of the valley). A really good place to go for a pint in the bar, or a solid meal on the restaurant side of things. This restaurant was started by a friend of mine–he reportedly invested a lot of money because he was sick of not having anyplace in town to go to get a good beer and good food in the evenings. I think he succeeded in solving both his problems. This has become my favorite evening hang because it’s good and also because it’s near my house.
Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company (Just off the far end of main street): Organic salads, cool if expensive pizzas, organic market every Thursday where I spend money on expensive but very healthy-looking food. Very kid-friendly, cool wood oven. Service an be hit and miss in Canmore in general, but this place is among the most variable and kinda legendary for idiotic house service. But the food is good, and occasionally I get a really great wait staff person.
Wild Orchid: One of the best places in Canmore. It’s a sort of pan-Asian vibe with really creative food, best sushi in town (limited selection, but good), and a great evening deck. The bill for three people with some wine was really reasonable given the quality of the food.
Aroma’s Mexican Food: I lived in the Southwest US for a while and spent months in Mexico paragliding, so I feel I am qualified to say this is some of the best Mexican food outside Mexico. It’s also stunningly expensive if you’re used to “normal” US Mexican food prices, but it’s worth it occasionally. Nice owners too. A lot of people come out from Calgary and other places to eat here. Service is slow, take your time.
Sage Bistro: On the 1A in the old log cabin. Creative but “real” food at good prices, good wine selection at reasonable prices. All in all a surprisingly good place to eat given how it looks, with that rarest of rare occurences in Canmore, really good service.
Crazy Weed: Expensive and worth it. Reliably good food, solid wine list, this is where you go when you want to get your big city on but mountain style.
“Special” Food & Needs
Late Night and Early: Tim Horton’s is open when you need it to be
Good Healthy Takeout: An Edible Life sells ready-to-cook meals and snacks, great to take on the road or cook up.
Vegan: Go back to Squamish, this is Alberta y’all!
Rocky Mountain Ski Lodge: Good owners, nice rooms, good people. Was my friend Guy Lacelle’s favorite place, and the owner is a guide. Kitchens and such in rooms too.
The Paintbox Lodge: Nice boutique-style rooms and scene. A friend of mine was staying there and wound up in a wedding, it’s that kind of fun place. Good restaurant as well. Owned by the Grandi/Renner team, good people.
Alpine Club: Hostel-style, but clean, cheap, good place to find partners. Just outside town (you can walk if you’re a European, Americans will need a truck).
The Hostel Bear: A few people have written in with the suggestion to add the Bear to this list, here’s Neil F.’s review, thanks: “The Hostel Bear (1002 Bow Valley Trail) opened up in the past year or so, and it’s my first choice whenever I say in town. The place is nothing fancy, but it’s a comfy bed and a shower for $26 a night. It’s a bunkbed, dorm-style sleeping kind of place, but that shouldn’t bother anyone who’s stayed in an ACC hut before. Roommates are usually pretty cool and friendly people. Lockers are available if you don’t trust your stuff around strangers. Be sure to bring earplugs, ‘cause there’s always someone who snores.” The name is a pretty good pun too, worth supporting for that.
Georgetown Inn: Non-chain, nice kinda frilly rooms. Close to the hospital if all goes bad, good food too.
Where NOT to stay: No really bad places in town, with the possible exception of our futon. Lots of chain hotels and good basic places.
Tavern 1883: Replaced Zona’s, good scene for adults, decent cocktails.
Georgetown: You may risk falling asleep in your beer, but it’s good beer and a nice scene.
The Canmore Hotel: usually has the best bands in Canmore – now it’s smoke free, which is a great thing! There is still the occasional aggro youth (the crowd reflects Canmore’s mix of yuppification and whatever the opposite of yuppie is) but the bands make it worth it. Let’s just say the “Ho” has cleaned up its image as the town’s primary source of police reports but still has a way to go before it’s a family-style institution. You’ll probably end up putting the final touches on a solid night of it here.
The Drake: is always popular and sometimes has good food, plus they have a smoke-free room for those of us who like our smoke direct instead of second hand.
Banff: is where you’ll need to go for serious night life, Canmore just doesn’t have it.
Climbing Gear: Vertical Addiction, near Sav-On Foods, is a true small specialty store with just the right quantity of maps, shoes, ropes and other outdoor hardware. The owner, Benoit, has worked really hard to make this place a success, and it’s great to have it here in town. Prices are usually competitive with MEC in Calgary too, a rarity in Canmore. Valhalla Pure has a much larger selection of clothing, travel stuff and pots and pans, and also sells a decent selection of hardware.
Climbing Gym, showers, weights, stretching, library, kid care. It’s all under one roof: Elevation Place is our Taj Mahal of a town rec centre, and it’s a great addition. The climbing wall is a bit low angle and the bouldering sketchy when the wall is busy, as it often is, but the route setting has improved dramatically in the last couple of years, and the manager and staff are really solid people.
The Canmore Bouldering Cave is steep and fun, but it’s not commercial. Drop-ins encouraged, but it can be hard to line up access. Hit the Facebook page, session!
Gear Up: rents most basic mountaineering gear (boots, ice axes, crampons, etc) if you need some in a hurry, nice to have this service in a local shop. The staff there is also knowledgable about touring gear (re-does skins, mounts bindings, etc), good people.
Grocery Stores: Sav-On (used to be Sobey’s, before that IGA) and Safeway are both monolithic big city style stores; Safeway does have the better selection. Nutters (in the strip mall across from the Drake and the Rose and Crown) has a lot of organic produce in a small space (well, it’s about 1/500th the size of the average Whole Foods but at twice the price). Valbella’s has good meats, bread.
Rusticana is a downtown convenience store that’s open early and late, and has some “real” groceries at a decent price. Good selection of Red Bull too :).
Fergies is up near Cougar Creek Canyon, and beside the Summit Cafe so convenient to have breakfast and pick up last-minute stuff before recreating.. Great Quebecois owner too.
Canmore Wine Merchants: Most of our small, independent liquor stores have been bought up by big chains. This sucked, but Canmore Wine Merchants is really good. I bought the best $20 bottle of wine I’ve ever had there on the owner’s rec., good guy and knowledgable about his stock (not just wine–all kinds of obscure Scotch too). Plus you have to like a place where the owner helped me carry a case of cheap wine a block out to my car ’cause I had to carry my kid. Good vibe.
Buy Cheap Outdoor Gear: Switching Gear often has great deals due to local sponsored athletes surreptitiously selling surplus sponsor swag (seriously).
Internet: Safeway, Bagel Bakery, Communitea, public library, the wireless network at our house.
Laundry: On main street beside the Grizzly Paw.
We have three solid shops in town. The Bicycle Cafe is good and the “cool” shop in town (and has arguably the best coffee, worth visiting for that alone). Rebound has gone increasingly Roadie, good staff (the owner fixed up a 20-year old burley with parts he had lying around, pretty cool.) Outside is a no-nonsense working class shop, solid mechanics and bike selection. It’s a bit like church, find where you feel at home.
Me. But more on this list soon!
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