Vegetarians and Vegans Traveling in Banff, Canada

Banff is AWESOME! The pristine, quaint, town with undeniable rustic charm will make you feel like you stepped into a Hallmark movie.

As for dining options for vegans and vegetarians, it’s limited but available. As you’d expect finding vegetarian food is easier than vegan. I’m here now and adding updates as I go. But to summarize here are some options for vegans and vegetarians in Banff:

  • Nourish Bistro
  • Masala (North Indian cuisine)
  • Earl’s Kitchen + Bar
  • Nester’s Market Great little market to pick up vegan ice cream, soy or almond milk, tofu and vegetarian selections. We didn’t see any vegan pastries or baked goods.
  • Tim Horton’s on Gopher St If you need to pick up something quick, you can get a Beyond Meat sandwich here.
  • Subway on Banff Ave, opens at 7am. This was convenient as we picked up a Veggie Delite in the morning and picnicked wherever we were for lunch.

See detailed reviews of these places below.

Places we didn’t try but have vegetarian and/or vegan options:

  • India Curry House (North Indian Cuisine). We didn’t eat here as we felt the reviews were, meh.
  • Good Earth Coffee House We didn’t eat here as American fare isn’t our thing but they definitely have vegetarian soups and salads.
  • Eddie Burger + Bar This was recommended to us by another vegan in Banff who recommended their sweet potato burger. We didn’t get a chance to eat here.

{Review of Vegetarian and Vegan Food at Nourish Bistro, Banff}

Last night we went to Nourish Bistro for dinner. And it was fantastic! They have an eclectic, worldly, and innovative menu. This restaurant is 100% vegetarian. Most of their dishes are vegan and can be made vegetarian (with dairy cheese) if you prefer. They have dishes with Beyond Meat or tofu as well. But what I really appreciate about Nourish the innovativeness of their menu. Many vegan and/or vegetarian restaurants rely on mock meat throughout their menu. Nourish has some Beyond dishes but it’s not in everything on the menu.

The nachos, Beautiful Burrito, and the blueberry lassi were delicious and so filling for my husband and I. 1 half appetizer, 1 large entree (that is meant to be shared), and one beverage cost $60CAD including tax and tip which is about $45.50USD per the exchange rate today (September 5, 2019).

The service was friendly too. There were only 2-3 parties when we got there for an early dinner so service was really fast. I’m sure we’ll eat here again during our trip.

Tomorrow we are planning to try Masala, an Indian restaurant here in Banff. See review below.

FYI, there’s a grocery store in Banff town called IGA which carries almond milk, soy milk and tofu. We bought KIND bars, chips and carrots. They have baby carrots in individual packs – super convenient for traveling! And since our hotel room has a refrigerator it’s perfect.

{Packing Food for Picnics}

We’re headed out this morning to hike Johnston Canyon. My vegetarian friend who visited Banff earlier this summer advised me to pack food with us for the day. She said once you head out on the Bow Valley Parkway there isn’t much you can buy.

The place we’re staying in Banff, the Canalta Lodge includes breakfast. So before we head out for the day we’re gonna stop at Subway and pick up some sandwiches. Last night we picked up drinks and snacks at the grocery store.

I didn’t bring a travel cooler bag with me because the weather is cool – in the 60s and expected to be cloudy every day that we’re here.

As we try more places, I’ll review them! Stay tuned!

Update: If you’re not picnicking in Banff, you’re seriously missing out. Everywhere you turn there’s a gorgeous scenery waiting for you to enjoy it. Moreover the infrastructure throughout the National Park is so good that there are picnic tables at so many spots and points of interest.

It also makes practical sense as once you’re out and about there may not be restaurants nearby.

{Vegetarian and Vegan Breakfast at Canalta Lodge}

Ok, so I just finished my first included breakfast at Canalta Lodge. If you’re vegetarian you’ll be fine.

If you’re vegan it will be problems. But that’s why it’s nice that the rooms have refrigerators. You can buy your own almond milk and put it in a tumbler and take it down with you for breakfast. Same thing with vegan butter or other spread you might like for bread and bagels.

So here’s what they offered: cereal, bagels, bread (gluten free upon request), eggs, seasoned breakfast potatoes, fruit-yogurt parfaits and some fruit. To drink there are a couple of fruit juices and coffee.

The milk, butter and yogurt are not vegan.

I ate a cinnamon raisin bagel and seasoned potatoes. They do have jam, but I don’t know if it’s vegan. But there is ketchup and sriracha as well.

For vegetarians it was pretty good value. Breakfast definitely filled us up and we felt ready to start the day.


We just got back after an action packed day in Banff. We hiked Johnston Canyon – lower falls, upper falls, and all the way to the ink pots. We also hiked the Castle Mountain Lookout Trail then drove to Lake Louise and walked around the whole lake. I’m in pretty good shape but after all this I was definitely tired afterwards but everything was TOTALLY worth it.

Fun, active day hiking Johnston Canyon and the Ink Pots on Bow Valley Parkway.

After the hike we drove to the Storm Mountain Lookout for a picnic. One of the best picnic spots ever! The benches overlook Bow River AND Castle Mountain. We loved it. We ate our Subway sandwich and munched on chips before heading to the next destination.

Turquoise water at Lake Louise

{Review of Masala, North Indian Cuisine for Vegans and Vegetarians in Banff}

Ok, so I just got back from dinner at Masala, a North Indian restaurant in Banff. As far as vegetarian options, there are plenty. As with most Indian restaurants, you’ll be overwhelmed with choice! Vegans will also enjoy a number of selections – aloo gobhi, bhindi, bengan bharta, daal tadka, channa masala, samosas, vegetable biryani, vegetarian fried rice as well as a couple more appetizers. I am not sure if their naan is vegan.

As far as the food goes, we were underwhelmed. I should preface this by saying I grew up eating home cooked Indian food everyday and have had access to excellent Indian restaurants having grown up in SoCal and now living in the SF Bay. Anyone who lives in a big city – NYC, LA, SF, London, Durban, Sydney, Kampala, Toronto, Vancouver, Houston, Washington DC, etc. where you have access to really good Indian food, you’ll probably agree.

We ordered vegetarian – not vegan:

  • Palak paneer
  • Navratran korma
  • Garlic naan
  • Basmati rice
  • Mango lassi
  • Chai

All of this came out to about $56CAD including tip – which they pre-included in our bill. The portions were more than plenty for us. We finished the naan but there was leftovers of the two mains and rice. Even though we have a refrigerator in our hotel room, we opted not to take the leftovers.

Palak Paneer. Something was missing. It was just ok – blandish.

The navratran korma was tasty. The garlic naan was a little over cooked. The rice was just plain white rice. At my favorite Indian restaurant in Palo Alto, CA, Darbar – they at least serve saffron rice.

The chai was also just so-so, not the masala chai that Indians love. The slow service didn’t help make up for the so-so food. When we arrived, at 6pm the restaurant was less than half full. They took a pretty long time to take our order. But the food came pretty quickly. By the time we left the restaurant around 7pm, it was packed.

They open at 5pm everyday for dinner. When I called to make a reservation, they said they only take reservations up to 6:30pm.

If I was giving Masala restaurant, Banff a Yelp review I’d give it 3 stars. The restaurant is on Bear Street, on the first floor of a sort of hidden mall. The ambience is nice – but casual. You can wear your hiking gear – no worries.


We are still deciding what’s on the itinerary for tomorrow. More later!


Good morning! It’s 7am in Banff and today we’re off to explore the many stops along the Icefields Parkway! I don’t think we plan to drive all the way to Jasper but definitely at least up to Peyto Lake. We’re currently at Subway on Caribou Street in downtown Banff, getting a sandwich for our picnic lunch later today. We’ve also got vegan ginger snap cookies, chips, and carrots – so plenty of food for a full day of exploration.

Today at breakfast, Canalta Lodge replaced the seasoned breakfast potatoes with mini pancakes that I’m certain are made with eggs, so today we stuck to fruit and yogurt parfaits and a half bagel each for breakfast.

Good evening! It’s Saturday night and after a full-on 12 hour day of adventure on the Icefields Parkway and Jasper National Park, we are tired and hungry. We were leaning towards pizza but were underwhelmed by reviews and options. We decided to go back to Nourish Bistro.

{Another Review of Nourish Bistro, Banff; With Different
Dishes for Vegans and Vegetarians}

We ordered the Moroccan Cauliflower Bites and the Wild Mushroom Ravioli. Both dishes are vegan. The sauce that comes with the cauliflower was made with dairy yogurt but they can probably substitute it for something vegan. We found the cauliflower dish bland. It was roasted cauliflower with some sort of masala that definitely looked like turmeric. As for the sauce it came with, per the description in the menu I was expecting something raita-ish, but it ended up being more like a chutney, and also bland.

The flavor of the ravioli made up for the bland cauliflower. We shared this main entree and really enjoyed it. After a long, super active day we stuck to water to drink. So 1 appetizer and 1 entree to share cost about $50CAD including tax and tip.

We decided not to have dessert at Nourish. Instead we bought some ginger snap cookies from the grocery store and I had brought hot cocoa mix and we have almond milk in our hotel room fridge, so we dipped cookies into hot cocoa for dessert and a night cap!

Ok I’m exhausted so signing off for today. More tomorrow!

Hello! It’s Sunday night and I’m back after another incredible, action packed day in Banff. Due to the weather forecast of rain expected by late afternoon, we stayed closer to Banff. Also I packed an entire second outfit that I left in the car in case we got soaked. Luckily it didn’t rain at all! And we had an awesome awesome day.

So this morning at Canalta Lodge they had mini pancakes again so I ate a fruit and yogurt parfait and half a bagel for breakfast. Today we decided to skip picking up lunch from Subway. We decided to just pack snacks – KIND bars and carrots which we enjoyed at Storm Mountain picnic area.

After hiking Tunnel Mountain in the evening, we were ready for a nice warm meal. We felt like pizza and despite some negative reviews decided to check out Bear Street Tavern. They had a 40 minute wait, which we didn’t want to do, so we walked around the corner and saw Earl’s Kitchen + Bar. I remembered when I was Googling vegan and vegetarian in Banff they were high up in the search results so we decided to go. We got seated within a few minutes and I’m SO glad we ended up there!

They have a whole vegan section on the menu! It’s only 6 dishes or so, but still it’s something. We ordered a vegetarian margherita pizza (vegetarian) and the Crispy Zen Tofu Bowl which is vegan. Both were delicious! And just the right amount of food for two people after having a super active day. The service was super friendly and our food came out in a timely manner. I thanked our server for having a vegan section and she said she’s working on going vegetarian and mentioned that the vegan section is relatively new to their menu. That’s exciting as veganism and vegetarianism are finally catching on in Western countries.  And I really do mean finally.

But things got even better after dinner. It’s our last night in Banff and we decided to  have dessert. We didn’t care for the desserts at Earl’s, so we stopped at Nesters Market, a grocery store, since it was right next to the parking lot our car was in. And SCORE! We bought vegan ice cream!

When we were checking out the cashier was friendly and again I said, “I really appreciate that you carry vegan ice cream.” It turned out he and his girlfriend are both vegan and he suggested Eddie Burger + Bar for their sweet potato burger, which he said is “really good”. He also said that if you don’t mind that they cook their fries in the same oil as nom-vegetarian food, their their truffle fries are really good.

Then, my husband being Canadian, said we couldn’t visit Canada without going to a Tim Horton’s at least once. So we went to the one in Banff just a few blocks from downtown, and while he ordered I checked out the menu. To my delight, they have a Beyond Burger option. I’m personally not into the mock meat – but at least they’ve got something, signaling that vegan and vegetarian contentiousness has reached even such a major chain.

So this was the day that just kept on giving – we had a great experience at the Lake Louise Gondola, driving around the Lake Minnewanka scenic drive, doing the Tunnel Mountain scenic drive and hike. Then great parking karma at peak dinner time in Banff, great restaurant karma, then great dessert karma!

Now, I’m back at Canalta Lodge and gonna pass out soon. Have a great night and more tomorrow, my last day in Banff!

Our last day in Banff and it’s rainy and cold. We decided to sleep in and be a bit more leisurely due to the weather and the fact that we’re tired! We’ve had 4 action packed days! Breakfast at Canalta Lodge was the same: bagel, coffee, fruit-parfait. The seasoned potatoes were back so we ate some of those. We enjoyed a leisurely and ‘late’ breakfast so again we decided to skip picking up a Subway sandwich. It was 8am and we had until 2pm before we had to drive to back to Calgary. We preferred to make the most of the remaining time and then enjoy a nice, warm meal in Calgary.

We found a Thai Vegan restaurant near Calgary airport called Hearts Choices. This little cafe is in an industrial, business park so at first we thought we were in the wrong place.  We ordered the Pad Thai and Nan’s Vermicelli. We wanted the Yellow Curry but they were out of it that day. I thought the food was so-so. I didn’t like the Pad Thai. The couple behind us ordered french fries which looked delicious – freshly made and warm. Sorry for the lack of photos. I was so hungry and tired, I forgot to take a few photos before eating.

Still I liked this restaurant – awesome that it’s 100% vegan and close to the airport. In addition to the restaurant, they sell curries, tofu, wraps and mock meat in their refrigerated section which is great for people on a lunch break or for people to pick up before heading home after work.

{Calgary Airport Vegan and Vegetarian Options}

At the airport, there were few vegan selections. Well, I should specify that we were in the terminal for USA destinations. There’s a Thai restaurant and a Burger King. The Impossible Burger hasn’t been rolled out at Burger King’s in Canada yet. They launched it across the USA a few months ago and are testing it there before expanding to Canada. I read that they expect to roll it out to Canada sometime this year. But I am not sure if that includes airport locations. So… at Burger King you could order fries.

There was an Italian eatery by Wolfgang Puck that had a vegetarian mushroom pizza and a margherita pizza as well as salads. They make them fresh though, so you could ask for the mushroom pizza without cheese. There’s a Starbucks – I’m pretty sure all of their pastries are made with eggs, so not vegan, and one of those Hudson News type stores where you can buy snacks and candy.

We ate lunch at the Thai place about 4 hours before our flight so we got a mushroom pizza to share on the approximately 3 hour flight.

{What We Did On A Rainy Day in Banff}

With the rainy weather and thunderstorms we didn’t want to do a long hike where we might get stuck in the rain. We decided to do the many scenic drives in and around Banff. We started with the Vermillion Lakes Scenic Drive, which starts right near the Banff sign. Since it wasn’t raining we decided to do the short Fenland Trail. I wouldn’t consider this 1.2 mile loop a hike, more like a walk but you get to walk through the spruce forest.

Then we did the Tunnel Mountain Scenic Drive as well as Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive. The rain stopped long enough that we got to hike up to Cascade Falls!

{Conclusion}

Our trip to Banff was pretty last minute so we didn’t know what to expect in terms of availability of food. We were pleasantly surprised at how much there was at our hotel’s breakfast and at the restaurants in Banff. As in were glad we didn’t have to rely on Subway and Indian restaurants.

Vegan and vegetarian awareness is definitely permeating across the globe. You can see it in the menus at restaurants and cafes and just talking to other tourists, I have encountered more people who are vegetarian and vegan these last 3 years than ever before. Before, the only other vegetarians were other people of Indian heritage but now, it’s anyone.

Our Australian server at a restaurant is an aspiring vegetarian and our Irish cashier at the market mentioned that he and his girlfriend are vegan. 

Banff is already a fantastic place and accessibility to good vegan and vegetarian food only made the experience that much more delightful. I hope this information is helpful as you plan your trip to Banff. Have a brilliant time!

Cheers!

Banff National Park, Canada

 

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