Food Notes for February 21, 2022

Hoot Company’s New Ghost Kitchens Offer Springboard for Chefs

Hoot Company, an umbrella for several businesses including DOSC, Dorinku Osaka and Dorinku Tokyo, and Japonais Bistro, launched two ghost kitchens in February, offering a couple of chefs a way to test concepts that may become full restaurants some day.

After taking over a building less than a block from Rogers Place, Hoot Company relaunched the dormant Burger Brawl brand and launched a new concept called Taco Nova, both run by chefs who were originally from DOSC.

Ghost kitchen are hospitality businesses with no dine-in options, relying on third-party delivery apps and take-out. They started popping up in core neighbourhoods in Edmonton several years back. Many ghost kitchens offer generic menu items or serve branded items. But Hoot Company’s ghost kitchens are different – the chefs behind both Burger Brawl and Taco Nova have particular visions, and Hoot Company has supported them to bring their concepts to life.

“The benefit of having a ghost kitchen is that we don’t have as many overheads as a storefront restaurant, so we are able to be more competitive with our pricing,” said Bianca Condren, the sales and marketing manager for Hoot Company. “We are always listening and assessing data to be more flexible, and guest feedback is the most important.”

Taco Nova chef Luis Rivadeneyra is excited for the chance to make traditional Mexican food at an affordable price. “I am very proud of the whole menu, but if I had to choose [one dish to recommend], I would say our ‘Cecina’, a semi-cured beef,” said Rivadeneyra. “It is a very popular preparation in Mexico, especially in the town of Yecapixtla. It is served with a cactus salad, grilled Panela cheese, guacamole and cilantro.”

He shared that 90% of the menu is home-made, and they are in the process of sourcing the equipment needed to make their own tortillas in the near future.

Chef Karl MacKinnon has been able to lead the rebirth of his Burger Brawl brainchild from DOSC to ghost kitchen. “When I first conceptualized Burger Brawl, the lockdown was in full effect [in December 2020], so Burger Brawl was made as a way to create revenue for DOSC during the lockdown. In a way, DOSC was functioning as a ghost kitchen as we were solely running Burger Brawl out of it,” said MacKinnon. “Once the mandates were lifted, it was rather complicated running a full DOSC menu and Burger Brawl out of the same kitchen.”

Burger Brawl went on hiatus in June of 2021 but was revived in February at the new location. MacKinnon has been heartened by diners who have returned, even with the break in service. “A lot of the people who supported us from day one have come back with great enthusiasm, and the local community around MacEwan has also embraced us with open arms,” said MacKinnon. “We are still in early days of where I hope Burger Brawl will eventually end up, but it is nice to have such a strong cult following right out of the gate of our relaunch.”

While burgers are pervasive in the restaurant and delivery space, MacKinnon believes his execution and concept set Burger Brawl apart. “For one, [nearly] everything…is made in house,” said MacKinnon. “Our buns are never frozen. Our burgers are made entirely from locally-sourced sirloin and brisket as well. We also allow for your burger to be completely customized. Lastly, we have an endless amount of burgers that we plan to roll out so there will always be new burgers to keep our customers excited about.”

For both Burger Brawl and Taco Nova concepts, Hoot Company hopes that the ghost kitchen format will eventually springboard to brick and mortar locations. “The ideal plan will be to gather as much feedback and customer responses as possible to see which burgers are hits and which are flops so that when we do eventually have a set location, we are ensuring that we are selling the best possible products for our clientele,” said MacKinnon.

Although competition is steep in the hospitality sector, sales and marketing manager Condren is confident that they will succeed. “If there is anything COVID has taught us, it’s that we have a great community in Edmonton where there is a lot of support for local restaurants,” she said.

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What I Ate

  • We had a Taco Nova feast on Friday – love that they sell tacos individually too so you can easily try their variety! Our favourites were the quesabirria, Baja fish tacos, and bean dip, and we will definitely be ordering the churros waffles again.
  • Taco Nova

Taco Nova feast

  • Cinnamon buns are one of my favourite treats, and it’s hard to resist the buns from the Nook Cafe. Find them at the Downtown Farmers’ Market on weekends!
  • Nook Cafe

Cinnamon bun from Nook Cafe

  • We decided to have a movie night on Family Day, and grabbed take-out from Love Pizza for our night in. Only one more week left to get your mac & cheeza fix!
  • Love Pizza

Love Pizza spread

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