Friday, November 1, 2013

Finally…Quality Greek Food!

When we lived in Chicago, we had a plethora of choices for top notch Greek cuisine… Not so in Tennessee, at least so far.  However, in Chicago we also had minimal scenery, a ton of snow and cold weather, a state income tax, high property taxes and high gas prices.  Giving up top quality ethnic cuisine was a ‘no brainer’ in trade for the positive points in moving to East Tennessee.

But we still enjoy good ethnic cuisine and we found the best Greek restaurant we’d eaten at in 4 ½ years while staying in Banff Alberta Canada!

This is “Balkan – The Greek Restaurant.  It was the second place recommended to us by our Aussie bartender at Tommy’s Neighborhood Pub in downtown Banff.  Tommy’s is located below the sidewalk level just to the left of the entrance to Balkan in the picture above.  We thought that the entrance to this restaurant was dramatic and a bit impressive…but we didn’t get to see the ‘dancing Sasquatch’!

The dining room at Balkan is set up on 2 levels…with stone, white walls and wood providing a Mediterranean ambiance.  As per the restaurant’s website, the Balkan restaurant first fired up its grill on Banff Avenue way back in 1982.  A 33 year run by any restaurant is impressive!

From what I can determine, these long tables are frequently used for communal dining.  In addition, every Tuesday and Thursday night Balkan offers professional belly dancing and traditional plate smashing…combined with a bit of ouzo.

Although Balkan had been recommended by our Aussie bartender, I will admit that it was already on my pre-trip list of dining possibilities for Banff.  As I’ve mentioned previously, I use Trip Advisor when I’m researching an area for potential restaurants where we might want to eat.
Balkan – The Greek Restaurant ranks 9th out of 116 restaurants in Banff with 323 reviews to date.  I try to avoid restaurants for which customers/reviewers who have negative views of the establishment represent more than 10% of those who felt that restaurant should be rated Excellent or Very Good.  In this instance, 263 customers rated Balkan as Excellent or Very Good vs. 18 customers, (6.8%), who rated the restaurant as Poor or Terrible. 

To start out, it didn’t hurt that Brian, our waiter from New Zealand, was friendly, personable, knowledgeable, helpful…and from Laurie’s perspective, also really good looking!!  Of course, given my own lack of hair, I have to appreciate her lack of bias against those of us who have to believe that bald is beautiful! 

Excellent bread is always appreciated…and these nice warm chewy rolls went well when dipped in that oil and balsamic vinegar dipping sauce.  This went well with my bottle of Canadian beer ($6.00) and Laurie’s glass of Halkidiki white wine. ($8.00) Her wine was very nice indeed…
FYI… Halkidiki is a peninsula jutting into the Aegean Sea south of Thessaloniki.  It has a long wine-making history dating back to the ancient Greece.  To learn more, go to

We love Tzatziki sauce…so we ordered Tzatziki with Balkan’s handmade pita bread. ($8.50) While it wasn’t quite as heavy on the garlic as it might have been in Chicago, it had enough ‘bite’ to satisfy our palates!  It was a very good start for our meal.  We would have ordered our other favorite, Saganaki, (kefalograviera cheese fried with olive oil and then flambéed tableside with brandy), but Canadian sticker shock prevented it… ($14.00)

For Laurie’s entrée, Brian recommended that she should order the “Spatchcocked Paprika Chicken” from the special “Kitchen Features” menu ($26.00) As Brian had considerable influence over her judgment at that point in time, she gladly followed his recommendation.  It didn’t hurt that it was an excellent choice!  She loved her dinner…
This dish is described as a “paprika and lemon rubbed ‘spatchcocked’, i.e. ‘butterflied’ Cornish game hen with pickled onion, roasted vegetables and warm potato salad”.  This special menu also included items as varied as Bison Medallions and a Wild Boar Chop.
Balkan’s main menu includes all of the Greek basics as well as a number of items that we wouldn’t have seen on a menu even in Chicago.  There was Moussaka, slow roasted lamb shank, braised rabbit, donair (Canadian gyros), lamb chops, baked salmon, various Greek pastas, dry rubbed pork ribs, fennel seafood stew and more…   

I chose an old standby, the Lemon Half Chicken for my dinner. ($26.00) It was very good as were the roasted potatoes and veggies.  As I dislike bell peppers, I was fortunate that their flavor didn’t carry over to the other vegetables. 
So…our taste for Greek food was sated and another win was recorded for our Aussie bartender and restaurant advisor!  Balkan – The Greek Restaurant is located at 120 Banff Avenue in the center of Banff Alberta Canada.  Phone: 403-762-3454.  To view the menu and to learn more about this restaurant, go to  To see the reviews/customer feedback for this restaurant on Trip Advisor, go to I’ll be adding our experience and feedback about Balkan in the next week or so…
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by for a visit! 
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave   


  1. I love Greek food...maybe because my great-grandfather was Greek:) The Greek feta cheese is similar to our Sicilian ricotta salata, except that feta is even saltier.

  2. Darn - I thought you were going to tell about the great place you'd found around here. Being the map guy that I am, I'm pretty sure Chicago is closer than Banff.

  3. Ahhhh--looks delicious! HA HA--you mean you can't find any Greek Cuisine HERE in TENNESSEE????? Mercy Me---wonder why???? ha ha ha.....

    I moved back to Tennessee from Texas --where we had the best Mexican food in the world!!!!! WELL--my first Tennessee Mexican Restaurant was a huge disappointment to say the least!!!!! Still haven't found much Mexican food here which I like... Oh Well.... At least we have the beautiful mountains here!