Edmonton Food 2022 Year in Review

The Edmonton food scene in 2022 was a year full of tension. While this blog is primarily about restaurants, it is impossible to ignore the ballooning disparity between those who can eat out and those who can eat at all. It was reported that Albertans have the highest rate of food insecurity in Canada, while food bank usage in the province more than doubled the national rate of increase.

On the restaurant front, several long-standing restaurants closed, some due to declining revenue, while other independent restaurants were able to embrace opportunities to expand. Blue Plate Diner, an 18 year veteran, shuttered over the summer, while The Nook, Pho Boy, and Ono Poke all closed after five or more years in business.

Despite the losses, it was a pleasant surprise that so many small restaurant groups were able to grow their footprint in our community, and offer more unique choices for diners all across the city. These included: El Corazon and Leopard in Glenora; Takam Market at MacEwan University; Hayloft and Woodshed Burgers in Cameron Heights; Seoul Fried Chicken, Northern Chicken, and Birdog on 104 Street Downtown; Pal’s in Old Strathcona; and additional locations for The Colombian and Remedy Cafe in Parkallen and the University of Alberta campus, respectively.


Leopard was among the new additions to Edmonton’s food scene this year (photo credit: Mack Male)

It’s also worth noting that Windermere in particular had a banner year in attracting hospitality brands. The chain-loving spirit in Edmonton was in full force with the openings of California Pizza Kitchen and PF Chang’s. But those splashy outposts were joined by independents Black Pearl, Hello Mochi, Flame & Barrel, and Japonais Bistro (to open in 2023).

As inflation continues to increase, the reality of operating food businesses will be even more challenging. But after talking to many restaurant owners over the year, my takeaway was their gratitude towards their loyal supporters in these times. I am hopeful that this theme will continue into 2023.

A few other notable items from 2022:

  • The provincial vaccine passports (aka Restrictions Exemption Program) ended up being short lived, ending February 8, 2022, after being instituted in September 2021.
  • Most pandemic-related pivots restaurants had made in the previous two years ended, such as in-house delivery from Filistix and Duchess.
  • Some restaurants, such as Northern Chicken and Chartier, were transparent about why they had to increase their food prices.
  • In April, it was announced that Giselle Courteau and Jake Pelltier were stepping away from Duchess Bake Shop.
  • The Lingnan reached the incredible milestone of 75 years in business.
  • In October, Tres Carnales had to manage a high profile health-inspection related closure of the restaurant. This month, they announced their permanent closure.
  • No less than six Calgary-based brands set up shop in Edmonton, including Flirty Bird, Deville Coffee, Jerusalem Shawarma, Home & Away, Blanco Cantina, and PACT Coffee.
  • Many new national and international chains also opened in Edmonton this year, such as Fuwa Fuwa, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, Vish, Mogouyan, Community Taps and Pizza, and El Furniture Warehouse.
  • Planned development in Strathearn led to the closure of community favourites Ralph’s Handi-Mart and Juniper.

You can check out previous year in reviews here (though I missed last year!).

Epicureous in Edmonton: 2020 Year In Review

The pandemic wreaked havoc on life as we knew it. As Alberta exceeds 1,000 lives lost to COVID-19 amidst a holiday season under near-lockdown, it feels somewhat trivial to reflect on the food and hospitality scene in Edmonton.

Still, there is no doubt that COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on how we dine out in the future, even post-pandemic. For businesses that are able to outlast the successive waves of the disease as we await mass immunization, some of the pivots fulfilled out of desperation may become permanent.

Restaurants such as Corso 32 and Tokiwa Ramen continued to produce meal kits even after indoor dining was permitted again in the summer; these specialty items will appeal to those more comfortable in their homes or as an entertaining fail safe even after the “new normal” returns.

It was no surprise that delivery services took off this year, with many people reducing non-essential trips outside the home. Although Skip the Dishes made concessions late in the year to temporarily decrease their commission fees, the 20-30% cut taken by third-party delivery apps has severely impacted the bottom line of many businesses. As a result, bakeries like Duchess, fast-casual restaurants like Filistix, HanJan, and Meat/The Next Act/Pip, and fine dining establishments like XIX Nineteen, chose to adopt in-house delivery (joining the ranks of pizza joints and Chinese restaurants). It isn’t an easy undertaking, but hopefully it can be more financially sustainable for them in the long run.

Some chefs, including MilkCrate’s Steven Brochu and Shaw Conference Centre’s Serge Belair have staked out a greater online presence in the form of personalized cooking tutorials or demonstration videos. Food Bike Tours rebranded to Chef Table Living, providing home cooks with chef-created recipe kits and instructional videos. This continues the trend (albeit virtually) of what chef table dinners started by further closing the gap between the diner and the chef.

One of the pandemic adaptations that has been most transformative to the consumer experience has been the upgrading of online ordering systems. Sugared and Spiced, Cartago, and Bon Ton Bakery were among those who debuted more seamless ways for customers to pre-order items for pick up, minimizing time spent in line and indoors. The convenience of pre-paying and access to visuals that aid in product selection will likely prove to be an essential and worthwhile investment.

Tokiwa Ramen

Here are a few other items notable to me in 2020:

  • Curiously, the pandemic pivot that didn’t take to a greater extent was outdoor dining spaces and winter patios. Some, such as Little Brick and Rocky Mountain Ice House/Cask and Barrel have invested significantly in their outdoor spaces, but given all the talk in the fall about the need for winter patio extensions it doesn’t look like many have taken the City up on this. It would be interesting to know if this relates more to the City’s aversion to approving requests on certain types of streets.
  • Considering the pandemic, it was another banner year for the expansion of some local businesses: Workshop Eatery grew with two locations of Woodshed Burgers and three branches of The Greenhouse; Culina on the Lake opened in Hawrelak Park; RGE RD added The Butchery; the folks behind The Sugar Bowl opened up Eleanor & Laurent; Love Pizza added outposts in southwest Edmonton and in Spruce Grove; and Calle Mexico and HanJan extended to three locations each.
  • Independent cafes continue to pop up in all corners of the city, and perhaps none too soon, given the rate Starbucks and Second Cup have been closing shops. This year, we welcomed The Dapper Beaver, Amandine Cafe, Krew Cafe, Mood Cafe, Cafe Neo, Intent Coffee, La Bosco, Bistro 99, Belge Cafe, Ch, On the Edge, and additional locations of Square One and Remedy Cafe. Not to mention CoffeePass launched in November, which intends to help promote some of the same independent cafes.
  • Given the hardship the hospitality sector has experienced this year, the number of closures may not seem as high as expected. However, this may change in 2021, depending on the length of lockdown-like measures. Among the businesses we lost in 2020 were Al Centro, Barking Buffalo Cafe, Dauphine, Die Pie, Doan’s, Doppio Zero Pizza, Il Forno, London Local, Prairie Noodle Shop, Royale,  Veggie Garden, Wishbone, and ZINC.
  • Collaborations between local businesses continue, but this year, even more so to help other independents when possible. The #eatloveeatagain initiative in December was one example, while Yelo’d has leveraged their delivery service to help other brands. In a creative twist, MilkCrate and Why Not banded together for a friendly burger competition.
  • In June, Linda Hoang set off a social media firestorm for Yoshii Express, an Old Strathcona eatery that was struggling. The public response to her posts was unprecedented, with line-ups at the restaurant for a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, that level of support wasn’t sustained in the months following. This illustrates both the brilliant possibilities of social media but also its fickle, top-of-mind nature.
  • On a related note, advocacy for local restaurants formalized in the Edmonton Independent Hospitality Community, led by Cartago and Fleisch owner Katy Ingraham.
  • The Edmonton food media scene contracted again this year, with Liane Faulder departing the Journal for a second time. Graham Hicks, who wrote a regular food column for the Edmonton Sun, re-retired in June, amidst some controversy when two local food writers re-surfaced troubling previously published reviews.
  • The Province relaxed regulations on low-risk home-prepared foods in June, paving the way for many home-based “pandemic businesses”, such as Kryzy’s Kitchen and Bonne Vie Bakery. Time will tell if they can maintain and grow a foothold in the crowded market.
  • Similar to the appetite for food delivery, grocery delivery services exploded in the last year, with more than a dozen new options available in the Edmonton area. These include independents like Italian Centre Shop, Meuwly’s, Steve & Dan’s, and Effing Seafood, and big players like Sysco and Gordon Food Service offering direct-to-consumer options. Bountiful Farmers’ Market also became the first market to offer delivery.

You can check out previous year in reviews here.

Epicureous in Edmonton: 2019 Year in Review

It was an interesting year for restaurants in Edmonton, to say the least. While there were a number of high profile closures in 2019, most notably Hardware Grill, Noorish, and Manor Bistro on the independent side, as well as Red Robin’s and several locations of Tony Roma’s on the chain end of things, the scale was still tipped in favour of new restaurant openings.

The most anticipated addition to the scene was no doubt Filipino fast food giant Jollibee, which garnered line-ups even before opening its doors, and lengthy wait times in the months to follow. The splashiest entry was the arrival of Toronto-based O&B’s quartet of establishments (Braven, Kindred, Alchemy, Lobby Bar), contained in Ice District’s upscale JW Marriott Hotel. But what was most impressive was the number of locally-owned eateries that expanded this year, in spite of the flailing economy.

These include Baijiu’s addition of a burger joint in Royale and another bar in Pablo, Black Box Hospitality’s move into Highlands with Fox Burger and June’s Delicatessen, Farrow’s third shop on 124 Street, Workshop Eatery’s foray into burgers in Woodshed, Downtown branches of Tiffin and Filistix, and Duchess and Padmanadi opening up outposts south of the river.

All of these were added over a year that saw a provincial election called. Restaurants Canada, a hospitality lobby group chaired by Patrick Saurette of The Marc, campaigned against policies introduced by the NDP government, including a higher minimum wage and holiday pay. Teresa Spinelli, president of The Italian Centre, and Garner Beggs, co-owner of Duchess, both had to walk back comments made in connection with the campaign. After the incoming UCP government introduced a lower youth wage, in response, some restaurants committed to continuing with higher wages regardless.

Restaurants Canada

Here are a few other items notable to me in 2019:

  • Following the success of Ritchie Market, Oliver Exchange was not to be outdone. Also embedded in a mature neighbourhood, Oliver gained Brio Bakery, Iconoclast Coffee, Odd Company Brewing, and Culina To-Go in a single building. Also worth mentioning is the revamp of the former Sobey’s location Downtown, which subdivided, has flourished into a food-centric centre of its own, with international chains Dagu Rice Noodle and Gyu-Kaku adjacent to local contributions Tiffin and Pampa’s A Bite of Brazil.
  • Shopping centres have never been known for their love of local, but West Edmonton Mall welcomed a number of independent businesses last year. Calle Mexico, Splash Poke, Reinette, and Gangnam Street Food all opened additional locations at the complex.
  • Ghost kitchens, which cater exclusively to delivery customers, just started to take off in 2019. Big name players so far include Century Hospitality’s The Flying DoDough, and Leva Café’s Sepps Pizza.
  • Ice cream had a moment this year, with Calgary-based Made by Marcus opening up an Edmonton outpost, and Kind Ice Cream joined the Ritchie renaissance. Duchess also started serving up its own house-made pints.
  • A well-made bagel was easier to find in Edmonton, thanks to June’s Delicatessen and Bagel Bar (currently operating out of DeRose Fine Foods).
  • Edmonton finally made the jump to multi-day farmers’ markets in 2019. Newcomer Bountiful Farmers’ Market went all in, opening three days per week from the start. The Edmonton Downtown Farmers’ Market (formerly City Market) had a rough transition into its new Quarters location, but eventually landed on operating two days per week.
  • Edmonton-based chefs and home cooks had a banner year on TV food competitions. Most notably, Shane Chartrand (SC Damn Fine Food) competed on Iron Chef Canada, and Edmonton, through Alexei Boldireff (Baijiu, Royale) finally got its first contestant onto Top Chef Canada (albeit short lived). A number of local chefs also competed on Fire Masters (including Food Network darling Lindsay Porter of London Local), and home baker Nataliia Shevchenko was crowned the winner on CBC’s The Great Canadian Baking Show.
  • A number of cookbooks from local authors were published this year. Both Giselle Courteau and Karlynn Johnson published their second books, Duchess at Home and The Prairie Table, respectively. In tawâw, Shane Chartrand (with Jennifer Cockrall-King) shared the story behind his Indigenous roots and food.

You can check out previous year in reviews here.

    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.

    Epicureous in Edmonton: 2017 Year in Review

    It was without a doubt a banner year for bakeries in the Edmonton area, with no less than ten shops opening up in the last twelve months. It’s been particularly great to see the range of businesses, including French-style patisseries (Macarons & Goodies, Chocorrant, Fan Fan Patisserie, Arno’s Fine French Pastry), fancy cakes and treats (Sugared and Spiced, Art of Cake expansion), and gourmet doughnuts (Doughnut Party, Destination Doughnuts, Frickin’ Delights Donuts in Devon, Ohana Donuterie). Speaking as someone who currently has quite the sweet tooth, it’s been wonderful sampling my way through different desserts and finding any excuse to pick up something new to try.

    Sugared & Spiced

    Here are a few other items that were notable to me in 2017:

    • It was a bit of a Jekyll-Hyde year for Ice District. After Rogers Place opened in the fall of 2016, it was assumed that it would be a boon for businesses within walking distance of the arena. While that proved to be the case for certain enterprises (Baijiu, Bundok, and Bottega 104 to name a few), it didn’t prevent some fairly high-profile closures in 2017, including Alta, Vivo’s Downtown location, and Transcend’s Mercer Warehouse branch.
    • Edmontonians seem to have a growing taste for charcuterie and well-made sausage, with Fuge Fine Meats blossoming alongside the opening of two fine meat boutiques in Meuwly’s and Porc Sale.
    • Korean cuisine (including the very popular Korean Fried Chicken) continued to stake its claim in the city, with restaurants including Miga, Yummy Chicken, Hanjan, Pelicana, Hansik, and Dookbaeki opening.
    • Similarly, when it rains, it poured for bingsu, also known as Korean shaved ice. Edmonton went from zero bingsu purveyors to at least four in Snowy Dessert, Snowy Village, Let Eat Snow, and Snow Bear, in addition to other cafes who’ve since added it to their menus.
    • On a smaller scale, the city was also introduced to the world of poke, with Splash Poke and Ono Poke opening up within two weeks of each other Downtown.
    • Those seeking vegan and vegetarian options were able to broaden their choices to include vegan pizzeria Die Pie, Vietnamese restaurant An Chay, quick-serve cafe Good Stock, and The Moth, sister restaurant to Old Strathcona mainstay Cafe Mosaics.
    • Many local restaurants were able to grow their presence with additional locations or concepts, offering diners more unique alternatives. Among them: Monument (Block 1912), Pip (Next Act, Meat), Holy Roller (El Cortez, Have Mercy), Grandin Fish & Chips (The Common), Ong Hanoi Style Fried Chicken (Jack’s Burger Shack, Cerdo Tacos), Salz (Elm Cafe, District, Little Brick), Amore Pasta and Bottega 104 (Cafe Amore, Black Pearl), Wishbone (Three Boars), Mercato Foods (Italian Bakery), Pampa, Farrow, Credo, and Remedy Cafe.
    • I’m always heartened when food truck operators or market stalls are able to transition into brick and mortar storefronts, and this trend continued over the last year. The list included some of the bakeries mentioned above, but also Casa 12 Doce’s La Patrona, Little Village’s take-out spot, and Calle Mexico’s restaurant on 107 Avenue.
    • Food tourism initiatives were another highlight this year: Edmonton Food Tours introduced tours focused on the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market and Downtown eateries, Urban Pedal Tours offered a unique spin on social drinking, and Edmonton Brewery Tours shed light on the history of brewing in our city.
    • It was interesting that despite the splash made by Cafe Linnea’s foray into no-tipping in 2016 (and their subsequent end to that concept in 2017) there haven’t really been many more examples of gratuity-included restaurants in Edmonton (Grain of Rice and Alder Room notwithstanding).
    • The Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission made a few welcome shifts, including their changes to licensed patios, and allowance of beer and spirits to be sampled and sold at farmers’ markets.

    You can check out previous year in reviews here.

    Epicureous in Edmonton: 2016 Year in Review

    2016 was an interesting year for print-related food media. While several local publications celebrated milestones (The Tomato, Avenue Edmonton) or expanded their coverage (Culinaire), when the Edmonton Journal announced in January that they were laying off their full-time food reporter, it was clear that the food scene would be at a loss. Although the Journal reversed their decision a few weeks later (at least on a part-time basis), it was a sign that the end of an era is inevitable.

    Edmonton Sun & Journal 

    When that kind of high profile coverage for local chefs, restaurants, and producers end, will diners and consumers turn to other outlets for news? How will those changes impact small businesses that benefit from the exposure? Though we didn’t have to answer that question in full just yet, it’s likely that the time will come soon.

    Here’s what else what notable to me in 2016:

    • I love when we can celebrate local success stories, and this year was full of them. Daniel Costa’s empire expanded to include Uccellino, Duchess added the Scandinavian-inspired Cafe Linnea to their businesses, Bodega looked to reverse the revolving door in Highlands, Have Mercy opened above sister restaurant El Cortez, and the Crudo family set-up Amore Pasta in the suburbs. As well, Sandwich and Sons, Careit, Iconoclast, Nomiya, Confetti Sweets and Jacek Chocolates added new locations.
    • As openings go, Old Strathcona had some of the buzziest additions this year, with scratch-ramen eatery Nudoru, southern-inspired Have Mercy, brew pub Situation Brewing, izakaya Dorinku, and Parisian-style bakery La Boule.
    • Brick and mortar iterations spawned from food trucks continued into this year, including Calle Mexico, Fat Franks, The Local Omnivore, and Two to Taco, a new sister for Filistix. Little Village and Casa Doce storefronts are coming in 2017.
    • Fried chicken frenzy finally hit Edmonton, with a second location for Coco Fried Chicken and the rise of both Seoul Fried Chicken and Northern Chicken. Chain restaurant Popeye’s also caused quite a stir in November with their first Edmonton branch, and it was announced that Ong (from the folks behind Jack’s Burger Shack), will be serving up Hanoi-style fried chicken.
    • Bubble tea chains had a banner year – Coco’s, Quickly, Cha Time and Gong Cha all expanded to Edmonton in 2016.
    • In spite of the growth, many notable businesses shut their doors. We bid adieu to Call the Kettle Black, Dovetail Deli, Sabzy, Rosebowl Pizza (at least in its Oliver location), Dauphine, and Culina.
    • The limited success of no tipping restaurants in larger municipalities like New York should be a cautionary tale for us, but Edmonton saw its first two such establishments open in 2016: the aforementioned Cafe Linnea and Asian upstart Grain of Rice.
    • The upswing of local food tour businesses such as Epicurean Adventure Tours and the expansion of Alberta Food Tours to include Edmonton point to the growth of walkable restaurant districts and an increased appetite to explore them.
    • Similarly, Edmonton Cooks helped share some of the stories behind the city’s favourite restaurants, bringing us in line with the six other cities already profiled.
    • We lost Dolce & Banana operator Ernesto Rizzi suddenly in July, and Gail Hall’s passing in November is still ripping through the food community.

    You can check out previous year in reviews here.

    Epicureous in Edmonton: 2015 Year in Review

    Trends, especially in Edmonton, can take several years to take root. And in putting these summaries together, I’m reminded of how, in many ways, the calendar year is just an arbitrary measure of time.

    Coffee Bureau

    Several third wave cafes like Coffee Bureau sprouted in 2015

    But we are fortunate to live in a community where there is an ever-increasing number of people who care about the food they grow, prepare, or serve, so it’s our duty to acknowledge and appreciate these changes, even if they sometimes seem incremental and small.

    Here’s what was notable to me in 2015:

    • The independent dining scene in St. Albert came into its own this year, attracting attention with openings like farm-to-table restaurant 12 Acres, Buco, Sorrentino’s first pizza and wine bar, and a second location of Chef Andrew Fung’s much-lauded Nineteen. Closely tied in was the continued rise of independent suburban establishments, such as Cured and Workshop Eatery.
    • In Central Edmonton, we gained a number of third wave cafes: Coffee Bureau, Lockstock, Rogue Wave Coffee, Bru and Barking Buffalo. Nomad Espresso also started operations as the city’s first mobile coffee cart.
    • While I don’t think we’ve quite hit “peak ramen” in the Capital Region just yet, it was a banner year for the noodles, with the fervor for the opening of Prairie Noodle Shop exceeding expectations.
    • While Japanese-inspired ramen may be the hottest #yegfood item at the close of 2015, Edmonton experienced a Korean wave this year, with Nongbu, Tofu House, It’ All and Daore joining the fold.
    • The humble sandwich is also alive and well, with inspired and tasty offerings available from Sandwich and Sons, Dovetail Deli, The Local Omnivore, and even an outpost of Calgary-based Chachi’s at West Edmonton Mall.
    • We did lose a few notable establishments this year, including Unheardof and Happy Garden. On the side of food retail, Mother’s Market closed after a year of operation.
    • Crowdfunding projects aren’t new to the local food scene (Creole Envie embraced it to jumpstart a trip to the Taste of Edmonton in 2014), but it took on life this year, with a successful Kickstarter campaign for Chartier, a forthcoming French-Canadian restaurant in Beaumont. Prairie Noodle Shop and regional restaurant/social justice project The Alder Room also tried to raise online backers.
    • Edmontonians love competitions – the Canadian Food Championships were newly installed in 2015 by Events Edmonton, and Get Cooking’s wildly popular Edmonton Food Fight began in February. Several local chefs including Shane Chartrand and David Omar also appeared on national food programs like Chopped and Masterchef.
    • When we started Eat Alberta back in 2011, opportunities to develop food skills were isolated to often pricey one-off classes. In 2015, with the Dig In Festival in its second year, and the advent of the Edmonton Resilience Festival and Little Brick Home School, it’s great to see that chances for learning are becoming more widespread. On a related DIY note, City Council approved urban beekeeping in April.
    • 2015 saw its share of pop-up dinners, some in unusual, unique locations. It’ll be interesting to see whether this trend can sustain itself, given the price associated with many of these events is steadily increasing.
    • It was great to see some local interpretations of the anti-food waste movement, such as the SalvagED pop-ups that made meals from otherwise discarded produce, and Reclaim Urban Farm’s sale of so-called “ugly” vegetables.

    Onward to 2016!

    You can check out previous year in reviews here.

    Epicureous in Edmonton: 2014 in Review

    2014 was definitely Elm Café’s year, as they increased their footprint in Edmonton to include District, a great quick-serve café in the government district, and Burrow, innovatively located in our pedway system above the Central LRT station. Owner Nate Box also consulted with Denizen Hall, the refurbished bar in the Grand Hotel, to create a comfort food-focused menu that will no doubt help curious diners overlook the establishment’s seedy past. Had Little Brick, their forthcoming café/general store in the Riverdale neighbourhood, not encountered construction delays typical for any new projects, it would have been an even more runaway year for Nate. At any rate, it’s great to see a local company succeed and flourish in multiple locations – here’s hoping for a speedy finish for Little Brick!

    Burrow Central Station

    Here are a few other notable food happenings in 2014:

    • Speaking of cafes, it was also a strong year for other independent coffee shops. Transcend returned downtown with a location in the Mercer Warehouse, Credo established a second branch on 124 Street, Iconoclast Koffiehuis’ opening in Oliver, and Remedy added a fourth shop on 124 Street (look for a fifth in Terwillegar to come in 2015).
    • In addition, a significant number of independent restaurants joined the food scene, including Ampersand 27, Bar Bricco, Daravara, Farrow, Hart’s Table, Meat, Rostizado and Solstice.
    • On the flip side, the city did lose its share of prominent food businesses, with Tavern 1903 topping the list that also features Café de Ville, Everything Cheese, Moriarty’s and the Wild Tangerine restaurant.
    • Some measure Edmonton’s place in the world with our ability to attract chains and franchises. To that end, we gained a Popbar at West Edmonton Mall, a Carl’s Jr. outpost, and Filipino fast food chain Max’s Restaurant this year.
    • Although not as prominent, pop-up restaurants still haven’t fallen by the wayside. They continue to provide a way for start-ups to highlight niche cuisine like the vegan Long Lost Foods (formerly the Mirepoix Trio) or specialty items like those offered by Honest Dumplings or Prairie Noodle Shop, whose last pop-up sold out in eight minutes.
    • We also saw the start of several new large-scale outdoor food events this summer, with the inaugural Porkapalooza attracting a stunning 25,000 attendees over three days, and Edmonton’s first Diner en Blanc succeeding in spite of a rain out. Taste of Edmonton celebrated its 30th anniversary, and will be bringing the Canadian Food Championships to the city in 2015.
    • Edmontonians were encouraged to flex their kitchen skills with the release of Duchess Bake Shop’s cookbook, Daniel Costa’s Italian cooking app Tavola, and the expansion of Kathryn Joel’s Get Cooking into its new MacEwan studio.
    • Mother’s Market, the city’s first three-day, year-round farmers’ market opened this summer, while SPUD, a grocery delivery service offering organic and local options, opened up a branch in Edmonton.

    Looking forward to what 2015 brings!

    You can check out previous year in reviews here.

    Epicureous in Edmonton: 2013 in Review

    Although we had some high profile restaurant losses this year (notably Jack’s Grill), 2013 seemed to be a good year overall for local independents. Openings definitely tipped the scale, with some, such as RGE RD and Tavern 1903 immediately embraced by the community. I can only hope this trend continues – that Edmontonians will shift their habits in order to dine at creative, quality-driven small businesses.

    Panna cotta at RGE RD

    Here are some other notable food happenings in 2013:

    • The number of food trucks exploded in Edmonton, with more than a dozen new vendors, offering mobile options ranging from Vietnamese to British to Mexican cuisines.
    • The burger reigned supreme this year, with the US chain Smashburger landing in Sherwood Park, and local counterparts The Burg, Jack’s Burger Shack in St. Albert, Bannock Burger and a burger-focused food truck The Patty Wagon competing for your business.
    • It also seemed that Century Hospitality Group’s Alley Burger paved the way for others, such as Creole Envie’s back alley po’boy and Wild Tangerine’s O’my Bao.
    • Something to keep an eye on in the coming year will be the price of pop-up and one-off dinners. They seem to have been increasing over the last few years, but it’s not clear if there is a ceiling to the cost diners are willing to pay.
    • Hot pot hits the spot: Urban Shabu and 97 Hot Pot are heating up the dining scene in Chinatown – we’ll see if this leads to more Edmontonians embracing this method of eating.
    • Those with certain dietary restrictions also expanded their selection in the city, with the completely gluten-free GF Diner, and VegPalette catering to busy vegans.
    • I wrote in my 2011 Year in Review that a “coffee district” was brewing Downtown. Unfortunately, that has reversed itself this year, with the loss of both Transcend’s Downtown storefront and Roast. That said, 124 Street is perking up, with news of Credo’s second location and Remedy joining the mix.
    • We did lose some long-standing food businesses in 2013, including Java Jive and Bee Bell Bakery.
    • The success of Ten Mile Meal, Gail Hall’s Alberta farm tours, the Taste of Edmonton’s Sip ‘n Savour initiative and the launching of Localize all spoke to the increasing appetite of diners to connect with those that grow their food.
    • In the same vein, farmers’ markets continue to pop-up in all over the city.  Four joined the fray in 2013: Eden’s Market, Century Park, French Quarter and the Edmonton Petroleum Club.
    • It was also great to see social enterprise Mealshare debut in Edmonton, providing diners with a seamless way to feed someone in need, simply by eating out.

    Looking forward to what 2014 brings!

    You can check out previous year in reviews here.

    Epicureous in Edmonton: 2012 in Review

    I wish we could say 2012 was the year City Council declared that having access to locally-grown food was important enough to protect, but alas, that was not the case. In November, Council voted to accept the toothless, vague Fresh, the Food and Agriculture Strategy that certainly did not live up to its name. By doing so, although some good was accomplished (including a directive to set up an Edmonton Food Council), Fresh did not make preserving the city’s peripheral agricultural land a priority.

    Farming in the City

    Farm stand at Riverbend Gardens

    This was in spite of the fact that the appetite and interest in local food continues to grow. The 124 Street Grand Market was a huge hit, while the number of restaurants and vendors highlighting area producers, like Three Boars and Drift, are gaining huge followings.

    Here are some other notable food happenings in 2012:

    • It was a big year for local establishments on the small screen, when Food Network rolled into town. You Gotta Eat Here profiled Tres Carnales, Highlands Kitchen and The Sugarbowl, while Eat St. shot features on Drift, Molly’s Eats and The Act Out & About.
    • It was great to be a chocoholic in Edmonton: this year saw Jacek and Cococo Chocolatiers open boutiques, we saw the rebirth of Kerstin’s Chocolates, and the debut of two small-batch lines of chocolate, The Violet Chocolate Company and The Jones Chocolate Company.
    • I have to wonder if 2012 saw the ramifications of Corso 32’s runaway success, with a seeming renaissance of Italian eateries. Cafe Amore may have opened in the fall of 2011, but it was one of the most talked about restaurants this year. Cibo Bistro gained a following of its own since it entered the scene in late 2011. Most recently, St. Albert-based Nello’s added a second location in Edmonton with Antonil’s, and the Italian Centre added Massimo’s Cucina Italiana to its holdings. The Century Hospitality Group also jumped in the fray with the announcement of its forthcoming Parlour Italian Kitchen & Bar.
    • 124 Street became a district of dining destinations with many notable openings this year, including a second location of The Bothy, The Makk on 124, Canteen, and the announcement of Rge Rd, coming in spring 2013.
    • Nineteen, Chef Andrew Fung’s upscale addition to the city’s outer ring, has perhaps ushered in an era where fine dining and suburbia are not mutually exclusive.
    • The success of Sloppy Hogs Roed Hus and Smokehouse BBQ (the tragedy of the fire at their Edmonton location notwithstanding) speaks to the local appetite for southern barbecue.
    • Frozen yogurt seemed poised to take over the city, with the touchdown of Pinkberry at last, and the expansion of Tutti Frutti to both WEM and Southgate. 
    • It wasn’t all positive though: we lost two local favourites this year – Highlands Kitchen shuttered in the fall, while The Blue Pear announced their last meal would be served in December.
    • With the transformation of The Bank to Public House and Iron Horse to MKT, it was a signal that pubs were deemed to be more versatile and lucrative than nightclubs. We’ve still yet to see a true gastropub land in Edmonton though.
    • Along the same lines, beer markets are on the rise, with the opening of MKT and The Underground Tap and Grill this year, and Craft Beer Market in 2013.

    We can only guess what 2013 will bring – looking forward to it!

    You can take a look at my previous year in review posts here.