There’s no doubt that Jasper – a resort town in Western Canada set amidst glacial lakes and snow-capped peaks – has some of the prettiest scenery anywhere in the Canadian Rockies. But for visitors who demand as much from their plates as from their landscapes, Jasper has long been overshadowed by its big sister a few hundred kilometers to the south, the glitzy alpine capital of Banff.
But after a recent trip, I have good news to report: Jasper’s restaurant and bar scene is finally coming into its own. My culinary adventure started at the Jasper Brewing Company, a brew pub opened in 2005 just across the street from the rail depot. Inside, the décor aspires toward mountain chic: stone accents and exposed rafters with low, conspiratorial lighting and a big bar.
The beer, crafted with passion by 33-year-old bremaster Dave Mozel, has always been great, with the Honey Bear Ale (Okanagan clover honey plus a hint of coriander) a real must-drink. But the big news is that the food has finally risen to the level of the beer. The menu leans towards standard pub classics – wings, burgers, as well as some chops and fish dishes – but what stands out is the freshness and sourcing of the ingredients: Alberta beef and, whenever possible, local produce.
The next day, eager to hit some of the incredible hiking trails around Jasper, I went out in search of a picnic lunch. A good tip from the concierge at Whistlers Inn led me to the Patricia Street Deli, an easy-to-miss, bare-bones sandwich shop behind Jasper’s main drag. The guy behind the counter – in classic Seinfeld soup Nazi fashion – barely gave me the time of day, ignoring me as I waited to order. But in the end I didn’t mind – The rotisserie chicken sandwich on a fresh baked panini with cranberry mayo was astoundingly good.
After a day spent hiking around the sites in Jasper – the Old Fort Point trail with its panoramic views, the emerald waters of Lac Beauvert – I had worked up a healthy appetite for dinner. But I resisted the temptation to duck into the first restaurant I saw. More than a few overpriced tourist traps line Jasper’s main street. The real secret to finding a good meal, as usual, is to follow the crowds.
And on this night, the crowds led to Earl’s, the casual restaurant with locations all over Western Canada. I know what you’re thinking: How could I go to a chain restaurant? To be honest, Earl’s wouldn’t normally have been my first choice, but I’m glad I gave it a try. Prices are lower than just about anywhere else in Jasper and the simple dishes on the menu are well prepared, flavourful and satisfying. I opted for an Earl’s classic – the roasted chicken quesadilla, served with warm tortillas and a smoky, house-roasted salsa.
Final verdict: Don’t expect any Araxis showing up in Jasper anytime soon, but there are a wealth of new, adventurous restaurants in town emphasizing local ingredients, freshness and value. True to Jasper’s rustic roots, the atmosphere is unfailingly welcoming and informal, with an optimistic, young vibe. Other great choices include Evil Dave’s, an inventive bistro with a tongue-in-cheek evil-themed menu, and La Fiesta, the always-crowded tapas bar.
Click here to read the original post at FoodNetwork.ca.