Though there has been some mainstream and blogosphere buzz around MRKT, Carla Alexander and restauranteur Sal Dimaio’s newest venture, it still seems to have that “hidden gem” status. This may partly have to do with a lack of aggressive signage at street level (a sandwich board is the only obvious pointer to the restaurant’s existence upstairs), or, up until this point, a lack of formal marketing, but there is something refreshing about an organic growth of customers linked to positive word-of-mouth recommendations. It seems to be a trend in the city as of late, with Duchess and Elm Café having developed their clientele in a similar fashion.
I was happy to finally sample MRKT’s fare last week, having set a lunch date with Ellen (who funnily enough works in the same office as I do, but separated by a floor, means that we hardly ever run into each other).
While MRKT didn’t turn out to be the best place for those on a tight schedule, we didn’t mind the wait as it gave us time to catch up. There were about eight people in front of us, and with that queue of food orders, it was twenty-five minutes before we had plates in front of us.
I loved the décor. When I initially saw photos of the wood paneled walls, I was afraid it would be too dim and imposing. But it was quite the opposite, with the fun curved paneling and two skylights, the atmosphere felt warm and inviting. The communal table (while a little more utilitarian than FARM’s wood version) and blackboard menu also reminded me of FARM, and with their Edison lights (the first in Edmonton!), this interior is probably the trendiest in the city.
Similar to Soul Soup (Carla’s first restaurant venture), there were three soup options. In addition to soup were three sandwiches, a special and desserts (keep up to date with their daily menu items on MRKT’s Twitter account). Ellen and I both opted for a soup and sandwich combo($13). We both chose the meat soup, a spicy Italian meatball, but deviated on the sandwich orders.
The only blip was the the ordering system – we placed our orders at the counter, and then sat down to wait for our food. But instead of calling out orders (which, I would imagine, would be difficult given the din of the room during the lunch rush), we had to go up to the counter to periodically check to see if our order was up. Sure, a minor inconvenience, but making our way around the narrow tables wasn’t effortless.
The food, however, was everything I had hoped for – comforting, tasty, and made with care. Ellen and I both loved the meatballs in the soup, but had hoped for more than a halfhearted kick, especially from something billed as “spicy”. She really enjoyed her oven roasted tomato, basil and arugula sandwich, noting that she liked the choice of asiago cheese.
Roasted tomato sandwich
My braised Alberta beef sandwich was something that still haunts me today, the combination of tender shredded beef, edam, caramelized onions and pesto taunting me to find something equally as memorable and delicious. I loved that the bread soaked up the tomato sauce the beef had been braised in, ensuring every bite was moist and further punched up with flavour.
Braised beef sandwich
I was happy to see on their blackboard that MRKT is also open for dinner now (and fortuitously, Marianne posted her review yesterday, and had good things to say). It’s the type of restaurant that would transform in the evening into a charming, intimate venue – extending its daytime commitment of friendly staff and good food. What are you waiting for?
10542 Jasper Avenue
Lunch: Monday-Saturday 11am-2pm
Dinner: Wednesdays-Saturdays, 5pm-late