5 Questions about the City Market’s New Downtown Location

When the news broke in March that the City Market would not be returning to its outdoor home on 104 Street this year, reaction was mixed. While some were excited about the idea of a permanent, year-round space, others grieved the loss of something that has become a summer tradition for many.

The City Market was one of the reasons why we decided to move to 104 Street, and I had already been looking forward to showing Emily how our front step transforms every Saturday. There’s no question the setting of 104 Street will be hard to replicate elsewhere; the combination of historic facades, mature trees, independent businesses, and residential concentration all helped create the welcoming and lively atmosphere that attracted visitors from across the city.

City Market

With Emily at the last City Market on 104 Street on October 6, 2018

That said, I recognize that the success for outdoor markets is very much weather dependent. Although rain, sleet, and snow has never deterred our family because of our proximity to the market, we acknowledge that many vendors rely extensively on fair weather customers. The last few years have also seen rough inclement conditions, including several windstorms that resulted in early closures as precautionary measures.

So although I’ve slowly come around to being open to the City Market’s new home, I know that many people have some unanswered questions:

    1. What will the new City Market look like?

    The market announced that its opening weekend in its new location will take place May 18-19, 2019, transitioning from one day per week to twice weekly. The Board worked with the City on securing a lease for the Great West Garment Building (also known as the GWG Building), at 97 Street and 103 Avenue, in addition to the permission to animate some of the nearby streets.

    GWG Building

    GWG Building

    The building has been vacant for more than a decade, having most recently operated as the Red Strap Market that closed in 2007. Built in 1911, some of the original features, including the hardwood floors and pressed ceiling tiles, remain as historical marvels. If the renovations are done right, it could be stunning.

    GWG Building

    Inside the GWG

    However, given the short timeline, we’ve learned that the market will operate outdoors this summer. When we toured the space in mid-March, washrooms were under construction, and they hadn’t moved to creating vendor stalls yet.

    GWG Building

    Planning for two floors of vendors

    When completed, vendors will occupy the first and second floor of the building. The market is currently exploring options to program the third and fourth floors.

    2. What can visitors expect from the City Market this summer?

    The outdoor City Market will have quite the footprint in the Quarters, taking place not only on 103 Avenue but also spilling onto the Armature on 96 Street.

    City Market

    The Armature

    Although a majority of the street may be the same width as its previous home of 104 Street and 102 Avenue, the lack of mature trees and active street-front retail make it feel quite different. In addition, the size of the two adjacent parking lots on 103 Avenue may provide convenience to some shoppers, but ultimately may bring a level of car traffic and noise that can disrupt the ambiance.

    City Market

    103 Avenue, looking west

    Dog owners will be happy to hear that the market will permit four legged visitors. Guidelines for etiquette are in place, but otherwise, bring your puppy!

    I do think the market’s new location could open up new opportunities for Chinatown South. In touring people through the area over the past two summers, people were interested in learning more about the cultural buildings and services located in the Quarters. Some in the Chinese community have already routinely organized events in Kinistinaw Park on the Armature, so it would be great to see even more engagement from the public because of the market’s presence.

    City Market

    Kinistinaw Park, along the Armature 

    3. How will the new indoor City Market experience compare to other indoor markets?

    Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market has held exclusive court over being Edmonton’s only year-round market. Because of that, some have wondered why they haven’t shifted to a multi-day operation.

    A newcomer to the scene has shaken things up, and is perhaps one reason the City Market has already committed to Saturday and Sunday hours. Bountiful Markets, set to open in June in a light industrial area at 3696 97 Street, will be operating three days a week, Friday to Sunday. Some of the same vendors who sell at both OSFM and the City Market will be at Bountiful, including Irvings Farm Fresh, Riverbend Gardens, and Doef’s, but it’s likely a multi-day public market will also attract new vendors who could benefit from the additional hours. Bountiful also promises a food court with multiple options, which may be more appealing to many, in addition to an entertainment stage and a kids play area.

    Bountiful Markets may be Edmonton’s answer to the revamped Calgary Farmers’ Market, which moved off Blackfoot Trail in 2014. The renovated flea market has survived its competitors (for a variety of reasons), and is so successful it will be opening a second location in northwest Calgary in 2020.

    Calgary Farmers' Market

    Calgary Farmers’ Market

    The Calgary Farmers’ Market seems designed with the intention of getting customers to linger – through a large food court with ample seating, a kids play area, and special events. I’ve also always found it very easy to navigate the wide aisles – even on our most recent visit in April with a stroller.

    Calgary Farmers' Market

    Food court at the Calgary Farmers’ Market

    Given Bountiful’s opportunity to transform an empty warehouse to spec, it seems the Calgary model (including choosing a location really only accessible by car) is what they may be trying to emulate.

    4. Will the new indoor City Market have a food hall?

    Food halls are a hot trend in North America, with choices carefully curated and the quality elevated from a typical food court. The City Market has a food fair in its plans, with a dozen vendors proposed.

    Mack and I checked out Calgary’s Avenida Food Hall & Fresh Market in April. It opened last fall, and though they have a few fresh food vendors, a majority of the stalls are dedicated to prepared food (interestingly enough, they also had a hybrid vendor – Sunworks Farm had a stall selling their fresh cuts of meat and some other products, but it was also equipped with an oven so they could sell hot rotisserie chickens).

    Avenida Food Hall

    Ample seating in Avenida

    My favourite thing about Avenida was the diversity of the food they were offering. In addition to the more conventional Italian and Southern Barbecue stalls, there was impressive representation from other ethnic cuisines, including Mexican, Salvadorian, Ethiopian, Indonesian, Thai, Indian, and Japanese.

    Avenida Food Hall

    Some of the food options in Avenida

    There are currently plans for a food hall downtown, located in the revamped YMCA Building at 100 Street and 102A Avenue to be known as Williams Hall. The tentative opening date is fall 2019.    

      5. Will the new City Market continue to be a summer destination?

      Although those aforementioned parking lots may make it easier for some to reach the market in its new location, parking doesn’t create a destination. Only time will tell if the City Market will be able to retain and attract a strong mix of vendors, create an atmosphere that encourages visitors to linger, and hopefully promotes some of the area’s nearby amenities as additional attractions. If not, those seeking better outdoor market experiences may end up heading to competitors like the St. Albert Farmers’ Market or the 124 Street Grand Market.

      I’m hopeful that the City Market will make the most of this change, and I am looking forward to the long weekend in May to see what they have in store.

      2011 Holiday Light Up on Churchill Square

      The annual Holiday Light Up on Churchill Square is something I don’t like to miss, even if the weather is less than conducive for an outdoor event! Mack and I braved the cold to partake in this annual tradition.



      Earlier in the afternoon though, I trekked down to the Square to pick up some groceries from the City Market. As with the previous two Saturdays, to help tie the Market into the day’s festivities, a third of the vendors were set-up in a tent on Churchill Square.


      City Market outdoors

      Though I thought this location was a boon to the vendors last year, it was a much different picture then, as it was easily about twenty degrees warmer than it was today. One of the two heaters stopped working an hour in this morning, something that didn’t bode well for those positioned in that half of the tent. Over in City Hall, however, it was very pleasant, with musicians livening up the atmosphere. Many shoppers were asking about which vendors were in the Square, but didn’t seem willing to step outside to explore them firsthand. I wonder if some clear signage with a map of vendors would have been an incentive to do so? Or, because of the weather, simply have allowed all of the vendors to remain inside the Hall?

      Later that evening, Mack met up with me and we sipped hot coffee in anticipation of the light-up and fireworks. Closer to 5pm, the crowd swelled to a few hundred – it’s always heartening to see Edmontonians embracing outdoor activities.


      Stilt walkers wandered into the crowd

      After a few Christmas songs to warm up the crowd, Eskimo cheerleaders and Councillor Jane Batty welcomed Santa Claus himself up on stage (it was pretty amusing when Councillor Batty expressed to Santa that “one or two Councillors” will be receiving coal this Christmas).


      On a break from the North Pole

      I was a bit disappointed that the organizers opted not to use the giant light switch that they have in the past, but counting down to the light-up itself was still a great time. The 71 foot white spruce, weighing 8000 pounds, had been donated by Millar Western. Decorations included 14,000 LED lights, sparklers and snowglobes, about 4,000 more than last year.

      Christmas Tree


      I look forward to the fireworks spectacle every year, primarily because it is the only show in our city that is timed to music. I wonder if it was the cold that impacted the execution of the fireworks this year, because something delayed them this time around, which meant that they didn’t end up accompanying the music. We still enjoyed them though – fireworks are always a great way to kick off the holiday season!



      The tree will be around to view until early January. Make sure to check it out when you have a chance!

      2011 Olde Time Fair on the Square

      It wasn’t an overly warm day, but in spite of the overcast conditions, the weather was conducive to the outdoor Olde Time Fair on the Square festivities.

      Churchill Square

      Churchill Square

      While it may not have been as bustling as last week’s River City Round Up Kick-Off, organizers made up for it with spirit (the DJ in particular was energetic), and fire.

      Retro vehicles

      Retro fire and police vehicles on display


      Mack loves a good fire pit

      There was a whole host of activities for children, including carnival games, arts and crafts, wagon rides and the always-coveted balloon animals.

      Carnival Games


      Similar to last week, food vendors were also on hand to feed the hungry hoards, most of which didn’t seem to mind the slight chill. Still, we had to wonder why the City didn’t bring out the heat lamps on this occasion to keep the seating area warm, especially given they already had staff manning the fire pits.

      Food Vendors


      For whatever reason, the City Market had been split up in half. Some vendors were inside the heated tent located right on Churchill Square, while others were located in their usual home. Again, signage wasn’t great in pointing shoppers to City Hall, but given how busy it was inside the City Room, perhaps word of the year-round market is picking up steam after all.


      Inside the City Market tent

      Doef's Greenhouses

      It’s hard not to be drawn to Doef’s display at City Hall

      Doef's Greenhouses

      Doef’s has the right to these heart-shaped cucumber moulds in Canada – expect to see these special cucumbers everywhere leading up to Valentine’s Day

      Before we left, we took a picture of the Christmas tree that will be lit up at next Saturday’s event – hope to see you there!


      Christmas tree

      2011 River City Round Up: Food, Festivities and the City Market

      Though we were disappointed that there was no cattle drive at this year’s River City Round Up kick-off, it’s always a treat to watch horses walking through the streets of downtown Edmonton.

      River City Round Up

      Last Saturday, Mack and I watched the parade on a crisp fall day. The crowds were modest, though I think most people were situated closer to Churchill Square.

      River City Round Up

      The wee donkey near the start of the procession was hard to beat, but it was clear all of the participants were having a blast. I also loved hearing the sound of hoofs against the pavement, the clip-clop that echoed down the block.

      River City Round Up

      River City Round Up

      The rear cavalry

      Churchill Square was party central, with a stage set-up alongside vendors and food trucks.

      River City Round Up

      Inflatable welcome

      River City Round Up

      It’s only a bull

      Drift had created a sandwich just for the event – Nature’s Green Acres braised beef with a house-made whisky BBQ sauce and crispy onions ($7.50). It was delicious, and if I had the opportunity to try it a few more times, might become my favourite Drift sandwich!

      River City Round Up

      Braised beef sandwich from Drift

      The Lingnan Express was also on hand (if you’re curious about how the truck came to be, check out this episode of The Quon Dynasty online). We hung out with Miles and Ajit for a bit inside, and warmed up with a sample of their won ton soup. The broth in particular was great – Miles said thirty chicken carcasses went into the soup!

      River City Round Up

      Miles loves kettle corn

      Towards City Hall, there were pony and wagon rides, crafts and balloons for kids, and even square dancing!

      River City Round Up

      Pony rides

      The City Market was going on, as usual, inside City Hall. It seemed busier than usual, no doubt the beneficiary of all of the festivities outside. It was great to have Martin Kerr on hand to set the tone inside – his voice does wonders of bringing the street to the hall.

      River City Round Up

      City Room

      We were able to pick up some of what we needed, but what is still lacking is produce (Kuhlmann’s, Doef’s Greenhouses, Greens, Eggs and Ham, and Steve & Dan’s were on hand last week). I recognize that it is a chicken-egg argument, and that a consistent customer base is needed to support more vendors (and we reside in a northern climate where produce selection in general in the winter months will be limited), but the selection isn’t great. I will be patient, knowing it will take time to grow the year-round component of the City Market, and hopefully others will be as well.

      This was the first of three Saturdays where Churchill Square will be the hub of activity – tomorrow will see the Olde Time Fair on the Square, and next week, possibly my favourite Christmas event in the city – the Holiday Light Up on the Square. See you there!

      You can take a look at Mack’s photo set here.

      City Market Report: Week 18 (plus Corn Fest!)

      I suppose this really isn’t a City Market report so much as it is a recap about Corn Fest, Downtown Edmonton Community League’s annual fall event run in conjunction with Edmonton Federation of Community League’s city-wide Community League Day.

      Corn Fest 2011

      Corn Fest

      Over 100 community leagues organized events for today, which ranged from barbecues, potlucks, carnivals, garage sales and pet pampering – I hope you had the chance to check out the activities in your neighbourhood!

      DECL has offered Corn Fest for a number of years, but starting aligning the date with Community League Day last year. It serves up free corn with a side of salsa dancing.

      Corn Fest 2011


      I had taken in Corn Fest last year, but this was my first time being on the other side. Set-up went pretty smoothly, and we had plenty of time to shuck the corn before our 11am start time.

      Corn Fest 2011

      Laurissa was a shucking machine!

      Corn Fest 2011

      Lindsey and Ian

      The weather was overcast for most of the day, cool but not cold, and all in all, a great day for a hot cob of corn. Crowds were steady, but a rush of people late in the afternoon meant we ended up running out of corn early – we ran through about 450 ears of corn!

      Corn Fest 2011

      We need more corn!

      Corn Fest 2011

      Mack and Jon enjoy their corn

      It’s amazing how transformational music is – as soon as the salsa music came on, people started wandering into Beaver Hills House Park to check out what was happening. Even when no one was utilizing the square to dance, it created a festive, warm atmosphere. The couples that did eventually descend on the dance floor were a treat to watch!

      Corn Fest 2011

      Just dance

      MLA Laurie Blakeman was also around today to hand out the Downtown in Bloom awards. Congrats to all of the winners!

      Corn Fest 2011

      MLA Laurie Blakeman and Scott

      There was a lot going on in that area today: the folks behind the Alley of Light were doing chalk art in the alley with children, and there was a performance on the corner of 105 Street and Jasper.

      Corn Fest 2011

      Walk the chalk

      Corn Fest 2011

      Performance art

      And of course, there was the market! Because I was busy volunteering, Mack was responsible for picking up the groceries this week, so just a few photos here and there today.

      Sundog Organics

      Beautiful garlic from Sundog Organic Farm

      Sundog Organics

      Beets from Sundog Organic Farm

      Sundog Organics

      Pumpkins from Sundog Organic Farm

      Greens, Eggs and Ham

      Baby corn from Greens, Eggs and Ham

      Hope you had a good Saturday as well!

      What the Truck?!: The Location

      Leading up to the second What the Truck?! taking place on September 16, 2011, we will be posting about some of the stumbling blocks we faced in organizing the first event. Today, I will discuss how the location of What the Truck?! came to be.

      The ideal venue for What the Truck?! in our minds was a parking lot. What better way to repurpose those single-use eyesores than to fill them with people, animating an otherwise empty space downtown? After some scouting, we identified two lots that we thought would work, both in terms of location and size.

      Option one already had precedence for alternative uses – the Melcor-owned lot on 104 Street, between the Great West Saddlery Building and the Armstrong Block had been used for Al Fresco events. Given Melcor’s enthusiasm for Todd Babiak’s Interventions project involving the beautification of a parkade wall, we thought they might be more than open to our idea. When we met with a Melcor staff person, however, because we weren’t attached to a charity, the answer was no. The lot was leased out to monthly parking pass holders, and in order to justify taking away that paid privilege, they needed a good excuse. We were aghast, if only because we live on the street, and know that the lot sits completely empty most nights (we should mention that for What the Truck?! 2, Melcor has allowed us to use their privately owned park).

      Melcor Parking Lot on 104 Street

      Option two, a lot between the Jasper 105 Dental building and building that houses Pub 1905, had a similar feel to the Melcor lot because it was also enclosed on two sides, and was equally accessible. We contacted Precise Park Link who manages the lot, and on our behalf, they asked the owners of the lot (who happened to be the same dental folks) whether or not they would be amenable to What the Truck?! renting out the space for the evening. They said no. The kicker was the fact that the dental office is closed on Friday afternoons anyway – so they really had no good reason to turn us down.

      Parking Lot

      At that point, we decided to consider public, City-owned spaces. Although Churchill Square is the “natural” fit for a food-related event, we wanted to buck the trend. Everything happens in Churchill Square, to the point where it is almost cliché. Besides, we felt Churchill Square was much too big and impersonal for What the Truck?!

      We first considered Centennial Square, the tumbleweed-inducing concrete pad behind the Stanley Milner Library. Equipped with a stage and easy access, we remembered the space being used as a part of the Grey Cup festivities back in November. Liaising with the Civic Events office, we found out that because of the parkade underneath, the surface wasn’t structurally sound to support the weight of vehicles. For the Grey Cup tents, we were told, the event planners had to work with engineers to distribute the weight safely. Well, without engineers on our non-existent payroll (and for an event all about trucks), we were out of luck.

      Centennial Square

      Last on our list was Beaver Hills House Park, on 105 Street and Jasper Avenue. It’s in a great location, accessible by public transit and highly visible, both for those passing by on foot and in vehicles. It’s also framed by both residential and commercial towers (which would be a boon for attendance on a Friday evening), and had built-in seating in the form of grassy knolls and park benches. It’s definitely an underutilized space, and with the talk about the need for more green space in the core (with another park development in the works for 105 Street and 102 Avenue) we thought What the Truck?! would be a great way for people to realize one of the fantastic assets that already exists in the core.

      Beaver Hills House Park

      In spite of some logistical difficulties we faced loading the trucks into Beaver Hills, it ended up being a great location for the first event. For What the Truck?! 2, we again looked for a location downtown, but this time, wanted to avoid the issues with a raised concrete pad. That meant closing a street for curbside cuisine!

      Why we love living downtown

      Mack and I decided to collaborate on this post. Enjoy!


      When Mack and I first started looking into buying a condo in 2009, we knew what we wanted. It took a bit of time, however, to get my dad (who was also our real estate agent), on board.

      For our specified price range, he told us we would be able to purchase a spacious, sparkly new condo on the edge of the city. State of the art fixtures, modern design, and that pull of the pristine is attractive to many for a variety of reasons. But not for us, given our current work situation, lifestyle and values.


      We made a list of our priorities, and chief among them was location. It was really important for us to live downtown, or at least as close as possible, given that we both work in the downtown area and a significant number of our extracurricular activities take place downtown. We wanted a high-rise condo with two bedrooms (so that one could be my office), plenty of natural light, and a decent sized kitchen. Walking distance to the City Market was also on our list, and being downtown we knew access to public transit would be good.

      4th St Promenade

      We ended up purchasing a condo last July in The Century, located at 10180 104 Street (right beside Icon 2). Our 12th floor space is on the southeast corner of the building, facing 104 Street. We got the two bedrooms, a great kitchen, tons of natural light, and every Saturday morning the market is on our doorstep.

      Walking to work


      I have to admit I was a bit gleeful when I typed in our answers to the “commute length” question on the National Household Survey earlier this year. For me: 12 minutes. For Mack: 8 minutes.

      I work in Central McDougall, just north of downtown, while Mack works in the core. I recognize that we are both very fortunate to work close to one another (and don’t require vehicles for our jobs), so neither of us has to compromise with commute times. But we also actively chose to situate ourselves in a location where walking to work would be convenient and the natural choice.

      I do have the occasional off-site meeting or event to attend, and find it no problem to hop on transit to reach my destination.

      City Market Downtown - May 29

      104 Street & Jasper Avenue on a rainy day last year


      When I started at Questionmark, our office was in the northwest by The Brick’s warehouse and I lived in the southeast. Every day I drove the Whitemud there and back. Some days it could take an hour each way. Next I moved to Oliver, close to the old Molson Brewery. That cut my commute down, but I was still driving and depending on weather or traffic it could still take quite a while. When we moved the Questionmark office downtown to the Empire Building on Jasper Avenue and 101 Street, I started taking the bus every day. It took about 15 minutes and I would generally check email and Twitter on the way. Now that we live on 104 Street, I can walk to work in less than ten minutes.

      I have a lot of early meetings, so I often work from home until mid morning or lunch and then head into the office for the rest of the day. That’s an option now because of our location. I can’t tell you how transformative that progressively smaller commute has been for me. Not only am I healthier because I’m walking every day, but I have so much more time for other things.

      Public transit


      We’re a one car household and we rarely drive more than one day a week – usually an afternoon on the weekend to shop for things we can’t get at the market or to visit family. The rest of the time we’re either walking or riding the bus or train. We’re less than a block away from the Bay/Enterprise Square LRT station, and with luck we’re just a few years away from being a block or two from a new stop on the Downtown LRT Connector.

      4th St Promenade

      Of course downtown also has the best bus service in the city, so if we need to go somewhere the LRT can’t yet take us, a major route is not far away (the 1, 2, 7, 8 and 100 are just a few of the major routes that are a block or less from our place).

      Front yard farmers’ market


      An objection we often hear about not shopping locally is the inconvenience of it – nowhere to park, limited hours, selection that rewards early birds. By choosing to live right on 104 Street – the home of the City Market – that isn’t a problem for us. And in the same way we value public transportation, supporting local farmers is another one of our priorities, so it helps when the barrier of distance is removed.

      City Market Opening Day 2011

      When we lived in Oliver, we made the 35 minute trek to the City Market most Saturdays. It was a pleasant walk, but was definitely something we had to plan for, and schedule into our weekend. Now, even when we have other commitments on Saturdays, it’s not difficult for one of us to run downstairs, grab the essentials, and go on with our day.

      Built for pedestrians


      Though our street didn’t start life as a pedestrian-friendly roadway, it certainly is now. Every Saturday the street is closed for the market, and while there has been talk of closing it to vehicular traffic permanently, that probably won’t happen. Still, I often remark that 104 Street is the most walkable street in the city.

      4th St Promenade

      The sidewalks are wide enough that you’ll find benches along the street, and restaurants like Lit and Tzin feature patios. The sidewalks also are level with the road, which reduces the feeling that there are separate pedestrian and vehicle spaces. The single lane of street parking on either side provides a nice safety buffer as you walk. The lights are placed along the sidewalks for pedestrians rather than in the middle for vehicles. And the trees, while not as tall or old as the ones that formed a beautiful canopy on 122 Street where we used to live, add that special something to the streetscape.

      The result? Day or night, vehicles drive cautiously down 104 Street and jaywalking is the norm. Pedestrians rule here.

      Location, location, location


      104th is arguably the most exciting street in Edmonton right now. With two wine bars, a liquor store, a diner, a fantastic cafe, and an artisan bakery, it’s definitely a food lover’s paradise. And with an organic food store on the horizon, who knows what else is in store in the future?

      Our street also doubles as a venue for some of Edmonton’s coolest events – the annual Al Fresco Block Party is a great example, or dance performances that transformed the street into a stage.

      K.O. Dance Project

      K.O. Dance Project on 104th

      Downtown is often associated with a “lack” of green space, but given our proximity to the river valley, we’ve never really had an issue with that. And better yet, we have Beaver Hills House Park, just down the block from us. With its mature trees and water feature, the park really feels like an oasis, despite its seedy history.

      Beaver Hills House Park

      Beaver Hills House Park



      Coffee meetings are a regular part of most weeks for me. Very rarely do I need to meet outside the downtown core and when I do, I find the LRT or the bus works well enough to get me where I need to be. Most often though I can be found at Credo Coffee. The service is great, the vanilla latte is delicious, and it’s close to home – as in 100 steps or so. It’s my neighbourhood office!

      Credo Coffee

      I’m also a fan of the newest addition to our street, Bubble Buzz. When I need to get my hair cut, I stop in at blunt salon. If Sharon needs to pickup some bread on her way home, she visits Queen of Tarts. When we needed paint to create our red feature wall, we went to Carbon. Lunch or dinner in a pinch? Blue Plate Diner never disappoints. It’s amazing how much more time you have when you don’t have to spend as much of it travelling.


      And though it isn’t quite the local food hub that it intended to be, there’s nothing handier than having Sobeys down the street from us. I can’t tell you the number of times it has saved us from having to drive down to a grocery store when we realized we were missing an ingredient for a recipe. It’s our corner store – something that has disappeared from so many of Edmonton’s neighbourhoods.

      One year later

      We had high expectations for our new place and neighbourhood when we moved in last July. Now a year later, it’s safe to say our expectations have been exceeded. We love living downtown!


      The view from our balcony

      Everybody Loves Sandwiches: Drift Mobile Eatery

      This guest post was written by Mack, an Edmonton-based geek who fancies himself a part-time foodie. You can find him online at his blog, and on Twitter.

      There is a distinct lack of good, interesting eateries between Sharon’s office and my office, so it takes something pretty special for us to get together for lunch. Like today’s launch of Drift Mobile Eatery, for instance! This morning we saw the tweet we had long been waiting for, and decided to walk over to 108 Street just south of Jasper Avenue to check it out. First a quick disclosure – we know Kara and Nevin, the duo behind Drift, and they volunteered for us at What The Truck?! last month. It’s safe to say that we have been looking forward to their truck for quite some time now, and as huge fans of the local food truck scene, we hope they succeed.

      Drift Mobile Eatery

      We arrived right around noon and saw a good lineup of people eager to try the sandwiches. The truck, built by Pizza Trucks of Canada, looks great with its teal green color scheme and big bold lettering. I love that they use 100% biodegradable packaging and had a recycle box next to the garbage can. Their menu was displayed on a chalk board complete with three little plants, as if to reinforce the green aspect of the truck!

      Drift Mobile Eatery Drift Mobile Eatery

      They had two lineups going, one for orders (cash only) and one for pickups. We waited a few minutes while previous orders were fulfilled and then placed our order. I chose the Back Bacon sandwich, which features brie cheese, roasted apple & cucumber, and of course delicious bacon. Sharon went with the Duck Confit, which features port soaked cranberries and cabbage. All their sandwiches come on ciabatta buns and cost $7.50. We also ordered the spiced drift style fries with house tomato sauce ($3.00).

      Drift Mobile Eatery

      It took about ten minutes to get our order which, all things considered, is pretty good for the first day. They’ll try to cut that down by at least half as they streamline things. A couple of napkins inside the bag would have been good too.

      So, how did it taste?

      Drift Mobile Eatery

      I am a big fan of sandwiches, and I was definitely pleased with mine. The bacon (from Irvings) was delicious as expected, and I like the choice of ciabatta. But really, how can you go wrong with bacon and cheese? Sharon loved that they are served warm, and as she and Jerry said while we were waiting, where else can you get duck from a truck? She thought there was a nice range of textures, and commented that the sweetness of the cranberries balanced it well. The sandwich choices (there are currently 9) all seem pretty healthy, so I was a little surprised to see fries on the menu. They were good, but I must admit I was not a fan of the fennel seed. The house tomato sauce was delicious, however.

      Drift Mobile Eatery

      Back Bacon

      Drift Mobile Eatery

      Duck Confit

      Drift’s location downtown is a good one in terms of access to customers, but it would be nice if they were located next a seating area (not their fault…they’ve discovered the “joy” of working with the City). Just walk by Beaver Hills House Park at lunch time – if there are seats available, people will come out of the office towers to use them. It’s ridiculous that only one vendor at a time can be at a location like that park. That’s where we went to enjoy our sandwiches.

      Beaver Hills House Park

      Drift Mobile Eatery

      Congrats to Kara and Nevin on bringing another unique food truck to Edmonton! If you’re looking for something new to try for lunch, go check out Drift Mobile Eatery! You can follow them on Twitter and Facebook for updates. You can see a few more pictures here.

      Edmonton’s Food Truck Extravaganza: What the Truck?!

      It’s not often that an event you plan actually comes together in the way that you imagined. What the Truck?!, for that reason, was magical.

      Mack and I first started talking about the idea of a food truck festival in March. Inspired by San Francisco’s Off the Grid, we knew our version wouldn’t be nearly as big, but we also had different goals we would want to accomplish with such an event. While raising awareness of Edmonton’s burgeoning food truck culture was a big part of that, we also knew that such a gathering could also be a way to bring vibrancy to a corner downtown that would otherwise be deserted on a Friday night.

      When we look back, I think 2011 will be Edmonton’s year of food trucks, given the number that have or are set to hit the streets this year. But in the planning of What the Truck?!, we started with those that we knew of, and approached seven vendors in total to participate: Carnival Cravings, Eva Sweet, Fat Franks, Filistix, The Fork and Spoon Brigade, Funky Pickle and The Lingnan. We were very fortunate that all of them said yes!

      I will be writing more about how Beaver Hills House Park at Jasper Avenue and 105 Street came to be chosen as the location, but suffice to say, it fit the bill of a central, accessible space. We knew there would be some challenges in ensuring the trucks would be able to safely manoeuvre onto the concrete surface, but we had faith that it would work out in the end.

      Loading up the trucks themselves was definitely the most harrowing part of the day. Made more difficult because of a few things beyond our control, the vendors, some who had to make multiple attempts to ease into place, were patient, steady and calm. It was the perfect storm of qualities to get us through the set-up, and by 3:45, all of the vehicles were appropriately parked.

      What the Truck?!

      The Fork and Spoon Brigade entrance, take one

      Though it wasn’t a mirror image of the site plan, it was pretty darn close! I had envisioned a ring of food trucks, with the crowds converging somewhat in the centre, allowing for mixing and mingling. I read later that some people didn’t appreciate this, but I have to say, I loved it. Standing in the midst of the trucks and people chatting away, the park felt more alive than I had ever seen it.

      What The Truck?!

      Chatting away

      What The Truck?!

      Overhead shot by Devin Serink (it’s great to have friends in high places! Or at least, friends that live in the Icon)

      It was also great to see people utilizing the green space on the north end of the park. Families, pairs and groups spread out on the park benches, along the water feature and on the grass.

      What The Truck?!

      Hurrah for green space!

      People had started trickling in at 4pm, but it really didn’t get going until close to 5. Filistix easily had the longest line throughout the night (I have no idea how Ariel and Roel didn’t collapse with exhaustion later on), but the great thing was, most people didn’t mind the wait! After all, good food is worth the wait, isn’t it?

      What The Truck?!

      The Filistix line

      It also helped that we had DJs Thomas Scott and Marc Carnes on hand to provide some beats to accompany the eats. The party atmosphere was on!

      What The Truck?!

      DJs Thomas Scott and Marc Carnes

      Unlike the vendors, Mack and I were able to enjoy the event, taking photos, catching up with friends, and of course, eating!

      What The Truck?!

      After devouring Filistix’s southern biscuits with gravy and bacon, I forgot to eat anything else

      What The Truck?!

      Brittney with her order of biscuits

      What The Truck?!

      Thom with his first taste of The Lingnan’s dry spicy chicken!

      What The Truck?!

      Bruce and Sarah, with their adorable puppy

      What The Truck?!

      The Critical Mass riders rang their bells when going by on Jasper

      What The Truck?!

      With some of my friends from work – Jill, Leigh and Ellen

      What The Truck?!

      Even my parents came out!

      At about 6, the sky started to threaten rain. We were a little worried that the crowd would disperse, but we really should have given people more credit – they were fully prepared to stay, rain and all!

      What The Truck?!

      One of Mack’s favourite shots – umbrellas ready!

      By 8pm, it was clear the event was winding down. But given five out of the seven vendors had sold out, it was the right time to close up shop! The vendors all reported having a great time, and deemed What the Truck?! a success – Mack and I were thrilled.

      Of course, the success of this event is attributed to many people who helped out behind the scenes. First off, hat’s off to designer Gabe Wong who immediately understood the whimsical nature of a food truck event, funnelling that into the logo that ultimately set the tone for the website. It’s easier to sell something that looks professional and polished, and without Gabe, that would not have been possible.

      Similarly, thanks to Thomas and Marc for coming on board quite early on. They too knew what we were trying to achieve right on the outset.

      Third, the budget for our event was quite small, but we did have a few expenses. As we didn’t have any sponsors step up initially, we accepted the fact that we may have had to finance the event ourselves. However, due to the generosity of three sponsors, we didn’t have to do so. A big thanks to the Unknown Studio, Citizen Experience, and Responsible Hospitality Edmonton for supporting What the Truck?!.

      Next, we were grateful to have four fantastic volunteers on hand that Friday. Whatever we threw their way – whether it was playing traffic cop, relocating picnic tables or take down – they were game. Thanks to Kara and Nevin Fenske, Thom Male and Su Dennis for being our go-to people!

      What The Truck?!

      Our volunteer crew (Kara and Nevin will have their own food truck up and running soon!)

      To the vendors, who jumped in with both feet when I’m certain even they didn’t quite know what to expect – thank you! Your unwavering enthusiasm and dedication to mobile cuisine in Edmonton is an inspiration.

      Lastly, thanks to everyone who came out to What the Truck?! The vendors were blown away by the energy and excitement of the crowd, and it seemed that even weather wouldn’t be a deterrent!

      In a few weeks, will be updating the What the Truck?! website so that all of the information you need to satisfy your street food fix will be in one place. We’ve also been asked whether or not this will be a repeat event. We hope so, and are planning for a September edition, so stay tuned!

      Read Mack’s recap of What the Truck?! here. Chris, Karlynn and Cathy also wrote about the event.

      White Night and The Works

      Last Thursday, Mack and I spent the evening at two different events downtown – it’s great to be able to just wander out our door to the next summer festival!

      I love events that repurpose spaces – there’s something about embracing the uncommon that adds that bit of je ne sais quoi to an otherwise ordinary activity.

      That’s one of the reasons why I was so drawn to White Night, a fashion showcase that took place last Thursday at the Edmonton City Centre Mall. The location? The pedway above 101 Street. I couldn’t wait to see how they would transform the space into a runway.

      I secretly hoped that the conversion would also involve opening up the bridge’s second floor as a viewing platform (how cool would that have been?!) but no dice. Still, it was neat to see how the pedway could be used for something other than retail and café seating.

      White Night

      More than just a pedway

      White Night was a part of White Out, a week of events to bring awareness to domestic violence, and the work done by the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters (ACWS). White Night commissioned ten local fashion designers to create garments inspired by a white ribbon, a symbol of domestic violence. The dresses would be available for bidding through a silent auction, with all proceeds to benefit the ACWS.

      White Night

      At White Night

      Local dignitaries, including Mayor Mandel, were on hand to mark the occasion. Although many in the audience had incorporated white into their outfits, I think someone forgot to send that memo to Minister Thomas Lukaszuk.

      White Night

      Minister Lukaszuk (I think I just liked how loud his shirt was)

      When the show began, it wasn’t immediately clear that the fashions weren’t those created by the local designers. It turned out that the first part of the show was meant to highlight clothes available from merchants at City Centre Mall – for their own marketing purposes, though it may have been a little cheesy, it would have been better if an announcer was stating where each outfit could be purchased.

      White Night

      Retail showcase

      Thankfully, the event MC did announce when the special dresses started rolling down the runway.

      White Night

      Dress by Trish Pasnak

      White Night

      Dress by Genette Salgado

      White Night

      Dress by Kelsey McIntyre

      White Night

      Dress by Cherie Howard

      Our favourite, without a doubt, was the gown designed by Nomin Gantumur. Fitted and petite, the detail in the dress was exquisite.

      White Night

      Dress by Nomin Gantumur

      Those interested can continue bidding for the dresses (and other goods and services donated by City Centre merchants) until June 30 (you can see the rest of our photo set here). Congratulations to the ACWS and City Centre Mall for organizing a great night for fashion and a good cause!

      After the event, we walked over to Churchill Square to check out the opening night party of The Works.

      The Works

      The Works

      The Works

      Ian Johnston

      The Works

      OKA (the didgeridoo was great for the dancing crowd)

      The Works is on until July 5. I know we’ll be back at least once more – I want to check out the coffee cup by Ben Sures.

      Hope you’re able to enjoy this long weekend too!