Banff Bonanza – 1 Weekend, 5 Restaurants

Better late than never right!? Below is a compilation of reviews done with one heck of a fun couple over a weekend in Banff. Mike has titles for the restaurants, the rest of us have ratings on each restaurant.

Enjoy! We know we did 😁👫👫

Mike’s Review:

The Balkan – It’s all Greek to me
Wowzers, for me this is probably the closest thing to a 5 outta 5 I have ever eaten. Right up there with Briggs in my opinion. The lamb was fall off the bone, the waitress was sassy in a polite way, the ambiance left one feeling like they are joining homer on his odyssey, and the value was… well… considering it is Banff it did alright. The flaming cheese, and lamb shanks were amazing. I also had the pita which would have given “Opa!” A run for its money! This was also, one of the only times in my life, I ordered an entre AFTER we finished the appetizers, it was an extremely relaxed, divine, evening and we will be returning again!

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Banff Adventures Sleigh Ride – Sleigh Okay!
Sleigh bells ring… are you listening? – Most likely no one is listening, nestled just outside of Banff this is a little slice of paradise devoid of human tourists… but not TOO far away…
In the lane, snow is glistening – It most certainly was, but it did not seem to faze the horses as they plugged along, we even saw an elk herd!

A Beautiful sight – Banff Sleigh ride? Mountains? Phenomenal! My face was frozen in the mesmerized enchantment position, much like this :O

We’re happy tonight – I do not recommend sleigh rides as a suitable way of dealing with sadness, figure out what the cause is… and try to evaluation solutions… if no solutions are available try the sleigh ride

Walking in a winter wonderland – This should most certainly be on everyone’s list to do if you have not already… I have been to Banff many times and always missed out on this gem! Only once though….

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Eddie’s Burger Bar – These hills have fries
As far as burgers go, this place is one of the best. Don’t let the small, cramped, space deceive you… this place is worth the wait. They can even take your number and text you when a spot opens up. From poutine to burgers everything hit the spot. It was definitely not a fancy feast, but after hitting the slopes you would want to hit this place next!

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Korean Seoul Restaurant – We’re Seoul’d

We first walked into “Korean Seoul Restaurant” while trying to find the shortest distance from getting to the main street… to the back parkade. It had a lot of space… but we were the only ones in there, not unlike the offices in downtown Calgary now-a-days. I immediately made the mental note to return as I love two things… new food…. and short routes through parkades. The food was great (I had the beef tongue) but the real great experience was you cooked it all yourself at the table! It was so much fun to go at our own pace, and to our own liking. I found the beef tongue extremely tender and amazing but Jenna said she didn’t want to try the tongue… but if you ask me she was…. “Tongue in cheek” about it. If you do go, I suggest you try the more exotic stuff but they do have some delicious standards like chicken and beef.

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The Maple Leaf – I’d Tap That

Anyone who reads our blog… so my mother only and even then she skims it… knows that I am not a desert man. I must admit however that in Banff I was on a mission for something sweet, and the Maple Leaf hit the spot. We went only for desert and it sounded like there was a part going on in the upstairs (if you are looking for nightlife maybe check it out). The real highlight though was my staging of the below picture…. Which was the best part of the entire trip in my opinion….

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Tooloulou’s – Breakfast of Champions
Our last day before we left we hit up Tooloulou’s for some breakfast that may even give OEB a run for its money (I know, Calgary blasphemy). Despite the painfully slow service (I think this was just our waitress… the rest looked amazingly fast) this place was still one of my highlights. Smoked salmon, hash browns, coffee, pancakes, ham, bacon, this place had it all and everything was on point!

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Exploding Kittens – A Game of Chance
It wouldn’t be a review without a little plug for our Board Game Evening’s we run in YYC… what? You would like to go to one you say? Well check the Facebook group “Games YYC” here. The game exploding kittens reminded me a bit of “Cards against Humanity” in terms of content however plays much more like a game of chance. It does not take a mathematician to realize the optimal way to play the game is to collect cards and take more chance early on, however I could still see it being a fun drinking game. I do not think it will become a staple at our events as it gets boring quick, but you may see it around if we have a lot of requests.

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Jenna’s Review:

The Balkan (4.3/5)

I love Greek food, and I don’t think I realized how much until we went to the Balkan for our first meal of the weekend. The atmosphere was elegant and warm with beautiful Greek decorative touches around the restaurant including a stone sculpture at the front. I admit that apart from OPA! and the Broken Plate, I have not frequented many other Greek restaurants. This was mostly because I thought those places had some pretty good Greek.

However, I think it is safe to say that the Balkan was the best Greek restaurant that I have been to yet! Where do I even begin? First of all, I ordered a dirty martini because from time to time I like to feel like James bond. The martini was mixed to perfection and they gave me 4 olives! I am not talking those small dinky olives, I am talking the prime succulent green olives. We decided to order four appetizers to share so we could really get a flavor for the food. In order of my favorites we had the lamb ribs, the Greek meatballs with yogurt, the kalamari, and the saganaki with pita. All were exceptional but I didn’t love the saganaki, it had a slight licorice taste to it and just wasn’t quite cheesy enough for me.

For my main I figured that I shouldn’t stop a good thing so I ordered the Lamb Shank to continue my enjoyment from the lamb ribs. I was not disappointed. The lamb was so tender and oh so fall off the bone juicy I never wanted to stop eating it. The side of vegetables were good and the rice was just okay. I didn’t finish it and would have rather had extra vegetables as it was more just a bland filler. Our server was lovely and definitely made for a good experience. I mean c’mon, she put 4 olives in my martini. If you are in Banff for an anniversary I think this would be a great choice!

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Sleigh Ride (4/5) 

Do you like horses? Do you like beautiful mountain scenery? Do you like magical moments of giddy bliss? Do you like snow blowing in your face? Then the Banff Sleigh Ride is right for you!

In all seriousness though this was a great way to spend a morning in Banff. It was nice to get out in the fresh (albeit) cold air and learn about the mountains while gliding through the snow. You start at a beautiful wooden bard where they give you hot chocolate if you want it! Then they take you out with some blankets to start the ride. The view was beautiful and the tour guide was great about telling us stories of the mountains, their names, and how they came to be that way. We also saw some elk which was really neat, it was like a winter safari. It goes by quickly but what doesn’t when you are having fun?

An hour is long enough as it was pretty cold and there was some snow blowing towards us, but it was great at the end to be able to stand by the campfire and roast marshmallows and drink more hot chocolate. They also let you say hello to the horses which was a favourite for me. They are just so darn majestic! If you have never done one before I would highly suggest you try it out the next time you are in Banff!

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Eddie’s Burger Bar (4/5)

I have eaten a lot of burgers in my day, almost too many, almost so many that I never want to eat another burger, but Eddie’s Burger made me re-think my whole view on burgers. I had been here once before a long time ago and remember it being quite good. I just didn’t remember how good.

One of the hardest part is just picking a burger. Many of them are delightful looking and have their own flare to them. This time I opted to get the Red White and Blue with a side poutine. Now, if you don’t take anything else from my review, I just hope you remember this, GET THE RED WHITE AND BLUE BURGER. Seriously, it will blow you away. I am salivating as I write this just remembering it. You think I am kidding, I am not. I have been dreaming of this burger since I got it in Banff, and no other burger will do. How good could this burger be you ask? What is in it that changes lives? Let me tell you…

First you have your bun which is like some kind of god-sent butter bun that is as soft as a pillow. It melts in your mouth. If this is not enough it has a great beef patty with some siracha (red), mayo (white), blue cheese (blue), as well as some tomato, some lettuce, some bacon and love. That’s right love. On top of all this they also included a hot siracha wing on the top of the burger. I am salivating again. I couldn’t believe my tastebuds. The poutine also had a more beef gravy on it which I appreciate and a nice amount of authentic cheese curds, not just some grated mozzarella like some places do.

To sum this all up, I think it would suffice to say that I would be content if the only burgers I ate in Banff were from Eddie’s. They did it. Check them out.

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Seoul Korea (4.1/5)

When our fun fancy crew first stepped through this restaurant to get to our vehicle I knew that we had to try it. As soon as you walk in there are tables with their own hotpot in the middle as far as the eye can see. I have not tried a ton of Korean food in my life so I was excited to dine here and see what delicious things were in store. The ambiance wasn’t too out of this world but it was enough to get me intrigued.

The menu selection is quite authentic. They have all sorts of things that the average eater would probably not get, such as tripe and beef tongue (I did not try these). However, I did manage to still find myself ordering something familiar which was the dumplings as an appetizer and the bulgogi beef as my main. I don’t remember the last time I had such amazing beef, it was tender, juicy and in some kind of wonderful sauce. Not only did you get that, but they also gave us rice, side veggies and a big basket of lettuce. I still don’t know what that was for…

I quite enjoyed my experience here because it was something new! I am also quite a big fan of Asian cuisine so I enjoyed it quite a bit. I don’t know if I would recommend it to everyone but if you like Kimchi and you like cooking up a storm, give it a try!

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The Maple Leaf (2/5)

To start off, I should mention that we only came to The Maple Leaf for dessert, so please note that this rating does not reflect the restaurant as a whole. After a big ol’ Korean meal I was looking for something sweet and tasty to finish the night. There were multiple desserts but the one that stood out to me was the raspberry peach crumble with vanilla ice cream, I mean how good does that sound? I will tell you, so good that I chose to forego the cheesecake and the Crème Brule which are some personal favorites. I got myself all jazzed up for this delicious mountain of dessert joy but all that jazz was deflated like a soufflé when it actually got to the table.

The desert wasn’t like the crumble I was expecting. I thought there was going to be whole peaches and muddled raspberries in an almost pie/crumble like form with the ice cream melting beside it. What I got was sickly sweet raspberry jam it felt like with barley any peach flavor and crunchy hard crumble on top that was flavorless. Needless to say I was a bit disappointed. If I ever went back I would definitely try a different desert, or maybe just go for the food.

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Tooloulou’s (3/5)

Now here is the thing about Tooloulou’s. I know it could have done better if I had ordered something a little less adventurous, and if the service had been better. The service, if I am being honest, was pretty atrocious. I haven’t dealt with that bad of service in a while.

What made it so bad was a mix of the fact that there were multiple empty tables that could have seated people and then been cleaned, but 2 of the workers instead of stepping in to help clean these tables just looked at them from the back of the room and let the one waitress struggle with the rest. Also, even when the tables were clean, they wouldn’t let us sit until the table was set. And then when we asked not to be seated by the door, they still tried to seat us by the door and ignored our request for a table in the back. If this was not enough, our waitress was super slow and when we ordered our food she felt the need to tell us that the plates were really big and that we were order a lot of food, over and over again.

Aside from all that, the atmosphere was fun an eclectic. The place had so many neat decorations as well as a crazy tray of hot sauces from all over the world for you to try at your leisure! The food was really good generally speaking but I ordered the crab and asparagus omelet. I should have known that it was not going to be authentic crab, but canned crab with no added spice or flavor so it ended up tasting fishy. I did have some bites of the others food though and it was quite good. If I went back it would have been breakfast poutine all the way. Regrets, regrets.

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Overall it was a great weekend with some scrumptious meals, great company and new experience. Until next time Banff!

Madeline & Jordan’s Review:

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The Balkan (Madeline – 4/5 & Jordan – 4/5)

Our first stop on this weekend of indulgence, was The Balkan. A modern yet rustic Greek restaurant, in the heart of Banff, featuring family recipes straight out of Yiayia Joanna Karlos’ kitchen. By the time we drove to Banff, we were famished! Resulting in us ordering four appetizers to share: kalamari, Greek meatballs with yogurt, saganaki with pita, and paithakia (lamb ribs), all of which took no time at all to reach our table. Warm greek dinner rolls were also brought to us with a herb olive oil. The appetizers were fairly substantial portions! The meatballs and lamb ribs each came with six on a plate, enough for each of us and then some, both of which were delicious. The saganaki was perfectly salty served with freshly made pita, but what stole the spotlight was the kalamari. The batter was light, yet crisp, and the squid tasted fresh (not rubbery) considering we were in the Rocky Mountains.

After demolishing the appetizers, and by that I mean we didn’t leave a single morsel on the plate, it was time for the main courses. Madeline ordered the grilled chicken Hercules sword, which was served with their housemade pita, Greek salad, roasted potatoes, and rice pilaf. The chicken was moist, potatoes seasoned well, and rice was flavourful. I could have done with less salad on the plate, as the onions were a little over powering, but a dish I would order again. Jordan ordered the classic Greek donair pita which came with mixed vegetables, rice pilaf and lemon roasted potatoes. The pita was incredibly filling that it was difficult to eat much more than that, especially after the appetizers. The raspberry mojito was a refreshing drink on the side, which was well balanced in profile.

Despite the fact we were chatting until 10:30pm, there were still people eating in the restaurant; an indication that the locals enjoy the place. While the food, and service were above par, the price per person felt a little steep for an appetizer and an entree each. However, you’re going to pay for what you get, and there wasn’t a single negative thing about that experience.


Banff Adventures Sleigh Ride (Madeline – 3.5/5 & Jordan – 3.5/5)

The next day, we were off for a sleigh ride in the mountains. The Warner Barns are located just off the main drag, making it a convenient location to find. Upon our arrival, we checked in after making our reservation online ahead of time a few days prior, and signed our life away. While we waited for our pick up time, we sat inside where you could grab a cup of coffee and a wool blanket to keep warm on the 45 minute ride.

Our ride started on time, and despite the fact it was rather cold out that day, the sleigh was full! Each sleigh holds about 20 people. As a foursome, we were able to sit together in a row while we gazed up at the rocky peaks, listening to our guide explain which mountain was which along with the background of how they got their names. Along the ride, we encountered a rather large herd of elk who were sitting in the snow, eating grass, giving us the perfect picture opportunity. If you are thinking about going on one of these sleigh rides, just be prepared for the weather and bundle up. Sunglasses, would have been ideal to bring as the sun reflecting off the glistening snow was almost blinding.

After the ride came to an end, you can take a moment to pet the horses and take pictures, then warm up by the outdoor fire pit with hot chocolate and roast your own marshmallows, which was definitely needed. For $32/person this was a fun tourist excursion to do in the winter, but there wasn’t necessarily anything special about it. If you have done a sleigh ride before, don’t expect this one to be radically different.

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Eddie’s Burger Bar (Madeline – 5/5 & Jordan – 5/5)

The ideal pub food is found at Eddie’s Burger Bar, and everyone seems to know it! Due to the limited space, there was a waitlist the whole time we were there. Upon arriving they took our name and number, and would text us when our table was ready. So we hopped into a bar down the street to grab a quick coffee and Bailey’s to warm up. It only took about 15 minutes for them to text us that the table was ready.

Poutine, wings, salad, hot dogs, burgers, beer, and a milkshake bar are served at this happening local spot, which reminds us of a modern diner. If you want, you can even create your own burger! Choose as many toppings as you want, from an elk or bison patty, to a fried egg, jalapeno cheese, onion rings, and pretzel buns. On top of all that, you can have a poutine on the side. Choose from a long list of beers or go for the Eddie’s Famous Trashcan (long island mix, blue curaço, and a full can of red bull)…many of which are hanging from the ceiling. Your meal is served to you in typical diner fashion on paper in a wire basket, which really accentuates the quirky bar.

Madeline opted for the Spicy Big Bird Burger had a ground chicken patty, lettuce, goat cheese, bacon, sautéed onions, pesto, tomato, drenched in sriracha on a brioche bun and a side of sweet potato fries (which you are not charged extra for BTW). If you like spicy food, I highly recommend ordering this! If not…steer clear. I put hot sauce on everything and even this was hot for me, but in the best way possible. Originally I thought the ‘patty’ would be a typical grilled chicken breast in place of a patty, but it is actually ground chicken formed into a patty – something you don’t see often. It was moist, and cooked perfectly. Even though I love spice, it was hard to taste any other components on the burger besides the sriracha. I know all the other toppings were there because I could see them, but hard to taste them nonetheless. Jordan ordered the Eddie Classic burger but substituted the beef patty for bison, and it was topped with cheddar, bacon, onion, pickle, lettuce, tomato, and Eddie sauce on a brioche bun with a poutine on the side. The burger was excellent with the bison patty, and the poutine it made for a very filling meal. We would definitely stop by this quaint joint again given the opportunity as the service and the food are well worth their value.

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Korean Soul Restaurant (Madeline – 2.5/5 & Jordan – 4/5)

The restaurant was pretty empty with the exception of a few tables. The place may have been run by a Korean family, which was an indicator that the food would be pretty authentic. We ordered tea and as an appetizer, we shared a plate of fried gyoza; fresh, hot, and crisp when it arrived to the table. The waiter brought over all the fixings (kimchi, spicy cabbage, sauces, etc.) and the hot plate, which is placed in the middle of the table on top of a burner to cook your selection of protein. It definitely made for a unique experience to cook your own food right at the table top.

Jordan selected the bulgogi beef along with Jenna, and therefore their protein was brought out and cooked together which they then split. The serving size of the beef was substantial, and the sauce it was marinated in was full of flavour and really made the dish. The sauce was a great addition to the white rice, which Jordan thought it desperately needed. Madeline had the chicken, which has to be cooked last for food contamination reasons (I believe), but at that point after having watched everyone cook their food and already eating, all I wanted to do was eat it because I had been waiting so long yet it was not finished cooking. The sauce on the chicken was flavourful but overall thought that the meal was pretty average. Chicken and rice, with a few veggies isn’t exactly something to sing from the mountain tops.

For the price per person ($32) I did not think the value of the meal was there and did not feel satisfyingly full – I wanted more. But that left us with room for dessert….

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The Maple Leaf (Madeline – 3/5 & Jordan – 3/5)

After dinner, we decided dessert and a warm drink were just what we needed to cap off the night. We stumbled into The Maple Leaf Lounge, a very Canadian themed place with vaulted ceilings, wood accents, stones walls, oversized arm chairs, snowshoe/ski decorations, and log cabin atmosphere. A little disappointed in the slow service, as we were just there for dessert. I wasn’t offered a refill on my coffee and food was nothing to boast about either.

Madeline ordered the s’mores cheese cake which was the flavour of cheesecake that night, but not what I had envisioned a s’mores cheesecake to be. The marshmallows were raw on top, but I was anticipating them torched to get that fire roasted taste, and was drizzled with an overly sweet raspberry sauce. A flavour combination that I don’t think worked together. Jordan got the triple chocolate mousse cake which tasted pretty much like you would expect chocolate cake layered with chocolate mousse to be. That being said, it was served with a side of vanilla ice cream and you could immediately tell that it was homemade by the flecks of vanilla bean scattered through the smooth cream. While it satisfied our sweet tooth, I wouldn’t be in a rush to return for dessert.

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Tooloulou’s (Madeline – 5/5 & Jordan – 4.5/5)

This Cajun Creole inspired joint did not disappoint! It’s a super cozy atmosphere with fun decorations covering the walls and lobsters hanging from the ceilings, you would almost forget you’re in the mountains. The menu is extensive! I’m talking if you went to this restaurant every weekend and ordered something new every time, it would take your years to try every dish on the menu. And that’s just breakfast! They also serve lunch and dinner, with menus just as long and full of variety. For breakfast, take your pick from pancakes, french toast, waffles, crepes, omelets, eggs benny, breakfast skillets, oatmeal, breakfast sandwiches, hash, grits, vegetarian options, and any side you can think of! There is literally something for everyone on this menu as there are flavor combinations/variations of every dish. Pair your meal with freshly squeezed orange juice or a cup of joe, and it’s the perfect meal.

Their freshly made warm, fluffy, yet dense, buttermilk biscuits are definitely worth the wait. The portions are grand, and our waitress even ‘warned’ us about that fact, but we each ordered something on the side regardless. What can I say? We like to eat, and we love breakfast food. Madeline ordered the New Orleans’s Breakfast Skillet which had a little bit of everything: two eggs, two sausages, Canadian back bacon, grilled tomato, skillet potatoes, a pancake and buttermilk biscuit. I ate every single last bite…practically licked my plate clean. The pancake was fluffy, and that biscuit was heaven with a side of butter and jam. Jordan opted for the Breakfast Poutine: skillet potatoes topped with bacon, grilled onion, scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese curds and hollandaise sauce served with a buttermilk biscuit plus ordered a side of sausage. The plate was huge, but could have used a little more hollandaise. Can you ever have too much hollandaise? And what’s a meal without hot sauce!? Sample from over 100 different hot sauces they have available on their open shelf.

If you’re looking for fresh homemade food, at a great price, be sure to make a pit stop and check out this authentic eatery…but certainly don’t forget your appetite! Given the chance, we would go back to this place in a heartbeat hands down and would make a trip to Banff solely to visit this spot again!

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