Food Notes for April 12, 2021

Downtown Dining Week Returns Amidst Indoor Dining Restrictions

Downtown Dining Week is an annual event organized by the Downtown Business Association. It highlights the hospitality industry in the core, and is typically a fixture on the March events calendar. Having pushed the event back to April this year, it was an unfortunate coincidence that the news about indoor dining restrictions would be implemented on April 9, 2021, just days before the event was due to start.

Running April 13-25, 2021, 48 participating restaurants are offering $20 multi-course lunch or brunch menus, and/or $35, $50 or $65 multi-course dinner menus.

Because of the restrictions, some of the restaurants have had to change course and adjust menu offerings, shared DBA Marketing & Communications Manager Tracy Hyatt. Most menus have been redesigned for take-out, while three restaurants are offering the specials through delivery as well.

In addition, the event has accelerated the timeline for al fresco options. “The restrictions and Downtown Dining Week have also made a lot of participating restaurants open up their patios ahead of the normal patio season,” Hyatt said. “26 restaurants are offering some form of outdoor dining.”

New to Downtown Dining Week is the inclusion of a “fast casual” category; in previous years, only establishments serving more high-end fare were eligible to be included. “Fast casual is a growing dining concept and downtown has some pretty amazing ones, such as BUOK and Rosewood Foods,” said Hyatt. “They are great additions to the food scene and you can’t find them anywhere else in the city.”

A list of menus of participating restaurants can be found on the DBA website, but given the current situation, Hyatt encourages diners to check the social media accounts of individual restaurants for hours and other information.

COVID-19-related News

  • Effective noon on April 9, 2021, indoor dining at restaurants and other food service businesses were again restricted, with no announced end date. While some of the measures echo the restrictions imposed in December, one significant difference is that businesses can still offer outdoor dining. The guidelines specify that “If the patio or facility has a roof, it cannot have more than 1 enclosing wall”; as such, some of the enclosed structures some local restaurants have brought in would have to be modified to fit these specifications. In addition, the restrictions require individuals to “stay seated with their dining party unless using the washroom, paying, or entering/exiting the facility”, which seems to address the comment Premier Kenney made about some patrons transmitting COVID-19 when “table hopping”.
  • The Alberta Hospitality Association continues to request data to support the closure measures, even as studies about indoor transmission rates abound.
  • On the outdoor dining front, the Old Strathcona Business Association is advocating for extended semi-permanent walkways to be installed along Whyte Avenue, while the Downtown Business Association would like to see 104 Street closed to vehicular traffic on weekends for extended patios.
  • Some restaurants across the province have chosen to defy the indoor dining orders, including the Crown & Anchor Pub and Grill on Edmonton’s north side. In December, a waitress at the business required 14 stitches after an altercation with a patron about mandatory masks inside the pub. On the weekend, AHS issued a closure order to cease dine-in services.
  • Premier Kenney projected that large-scale summer events will be able to go forward if vaccination supplies remain consistent, and that most restrictions would be lifted by June.
  • Palette Cafe is struggling with the recent closures to indoor dining, while others like Barb & Ernie’s express their frustration about the hospitality industry being “targeted”.
  • Formerly a ghost kitchen, the Burger Brawl menu will now be offered on the DOSC patio.


  • Spring means one thing: food truck season has begun! Some new trucks have already started appearing on Edmonton streets, including El Santo Taco Truck and Korean fried chicken truck Oh! Chicken.
  • The Colombian shared that their second cafe, located in the French Quarter at 8816 92 Street, will be opening in a few days.
  • Italia Mia is a forthcoming restaurant to open in the former Il Forno space, at 14981 Stony Plain Road.
  • Barbacoa is a new restaurant in Spruce Grove that opened for take-out only (for now) last week. They specialize in barbecued meats over open flame.
  • Also in Spruce Grove, Alberta’s newest small brewery RavenWolf Brewing opened last week.
  • A & G Burgers is now open on Rice Howard Way, at 10127 100A Street.

Upcoming Events

  • The University of Alberta is offering a free webinar open to the public about the benefits and how to participate in local food systems. The webinar will take place on April 16, 2021.

Local News

  • Dalla is launching Rano’s Take-Out Pop-Up, which will serve up “classic Italian-American dishes that have been popularized in film and in your favourite kitschy Italian restaurants”.
  • The Journal has more on the back story behind Sherwood Park’s first brew pub, 70 Acres.
  • Eleanor and Laurent lands as the Alberta representative on a Readers’ Digest list of the best coffee in every province.
  • Dished highlighted the hot pot kits that can be delivered from Liuyishou Hot Pot.
  • Given the number of likes on this tweet, it’s fair to say that Old Strathcona stalwart Steel Wheels has quite the reputation outside of Edmonton.
  • There is a crowdfunding campaign for Island Grill, a restaurant that “suffered severe damage” from a fire on March 28, 2021. The campaign seeks to raise $20,000.
  • Twyla wrote a sponsored post about the diversity of products available at Bountiful Market.
  • Edmonton Eats is offering a sweet way to celebrate Mother’s Day, with treats traditionally eaten during Eid al-Fitr. The boxes are $20 and have to be pre-ordered for pick-up.
  • Fresh Routes, the social enterprise that set up mobile grocery markets in underserved communities in Edmonton, has had to pause their operations while they review how they can remain sustainable into the future.
  • Future Fields, an Edmonton-based start up helping to produce lab-grown meat, received $2.2 million in seed funding from American venture capital firms.

What I Ate

  • We satisfied our King Noodle House craving with #PhoToGo! The restaurant remains open for take-out.

King Noodle House

Bun Bo Hue from King Noodle House

  • We were lucky enough to be treated to a preview two of the $20 Downtown Dining Week menus from Bao Bao this weekend, one of the new “fast casual” additions to this year’s event. All of their set meal options include one of their signature soup dumplings. In my opinion, their pan-fried bao are particularly fantastic, while Emily loved their dry noodles. We have and will order from them again in the future! Thanks to the Downtown Business Association for arranging the meals.

Bao Bao

Downtown Dining Week meals from BaoBao

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