Want to go on a day trip but Banff is a little too far? Why not head to Bragg Creek? You will find many unique restaurants and stops in this charming hamlet just a quick thirty-minute drive from Calgary. The locals have nicknamed the area the “Gateway to Kananaskis”, so be sure to pack a sturdy pair of hiking boots, or load up your car with your bikes, so you can enjoy the nearby world-class West Bragg Creek trails before having a bite to eat.
You may not know that Bragg Creek has attracted award-winning chefs, whose cuisine can compete with some of the best restaurateurs in Canmore and Banff, so if the great outdoors is not your thing, you can spend some time shopping before ending your day dining like a gourmet.
For those looking for something upscale, you’ll want to visit the Bavarian Inn Restaurant, perfect for a “couples night out” or a family affair. Renowned in Bragg Creek for over twenty years, the Bavarian Inn was purchased by award-winning Chef Josef Wiewer in August 2011, from original owner Chef Charlie Holschuh. The Bavarian Inn, though well known for classic European-inspired Alpine fare, has expanded its menu to include elegant seasonal entrees, such as Berry Glazed Duck Breast, Carmen Creek Bison Flank Steak, and Steelhead Trout. If you would like to eat more traditional fare, along with the restaurant’s loyal repeat clientele, you will not be disappointed with the popular Wiener schnitzel and Spätzle. For comfort food, consider the creamy Pink Borscht and the Maultaschen German-Style Veal Dumplings stuffed with spinach, onions and garlic.
In the late 1990s, Wiewer worked at Winnipeg’s famous Italian fine dining restaurant Amici, and it is this familiarity with both German and Italian cuisines, that has made him a versatile chef. He purchased The Italian Farmhouse Ristorante & Bar (20 Balsam Avenue), known formerly as Madrina’s Ristorante, in August 2014. The romantic restaurant is visually striking, with sparkling chandeliers, luxurious couches, and cute county kitsch paintings and accessories. You can choose between a romantic ambiance and a casual vibe. Try the Linguine ai Frutti di Mare, loaded with generous portions of scallops, calamari, shrimp, and mussels, made with your choice of a red or white sauce. Delicious appetizers include Polpette, house-made meatballs with tomato sauce, garlic, and padano, and Calamari all’Arrabiata, pan-seared in a spicy roasted red pepper sauce with almonds and arugula.
Those who want a casual, and perhaps more affordable, dining experience, should visit Creekers Bistro and Restaurant, located at 20 White Avenue, in the Bragg Creek Village Market. Chef John Czarnojan elevates the warm and casual atmosphere of his elegant eatery with delicious cuisine. Join locals on Friday evenings for the mouth-watering prime rib dinner, one of the best deals in town. No meal is complete without the sweet, tart, and creamy, Key Lime Cheesecake. Sunday brunch with your family at Creekers is well worth the drive.
Bragg Creek is known as an artist and musicians’ haven, and local bands jam regularly at the PowderHorn Saloon, a rockin’ county-themed bar that is a favourite for locals and visitors. Famous for its tasty pub fare, as well as live music every Friday night, order the juicy PowderHorn sirloin burger, loaded with bacon, cheddar cheese, and mushrooms, a deliciously messy delight. Located in the same mall, the family-friendly Mountain Bistro & Pizzeria boasts food made completely from scratch daily. It is worth the wait to sample the delicious barbeque chicken pizza, with Gouda cheese, tangy BBQ sauce, and cilantro.
If you are an outdoor enthusiast, who likes to dine after working out in nature’s playground, your stay in Bragg Creek will not be complete without a stop at the coffee shops and casual eateries.
Gourmet coffee shop, The Cinnamon Spoon, a popular meeting place for locals each morning, is also frequented by city cyclists, who can relax with a cappuccino and light nibble, after a long day spent seeing the natural sights. Try the salmon and lox bagel, the tastiest sandwich on the menu. The Sugar Shake Bakery & More offers homemade lunches as well as scrumptious baked goods, breads, and desserts. Motorcyclists travel from nearby towns Black Diamond and Turner Valley to take home the hearty and yummy chicken pot pies.
For those thinking about a weekend day trip with your kids, visit Frontier Ice Cream, located in the Bragg Creek Shopping Centre. The candy store serves Foothills Creamery ice cream, and the black forest cake option, is a rich and velvety delight. Open for business from the May long weekend, the seasonal Scoops & Snacks, is a short scenic walk west down White Avenue from the Bragg Creek Community Centre. Parents will especially like the kiddy-sized cones, the perfect size for their little ones. As you enjoy your treats, do not forget to walk along the historical Cowboy Trail to visit the iconic Trading Post store, which will officially re-open this summer after an extensive rebuild due to the 2013 flood.
If you want to unplug and unwind, discover Bragg Creek, a day trip destination close to home.
Carmen Solana-Martin is an M.D. of Foothills, freelance writer, wife, and mom, whose greatest passion is telling stories about people and places that inspire her. Follow her on twitter @solana_martin.
Photos by Linda Garson