Canmore ribs
Decadent ribs: Just one example of Canmore's many fine-dining options.

Eating Our Way Through Downtown Canmore

Dispatch by Lena Desmond

Photos by Sergio David Spadavecchia

Current state: full, immovable, about to combust—and yet, so incredibly satisfied.

Today was a tough day. After a casual morning of flying through the Rockies in a helicopter, Delano and I were lucky enough to embark on a guided food tour through downtown Canmore, known as the Progressive Dinner Series.

A typical Progressive Dinner Series brings visitors on a four-course food tour featuring a customized array of hot spots around Canmore. For a mountain town, one might assume that dining options would be limited: perhaps a pub here, a diner there. Simply not the case. Canmore is not just home to specialty restaurants and ethnic cuisine, but the food culture here largely supports the “eat organic, eat local” ideology.

I suppose it’s not so surprising: we are talking about the town rumoured to have the most athletes per capita in the world. A lot of Canmore residents are extremely active—which also means they have big appetites. Of course, along with being a voraciously hungry athlete in perpetual training mode, dietary restrictions must abound: gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, pescatarian. You name it, most restaurants can cater to it.

canmore food tour
A caprese salad with 10-year-old balsamic vinaigrette and locally made cheese from the Paintbox Lodge in Canmore.

I am now officially equipped to give food recommendations in Canmore. So in case you make it out here and are looking for a bite, or in even if you’re just looking to inspire your pallet, here is a quick list of the restaurants we went to:

Paintbox Lodge: The Paintbox Lodge is run by Olympic Medalist Sarah Renner and her husband, Thomas Grandi. With a focus on healthy, organic, locally sourced produce and a firm commitment to the best ingredients around, the Paintbox doesn’t just offer healthy eats—it also shows you how to prepare them. With organic, health-motivated Chef George Bayne, we indulged in a caprese salad unlike any I’d had before. Locally made fior di latte (Italian for “flower of the milk”) cheese, zebra tomatoes and a dash of chopped basil, topped with a 10-year-old balsamic vinegar and Grecian olive oil—I’ll never look at mozzarella the same way again.

PD3 by Blake: PD3 is half–food truck, half–casual fine dining. The double-decker bus serves an array of creative fare, like the Ramen burger, which has an ichiban bun and delicacies such as Haida Gwaii scallops. During its opening months, PD3 serves dual purposes as both a popular grab-and-go lunch destination for hungry downtown Canmore workers during the day, and a romantic date spot by night.

Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co.: This local staple is renowned across Canmore Kananaskis for its delicious—you guessed it—flatbreads. In true Canmore style, they cater to dietary restrictions of all kinds: gluten-free, vegetarian and gluttons alike. Family friendly, they even have a make-your-own pizza night for kids.

Gaucho Brazilian BBQ: I’d never had Brazilian barbecue, but now that I have, the bar has been set as high as the Three Sisters mountains. Angus-rump steak, rosemary-spiced pork loin and the biggest beef ribs I’ve ever seen—all this was so delicious, I even tried the chicken hearts. While Gaucho’s is known for its meats, it has something for everyone. For vegetarians, they have a salad bar second to none.

Sage Bistro & Wine Lounge: I didn’t know beef until now. Here we enjoyed sous-vide beef, which cut like butter. Chef Luke’s been in the kitchen since his teen years and his genuine passion for food came through not just in taste but in the creativity of his dishes. As with most chefs in the Canmore Kananaskis region, he only uses the best Alberta beef.

Where the Buffalo Roam: Home. That’s the sense I got here. The decor, the people, the food: this place is a local a watering hole that, to carry on the analogy, would be akin to a glacial lake. I was surprised to learn from co-owner Shelley Young that Where the Buffalo Roam was just a year old. When I asked Shelley how the launch had been, she attributed the success to Canmore’s natural tendency to support new businesses—an inherent benefit that comes with life in a small town. Proof? When we walked in through the doors, Sara from Paintbox Lodge greeted us with a smile as she sat enjoying cocktails with friends.

For a small mountain town, Canmore certainly does have big tastes. Yes, food culture here is partly fuel, but it’s also an integral part of the tight-knit, friendly community that is built on local roots and sustainable practices.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go rappel down some caves to work off these indulgences—wait for my next dispatch to hear more.

If you want to follow our expedition live using #opxCanmore, check us out on social media:

Want to read more? Check out our full expedition to Canmore Kananaskis: 

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