We Still Love Living Downtown: But Now, With Baby!

When Mack and I first shared with some people that we were expecting, the first question we were often asked was, “So when are you moving?” Our love for living Downtown is well documented, and though we knew raising a child in a very urban neighbourhood would come with some challenges, I couldn’t imagine trying to navigate being a new mother in a new-to-me area, too.

I also don’t drive, so it was doubly important to reside somewhere not only walkable, but with good access to public transportation. It’s easy to become isolated as a new parent, but I wanted to be able to continue my pre-baby lifestyle that did not depend on a vehicle. Although our household does own a car (which Mack drives when necessary), we want Emily to be familiar with a variety of transportation options.

Now, after almost a year and a half of seeing Downtown through child-tinted lenses, I wouldn’t have done it any other way. What follows are some of my reflections on our experience (so far!) in raising a baby in Downtown Edmonton.

Walkable Amenities

In those early weeks, I was lucky enough to have my parents around for a few hours every week to give me a bit of a reprieve during the day. The weather was pretty brutal in February after we brought Emily home, so I didn’t feel comfortable taking her out for walks just yet, but it was everything to be able to get some fresh air and to stretch my legs. And more than that, it was nice to feel like myself again during simple errands like visiting a drugstore or grabbing a coffee, sans baby. It was convenient to have a destination to visit on foot that wasn’t too far, but one where I could lose myself in the anonymity of white noise for a short while.

We’ve always relied on our proximity to the City Market to provide us with the foundation of our groceries, and this didn’t change after Emily. We continued to walk to City Hall in the winter (and pop out our front door in the summer) for our weekly shopping trips. Before Emily was born, I was afraid we wouldn’t have time to visit the market any more; I’ve since learned that you can make time for anything, especially those activities that you value. But it’s definitely easier to plan for it when it’s close by.

City Market

At the City Market on 104 Street

One of our more recent discoveries is that our Downtown Edmonton Community League membership (which happens to be free in 2018-19) provides us with access to a free weekly swim at the Don Wheaton YMCA. Being just a block away from our condo, this is a fantastic amenity that we will be putting to use year-round. The family change rooms are clean, spacious, and (bonus), even features a stall with a play yard.

Places for Children

I was very fortunate to discover several indoor amenities for small children within a short walking distance from our condo; the proximity meant I was much more likely to access them on a frequent basis.

The Enterprise Square branch of the Edmonton Public Library was a lifesaver for me. I didn’t really know how fantastic their programs were for babies and toddlers until I started attending them on a regular basis. Although the program space is temporary until the Stanley Milner Library renovations are completed in 2020, we didn’t mind the aesthetics. The staff are wonderful, and most create the welcoming atmosphere that encourages repeat visits (a special shoutout to Jenna, who always made the effort to greet Emily by name!). We were attending the Baby Laptime program twice a week religiously for the last six months of my maternity leave; the program and the parents we got to know are one of the things I miss most since returning to work. A side note – the Enterprise Square branch hosts Books2Buy sales every three months, with all proceeds going back to the library; we’ve filled Emily’s bookshelves predominantly with second hand books picked up at these sales.

Edmonton Public Library

Enterprise Square Library 

The Royal Alberta Museum opened up in October 2018. One of the additions in the new facility is a Children’s Gallery, which includes a dedicated area for kids 3 and under. The section is carpeted, with a padded half that doubles for Emily as some of the only “stairs” she encounters on a regular basis. And for $35 (kids under 6 are free), adults can purchase a Mammoth Pass that provides unlimited admission for a year! My only small quibble with the Gallery is that the adjacent dinosaur dig area contains little plastic pellets, which inevitably end up in the toddler section (and, given their size, are prime eating hazards for babies).

Royal Alberta Museum

In the Children’s Gallery at the RAM

The Downtown Edmonton Community League (DECL) has also been offering an Urban Kids playgroup for a number of years. Volunteer-led by Downtown parents, the group gathers in the DECL space every Friday from 10am-12pm for snacks and crafts. While I didn’t start attending the group until towards the end of my leave, my Mom still takes Emily there from time to time to reconnect with the other kids she’s met.

Urban Kids

Halloween with Urban Kids

Green Spaces

While I welcome the additional green spaces still in development for the core, I treaded some familiar paths on walks with Emily. McKay Avenue School provided a concise loop point when I didn’t want to venture too far, and the adjacent Dick Mather Park features some nicely shaded benches. The Legislature Grounds were further afoot, but Emily and I spent many afternoons there on a blanket people (or bird) watching.

Legislature Grounds

Bird watching at the Legislature Grounds

Closest to home is Alex Decouteau Park, just a block away from our condo. Mack and I were first time community gardeners last summer, and I learned that I could actually enjoy tending to a plot. While Emily was a bit young to appreciate what we were growing at the time, this year, she’s relishing the freedom of exploring the (thankfully fenced-in) yard, eating as many cherry tomatoes as she can fit into her mouth, and peering into the adjacent dog park!

Alex Decoteau Park Garden

At Alex Decouteau Park Community Garden

We did find that one of the downsides of our location is the distance to playgrounds. By foot, the closest playgrounds are located at Grandin or Oliver Schools, about twenty minutes away. As a result, we are thrilled with the new playground installed in Dick Mather Park! It’s not as elaborate as some school-based set-ups, but for now, it’s a fun amenity for Emily to explore.

Dick Mather Park

Playground at Dick Mather Park

Arts and Cultural Activities

There were a few months where Emily would voice her displeasure when in the confines of the car seat. As such, there was a period when we limited our vehicle trips to non-negotiable errands.

Swing

Swing dancing at City Hall

Because we are so fortunate to live in a neighbourhood rich with festivals and events, it was always easy just to walk out the door for something fun to do. We also found that because the barriers of distance and ease of access were removed, we were more likely to keep our annual traditions alive, just now with Emily in tow.

Grey Cup Parade

At the Grey Cup/Santa Claus Parade

Public Transportation

While I tended to remain within a radius measured in walking distance of twenty minutes one way, there were times I had to step outside that bubble. On those days, I relied on our public transportation system to do so. The majority of trips were pretty seamless (Emily’s pediatrician, for instance, is just a 10-minute bus ride away), but there were some instances when my frustration level mounted. Sometimes this was because of minor inconveniences (recognizing that I am able bodied and on most occasions had some flexibility with my time), but mostly because it would be easier to be a strong advocate for ETS in a car-oriented city if the system were more reliable.

Taking Emily on transit in those early days would always involve the stroller, primarily because I had a tendency to overpack and needed cargo space. As a result, taking busy routes during rush hour required some patience; no longer could I pack onto an already full bus and hang on. I did have buses pass me by because they just couldn’t accommodate a stroller with all of the passengers already on board.

I also had to become very familiar with the locations of LRT elevators. Their cleanliness, particularly downtown, was questionable, but that was secondary to whether or not they functioned. I count myself lucky to have not experienced an unexpected outage when out and about on my own with Emily, but a couple of times out with Mack, we encountered elevators out of order. We were able to handle it because there were two of us, but it again factors against the dependability of the system for those with accessibility concerns.

Edmonton Transit

Yay, a working ETS elevator!

Stroller Access

One of the reasons we love living Downtown is the architectural variety, including the historical buildings in and around our street. That said, I learned first hand that many of these buildings don’t have provisions for strollers (or wheelchairs for that matter). Many independent shops and restaurants that I frequented before baby, located in buildings like the Mercer Warehouse or Beatty Lofts, required that I plan ahead to use a baby carrier so I could easily traverse the stairs when solo. Obviously protecting the historical integrity of these buildings is important, as is ensuring the small businesses can thrive, but it was a reality that I was only forced to reflect on after relying on a stroller for the first time.

On a related note, construction detours were another constant headache. I am supportive of the infrastructure improvements that are being made, but the frequent pedestrian detours over the past year have been a nuisance to say the least.

Future Improvements

One of the biggest potential deterrents for us to stay Downtown for the long term is the lack of an elementary school within close walking distance. Some might consider it a privilege, but we’d really like Emily to be able to walk to school. Although it’s not impossible with Oliver and Grandin Schools (a twenty minute walk for adults), something within the Downtown boundary would further show how serious officials are about making the core welcoming to young families.

Oliver School

Oliver School

So while some changes could be made to further improve Downtown as a welcoming place for young families, in our experience, it’s been pretty great. We hope more parents and parents-to-be consider the core as a viable neighbourhood in which to raise their children.

I’ll be writing a separate post about dining out close to home with a small child!

Food Notes for August 5, 2019

New Culinary Festival Celebrates Local Food and Drink

Alberta on the Plate is a new culinary festival that is running from August 9-18, 2019. Bringing together chefs and producers from across the province, the festival features special events and fixed price menus highlighting locally grown products at participating restaurants. In Edmonton, 10 restaurants have signed on, including London Local, Lux Steakhouse, The Marc, Three Boars, and Prairie Noodle Shop.

3-course menu prices range from $19, $29, and $39, while a few restaurants are also offering multi-course kids menus.

Openings

  • Yoshi Sushi opened earlier this summer at 10009 107 Street in the former Wildflower Grill storefront. It appears to be the second location of the restaurant, joining a more longstanding branch in Sherwood Park.
  • Soleilki Japanese Fusion is now open in Old Strathcona, located at 10828 82 Avenue (the former Seorak Teppan Bar).
  • Another Korean restaurant will be opening this month in K-Mall called Country Coco, to serve Korean-style chicken and tapas. It is located at 9261 34 Avenue.

Upcoming Events

  • Wishbone is hosting a fabulous women-led evening of dinner and drinks called Cook Like a Girl on Augusg 18, 2019. They’ve assembled 24 of Edmonton’s female chefs and bartenders for a WIN House fundraiser. Tickets are $200.

Reviews

Local News

  • Congratulations to the Liberian pavilion at Edmonton Heritage Days for coming in first in the food category for a second year in a row! Scandinavia, Pakistan, and Russia came in second, third, and fourth.
  • Graham’s column this week is a list of where to eat in Edmonton.

What I Ate

  • What a beautiful weekend for Heritage Days! We ate our way through the festival over the weekend, including this fabulous plate from the Ethiopian pavilion.

Heritage Days

Combination plate from the Ethiopian pavilion

  • Mack has been craving Lee House for some time now, so we headed into Chinatown for our fix. I am partial to their their jap chae.

Untitled

Jap chae from Lee House

  • It took us long enough, but Mack, Emily, and I made it to Say Uncle. Their patio is a great addition to 104 Street, and I enjoyed the burger, a classic with American cheese, pickles, iceberg lettuce, and thousand island dressing.

Untitled

Burgers and poutine from Say Uncle

  • We also finally stopped in at Kind Ice Cream for a treat (and thankfully, were met with a very short line!). I had my heart set on sampling their (sadly sold out) salted caramel, but made do with their seasonal “camping” flavour (think s’mores). I enjoyed the chocolate, but didn’t enjoy the texture of the disintegrated graham cracker. We’ll be back to try a few other flavours!

Untitled

“Camping” ice cream from Kind

Food Notes for July 29, 2019

Taste of Edmonton Considering Festival Location

The Taste of Edmonton, which just wrapped up its 35th festival on Sunday, is considering its site options.

Although the festival had only planned on being at Capital Plaza by the Alberta Legislature for two years (to ride out the construction around Churchill Square), the organizing team and most visitors seem to prefer this location. However, if they do decide to remain at Capital Plaza in 2020, the festival will have to foot the bill for the additional costs to produce the event at this site, such as portable washroom rentals and special cleaning fees, which were covered by the City of Edmonton over the past two years.

Organizers haven’t yet committed to either location, but are still soliciting feedback.

Openings

  • Braven, the most formal of the forthcoming restaurants in the new Ice District JW Marriott, opens on August 1. The menus are up now, and if you include “OEG25” on your online reservation under special request, your food for up to a party of 4 will be discounted by 25% in August.

Upcoming Events

  • The latest in the Hotel Macdonald’s Classic Series dinners will highlight the cuisine of Greece on August 1, 2019. The multi-course dinner is $75.
  • Nigerian-born Blessing Okpala is hosting Savoury Bites and Jazzy Vibes on August 17, 2019 at Cafe Lavi, and will serve a blend of Canadian and African flavours. Tickets for the 4-course meal are $65.

Reviews

Local News

  • Beaumont restaurant Chartier officially introduced their new Executive Chef, Tamara Solon, who has been with the team since the beginning. Chef Tony Krause, who had been announced as the previous successful candidate, was let go after two days (thanks Linda for the heads up!).
  • Ritchie is the focus of Liane’s latest food-centric neighbourhood feature, with profiles on new ice cream purveyor Kind and hot dog cart Hans’ Wurst.
  • Leduc recapped the ‘Tempt Your Taste Buds’ tour he attended led by Epicurean Adventure Tour in the 124 Street area.
  • The latest episode of CBC’s Fast Food web series features a recipe for Hotel Macdonald Chef Mridul Bhatt’s chicken tikka pita taco.
  • You can now vote for your favourites in Sustainable Food Edmonton’s annual Golden Wheelbarrow Awards. Categories include favourite “locavore” restaurant and favourite agriculture business.
  • The Journal covered a social enterprise called Fresh Routes Calgary that may be launching in Edmonton this fall, bringing fresh produce and groceries to food deserts in the city through mobile markets.
  • Every week, Global is again soliciting votes for their “Best of Summer” list. Earlier in July, Julio’s Barrio on Whyte was voted Edmonton’s best patio, and this week, Bully Food Truck was voted Edmonton’s best food truck.
  • A nice write-up in travel magazine Fathom about things to eat and drink in Edmonton.

Urban Agriculture and Farming

  • The 6th annual Grand Taste Tour organized by Wild Heart Collective will be taking place on August 17, 2019, with a visit to Stonepost Farms and a dinner prepared by Chef Paul Shufelt of Workshop Eatery and Woodshed Burgers. Tickets for the full tour and meal are $125.

What I Ate

  • Mack, Emily, and I returned to Taste of Edmonton over the weekend to use up the rest of our tickets. My favourite plate that day was from Nyonya Malaysian Cuisine, a food truck who vends at the City Market. Their lemongrass rendang chicken in a turmeric pancake was so flavourful, and plated nicely.

Nyona

Lemongrass rendang chicken in a turmeric pancake from Nyonya

  • A friend and I met up for dinner at Tzin, and among the plates we shared, couldn’t pass up the opportunity to indulge in their bacon. It’s also great to see that dish is listed as a Mealshare item – for every plate ordered, a meal is given to a youth in need.

Tzin

Bacon from Tzin

  • Lastly, Mack and I tried the new ramen restaurant on our street, Ramen Misoya. They offer two types of miso – “gold” which is fermented for 6 months and “silver” which is fermented for 3 months. We both chose the silver, after the server told us it’s a bit lighter and creamier in flavour. I ordered the Silver Shiro Chashu ($16.75, plus $1.50 for a miso egg). The bowl was on the pricey side, but I did find the portion size matched my expectations. The kitchen was quick, which I appreciated, and though it wasn’t my favourite ramen in the city it would work in a pinch.

Ramen Misoya

Silver Shiro Chashu

Food Notes for July 22, 2019

Burgers to Fill 104 Street Vacancy

After Blue Plate Diner vacates their 104 Street location in favour of their new digs on 124 Street, Royale is moving in.

Helmed by Alexei Boldireff (also the chef at Baijiu), they will offer classic burgers with house-made buns. They aim for a fall opening.

Royale comes on the heels of another burger-focused restaurant, Woodshed on 124 Street.

Openings

Upcoming Events

Reviews

Local News

Urban Agriculture and Farming

What I Ate

  • I forgot to include this last week – we checked out the 124 Street Grand Market on Sunday, and loved the gruyere and chive bread we picked up from Erica Vliegenthart’s new venture called Laneway Bakery (she used to be the lead baker at District). She’s currently only vending at the Sunday 124 Market, and seems to sell out every week!

Laneway Bakery

Erica of Laneway Bakery

  • Mack, Emily, and I stopped at the Hotel Macdonald’s hot dog cart over the weekend and tried their lemonade ($5 for a large cup) and their Loaded BBQ Dog ($6) with hot sauce, house pickles, crispy potato, onions, and mustard. It was a bit of a wait (they make everything to order), but it was great to be able to enjoy the food on their beautiful patio. There were numerous families doing the same – their hot dog and ice cream cart is doing wonders to democratize their patio this summer. It’s open every day from 11am-6pm.

Hotel Macdonald

Loaded BBQ Dog from Hotel Macdonald

  • We took in K-Days on Sunday, along with what seemed like half of Edmonton! Those Little Donuts are a summer tradition for us; I was glad to see them in town, especially after learning they didn’t make the stop in Calgary for the Stampede.

Those Little Donuts

Those Little Donuts

  • Taste of Edmonton returned to the Federal Plaza for a second year – although it is more costly for the festival to rent this space, it will be a hard sell for some to return the event to Churchill Square. The grounds were packed during our visit tonight, though I was sad to see that the fountains were off (hopefully only temporarily!). We tried a handful of items, and really enjoyed the jerk chicken on rice from Irie Foods and the passionfruit and mango sorbet from Little Bear Gelato. We also returned to a few tried and true favourites: the spicy lentils from Langano Skies and the dry spicy chicken from The Lingnan. Speaking of The Lingnan, it was great to learn that Miles Quon will be stepping into the role of Chair after more than ten years of serving on the board.

Taste of Edmonton

Dry spicy chicken from The Lingnan

    Brunch in the ‘Burbs: Branches at Greenland Garden Centre

    We rarely find ourselves in Sherwood Park, so there are few opportunities to try some of the restaurants I’ve had my eye on for some time. In early June, Mack, Emily, Grandma Male and I made an occasion to sample the brunch at Branches in Sherwood Park.

    Located inside the Greenland Garden Centre, the restaurant, greenhouse, and retail area reminded me of (a much smaller) Enjoy Centre – between having a meal and shopping, one could easily spend a couple of captive hours on the grounds.

    I had called ahead to inquire about reservations, but had been told they weren’t accepted. They had advised to arrive before 11am on weekends (although the restaurant opens at 9am, their full brunch menu is served from 11am until 2pm). Though it was quite busy, our arrival at 11am thankfully didn’t mean we had to wait for a table that day.

    Branches

    Grandma Male and Emily at Branches 

    Branches has quite a lovely set up, with expansive windows in the dining room that look out onto small patio and the trees and shrubs for sale outside, in addition to a view of the kitchen. The brunch-specific menu is quite small (we could also have ordered from the regular lunch menu), but Mack and I were content with the Branches breakfast bowl ($15).

    There was a modest wait for our food, but our server was responsive in topping up our coffees in the meantime. The bowl itself was enjoyable enough – I would have preferred poached to fried eggs for maximum yolk creaminess, but the potatoes, sausage, and bell peppers underneath were cooked well. The accompanying “green onion cakes” were more akin to fried bread than actual green onion cakes, and seemed out of place on a menu without any other hint of fusion.

    Branches

    Branches breakfast bowl

    Before heading out, we did spend some time exploring the greenhouse, and picked up some flowers and compost. While I’m not sure Branches is worth visiting on its own accord, if you were also in the market for some garden supplies, I’d recommend a trip out to Greenland Garden Centre for a pleasant afternoon.

    Branches (located in the Greenland Garden Centre)
    23108 Highway 16, Sherwood Park
    (780) 467-3443
    Monday-Wednesday 9am-6pm, Thursday-Friday 9am-9pm, Saturday 9am-5pm, Sunday 10am-5pm

    Food Notes for July 15, 2019

    H-Mart Opens to Large Crowds

    H-Mart, an American-based Asian grocer specializing in Korean products, opened in Edmonton on July 11, 2019. Located at 570, 3803 Calgary Trail, it took over the space that had been vacant for some time after Whole Foods cancelled their plans for its first store in Edmonton.

    South Park Centre is becoming a hub for Asian groceries and food, with the city’s first Jollibee location to open soon, and a T & T Supermarket a few blocks south.

    Openings

    Closures

    • Salz is now closed; they decided not to renew their lease, but indicate that they are “on the lookout for a bigger, better shop from which to sling bratwurst and pour Alberta craft beer.” (Thanks to Sharman for the heads up!)

    Upcoming Events

    • The next Food4Good low-cost fruit and vegetable sale is taking place at The Big Picture Block Party on July 25, 2019 at Butler Memorial Park (15715 Stony Plain Road).
    • Sabor’s annual Seafood Festival runs August 3-30, 2019. They’ll have a number of special ticketed dinners. including a Food Day Canada collaboration kick-off dinner on August 3, 2019 with Julie Van Rosendaal and Emily Richards.
    • Alberta on the Plate is a new culinary festival “celebrating Alberta local food and drink”, and runs August 9-18, 2019. Participating restaurants will be offering multi-course fixed priced menus highlighting local producers.
    • Farm open house and culinary experience details are now up on the Alberta Open Farm Days website. The event runs August 17-18, 2019.
    • The annual Culinaire Treasure Hunt returns to Edmonton on September 7, 2019. Teams of two can register for $75, and individuals for $47.50.

    Reviews

    Local News

    Urban Agriculture and Farming

    What I Ate

    • Mack, Emily and I had the privilege of attending a media event at Melt Sandwich Co. last week. Located on the pedway level of the Bell Tower, Melt was opened by the folks behind Cookie Love back in February, and serves up breakfast and lunch. We were able to try nearly all of the sandwiches they offer. My favourite was the burger melt (one of their best-sellers, along with the dill fried chicken and the Cubano), while Mack continues to have a soft spot for their mac and cheese sandwich.

    Melt Sandwiches

    Burger melt from Melt Sandwich Co.

    • Last week, I had lunch with colleagues at Mama Asha, a Somali restaurant just off 118 Avenue. Their chicken suqaar wrap at $10 is a great value; most of us struggled to finish it. My favourite part was that it was made with sabayad, a delicious flatbread similar to roti.

    Mama Asha

    Chicken suqaar wrap at Mama Asha

    • A go-to for work lunches, I was back at T & D Noodle House today. My usual is their 2-colour vermicelli bowl with grilled chicken and spring rolls.

    T & D Noodle House

    My regular at T & D Noodle House

    • Ritual, an app that allows diners to pre-order food at cafes and restaurants, has launched in Edmonton. To celebrate, they are running a $1 Food Fest Downtown, with more than two dozen participating establishments. Mack and I have been eating our way through the deals, but the best one has to be La Mision’s “small” burrito – an incredible steal at just $1. The Food Fest runs until July 19.

    La Mision

    Picnic at Alex Decoteau Park with our burritos (Emily is not impressed I interrupted her dinner)

      Food Notes for July 8, 2019

      I was away for work and holidays last week, so I took a break from my blog. Those of you who subscribe to Taproot, however, did receive a Food Roundup, written in my absence by my friend Linda! Click here if you’re interested in signing up for the weekly roundup through Taproot. This week’s Food Notes is a two week update.

      Blue Plate Diner Announces New Location

      The beloved 104 Street restaurant has shared the details of their next home. Forced to relocate from Downtown because of the forthcoming Mackenzie Tower development, Blue Plate Diner will be moving to the 124 Street area.

      Relocating to the former Back Home Fish and Chips space at 12323 Stony Plain Road, they hope to be open by August. The 104 Street location will remain open until July 31, 2019.

      Openings

      • On the heels of Kind Ice Cream’s opening in Ritchie, Made by Marcus has joined the fray with an Edmonton location that opened last weekend.
      • The Woodshed, a burger-focused restaurant on 124 Street from Chef Paul Shufelt (of Workshop Eatery) is now open at 10723 124 Street.
      • Dorinku finally has signage on their forthcoming Downtown location, at 10328 Jasper Avenue (the former Alder Room and Alta).
      • Toronto-based Oliver & Bonacini shared more information about their four forthcoming concepts located in the new Ice District JW Marriott, named Kindred Food + Drink, Braven, Alchemy, and Lobby Bar.
      • The owners of Trang Tien (formerly located in The Quarters where The Moth is now) have re-opened a restaurant in Beaumont, at 5009 52 Avenue.
      • A new candy shop called Rocket Fizz is now open at 10544B 82 Avenue.

      Closures

      • Zenari’s has closed their Manulife location as of June 29, 2019. However, fans will be happy to hear they will be re-opening later this year as Dalla Tavola Zenari (translated as “from the Zenari table”) in the Kelly Ramsey building. They have started a Kickstarter campaign and hope to raise $95,000 to help with the transition.

      Upcoming Events

      • The next Swine and Dine event will be held at Say Uncle on July 16, 2019. Tickets for the 5-course menu are $50.
      • Tickets for the Heritage Festival, running August 3-5, 2019 at Hawrelak Park, are now available online.

      Reviews

      Local News

      Urban Agriculture and Farming

      • The Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market announced that they’ve undertaken a vendor verification process to ensure the products sold at the market are actually produced by the vendor selling them. It’s an interesting strategy in light of the increased competition in the market scene this year.

      Beyond Edmonton

      • Those Little Donuts, a Stampede staple for many, is not on the midway this year; it apparently due to a late application to the festival. They’re a K-Days favourite of mine, so I do hope they’re headed to Edmonton later this month!

      What I Ate

      • I had the pleasure of spending some time in Ottawa for a conference, and met up with fellow foodies Lillian and Dan while there. They introduced me to Rabbit Hole, a cozy joint on Sparks Street.

      Rabbit Hole

      Chicken, bacon, and tomato pizza from Rabbit Hole

      • Mack, Emily, and I hopped over to Toronto for a reunion with my sisters over the Canada Day long weekend. Poutine was in order, and this one from a vendor at the Liberty Village Farmers’ Market was one of the best I’ve had in some time – layers of squeaky curds over crispy fries.

      Liberty Village Farmers’ Market

      Poutine

      • Mildred’s Temple Kitchen has been on my list for some time, and we finally made it for b’lunch during this trip. They’re known for their pancakes, and after trying them myself, I now know why – they’re impressively fluffy.

      Mildred’s Temple Kitchen

      Blueberry pancakes from Mildred’s Temple Kitchen

      • A meal at Otto is becoming a bit of a birthday tradition for me – we had a belated birthday celebration on Friday. I can’t pass up the Otto dog and the fries!

      Otto

      Our spread at Otto

        Food Notes for June 24, 2019

        Edmonton’s First Multi-Day Indoor Market is Now Open

        It was opening weekend for Bountiful Farmers’ Market, Edmonton’s first multi-day indoor market. With more than 100 vendors, an entertainment stage, and food hall, they attracted upwards of 15,000 people per day from Friday to Sunday.

        Bountiful Market

        Many of their vendors can be found at other markets across the city, but they do have some more unique vendors, such as Meuwly’s and Ace Coffee Roasters.

        Bountiful Market

        On a related note, Taproot also published their story on the new business of markets in Edmonton, which discusses the shift to multi-day markets and how that may affect some vendors.

        Openings

        • You can now find Farrow on the north side of the river: their third location is now open at 10240 124 Street.
        • Dangerkat Waffles is now open in Old Strathcona, accessible through the alley behind the Cat Cafe (10111 82 Avenue).
        • Bleu Flames, a locally-owned fondue restaurant opened in May in Sherwood Park (870, 3880 Sherwood Drive).
        • Another microbrewery to add to the list: The Growlery Beer Co. is now open at 40 Airport Road.

        Upcoming Events

        • We already spend a lot of time at Alex Decoteau Park, but the Downtown Business Association is giving me one more: they have organized a great event series called Beats & Eats, happening over three Wednesday evenings from June 26-July 10, 2019. Attendees are invited to pre-order a boxed dinner from a nearby restaurant, then pick it up on the event day for a picnic in the park. The first restaurant up is Wishbone.
        • Kitchen by Brad is hosting another perogy pop-up lunch on June 28, 2019. Advance tickets are required at $18 per person.
        • The documentary The Biggest Little Farm, about a small sustainable farm outside of Los Angeles, will be screening at Metro Cinema from July 5-10, 2019.

        Reviews

        Local News

        What I Ate

        • I had to be strategic with my Dine the Ave choice last week, and chose Donair Express at 8523 118 Avenue. I had no idea it had been open for more than 30 years, and that they make their own donair meat to boot. While it may not be the best donair I’ve encountered in Edmonton, it’s a solid option for a quick lunch with one of the most friendly owners I’ve encountered on Alberta Avenue.

        Donair Express

        $10 Dine the Ave special from Donair Express

        Food Notes for June 17, 2019

        West Edmonton Mall Adds More Local Flavour

        In the last year, several locally-owned businesses have opened up locations at West Edmonton Mall, including Splash Poke, Calle Mexico, and Reinette Cafe.

        In July, it will gain an outpost of Gangnam Street Food. Serving up Korean street food options, the concept seems well-suited to a food court environment.

        Openings

        Closures

        Upcoming Events

        • Dine the Ave is on now, running June 17-23, 2019. Showcasing 20 hospitality businesses on 118 Avenue from NAIT to Northlands, special menus are being offered during the week for $10, $15, and $20. I attended a media preview last week, and CBC interviewed some of the participating businesses.

        Reviews

        Local News

        What I Ate

        • Mack, Emily, and I had our “last supper” at Blue Plate Diner last week. Due to the potential development of the Mackenzie Tower, they will be closing its 104 Street restaurant on June 30, 2019, and will relocate to another “central” location. My go-to dish for years has been their shepherd’s pie, so I had to have it again for old time’s sake.

        Blue Plate Diner

        I’m going to miss this patio!

        • Some people avoid hot soups in the warmer weather, but I’m not one of them. King Noodle House’s bun bo Hue is year-round comfort food for me!

        King Noodle House

        Bun Bo Hue from King Noodle

        • Not food related, but as a long-suffering Raptors fan who has shared my love of the team on this blog before, I’d be remiss if I didn’t document somewhere that I’m still in shock that they managed to pull off a championship win. Still, #wethenorth!

        Dine the Ave: Eats on 118 Continues!

        Eats on 118 was an initiative that the Alberta Avenue Business Improvement Area (BIA) launched in 2016, in order to highlight some of the great restaurants located in an often overlooked area. The BIA contracted Wild Heart Collective to organize restaurant walking tours; each tour featured a visit to 4 or 5 different businesses with a meal or an activity served up at each stop. Over the last four years, more than 500 guests have attended the tours that have involved more than 45 businesses. I was fortunate to have been attended several of those tours over the years, and given my office relocated to 118 Avenue two years ago, it was especially fortuitous as a means to get to know my culinary neighbours better.

        This year, the BIA wanted to continue Eats on 118, but in a different format, and Dine the Ave was born. Although they found that the tours were a great way to expose new people to the area, only a few businesses could participate in each round, and they found that it limited participants to restaurants. Through Dine the Ave, 20 hospitality businesses from NAIT to Northlands will be offering special menus priced at either $10, $15, or $20 from June 17-23, 2019. Last week, I was invited to attend a media preview that saw us sample our way through 5 stops (portion sizes were scaled down to ensure we’d be able to maintain our appetite throughout!).

        The first featured restaurant is a favourite of mine: Battista’s Calzones. In my opinion, the calzones here are the best in the city; the dough (a family recipe) has just the right chew and is always baked to perfection, and their filling varieties mean there is something for everyone. They will be celebrating 10 years in business in the fall.

        During Dine the Ave they’re offering three of their most popular calzones (the Spicy Italian, Giovanna, and Pesto Presto) for just $10 each.

        Dine the Ave

        Co-owner Doug Mah of Battista’s Calzones

        Next, we headed half a block down to T & D Vietnamese Noodle House, another restaurant on my regular rotation. Laura Truong has been running the restaurant with her family for five years, and chose the 118 Avenue location specifically so they could grow with the evolving community (she currently sits on the Board of the BIA). For Dine the Ave, T & D will be serving up 2 house-made spring rolls and chicken on rice or noodles for $10.

        Dine the Ave

        Rice plate from T & D Vietnamese Noodle House

        I was looking forward to trying our third restaurant, La Bodeguita de Cuba. Early this year, it replaced the neighbourhood stalwart El Rancho. Although I was sad to see the restaurant go, the spot is the perfect size for a start-up establishment looking to make their mark. This was exactly what owners Yordanis and Jennifer Lamoru are hoping to do, having dreamt of opening a restaurant for years.

        We received a taste of their $20 Dine the Ave multi-course menu, featuring Cuban comfort food like rice and beans. The ropa vieja (shredded beef in an onion, pepper sauce) was the standout on the plate, and for some at our table, it was also their first time encountering plantains.

        Dine the Ave

        Cuban comfort food from La Bodeguita

        The highlight of the stop was a serenade from Yordanis, who is also a musician. Expect live music at La Bodeguita on weekends; it’s an understatement to say the couple are doing it all themselves!

        Dine the Ave

        A performance by Yordanis Lamoru

        I had also never been to Simba’s Den Pub & Bistro. It opened in May 2018, and owner Senait Tamene, recognizing the “up and coming” nature of the neighbourhood, purchased the building and opened the newest pub on the block. Also, Senait, like Laura Truong, is also on the Board of the BIA.

        Although they do offer nachos, chicken wings and burgers, Simba’s Den prides itself on the Ethiopian and Eritrean fare on the menu, which is what we sampled that evening. The heat level was pretty tame in the chicken, beef, and lentils, and I particularly enjoyed the house-made enjera. For $20, Dine on the Ave guests can have their own vegetarian or meat platter with enjera or rice.

        Dine the Ave

        Meat platter sample from Simba’s Den

        Our final stop is a community landmark – The Carrot, which operates under Arts on the Ave as a non-profit, has been open for twelve years. The baristas are volunteers, and the shop showcases and sells art and jewelry from local artisans. They just changed their sandwich menu, which they will be featuring during Dine the Ave as a $15 special, in addition to a dessert combo of carrot cake and a house-made beverage for $10.

        Dine the Ave

        Carrot cake and coffee from The Carrot

        Thanks to the Alberta Avenue BIA and Wild Heart Collective for hosting a fun evening – it was great to discover even more gems on 118 Avenue. Check out the menus for Dine the Ave here!