A Non-Commercial Guide to Canmore (updated April 27th, 2009)
Climbers and other visitors often ask me where to sleep, drink, eat, etc. in Canmore, here are my choices plus some from a few other people who have written in (I reserve the right to comment on their choices, grin). If I've left your favorite place off the list drop me an email I'll include it.
Canmore has really taken off in the last five years--better food, coffee, more choices, and of course rapidly rising prices--most everything has gone up about 50 percent in the last five years. Those of you sporting US dollars will be even more shocked--thank George Bush for the fact that the $US now buys about half of what did five years ago in Canmore.Those with Euros will find Canmore to be reasonable compared to Davos or Chamonix.
Note--I'm too lazy to look up phone numbers and such, but you're on-line, you can figure it out--the whole town is pretty small.
Canmore has finally yuppified sufficiently to have good food... Unfortunately, prices have also gone ballistic compared to five years ago.
Good Food at reasonable prices, breakfast:
Communitea: Downtown but one street north of main next to the dog store and just past Bella Crusta. Best cappucino in town, nice owners, 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.
Summit Cafe: Good breakfast food, crowds of active people scheming about the day every morning, nice atmosphere, good morning sun deck. Canmore's best breakfast place.
Coffee Mine: This place has been seriously upgraded, now has the best breakfast sandwiches in town (towering creations) and good lunch. Not exactly cheap but good.
Bagel Bakery: Good prices, good food, weak coffee, open late on main street, occasional live music in the evening.
Beamers: OK coffee and simple food, open very early in the morning. One locaiton on the 1A, one right across from the post office (Rusticana on main street).
Harvest, beside Switching Gear: A bit limited menu but good food, the "Stuffed French Toast" seems like an odd idea but is actually really good. Located where the Village Bistro used to be, and right across from the Internet Cafe. Popular with locals, unknown to tourists in general.
Bella Crusta: Good and cheap pizza-style (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. 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.
Railway Deli: For $15 you can get a huge plate of very nice food, and stock up on all kinds of Austrian deli stuff from fresh bread to good cheese to "Death Sticks," the weird burnt-looking fatty sausages that have been up a lot of new routes in the Rockies. Maybe the best cafeteria-style food I've ever eaten. If you call ahead they will do a fondue too. On the corner of the 1A and Railway Ave (on your right just before you cross the railway track when going from the Trans Can toward downtown). Kind of hidden in a strip mall, and check the hours before commiting to eating there, they seem to open and close a bit randomly.
Good Food, not cheap but not crazy expensive:
Luna Blue (formerly Melange) : Great pasta, appetizers, good service and one of the best kitchens in Canmore. Main street across from the Canmore Hotel. Lunch and dinner. I eat here regularly. The chef will cook up about anything you want if you ask nicely, he is a town resource.
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 my two-year old doesn't seem to terrify the staff unlike some other places in Canmore.
Wild Orchid: This place is in one of those ultra-plush new condo developments (Silver Creek Lodge), and to be honest I was not expecting much. I left after one of the best meals I've ever eaten in Canmore. It's a sort of pan-Asian place with really creative food, best sushi in town (limited selection, but good), and a happening vibe. The bill for three people with some wine was really reasonable given the quality of the food. Reminds me of Crazyweed before it got all pretentious.
Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company (Just off the far end of main street). Organic salads, cool if strangely expensive pizzas, organic market every Thursday where I spend money on expensive but very healthy-looking food. Very kid-friendly, cool wood oven.
Santa Lucia: Best pizza in town, decent Italian food, pasta can be sketchy.
Thai Pagoda: On the 1a (street with Hospital etc). Solid Thai food with an interesting owner who may regale you stories that are interesting the first time but don't gain much on subsequent tellings. Not the biggest portions going--if you're really hungry order two. In the same location that used to house Musashi (I miss that place!).
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.
"Special" Food and needs
Coffee: Mountain Mercato on main street does a mean Espresso, but Communitea has seriously good cappucino, a very rare thing in North America. There is a Starbucks in town but I wouldn't subject anyone who has ever had an Italian cappucino to Starbucks.
Late-Night Food: Peking Ginger on the 1A is open late, they are also the best option for Chinese food (The Famous is now where Des Alpes used to be, same surly service).
Vegetarian: Our only vegie restaurant closed down--I'm not sure what that says about Canmore. Most places in town have something for anyone but a Vegan to eat, and if you're a Vegan then you'll likely be able to forage something out of a ditch anyhow.
Expensive Places to Eat
The Trough: The owners of the trough have run good high-end restaurants in Canmore for years. The Trough isn't cheap, but it does provide good value and good service.
Crazyweed: This used to be a small place on main street but has moved to the junction of Railway and the 1A on the west end of town. The building is very cool, all angles etc., but it must have been really expensive to build--everything on the new menu is about twice as expensive as the old one, and the wine list is based on a Calgary oil executive's income. Not impressed.
Where to Stay:
Rocky Mountain Ski Lodge. Good owners, nice rooms, good people. My friend Guy Lacelle's favorite
Chateau Canmore: They helped some buds out with a room, nice people and there's a gym and hot tub if for some reason you can't get a workout in. Not super cheap, but reliable and clean with large rooms.
The Drake Inn: Good central location, traditional, close to the Drake Bar so you don't have to drive home (don't pull the same move as one well-known guide/businessman who got busted driving home lit from the Drake to his house that was, no shit, 400M away!).
Akai Motel: Cheap, clean, best "bargain" place.
Alpine Club: Hostel-style, but good people, clean, cheap, good place to find partners. Just outside town (you can walk if you're a European, Americans will need a car).
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.
Where not to stay: No really bad places in town, with the possible exception of our futon.
Where to Drink/get Western
Thursday late-night at Zona's is really good value, good DJ, usually a strong local scene where you can see Canmore's rock and ice stars make complete asses out of themselves regularly. One of my favorite events, but I won't eat the food at Zonas despite what everyone else seems to think--I love the place and people, but I'm sorry, I have never had a great meal there even though the prices and menu might suggest otherwise. Go Thursday and spend whacks of money on alcohol, tip the DJ, try not to make the newspaper. Sort of refined techno hippie meets yuppie.
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.
Holligans is good if you're having a book launch or want to experience our retro small-town eighties club scene or something.
Other Useful Stuff
Climbing Gym: The Vsion is a great bouldering gym in Canmore: Steep, good music, motivated owner (Dung can climb circles around all of us). The Sally Borden gym at the Baff Center in Banff is good for roped climbing, but it's pretty small. Nice staff, full workout facilities if you want to chuck some discs.
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: Marras on main street is GONE. Sobey's (used to be IGA) and Safeway are both monolithic big city style stores; Safeway does have the better selection. The Railway Deli is a good place to stock up on cheese, meat, bread and euro-food. 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).
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.
Books: Second Story Books is in now in the basement on main street, but it's still a good place to buy second-hand and local-interest books. Occasionally has great deals on older mountaineering books. The Alpine Club also has a good climbing reference library.
Rebound on the south end of Main Street. Fair people, excellent "fix it" department, I've bought two bikes there. The owner fixed up a 20-year old burley with parts he had lying around, pretty cool. The Bicycle Cafe is good too, a little more attitude but good people/bikes and often the best deals on Santa Cruz anywhere in North America.
Vertical Addiction: On Railway between Safeway and Sobeys. The owner is a serious climber, good store but a little limited in brand selection. Vallhalla Pure on main street has the biggest selection but staff knowledge is variable--you might get a total Alpine nut case or someone who wouldn't know a piton from a python. Someone there usually knows what's up, good owners.
More Good Choices from Bill Piekos, thanks.
It was interesting to see your Canmore page, with good suggestions et al. As much as I do not live in Canmore (working on it!), I do stay there regularly in both summer and winter and would like to offer a few other obvious choices that folks may enjoy:
Beamer's - great for breakfast BOBs, lunches, good coffee and great service. Opens at 6am which is a boon for climbers. Second location soon to be opened on Main Street, I think.
Grizzly Paw - good bar food, micro brewery style beer, and a superb selection of Single Malts! Crazy Weed - yep... the service can be problematic, but they do excellent dinner take outs like no other place! Call in advance, avoid the wait and simply pick up your food when it is ready. Great value for high end dishes. (WG Note--I received an email in October saying the service was much improved, I've also eaten there lately and agree).
Canmore Crossings Condos (plus other vacation condos springing all over town): great value for a group trip. Prices on par with ACC Clubhouse when 6 folks split a 3 bedroom. Much, much cheaper than any hotel! Fully equipped: full kitchen, BBQ, TV, VCR, CD, fire place, on suite laundry, hot tub on the roof, etc, plus close to all the shopping (IGA) and a booze store right in the building! What more could you ask for? A great new alternative to noisy huts, or regular hotels/motels.
www.canmorealberta.com - great website with general info for the town.
Hope you will find the above info useful. Have fun and play safe. Cheers,
And Another Perspective from Mélanie Anabelle Massé
As for the social life in Canmore...
Bagel Co. is a great place to take a coffee, relax in comfortable chair, see VERY good looking people and... Many Quebecquers!
Flatbread pizza is really good, their curry is too hot but good. The place it self is cozy and warm.
Zona is a great place to eat, despite what you are saying! :) But kind of
botter us that everything was extra (bread, soup, etc...). Kind of a rip off
The Bear Paw is a great place to eat good burgers and drink good beer. Even
if they do funny eyes when we asked for mayo for our fries and guacamole for
our burgers! :)
Banff sucks. Ok, this is too hard but just to say... It is faked, plastic.
We tried finding a nice place for a coffee. Nada. Maybe we weren't looking
at the right spots. Too many cheap "gift/souvenirs" shops. Only cool place
we found; the cowboys store! :)
Lake Louise: not much visited the place... But JF says that the best deal in town is at the bakery/coffee shop; get the end slice of the banana bread's
for 0.25$!!! What can you get for that price today???!!! ;)
We stayed at Rocky Mountain Ski Lodge. GREAT PLACE. Great service, great people, GREAT SPA. It is unbelivable how a spa ride can get you going and
going and going the day after... Almost like an Energizer bunny!
By the way, if you want the best deal in town to rent a 4x4 truck... It ain't written in the yellow pages. But call Enterprise in Canmore and ask
for Kelly. (They are located in the Dodge dealer). The same business is also in Cochrane; it is rulled by the same people. 4x4 at the best price.
There ya go.
Hope some info are worth something for you or visitors like us.