Though Edmonton is not often thought of as a dining destination, amidst the clutter of chain restaurants and fast food, Edmonton has some great culinary talents who consistently turn out top notch food, bevvies, and treats. With my computer nerd hubby getting ready to welcome a whole bunch of fellow internet marketing peeps to our fair city for a spring conference, I couldn’t resist obliging his request to share the best of Edmonton eating according to moi. In no particular order. Enjoy.
Ridiculous talent and a most sincere love for food, real Italian food, collide at Corso 32 in the inspired hands of chef Daniel Costa. Don’t plan on “showing up” at the door of this popular downtown restaurant hoping for a table. Book well ahead and have your planning rewarded with some of the most perfect food you’ll eat in any city. Some favourites on the ever changing menu include the arancini, house made goat ricotta crostini, whatever today’s ravioli is, and the braised polpette aka meatballs. The cocktail and wine list is notable, too.
Culina Family of Restaurants
Be it lunch at Culina Muttart, or a dinner or weekend brunch at Culina Mill Creek, the Culina family of restaurants never disappoints. With a menu loaded with ethnic inspired comfort food, a focus on local fresh ingredients, and the best cocktail list in the city, there is something for everyone. The bacon and eggs at brunch cannot be beat, and the dinner menu has me ordering goodies like the pork and cheese tortillas, the local chorizo sausage hotpot, and the phyllo wrapped goat cheese, over and over again. And happily so. Um, did I mention the cocktails?
Red Ox Inn
I am ashamed that this is the first time that I have mentioned my love for Red Ox on Cream and Sugar. I think I’ve just been so busy gobbling up their food that taking pictures and writing went astray. Not only is their self proclaimed “serious food in a casual room” outstanding, but both the owners and the front of house staff are about the most gracious people you’ll ever meet. I must confess that I’ve yet to sample the newly revamped menu, but should some old favourites resurface on the ever changing menu, the warm goat cheese salad with bacon and cranberry vinagrette, and the rack of lamb with polenta and cassoulet are not to be missed. Reservations are recommended at this casual fine dining gem nestled just above the river valley.
These three guys have brought authentic Mexican tacos to the prairies, and plenty of charm to keep the vibe of their casual downtown taqueria humming. Make hard decisions from the mouthwatering menu, order at the counter, and watch your food appear in no time flat. Lunch or dinner, grab a seat at the big communal table and get ready to wolf down a plate (or two!) of Tres Carnales tacos. And don’t forget to order some guacamole y totpos. Salty chips, perfectly seasoned, citrus-ed, fresh guacamole to devour as you wait for the main attraction. The rajas con crema quesidilla and the carnitas tacos are my go-to menu items.
For proper Thai curry and spicy basil chicken, look no further than Viphalay. Hands down the best authentic Thai and Laos food in the city. Now with two downtown locations you can head to the dodgy edge of little Italy, or the quieter tree lined street just south of Jasper Avenue to get your fix. The red curry with bamboo, papaya salad, and penang are my favourites. And for dessert the roti rolls, fresh warm roti smothered in condensed milk and sugar, are my favourite dessert in the whole city.
I love pupusas. If you’ve had one before, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, now’s the time to change that. Acajutla is a little family run El Salvadorean and Mexican restaurant serving up the best little masa enveloped meat, bean, and cheese bundles in town. The decor is less than fancy and the restaurant is located in an “edge of downtown” neighbourhood that has what we’ll call “flavour”, but it’s worth the journey. The mixed pupusas, chicken enchiladas, and lime margaritas on the rocks are stars. Don’t be put off by the ridiculous website that spews latin beats to entice you. What they lack in design savvy and computer know how, they make up for in deliciousness, AND it’s cheap and cheerful!
Located in an unassuming little strip mall in South Edmonton’s Lendrum neighbourhood, this small Japanese owned and run sushi house is tops. Rice is always perfectly flavoured, the right amount of sticky, and topped with the freshest of fish. Reservations are recommended, as is the negitoro maki, the agedashi tofu, and the gomae.
The Golden Rice Bowl
This efficient and busy Chinese restaurant is the place that much of the local Asian community chooses for celebrations, special occasions, and family meals, and for good reason. The food is top notch, the room is bustling, the menu is extensive, and the service is quick. Of course many of the most delicious things are not on the menu. I use the “point at other people’s food” method of ordering when something yummy looking comes out. My favourites include the Peking duck (which must be pre-ordered), prawn and scallop nest, house special beef tenderloin with cashew nuts (not on the menu), crispy garlic chicken, garlic pea greens, and Cantonese chow mein.
And now for some treats and bevvies…
Dauphine Bakery and Bistro
Located on the lovely and revitalized 104th Street downtown, in a bright vaulted basement space in the Armstrong heritage building, Dauphine Bakery and Bistro (formerly known as The Queen of Tarts) turns out some of the best artisan breads, jams, and of course tarts, in the city. The lemon curd tart is worth the trip alone. Perfectly balanced, tart and sweet, it’s citrus perfection. Go for treats, or enjoy a simple French inspired bistro lunch in their charmingly simple, yet sophisticated space.
Da Cappo Caffe
Serving the best freshly made artisan gelato in the city, Da Cappo Caffe is the place to go for creamy pistachio, dulce di latte, and chile chocolate frozen goodness. The coffee is good, too.
This is the cult coffee house in town. Bean heads flock from all over the city to sample Transcend’s serious in house roasts from around the globe. If you end up hooked, a coffee subscription that will deliver the best beans of the month to your door is an easy at home fix.
Eva Sweet Waffles
If you can find one of the happy vans, Eva Sweet waffles are worth seeking out. These perfectly sweet Liege waffles are a thing of beauty, and luckily are also served at a number of cafes around town.
Duchess Bake Shoppe
Drawing the masses to 124th Street for perfectly executed Parisian macarons, in flavours like rose, pistachio, and salted caramel, Duchess is a sweet treat for proper French pastries and treats. Perfect butter croissants, gorgeous tarts and cakes, sour cherry pie, lovely house blended teas, fresh marshmallows, and simply delicious sandwiches, you will find plenty of ways to satisfy any craving here. Get in line and prepare to make hard decisions with so many gorgeous things peering back at you through the pretty glass case.
With the best beer list in the city, from Belgian to Quebecois selections, this is the place to go for a frosty mug. Nestled in a casual bustling space just over the High Level bridge on the edge of the University of Alberta campus, this popular spot is packed from morning to night drawing crowds not only for its lagers and witbiers, but for its great food and famously perfect cinnamon buns.
Because lord knows after you drink all that beer, you’ll need some top notch poutine. Fries, squeaky curds, gravy. Need I say more?
From the Culina family of restaurants, my favourite tiny little spot to sit on a bench and drink a great glass of wine is BiBO. Nestled two doors down from Culina Mill Creek, this petite candle lit space is always pumping out an eclectic mix of moody music and filling glasses with beautiful wines and perfect recommendations.
The Confederation Lounge at the Hotel MacDonald
And lastly, in honour of great Edmonton institutions, there is something so lovely about walking through the doors of the hotel MacDonald and strolling into the grand but den like Confederation lounge for something on the rocks, or in a big wine glass, or perhaps in the form of a steaming boozy blueberry tea. And when warm weather cooperates, it has quite simply the best patio for a “drink with a view” in the city.
Here’s a map!
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