Hotel dining trends: were to eat (and sleep) now
— Shelley Boettcher
It used to be that, except for a few ritzy exceptions, you only ate at hotel restaurants in Canada because you were staying there and you didn’t know of other options.
How things have changed.
Fast forward to now, and hotel restaurants are at the forefront of culinary trends in Canada. They’re hiring top chefs. They’re defining what we eat and drink. And they’re pulling in diners from every corner of their cities, not just tourists and business travelers.
Here, in alphabetical order, are 10 cool places to eat (and stay, in a perfect world) now.
1. Buffalo Mountain Lodge
Located on Tunnel Mountain, Buffalo Mountain Lodge has been one of Banff’s best places to stay—and eat—since the mid-1980s. The hotel’s restaurant, Sleeping Buffalo, features an award-winning wine list and cuisine centred around local ingredients. The charcuterie board is a classic; pair with fine BC wine and, if you can snag the spot, cozy up by the fireplace in the lounge.
2. Carriage House Inn
Located just off Macleod Trail, Carriage House Inn counts locals and tourists as fans for its pastry program, banquet facilities and restaurants.
Food and beverage director Lino Savino says he’s noticing a demand for local ingredients and casual, comfort food. Travellers and locals alike come in for burgers. “And the steak sandwich has been one of our most popular menu items for years,” he says.
You’ll find kosher food, too. Stop in for fresh challah and other baking every Friday.
3. Coast Canmore Hotel
Table Food + Drink is all about cozy comfort food—chicken wings, nachos, Caesar salad—made with local ingredients. It’s the sort of stuff you crave after skiing or mountain biking all day.
Chef Tim Matsell started his career at some of Toronto’s top restaurants, before heading west to the Bow Valley, where he has lived for the past 20 years.
4. Fairmont Banff Springs
Even if you’ve never been to the Banff Springs, you’ve likely heard stories about this historic mountain hotel. Ever since it opened in 1888, it has been renowned for its glamour, its mountain vistas and, of course, its culinary program.
Take a short walk to Waldhaus Pub for fondue. Or get comfy in Grapes, the romantic wine bar that opened in 1926 as the hotel’s writing room.
And sign up for the “Eat the Castle” tour. Operated by Alberta Food Tours, it is exactly what it sounds like: a tasty meander around the hotel’s culinary offerings.
“With 13 dining venues and 150 chefs, it could take a long time to get to know all we do,” Robert Ash, the hotel’s executive chef, has said.
“’Eat the Castle’ with Alberta Food Tours allows the culinary curious behind-the-scenes access to understand our commitment to made-from-scratch local flavours, ocean-wise seafood and sustainability.’”
5. Fairmont Palliser Hotel
In early 2019, the Fairmont team opened Hawthorn, a new-old dining concept that took over the former Rimrock Dining Room.
The result—the hotel’s first major restaurant update in 60 years—is a chic, beautiful space that has been embraced by both visitors and local foodies. Hawthorn’s executive chef, Dave Bohati, has worked at some of Canada’s top restaurants. Now he’s putting his own stamp on the menus, which include afternoon tea (cereal-flavoured milk for kids!) Or enjoy dinner in the dining room. Or—my personal favourite—have a glass (or three, we won’t judge) of Champagne during happy hour in the lounge.
6. Grey Eagle Resort
When the Grey Eagle Resort opened on the Tsuu T’ina Nation, on the southwest edge of Calgary, it quickly gained a reputation for live music. Burton Cummings, Foreigner and Boney M are just a few of the bands that have graced its stage.
It wasn’t long, however, before those in the know started talking about the food. The Prime Rib Buffet takes place Friday through Sunday. For less than $30 per person, you can load up on prime rib, side dishes and Yorkshire pudding.
Or go to the resort’s Little Chief restaurant, for local, Indigenous-inspired cuisine. Try the venison carpaccio, perhaps, or bannock with Saskatoon jam. Crave-worthy.
7. Hotel Arts
Executive chef Quinn Staple heads the culinary program at Hotel Arts, and his creative touches can be seen throughout the hotel group’s restaurants. Go for brunch or dinner at Yellow Door at the flagship hotel downtown. Or head to Raw Bar for a bite before a game at the Saddledome.
Staple recommends Raw Bar’s Korean Beef Tartare with Rice Crisps, paired with the award-winning signature Derelict Cocktail. (The recipe is in the new Calgary Eats cookbook, by the way.) Raw Bar also lists its gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian menus online, if you need them.
And Instagram options are everywhere: original art throughout the hotel, the Hollywood-esque courtyard pool; and, of course, each gorgeous restaurant dish.
Don’t want to stay downtown? Hotel Arts Kensington is a 19-room boutique hotel with Oxbow, a lovely small restaurant with a patio that can’t be beat.
8. Calgary Airport Marriott In-Terminal Hotel
There’s something wonderful about staying at a nice airport hotel such as the Marriott in Calgary before a flight. Just be sure to find time for dinner and a beverage at Yakima Social Kitchen and Bar, a casual, lively eatery steps away from the actual airport. The food and drink program here is awesome: handcrafted original cocktails, local craft beer and excellent food. Chef John Forsythe has cooked for the likes of John Travolta, Alec Baldwin and Robin Williams; now he and his team can cook for you.
9. Delta Hotels by Marriott Calgary Downtown
If you haven’t been in this location for years, you really need to plan a visit. The property has been around for decades but has been completely redone: tons of natural light, fresh Canadian art, fresh everything. You’d never guess it was the same gloomy, cement-filled space.
And the restaurant, Shoe and Canoe? Executive chef Phil Andrews says it best: “It’s not a hotel restaurant; it’s a restaurant that happens to be in a hotel.”
Order the Alberta and Quebec cheeses, Fogo Island cod tacos and birch-glazed BC Albacore tuna. And try the Stargazer, an Irish pale ale that gets its moniker from early Canadian explorer David Thompson’s Indigenous nickname.
Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge
Stay here, and you’d be forgiven if you never wanted to leave your beautiful room or the Nordic Spa, with its five outdoor pools, five steam and sauna cabins, winterized hammocks, fireside lounges and treatment rooms.
But there’s good food, too.
Executive chef Eric Beaupre spent 13 years with the Fairmont hotel chain before moving to the Pomeroy two years ago. “The trends I’m seeing are local, farm-to-restaurant dining and healthy foods,” he says. People are asking where their food comes from: who produced it, why and where, “and they want to know the stories behind what they’re eating,” Beaupre adds.
So does he, which is why you’ll find top local produce and meats from producers such as Calgary’s Deepwater Farms and Cheryl Greisinger’s Forage & Farm garlic. “Her black garlic is amazing,” Beaupre says. “We make black garlic aioli arancini with it.”
Hungry? Me, too.