Epicureous in Edmonton: 2018 Year in Review

While the biggest trend of 2018 in Edmonton was the rise of plant-based establishments, it’s important to note that the momentum actually began in 2017. The Moth Cafe, sister to the popular Cafe Mosaics, vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant An Chay, vegan pizzeria Die Pie, and quick-serve Good Stock all opened last year. They were joined in 2018 by celebrity chef-driven Kanu, vegan bakery Cinnaholic, franchise locations of Green Moustache and Copper Branch, and Square Root, the first plant-based eatery located on an Alberta post-secondary campus. But perhaps even more significant, plant-based items even made their way into the mainstream, in the form of A & W’s Beyond Meat burgers (which were so in demand they sold out across Canada), and vegan hot dogs at IKEA.

City Market

Here are a few other items that were notable to me in 2018:

  • Another rollover trend from 2017 was the continued proliferation of independent bakeries in the Edmonton area, but this time, primarily outside the core. Although vegan cookie favourite Bloom, specialty producer Food in the Nud, and City Market darling Dauphine opened in mature neighbourhoods, Milk and Cookies Bakeshop, Jovic Bakery, and Pome Bakery located in more suburban communities. St. Albert also had its share of newcomers, with Confections Cake Co. and a second branch of Macarons and Goodies setting up shop.
  • It was also a great year for independent cafes and coffee roasters, with no less than half a dozen helping to caffeinate the masses: Colombia Mountain Coffee, Rogue Wave, Grizzlar Coffee and Records, Lui-Chi, and Roasti in Sherwood Park.
  • Owing to the changes made to Alberta’s minimum brewing production laws several years ago, microbreweries continue to proliferate in the Edmonton area. Sea Change Brewing, Ale Architect, Omen, Analog Brewing Company, Two Sergeants (who relocated to Edmonton from Fort Saskatchewan), and Endeavour Brewing Company in St. Albert, all opened their doors in 2018.
  • Bundok helped put Edmonton on the map nationally, landing on the prestigious Canada’s Best New Restaurants list.
  • As always, it’s great to see when local restaurants can build on their successes by expanding their operations. Congratulations to Splash Poke, Pampa, Louisiana Purchase, Let’s Go Number Two (Hanjan’s sibling restaurant), Bottega 104, Chix Shack (operated by the folks behind Sawadee in Sherwood Park), Buco, DOSC (opened by the folks behind Japonais, Dorinku, and Seoul Fried Chicken), and KB & Company on the opening of additional locations.
  • Although changes such as the increase in minimum wage have made it more challenging for some restaurants to turn a profit, there was enough confidence in our economy for numerous chains to expand to Edmonton. These high profile brands included matcha master Tsujiri, dessert bar Cacao 70, brunch favourite OEB, seafood eatery The Captain’s Boil, and American chain Bubba Gump Shrimp.
  • We also saw our share of closures, including long running restaurants Packrat Louie, La Boheme, Parkallen, El Rancho, and Characters. 124 Street tenants North 53 and Daravara didn’t survive, and the Alder Room shuttered in spite of its critical acclaim.
  • Due to the LRT construction, the Taste of Edmonton relocated to the Legislature grounds this year. Based on the positive feedback they received, it will be interesting to see if they decide to return to Churchill Square in a few years.
  • Several programs to help those in need also kicked off this year, ranging from The Hallway Cafe’s suspended coffee program (similar to the one run by The Nook Cafe), to pay-what-you-can produce from VEG in YEG, discounted produce at Manna Market (inspired by the Food4Good veggie sales), and Boyle Street Eats, a social enterprise food truck.
  • In the age of Instagram, it’s a bit surprising that there aren’t more social media gaffes committed. However, the most memorable incident involved food blogger Leduc Nguyen’s negative Instagram post about The Common, and retaliatory comments from Cartago’s Katy Ingraham.
  • While it didn’t exceed Chartier’s record-breaking crowdfunding total from 2015, Black Box Hospitality’s Kickstarter for their forthcoming Gibbard Block project came close, exceeding their $100,000 target.
  • It was a mixed year in food media. Edmonton saw the loss of alternative paper Vue Weekly (and their Dish coverage along with it), but we also gained food-centric print magazine Eat Local. Food Artisans of Alberta and Maps, Markets and Matzo Ball Soup were also published in 2018, highlighting many amazing producers in the province and the life of local food advocate Gail Hall.

You can check out previous year in reviews here.

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