Date Night: Highlands Kitchen and Carriage Ride

I feel a bit sheepish posting this so late, especially because the restaurant has since changed hands. But Mack encouraged me to do so anyway, as it does provide a snapshot of a great neighbourhood-based date. Plus, the restaurant has turned over to another independent company, so the bones of the evening are still very much a possibility.

At the end of July, Mack and I took the bus over to the picturesque neighbourhood of Highlands, the only community in Edmonton that we know of where you can have dinner followed by a carriage ride.

We started our evening at Highlands Kitchen (which has since become the location of Creole Envie). This was our first visit since its transformation from Culina Highlands, but we understood the menu preserved the Eastern European comforts that had been its hallmark.

We chose to sit outside on the charming patio, lined with herb planters and shielded from the bustle of 112 Avenue. For dinner, as has become custom for us, we decided to share several dishes, all of which we enjoyed.

Highlands Kitchen


Mack’s favourite was the bacon wrapped dates ($10), swayed as he was by the sweet-salty touchstones. My favourite were the pork crepes ($12), featuring tender pulled pork in a Saskatoon berry BBQ sauce.

Highlands Kitchen

Bacon wrapped dates

Highlands Kitchen

Pulled pork crepes

The quinoa salad ($12) was also noteworthy, as it became the inspiration for several subsequent salads of my own. I loved the different textures in every bite – from crispy chickpeas to sweet cranberries and crunchy seeds.

Highlands Kitchen

Quinoa salad

For dessert, a simple but delicious pound cake topped with berries and a scoop of Pinocchio ice cream. Perfect for two to share.

Highlands Kitchen

Eating it too

After dinner, we headed up the block to Mandolin Books to pick up our reserved tickets for the horse-drawn wagon ride with Anjl Horse & Carriage Company. Those who have frequented the Alberta Avenue and Highlands Farmers’ Markets might be familiar with the proprietor behind Anjl – Arie Jol is a resident of Highlands, and vends meat and eggs under the banner of Ma-Be Farms.

The rides start from the bookstore on the last Friday of every month, approximately every half hour between 7-9pm. They take place year round, so long as the temperature holds above –15C. Our adult tickets were $10 (teens are $8, and seniors and children 12 and under are $5).

Highlands Horse & Carriage Ride

Anjl Horse & Carriage

The ride was a leisurely one, though perhaps not as educational as we would have hoped for. Arie isn’t a historian, but given he had been conducting these tours for some time, we thought he would have been able to answer more of our questions about the neighbourhood.

Highlands Horse & Carriage Ride

Sharing the road

Still, he did point out some neat features, such as plaques that had been put up on buildings in the area by the Highlands Historical Society, indicating the home’s original residents or business.

Highlands Horse & Carriage Ride

Plaque on Mandolin Books

As well, Arie made sure we were able to get a good look at the homes of Highlands’ founding fathers. One in particular, the Macgrath Mansion, is absolutely stunning.

Highlands Horse & Carriage Ride

Macgrath Mansion

That summer night, with the canopied streets in full bloom, Mack and I marvelled at how unique it was to be riding through the streets of Edmonton in a horse and carriage. Only in Highlands.

Highlands Horse & Carriage Ride


2010 Highlands Street Festival

I think street festivals – an event to highlight area businesses, to create a gathering space for neighbours and others, and to, in other words, celebrate a neighbourhood – are fantastic. Alberta Avenue’s Kaleido Festival (commemorating their fifth anniversary in 2010) and the East Meets West Festival (put on by Little Italy and Chinatown) are great examples of neighbourhood festivals.

When I stumbled upon details about the Highlands Street Festival (organized by the Highlands Community League) in a recent E-SAGE newsletter, I was surprised to read that this would be the fifth incarnation of the event. Centering at 112 Avenue and 65 Street, business, musicians and artists would be highlighted. Mack and I made plans to check it out after our weekly trip to the City Market on Saturday.

Between the abysmal weather, and an ETS bus completely passing us by at our stop, getting to Highlands was a bit harrowing. We eventually made it though, and found that thankfully, the festivities had continued in spite of the downpour.

Welcome to Highlands!

Festival central

Poor puppies

Most of the activities were relegated indoors. We started at Mandolin Books and Coffee Company, where a musician was entertaining a small crowd. We also happened to run into one of our old high school principals, who not only grew up in Highlands, but resides there still now. She’s been attending the festival since it began five years ago.

Inside Mandolin

We stopped in Sabrina Butterfly Designs and Chickies, a charming little antiques store. While we didn’t buy anything, it was the first time either of us had been inside these shops. The storekeepers were friendly, and very open to people just passing through to take a look.

Inside Sabrina Butterfly Designs and Chickies

Lovely connecting yard

I was most looking forward to visiting the retail location of Catfish Coffee, which just opened at the beginning of April (you can also buy their coffee every Saturday at the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market, and at Mandolin down the street). The shop is clean and spacious, with a full view of the roasting machine, and set up on that day with carafes of all of their coffee varieties available for patrons to sample (with collected donations going towards the 2011 Highlands Beautification Project).

Catfish Coffee

Roasting machine

Though the owners aren’t able to run a full-scale cafe in the space, it was set up that way on Saturday, complete with music provided by Kristilyn Robertson.

Enjoying the ambiance

It was great to chat with the staff (they’re hoping to extend their retail hours over the summer). Of course, we couldn’t leave without picking up a bag of coffee too – the Guatemalan Highlands variety seemed fitting.

Though I’ve been to Culina Highlands a few times, this was my first trek through its neighbouring businesses. I was glad to have the excuse of the Highlands Street Festival to do so! I’ll be sure to look for it next year.