Filistix Embraces Change with New MacEwan Food Hall
Filistix is creating a food hall on the MacEwan University campus and bringing a new dinner concept to its main downtown location in an effort to make it to the other side of the pandemic.
As with other hospitality businesses, Filistix has been forced to continuously pivot over the past two years in response to changing public health guidelines. But there is no doubt that trying to maintain business at a post-secondary institution was particularly challenging, given the lack of foot traffic on campus.
“As the months went on, we were thinking about how we would recoup this lost revenue, especially at our University of Alberta location,” said Ariel del Rosario, co-owner of Filistix. The opportunity he saw was to go big.
Filistix had a very public dispute with Aramark over the abrupt cancellation of its vending contract at the U of A in 2018. It ended up finding a new U of A home in the Students’ Union Building, but it closed its MacEwan location, which was also managed by Aramark. Filistix maintained a good relationship with MacEwan, however, and reconnected with the school in 2021 to determine what was possible. “We didn’t want to just occupy a kiosk like we did last time,” said del Rosario. “We wanted to convert the entire concession area in the Robbins Building into a mini food hall.”
Food halls offer a collection of local food vendors and chef-driven concepts under one roof. JustCook Kitchens operates the only current Edmonton example, but they have popped up in every major city, del Rosario said. His version is called Takam Market, named after the Tagalog word meaning “to crave.” It opened on Feb. 28 and will continue to phase in more offerings over time.
Among the concepts is Filistix Modern Filipino, which will serve a menu similar to the one available at the U of A branch, while Yelo’d will open up a Sosyal Scoops ice cream and milkshake shack. In addition, the market has partnered with The Colombian and Ayco Bakery to offer coffee and baked goods.
Meanwhile, the flagship downtown location of Filistix will be undergoing some changes in March. “We know people’s dining habits have changed for the near future,” said del Rosario. “People now go out once every couple of weeks. Are people who live in the outskirts compelled to come downtown and eat at a restaurant? If we’re going to be a destination spot, we need to make our concept and menu a destination.”
The restaurant will officially launch this concept on Fridays and Saturday evenings after previewing the menu at Downtown Dining Week in late March and early April. “This will be the grown-up version of Filistix,” said del Rosario. “Wine glasses, linens, napkins, and a completely different look.”
Throughout the pandemic, Filistix has hosted a number of well-received pop-ups, including its Bayanihan dinner series. This new concept builds on those ideas.
“Our mission has always been the same: to introduce the public to Filipino food and flavours,” said del Rosario. “That is still at the forefront of what we do. But we want to elevate our food and plating while adhering to traditional and authentic flavours. We’re looking at the dishes and seeing what elements are essential to that dish and applying different techniques or cooking methods to different elements. We’re not going to be shy to use strong flavours but need to repurpose them so it is less intimidating for people to try.”
Dishes will include a karekare oxtail with a peanut-based sauce and charred vegetables served with kalamansi beurre blanc.
Although del Rosario acknowledges that some of his customers may not welcome these changes at first, adaptation is necessary for survival. “We have nothing to lose,” he said. “We’re sitting in an empty restaurant. We might as well do something that we’re passionate about and proud of.”
Back at MacEwan, Takam will be the site of a pantry to be supplied by The Public starting in March. “MacEwan residents don’t have a dining hall. Students are expected to make their own food in their kitchenettes,” said del Rosario. “There was no way for students to have a prepared meal after the concessions closed in the afternoon.” Now they can, as The Public will be curating heat-and-eat style items as quick meal solutions.
Until April, Takam will be open from 10am to 3pm, Monday to Friday. Its hours for the spring-summer session will be determined after this initial launch. In September, Filistix plans to open two additional concepts offering sandwiches and either pasta or noodle soups.
“We want Takam Market to appeal to a broad range of people,” said del Rosario. “Our whole idea is to be a player in this neighbourhood, to be part of the broader community and not just the MacEwan community.”
- The rest of Alberta will lift their indoor mask mandates in most settings on March 1, 2022, but Edmonton’s mask bylaw will remain in place until at least March 8, 2022 when City Council will review it. Council is asking for the public’s input about continuing the bylaw in an online survey open until March 7.
- A man has been accused of assaulting a hospitality worker in Cochrane after being asked to wear a mask.
- Deville Coffee, the Calgary-based coffee chain, is opening their first Edmonton location on March 7, 2022 at MacEwan University (10700 104 Avenue).
- Another Calgary import, Flirty Bird Nashville Hot Chicken opened in Old Strathcona (10455 82 Avenue).
- Popular Calgary restaurant Jerusalem Shawarma recently opened an Edmonton branch at 2213 101 Street.
- Nourishak is opening their Downtown location on February 28, 2022, with a full opening to come on March 14.
- Flame & Barrel is coming soon to 1237 Windermere Way SW.
- I’m sad that my go-to work lunch spot T & D Noodle House, is closing after seven years in business. As of March 1, they are shifting to dinner service only, and as soon as they find a new tenant, they will permanently close.
- Malina Ukrainian Bakery shared how hard the last week has been for them.
- Edify teased the restaurants named under the “best new” category from their Best Restaurants list (which will be released in full on March 1): La Petite Iza, Rosewood Foods, and Tryst.
- The Union Bank Inn has been purchased by a local entrepreneur. He envisions replacing Madison’s Grill with a modernized restaurant, plus he hopes to add a wine bar and an “old school pub”.
- Freson Bros. is celebrating the first birthday of their Edmonton location on March 5, 2022.
- Phil’s latest Best Dish column highlighted the sandwiches at Careit Urban Deli.
- YEGTour offers a visual introduction to Ayco Cafe’s Downtown location.
- Edify checks out the time capsule of Red Goose Restaurant in Hazeldean.
- Greg Zeschuk, the BioWare cofounder and man behind Ritchie Market and Biera, was recently profiled in Wired Magazine.
- Linda shows you how to hot pot from home.
- The latest Let’s Do Coffee podcast episode features Monita Chapman of Simply Supper, as she shares how she pivoted during the pandemic.
- AmploMedia highlights SOHO, the new-ish bar and pizza joint in the core.
- Edify has the story behind the local company Seven Summits Snacks.
- MilkCrate’s Steven Brochu has been awarded the Alumni Award of Excellence from NAIT in part for his advocacy for mental health.
Urban Agriculture and Farming
- Calgary-based vertical farming company groHere has opened a commercial strawberry facility at the Edmonton International Airport.
What I Ate
- I was happy to be able to catch T & D Noodle House for one last work lunch – I am going to miss their amazing grilled chicken vermicelli.
Grilled chicken vermicelli from T & D Noodle House
- I met up with Linda for lunch at Maria last week. While I was excited to try their birria, it was the fundido de queso (Mexican fondue topped with mushrooms and roasted poblano peppers), served with handmade flour tortillas that really stole the show.
Birria from Maria
- It had been too long since we had take-out from BaoBao. Their pan-fried soup dumplings and noodles provide so much comfort.
Dumplings and noodles from BaoBao