Recap: Salz Sausage and Beer Pop-up

A few years ago, Mack and I were walking home from the Queen Mary Park neighbourhood and stumbled upon what looked like Elm Café’s commissary kitchen. We happened to see Executive Chef Allan Suddaby in the window, and he waved us in for a quick tour. Besides a more expansive kitchen to meet their catering and prep needs for their family of properties, the space also included a small front room that could be set up as a cozy restaurant. Allan mentioned that might be in the cards one day – it seems that finally, that day has come.

Salz has been announced as the forthcoming restaurant to join the ever-growing family of Elm Café properties, which also includes District Café and Little Brick (Burrow still remains temporarily shuttered). Intended to be a Bavarian sausage and beer hall, the menu will be simple, favouring brats and sides, and in some ways, won’t be too dissimilar from the formula embraced by Otto. However, because the space can only accommodate 8 seats, owner Nate Box said Salz will be a more modest establishment, open for lunch and some evenings to align with Oilers game nights at Rogers Place.

In anticipation of the opening in October, District Cafe hosted a Salz pop-up dinner in mid-September. The $15 tickets were very reasonably priced, and included a shared starter, an entree-sized plate, and dessert (drinks were extra). Tickets for the pop-up sold out within days of being released, speaking to both the value and interest in the new concept.

The menu that evening was comparable to an Austrian pop-up dinner Allan hosted several years back (he spent some time cooking in Austria). It’s fair to say that Allan is passionate about sausages; he’s led numerous sausage making classes at Eat Alberta and Metro Continuing Education, and without a doubt, his sausage enthusiasm is infectious.

That evening, we started our meal with a soft pretzel served with honey mustard. Perhaps we’ve been spoiled by the oven-warmed pretzels at Zwick’s, but our only quibble was that it would have been improved had it been served warm.

Salz Pop-up at District

Pretzel and honey mustard

For the entree, we were to select from three sausage options, which would be complemented by house pickles and German salads. Mack added another sausage to his order so between the two of us, we could try all three: a classic bratwurst, Kasekrainer (with Sylvan Star gouda), and spicy Hungarian.

Salz Pop-up at District

Sausage plate

It was nice to be able to sample the trio, but the classic bratwurst, full of punchy garlic and black pepper, won out. We also appreciated the variety of accompanying sides, including a dill-forward potato salad, and for Mack, the creamy spaetzle and cheese.

Dessert was a tasty apple strudel with a dollop of whipped cream – straightforward but satisfying.

Salz Pop-up at District

Apple strudel

It’ll be great to have an establishment serving up quality sausages and beer within walking distance of the core! We’re looking forward to checking out Salz when it opens later this month.

10556 115 Street

Welcome to the Neighbourhood: District Coffee Co.

In a way, it’s fitting that the newest independent coffee shop to open in downtown Edmonton is called District Coffee Co. For a time, it was looking like the area around 104 Street and Jasper Avenue, with the trifecta of Credo, Transcend and Roast, was growing into the city’s premiere coffee district. Unfortunately, it didn’t last, and in 2013, we lost the latter two downtown. Perhaps with the herald of District Coffee Co., we will one day return to having an number of third wave cafes within walking distance of one another again.

District Coffee Co. is the brainchild of Nate Box, the proprietor of Elm Café and its growing catering arm. But unlike Elm Café’s Oliver storefront, District will be focusing on quality coffee and baked goods.

District Coffee Co.


Mack and I attended a friends and family event this afternoon, organized in anticipation of the café’s Monday, March 3, 2014 opening. The space has received a full makeover, including the installation of a long counter and ovens for the pastry staff.

District Coffee Co.

Assortment of pastries and truffles

The space has a limited number of seats, but I’d imagine the majority of District’s business will be grab and go. They are the first café to serve and offer Phil & Sebastian Coffee in Edmonton (our go-to roaster and café in Calgary), and will offer a small food menu including oatmeal, rice pudding, soup, salad, and pot pie. I sampled one of their addictive cinnamon buns, and satisfied my sweet tooth with their house made salted caramels.

District Coffee Co.

Phil & Sebastian Coffee

We also couldn’t leave without trying their lattes – smooth, creamy and of course, finished with latte art, you won’t be disappointed.

District Coffee Co.

We heart coffee!

We loved the little details too – like the antique brass date counter (set next to the iPad, naturally), and their set of Alberta collector spoons in place of the usual demitasse spoons.

District Coffee Co.District Coffee Co.

It is clear District is a labour of love. They are a welcome addition to the neighbourhood. Congrats to Nate and his team!

District Coffee Co.
#101, 10011 109 Street
(780) 705-7788
Monday-Friday 7am-5pm

Alberta Avenue Adventures: Elm Café and Deep Freeze Festival

It’s been some time since Mack and I have had a brunch date, so earlier today, we sought to rectify that. I caught an Elm Café tweet that their Alberta Avenue dining room would be hosting brunch this weekend; given we were heading to the Deep Freeze Festival later anyway, it made sense to start off our day there.

Although the Elm Café dining room doesn’t offer meals on a regular basis, they’re worth looking out for. Our last visit involved a variety of Austrian dumplings, and this time, a straightforward, but satisfying brunch menu.

The expansive windows also illuminated the room well, and its street-level windows lent itself to people watching.

Brunch at Elm's Dining Room

Dining room

Mack and I shared the buttermilk biscuit ($4), warmed and served with stone fruit jam and butter. If we hadn’t agreed to split the order initially, I think we would have wound up fighting over the scraps!

Brunch at Elm's Dining Room

Buttermilk biscuit

The caramel apple French toast ($14) was decidedly even richer with a layer of Irvings bacon. I loved the finishing touch of crisp matchstick apples.

Brunch at Elm's Dining Room

Caramel apple French toast

Mack’s corned beef hash ($14) was made up of some of his favourite things. He found the house-made corned beef particularly tasty, and appreciated the sweetness of the peppers.

Brunch at Elm's Dining Room

Corned beef hash

Allan (who was in the kitchen this morning) was sweet enough to make us an extra treat too.

Brunch at Elm's Dining Room

Mini tarts with yogurt and rhubarb compote

The leisurely brunch was just what we wanted – hopefully we can look forward to more festival meal pairings in the future!

Afterwards, we walked outside to explore the Deep Freeze Festival. Over the years, it has become our favourite winter festival – the range of activities appeal to visitors young and old, and with displays, games, music, and old fashioned outdoor fun, there is no shortage of things to see and do.

Deep Freeze Festival 2014

Cabane a sucre

Deep Freeze Festival 2014

Ice carvers at work

The festival organizers did a great job of improving the layout this year, by putting the thaw hut competition and deep freezer races right along 118 Avenue, encouraging even more walk-by traffic.

Deep Freeze Festival 2014

Dustin Bajer in his thaw hut entry (constructed with Paul Giang)

Deep Freeze Festival 2014

Deep freezer race!

As in past years as well, I appreciate that the audio of the indoor musical performances are piped outdoors, tying the different spaces together and providing a common soundtrack for the event.

Deep Freeze Festival 2014

The always popular ice slide

This year’s viking theme was visually prevalent throughout the festival, though I have to say my favourite incarnation was the stunning ice-carved viking ship that functioned as the outdoor concession stand.

Deep Freeze Festival 2014

Streetpole art

Deep Freeze Festival 2014

Ice bar

Kids at heart, Mack and I took advantage of the wagon rides, always a great vantage point to admire the neighbourhood’s tree-lined streets.

Deep Freeze Festival 2014

Beautiful horses

Deep Freeze Festival 2014

Wagon ride

Congratulations to the organizers for what looks to be another successful year!

Check out Mack’s post on Deep Freeze for a video overview of what to expect!

Austrian Dumpling Night at Elm Cafe

Mack’s Dad was in town last week for work, so we planned to have dinner together on Friday. When a call to one of the newest restaurants in the city yielded no prime time reservations, it was serendipitous for me to come across a tweet about a special supper being held at Elm Café. Allan Suddaby (one of Elm’s chefs), would be preparing an Austrian dumpling dinner at the café’s catering space on 118 Avenue. Though Mack and I have gotten to know Allan over the past few years by co-organizing Eat Alberta, we’ve never had the opportunity to enjoy a coherent meal he’s put together.

We’d been to the space before, but for an informal gathering. It’s been nicely redone by the Elm staff, sleek and modern with sparse enhancements and angled metal chairs.

Elm Cafe

Dining room

The set four-course menu was a very reasonable $30, not including drinks. We were able to choose from one of three entrees, so between our party, we were able to try every dish!

In a way, it felt like we were eating in Allan’s dining room, being treated to a meal he would prepare for himself at home. His straightforward style, highlighting good ingredients in comforting dishes was the perfect way to warm up on a chilly winter night.

The dinner began with a soup made of beef broth and thin strips of pancake. The pancake was more crepe-like than the fluffy versions served at breakfast, though cut in lengthy pieces, made it difficult for me to eat tastefully.

Elm Cafe


The salad plate was a combination of several different textures (a big hit with me!) – fresh tomato and cucumber, cabbage with strong notes of fennel and a potato salad sprinkled with dill.

Elm Cafe


Martin ordered the potato dumplings stuffed with ham and onions, then deep fried. As with the other entrees, it would be hard not to like anything deep fried (or in the case of the other dishes, baked with cheese or fried in butter).

Elm Cafe


We learned later that the bread dumpling was Allan’s personal favourite. He described it to be similar to a savoury bread pudding mixture that is boiled, then sliced and fried in butter. Served alongside a gravy-laden beef goulash, I could see why – they were a tastier accompaniment compared with a typical potato side, absorbing the sauce without losing its form. The celery leaves in the goulash were a beautiful touch.

Elm Cafe


Mack enjoyed his Austrian mac and cheese, but did comment that he would have liked a side dish similar to how our plates were presented.

Elm Cafe


The final course involved a stewed rhubarb served with a sweet dough and vanilla ice cream. Mack is not usually a fan of desserts, but really took to this one.

Elm Cafe


Our only minor quibble with the meal was the pacing. The kitchen was almost too efficient – the subsequent dishes were brought even before our previous plates were cleared. Four courses was a lot of food to consume in an hour!

It looks like Elm Café will be planning more one-off meals for the space. Follow them on Twitter to yourself apprised of the events. I look forward to attending other special events at this venue!

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait: Elm Cafe

Elm Cafe has been a long time coming for Nate Box. After an exhaustive search for a storefront, he was happy to announce in September 2009 that he had landed the space formerly occupied by Hulbert’s in McKernan/Belgravia. It would have allowed him to serve three square meals, in a neighbourhood bereft of good dining options, with ample patio seating. Unfortunately, negotiations fell through, and he was forced to start from scratch, again.

Nine months later, Elm Cafe finally found a home, and after a few weeks of renovations, transformed from an underutilized sandwich shop to a beautiful, modern space. Though it’s barely larger than a generous walk-in closet, it more than makes up for its small size with charm.

Elm Cafe

As the website states, Elm offers “take-away craft sandwiches, light fare, premium coffee and beverages.” With two seats along the bar and (hopefully) some outdoor seating later in the summer, it’s not hard to see that Elm focuses on grab-and-go food (menu here). By the time I reached Elm late in the afternoon, they were all sold out of sandwiches (by 1pm, apparently!), but you can take a look at Kelly’s blog for what to expect. Follow their Twitter account to find out what the daily sandwich and soup will be.

Bar seating

On the coffee front, Nate decided to go with 49th Parallel, a Vancouver-based roaster. He had travelled to #yvr in late May to learn more about the coffees, and for the first two days of Elm’s opening, has the privilege of hosting Sammy Piccolo, who placed second at the 2009 World Barista Championships.

Nate and Sammy

I was heading to Indulgence later that night, so ordered a straight brewed coffee for a light afternoon pick-me-up ($2.25). In all my excitement, I forgot to ask the origin of the beans, but I am happy to report that the coffee was full-bodied and smooth.

49th Parallel beans

Many congratulatory bouquets were on display (including a clever morel bouquet from Thea and Chad), and I think Nate deserves all the accolades for powering through and making Elm happen, even with all of the setbacks. With his passion for good food and community, I think Nate is on to something great.

More(l) well wishes

I can’t wait to go back and try the food.

Elm Cafe
#100, 10140 117 Street
(780) 756-3356
Monday-Wednesday 7am-5pm, Thursday-Friday 7am-7pm, Saturday 8am-4pm, closed Sundays