Canada is a country that has some of its own unique dishes as well as a blend from many other cultures around the world, including colonial influences from the British and French. There is no one cuisine style, you’ll find many regional differences across the large span of the country.
The food in Eastern Canada has an influence from the English with Quebec dishes coming from their French heritage. The Atlantic Provinces diet is rich in seafood. In the prairies there are influences from Europe with dishes like pierogis and borscht. In the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut the diet has a strong Inuit base and preserved ingredients due to the short growing season. The Pacific Coast has seafood and Asian inspired dishes.
Canadian Rocky Mountain Cuisine
The food from the Rocky Mountain area is a fusion of many different types. It consists of dishes that were inspirations from the home countries of the early mountain guides. You’ll also find influences from the indigenous native tribes, hearty prairie dishes and seafood from the Pacific Northwest.
There’s almost every style of food you can think of from Italian, Greek, Indian, sushi and Swiss fondue, but if you’re looking for something that represents Canadian cuisine and in particular the Canadian Rocky Mountains there are plenty of options for that as well.
A large number of restaurants have a Rocky Mountain inspired menu and there is a great focus on using local ingredients. Canadian Rocky Mountain cuisine is known for its wild game, you’ll see venison, elk and bison. Another staple on many menus is Alberta beef. It has a reputation for being some of the best in North America. There’s also locally harvested mushrooms, artisan cheeses, indigenous berries and fresh caught trout.
The décor in restaurants, cafes and pubs often has a rustic charm meant to give the warm and cozy feeling of an alpine lodge. You’ll see lots of large wood beam work in the ceilings, wood flooring, stone fireplaces and large windows to take in the surrounding views of nature and the mountains.
Local Or Canadian Foods To Try During Your Rocky Mountain Visit
Maple Syrup – Canada produces over 70% of the world’s maple syrup with over 90% of that coming from the province of Quebec. It’s such a part of our Canadian history, culture and identity. The maple leaf is the symbol on the center of our flag. There are all kinds of maple infused and flavoured foods such as maple smoked bacon, candies, fudge, cookies, ice cream, maple glazed meats and salmon and maple infused cocktails. Canadians love to liberally pour maple syrup on pancakes and French toast.
Poutine – A true Canadian dish invented in Quebec. It is a combination of hand-cut French fries, fresh cheese curds and well-seasoned gravy that makes a delicious gooey mess.
Bannock – A type of bread that has been a tradition amongst the Aboriginal people of Canada and North America for hundreds of years. Traditionally the flour was made from things like ground plant roots and natural leavening agents were made from the sap of trees. The bread was baked on rocks over a fire or in cooking pits. Later a form of leavened bannock bread was introduced by European pioneers. Today it is most often pan-fried or oven-baked. Many recipes exist with variations of flour, sugar, salt, yeast and water.
Canadian Cheeses – There’s many delicious local artisan cheeses made in small batches across the country and some popular national produced cheeses as well. Oka is a Quebec classic named after the village of Oka. A strong nutty and fruity flavor. Canada is known for some great cheddar cheeses, you’ll also find soft goat cheeses, feta, and everything else from brie and camembert to blue cheeses.
Alberta beef – known to be some of the best in North America, particularly the prime steak and AAA Beef Tenderloin
Canadian Back Bacon – We are famous for our bacon, also known as pea meal bacon. It comes from the pork loins instead of traditional bacon that comes from the pig belly. It used to be rolled in ground yellow peas to ensure better curing and shelf life, but is now brined and rolled in cornmeal. The pea meal name stuck.
Game meats – Parts of Canada are well known for their game meats such as venison, elk and bison. You’ll see restaurants in the Rockies serving bison tenderloin, buffalo burgers and elk burgers.
Montreal smoked meat – cured beef usually piled high in a sandwich accompanied by mustard.
Valbella Gourmet Foods – Operating in Canmore since 1978. You’ll see many restaurant menus featuring Valbella meats throughout the Canadian Rockies and Alberta. They are known for their European style venison, lamb and buffalo sausages as well as their hams and air dried meats. Their game platter has smoked buffalo, double smoked bacon, wild boar cold cuts and smoked salmon. It is used by many high end chefs at fine restaurants. They also have back bacon, maple bacon, beef jerky, buffalo and elk burgers,
Tourtière – meat pie pastry that originates from the Lac-St-Jean region of Quebec. The filling can range from minced pork to wild game with signature spice of clove, cinnamon and allspice.
We love our seafood on the west and east coasts and so does much of the country in between.
B.C. Spot prawns – they are known for their sweet flavor and are a very sustainable seafood option.
Wild B.C. salmon – you’ll find it cooked and served in a variety of ways, grilled, poached, cold and hot smoked. There’s candied salmon, maple salmon and salmon jerky. There’s also many types of salmon, if it’s being served at a restaurant it’s usually sockeye salmon, but it could also be spring salmon or Coho.
Pacific West Coast halibut – a large white fish with a dense and firm texture. It has a clean taste and requires little seasoning. Often served grilled, seared or blackened or battered for fish and chip dishes.
Oysters – oysters from Fanny Bay on Vancouver Island are well known.
Mussels – the ones from PEI are some of the most notable in the country.
Lobster – Lobster is the livelihood of many working fishing communities in Nova Scotia.
BC Sushi roll – a British Columbian specialty sushi roll made with rice, seaweed, grilled salmon and cucumber that can now be found on sushi menus throughout North America.
Canadian Fruits and Desserts
Beavertails – a large deep fried doughy pastry, shaped like a flat beaver tail that is served warm and topped with butter and sweet toppings like candy, fruit, chocolate or sugar and cinnamon. There’s a BeaverTails outlet on Banff Avenue the main street in downtown Banff.
Smores – a Canadian tradition when camping or having a bonfire. A marshmallow is toasted over a fire and then while still hot it’s sandwiched between two Graham crackers with a flat piece of chocolate. The heat of the marshmallow melts the chocolate and turns it into a delicious gooey cookie sandwich.
Butter tarts – are a sweet dessert filled with butter, syrup, sugar, and egg in a small pastry crust. They may contain raisons or nuts. Dating back to 20th century, they are popular across the country.
Nanaimo Bars – a rich, sweet dessert made of layers of melted chocolate, vanilla butter icing, coconut and nuts with a graham cracker crumb base. It’s cut into squares and served chilled. Believe to have originated in the town of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island on the west coast of Canada.
Saskatoon berries –named for the city of Saskatoon in the province of Saskatchewan. Commonly made into pies and jam. You’ll also see Saskatoon berry ice cream. They look like a blueberry, but not quite as sweet, a little drier and earthy in flavor. They are native to B.C., the Canadian Prairies and Northern Canada.
Blueberries – if they happen to be in season during your visit try some fresh ones. Canada is one of the world’s largest producers of blueberries.
B.C. Fruits – When in season you’ll find all kinds of fruits from B.C., especially when the Okanagan fruit is in season like apples, peaches and cherries. Try a McIntosh apple, it’s a red apple with a soft fine textured flesh and a tangy flavor. They make up almost half of Canada’s annual apple crop.
Mackay’s ice cream – the third generation of the Mackay family is still serving ice cream out of the original location in Cochrane, Alberta. You’ll find it being served at various locations throughout the Rockies.
Foothills ice cream – Foothills Creamery has been operating in Calgary since 1969. You’ll find their ice cream being served all over the Rocky Mountains and being sold in tubs in retail locations. They also make butter and other dairy products.
Fiddleheads – Spring time is when the fiddlehead picking occurs in Eastern Canada. It’s an edible deep green wild fern that resembles the spiral end of a fiddle, hence the name. The native people introduced fiddleheads to the settlers and they have become a popular delicacy. It tastes like a cross between asparagus, green bean and okra.
For more candy and sugary treat options see our post: Got A Sweet Tooth Banff Avenue Has Your Fix.
Canadian Wine – Canada’s largest wine-producing areas are the Okanagan valley in British Columbia and the Niagara peninsula in Ontario.
Canadian Ice Wine – Canada is the world’s largest producer of this particular specialty of wine. It’s a dessert wine made from grapes that have frozen on the vine.
Canadian Whisky – Canada is well known for our distinctive rye whisky. Canadian Club, Crown Royal and Weisers are the big names. For something with even more of a Canadian twist try Maple Whisky. Or you can try Yukon Jack, a liqueur made from Canadian whisky and honey.
The Caesar – Definitely Canada’s most known cocktail. Similar to a bloody mary, but instead of tomato juice it’s made with Clamato juice, which is a combination of clam and tomato juice. It’s mixed with some spices, Worcestershire sauce, tabasco and topped with garnishes like a stick of celery.
Canadian Beer – Canadians love their beer. Besides the big name Canadian brands of Molson and Labbatts there are many local microbreweries creating craft beers across the country.
Alexander Keith’s beer – This Nova Scotia brewery was founded nearly 200 years ago, it can be purchased across the country and is served on tap at many bars.
Some of the smaller breweries and distillers either located in the mountains or that you may find available to try are:
Alberta’s Big Rock Brewery – traditional ales and seasonal selections
Canmore’s Grizzly Paw Brewing – Fun names and creative Rocky Mountain images on their labels. They have Rutting Elk Red, Grumpy Bear Honey Wheat, Powder Hound Pilsner, Big Head Nut Brown, Beaver Tail Raspberry Ale.
Bearhill Brewing – the parent company for the Banff Avenue Brewing Company and Jasper Brewing Company where you can try their beers on tap.
Mt. Begie Brewing Company – based in the nearby mountains of Revelstoke B.C.
Fernie Brewing Company – located in nearby Fernie in the East Kootney region B.C.
Newfie Screech – A Rum from Newfoundland
The Park Distillery in Banff makes their own vodka, gin and rye.
Canadian Coffee And Other Drinks
Tim Hortons – “Timmies” as you’ll hear it referred to by the locals is a feature of Canadian life for many people across the country. It got its start in 1964 in Hamilton, Ontario, one of the founders was Canadian hockey player Tim Horton. It grew to a nationwide coffee and doughnut restaurant and has become a Canadian cultural icon. Canada has more doughnut shops per capita than any other country. The term double-double was recognized as such an important part of everyday speech in Canada that it was entered into the Oxford Dictionary in 2004. Double-double is how you ask for a coffee with two creams and two sugars. There is a Timmies located in the town site of Banff and one in Jasper. Try signature maple doughnut with your coffee or some timbits. (small round balls that look like doughnut holes)
Kicking Horse Coffee – all organic and fair trade coffee. Roasted in the Canadian Rocky Mountains near Invermere, B.C. served in many Rocky Mountain establishments and their roasted beans are available for purchase in stores across the country.
Banff Roasting Company – you’ll find their coffees being served in many local restaurants and cafes and available for purchase in local super markets and stores.
Canada Dry Ginger Ale – While ginger ale was first invented in Ireland, a Canadian gave us the modern day version. A chemist named John McLaughlin experimented with flavours and came up with a Pale Dry Ginger Ale in the early 1900’s which was patented as “Canada Dry Ginger Ale” in 1907.