How to eat well in Jasper National Park

Jasper National Park gets a lot of love for the variety of outdoor activities one can pursue while spending time here. Skiing, hiking, paddling, cycling, …to name a few. The park’s sprawling network of mountain trails, rivers and rock faces are bursting with opportunities to explore.

Of course, all that moving through the mountains works up an appetite. And while (thank goodness) there’s more to the Jasper dining scene than granola, you may be surprised to learn that there are upwards of 70 different restaurants in Jasper National Park. This wide selection may make it hard to narrow things down, and the last thing you want to do after coming off the trail is wander around indecisively, getting hangrier by the minute.

Have no fear. Between bistros and bakeries, pubs and pizzerias, delis and delivery, the dining experience you crave is out there. As a Jasper writer, diner and decades-long restaurant rat, here are some of my favourites:

The Grab-and-Go Experience

Bear’s Paw Bakery. Credit: Bob Covey

Pre-hike briefings at the Bear’s Paw Bakery are not only a great way to get a final headcount before you hit the trail, but also where you’ll want to stock up on trail goodies. Are you the apple danish type? I’m guessing you probably organized the hike. Maybe you’re a cinnamon bun person, willing to get into a bit of a sticky situation to get to the goods? Either way, I’ll carry the snacks.

The Coffee Experience

Credit: Sunhouse Cafe

There’s a new java spot in Jasper, and it’s got people’s noses in the air—but only because the coffee smells so good. Located on Patricia Street, those who bask in the Sunhouse Cafe’s good vibes soon appreciate the coffee culture its owners have artfully imported from Australia. Order a flat white and thank me later.

The Breakfast Experience

Lynn Wannop creates a lot of amazing things in her tiny kitchen in the back of Coco’s Cafe, also on Patricia, but if there’s one menu item beloved by first-year lifties (i.e., seasonal chairlift operators) and Jasper lifers alike, it’s The Breakfast Wrap. Combining eggs, ham (or tofu) and cheese—oh, and an intoxicating, top secret, savoury sauce, all tucked neatly inside a slightly sweet curry-wrap—this comfort food tastes like sleeping in on a rainy day.

The Brunch Experience

Credit: The Raven Bistro

Your party doesn’t have to score the plush couches in the corner to have a great table at The Raven Bistro. You don’t even have to order a lightly oaked Canadian chardonnay to go with the coconut kaffir lime seafood pot to make your palate dance. And certainly no one’s forcing your dining partner to choose a full-bodied IPA to make the most out of their massaman curry. You guys do you, because there are no wrong choices here.

The Lunch Experience

Jamaican a mistake if you skip The Spice Joint. Now that my joke has proved that I am, in fact, a dad, let me also say that there are few more friendly, fun and flavourful places for a father-daughter lunch in Jasper than this Caribbean culinary hot spot. The reggae is always bopping and when owner Dwain Gilzene serves up his flagship jerk chicken sandwich with fresh coleslaw on homemade coco bread, he has his customers bouncing right along with him. I don’t always sing “Is This Love?” to my food, but when I do, it’s in public, with my daughter.

The Fine Dining Experience

Credit: Fiddle River

Dinner out in Jasper typically takes place in either a small, bistro-style room where the chef serves multi-course meals to a limited number of guests; or a larger, family-style restaurant doing big numbers with less-complicated dishes. At Fiddle River, however, chef Sushant Shubang can pull off volume and complexity. Sush and his team serve up to 190 diners a night from a large and varied menu, yet they execute gorgeous plates with layered, nuanced flavours. There’s nothing subtle about how much I love his rack of lamb, however. In fact, the way I like it grilled is a good descriptor for the Fiddle River dining experience itself: rare.

The Dessert Experience

Credit: Syrahs of Jasper

If Syrahs of Jasper had a signature dish, it would definitely be their famous-in-the-Rockies white chocolate and goat cheese cheesecake. It’s that popular. It’s also that decadent, that original and that mind-blowingly creamy. Eating this dessert is like receiving a compliment from a stranger. It’s like getting into freshly-washed sheets. It’s like popping bubble wrap. You get the idea.

While those should be a good initiation, there are plenty more of unique ways to get fed and watered in this town and honourable mentions include:

The Luxury Experience: The Emerald Lounge at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge; The Sushi Master Experience: Oka Sushi, also at the Fairmont; The Charcuterie experience: Harvest Food and Drink; The Pizza Experience: Famoso Jasper; The Burger and Beer Experience: The Whistle Stop Pub; The Late Night Experience: Northface Pizza.

Between meals, make sure to soak in Jasper’s inspiring views. Here are some of our favourite sceneries as captured by you…

Header image: Maligne Canyone Wilderness Kitchen. CPursuit Collection

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