The Maple Leaf Grill

Image via The Maple Leaf Grill
Kids don’t belong at white tablecloth restaurants, really. Still, I took mine to one. Because I wasn’t paying attention.

We visited Banff for a final hurrah ski of the season, and after hustling out after work on a Friday afternoon, I was hungry. We parked just off Banff Avenue and I cracked open Google to look for a family restaurant recommendation in Banff, and found a list on Urbanspoon. We were standing next to The Maple Leaf Grill, and my wife remarked a friend had said good things about it. It showed up in the top family restaurants list, so we went in.

We checked it out despite Zacharie asking to go to “that awesome pizza place” that we visited last time we were in Banff, but I was bent on trying something new. I should have listened to the kid and gone to The Bear St Tavern. Instead, I paid the price for not properly doing my research.

The Maple Leaf Grill has white table cloths. The alarm bells were ringing, but we felt guilty because the hostess was being so nice to the boys showing them the decor in the place that we stayed. We shouldn’t have stayed.

The Maple Leaf Grill is a classic fine dining tourist trap. Canadian kitsch is everywhere. There’s a taxidermy beaver on the stairs, Hudson’s Bay blankets drape in the window, there are snowshoes on the walls, and a large moose head (they’ve named him George) overlooking tables in a private room around back.

The menu drips Canadiana as well with Alberta beef, Quebec duck, and BC salmon playing the starring roles. Okanagan wines are featured, and when I asked about the beers on tap our Irish (after all it’s still Banff) waiter waxed poetic about a beer from Calgary’s Big Rock Brewery.

There’s nothing wrong with any of this, the place hits all the classic notes to serve up to tourists still in awe of the view of Cascade Mountain out the windows. But that’s not us. We’re a family of four up for a night from Calgary to go skiing. We didn’t belong here. A white table cloth restaurant catering to tourists is not the place for locals to take the kids for dinner before a ski weekend.

I’m still confused why The Maple Leaf Grill was included in the Urbanspoon list as a family restaurant in Banff. Is it because they have a colouring sheet and some crayons on a kid menu offering the usual choice of pizza, noodles, or burgers with ice cream? Perhaps.

But back to the white table cloths. Charlie loves to colour. Our kitchen table is always covered in pages. Hand him paper and he won’t stop until it’s covered. A white table cloth looks just like a piece of paper to an artist obsessed, and Charlie was halfway through drawing a fish, or snowman, or wookie before we noticed he was drawing on the table. White tablecloths are not family friendly.

cowboy steak at Maple Leaf Grill

Dinner and the service was actually just fine, if expensive. I dug in to an 18 oz Cowboy Cut of Alberta Prime while my wife poked at a pork tenderloin and the boys nibbled at some tangy cheese pizzas. Toss in a beer and a glass of wine, and tip, and we walked out of The Maple Leaf Grill $150 lighter. That’s not a family restaurant dinner total. Bad choice, my fault.

The Maple Leaf Grill is fine for tourists wanting a quintessential Canadian experience, it’s just not a family restaurant, no matter what Urbanspoon says.

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