Food Notes for May 23, 2022

Renovations to Bridge Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market into the Future

With its fortieth anniversary approaching, the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market is planning a slate of renovations that will make multi-day operations possible, something the market says both customers and vendors are asking for.

Keith Persaud, market manager, said the building’s history as a former City of Edmonton bus barn has made it difficult for the facility to meet current Alberta Health Services standards and that infrastructure upgrades are a prerequisite if the market were to ever consider becoming a multi-day operation.

“You need to have sinks for sampling and tastings and concession-type food,” said Persaud. “Our vendors have plastic bottles with a bucket.”

Changes to the local food ecosystem during the pandemic have also been a factor in moving renovations forward, given the proliferation of farmers’ markets over the past several years, and the rise in home delivery options. “The industry is changing, becoming more competitive,” said Persaud. “People don’t want to be in a room shoulder to shoulder with 15,000 people, they want more options to come on other days.”

Persaud notes that the shift to a younger cohort of vendors with a different approach has helped make the multi-day conversation possible.

“The new generation is not looking at what their mom and dad did. It’s not coming to the market and standing here. It’s ‘I make this, I hire people, and trucks go out,'” said Persaud. “There’s good and bad with that. You’re not meeting the owners like you used to. The upside is that the vendors are getting more opportunities to sell products and customers are getting more days to shop markets. It’s not as personal as it used to be, but that’s the way it’s going.”

When the proposed renovations — which will include redesigned vendor stalls — are complete, the market intends to open on Fridays from 11am-5pm and on Saturdays from 8am-3pm.

The market also plans to add a general store and a new kitchen and events space, both of which would operate seven days a week. The general store would sell vendor products during off-market hours, and would enable the market to expand its curbside pick-up service to seven days a week. Looking into the future, Persaud teased that a delivery option might even be on the table.

“We’ve talked about home delivery from the market — why couldn’t people call here for delivery if we had the general store? It’s not that hard to do any of that if we’re set up for it. We’re open to anything that is driven by the customers if we have the infrastructure.”

As for the kitchen, Persaud is excited about the possibilities. “The concession we will be one of the truest farm to table experiences. My chef is going to be shopping the market for everything he or she does. When it’s out, it’s out,” said Persaud.

Inspired by an idea he heard about in Red Deer, Persaud will also be looking into whether the entire market could be licensed. “Hopefully you can walk the market with a glass of wine in your hand,” said Persaud. “Why not? One doesn’t ask, one doesn’t get.”

The idea to activate the building seven days a week comes on the heels of questions about whether the lot across Gateway Boulevard should continue to be designated for parking (the market has a lease on the lot until 2025). Persaud could not speak to whether the plans are contingent upon access to free parking, but did confirm they are in ongoing conversations with the city.

“In an ideal world, I would like to tell you that we have that parking lot forever. We are working with the city, and everybody realizes what is needed in order for this vision to happen,” said Persaud. “People drive to the market, it is a destination. You can’t build a Safeway without a parking lot.”

The market has contracted Clark Builders to carry out its vision over the next 18 months at an estimated cost of $3 million dollars, funded through a mix of private and public funds. Construction would take place on days the market is not operational, and the intention is for vendors to continue with minimal disruption during this period.

“If everything goes according to plan, next year is our 40th anniversary and we’re looking to do a ribbon cutting in the fall during harvest time at the end of September,” said Persaud. “We just want to give people more energetic things for the next forty years.”

Openings

  • Seoul Fried Chicken’s second location, at 10145 104 Street, is now open.
  • Takopo is a new food truck on Edmonton’s streets, offering “one of a kind takoyaki…just like the way it is being served on the streets of Osaka.”
  • A second location of Westgate Halal is now open at 12512 137 Avenue.

Upcoming Events

Local News

Urban Agriculture and Farming

  • It’s such great news that Stanley Milner now hosts a free-to-access Seed Library – check it out if you’re looking at planting this season (or have seeds to share or donate after you’re done planting for the season).

What I Ate

  • I picked up some breakfast sandwiches from Pei Pei Chei Ow at Whiskeyjack Art House last week. They included pesto, greens, 2 eggs, and mortadella. And bonus, while you wait, you can check out the “We are Medicine” exhibition by Lana Whiskeyjack. It was their third week serving food; they are open 7:30am-4:30pm on weekdays. I’ll be swinging by again to try some other sandwiches soon!
  • Pei Pei Chei Ow

Pei Pei Chei Ow Breakfast Sandwich

  • We feasted on take-out from Padmanadi (with a side of Burmese pork curry from Hom) on Friday. Their ginger beef never disappoints, but we also really enjoyed the salt and pepper tofu, which was new to us.
  • Padmanadi

Padmanadi (and Hom) take-out

  • We’ve been in the thick of Oilers fever living so close to Rogers Place, and have taken every opportunity to walk through Ice District on viewing party nights. Last week, we were lucky enough to be treated to some Jackie O’s on our way through, our first mini donuts of the season!
  • Jackie O’s

Excited for mini donuts!

  • We also took in the first period at Churchill Square’s family-friendly viewing party over the weekend, and couldn’t pass up some El Mero Mero tacos during the visit.
  • El Mero Mero

Pescado tacos from El Mero Mero

Food Notes for May 16, 2022

Edmonton Urban Farm Continues to Grow

After a year of significant expansion, the Edmonton Urban Farm continues to grow, as staff plan to add infrastructure, further diversify its community of farmers and open its doors to the public on a regular basis.

Established in 2014, the Edmonton Urban Farm is made up of two acres and is located at 113 Avenue and 79 Street. In addition to garden plots, the Urban Farm is also home to one bee hive and six egg-laying hens. The goal of the Urban Farm is to connect people to food and farming within the city, explained Jessie Radies, director with Explore Edmonton.

“The urban farm is a community hub for urban agriculture, education and sustainability,” said Radies. “It’s also a thriving example of how surplus urban lands can be used to build connections and enhance local food security.”

With the dissolution of Northlands in 2021, Explore Edmonton took over the management of the Urban Farm. In that same year, the Urban Farm was able to double in size thanks to grant funding from the United Way and the Butler Family Foundation. Last month, it was announced that the Urban Farm would receive nearly $100,000 from Prairies Economic Development Canada to further enhance the property.

“This project encompasses the expansion that happened last year, which expanded the urban farm by 30,000 square feet”, said Radies. “It will also allow us to add infrastructure to extend our growing season and provide a shaded area for visitors to protect from heat and rain.”

The Urban Farm allocates plots to partner community groups, and this year, will involve over three hundred people from 20 different groups. Groups include Homeward Trust, Right at Home Housing Society, Student Association of MacEwan University, and Wild Outside. But Patty Milligan, agriculture education specialist, shared that the largest number of their new groups are made up of newcomers to Canada, connected with the Urban Farm through the Multicultural Health Brokers.

“Some are experienced gardeners or farmers, some are brand new to gardening in general, and some are brand new to gardening in Alberta,” said Milligan. “We’ll be helping gardeners become familiar with the unique requirements of Alberta’s climate.”

The participating newcomers represent a diverse number of cultural communities, including Afghan, Filipino, Karen, Eritrean, Ethiopian, Somali, Syrian, South Sudanese, and Vietnamese.

“Groups appreciate being able to grow specific vegetables that are not easily found in Edmonton supermarkets, or, if they are, they are very expensive,” said Milligan. “One group grew three different kinds of bok choy last year. Several groups appreciated being able to harvest pumpkin leaves, amaranth, and bean leaves. I suspect those varieties will expand in the coming year.”

As all plots were already spoken for earlier in the year, it is clear interest from prospective gardeners continues to be strong. Milligan cites a number of factors, such as a desire to gather with other members of the community, and an appetite to gain gardening knowledge and skills. However, food security and safety have also played a role.

“Many gardeners have commented on the expense of fresh vegetables and appreciate being able to walk away from the Urban Farm with a bag full of tomatoes or kale,” said Milligan. “People also want to be able to gather in a safe space, both safe from COVID, and also safe from racism. One gardener mentioned that seniors from their community don’t always feel welcome when they visit public spaces.”

For the first time, the Urban Farm will be open to the public every Saturday from 10am-4pm from May 21 until Oct. 8. Visitors can opt for a self-guided walk, or join scheduled activities to be posted on their website.

Milligan is looking forward to what this season will bring. “This will be a year of much energy and change and I am excited to see the results. I also hope that we start to be noticed as a model – there should be urban farms all over the city!”

Openings

  • Takam Market at MacEwan University is adding another concept called Big Sky Sandwich. It launched on May 16, 2022.
  • A branch of Good Earth Coffeehouse is now open at The Maclaren at 10147 124 Street.

Closures

  • District’s Young and Restless Pizza pop-up is now closed, but they left the door slightly open for the future.
  • Burger Brawl announced their closure last week. Their last day of operation was May 14, 2022.

Upcoming Events

  • Swine and Dine returns on May 31, 2022 to Hayloft Steak and Fish. Tickets for the 3-course meal, featuring Irvings Farm pork, are $68 each.
  • This summer, Alberta Food Tours is bringing back a limited run of their Savoury and Sweet Strathcona food tours. Tickets are $95 and include a sit down brunch and four food tasting stops.

Local News

  • Too Good To Go, an app that helps divert food waste by connecting consumers with discounted food that would otherwise be thrown out, is coming to Edmonton. The app is currently live in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Quebec City, and Calgary.
  • Western Living announced their ten short-listed 2022 Foodies of the Year, and two Edmontonians made it: Omar Mouallem for his Burger Baron documentary, and Scott Iserhoff of Pei Pei Chei Ow.
  • Linda’s #AdoptAShopAB list is up, and features 50 Edmonton (and 50 Calgary) businesses ready to adopt. Sign up to commit spending at least $25 from May 16-30, 2022 at one of these local independent shops.
  • Also from Linda, she hits up several brunch favourites in Edmonton, and visits third-generation owned Bing’s #1 Chinese Restaurant in Stony Plain.
  • The Public has partnered with the Capital Care Foundation to offer a Feast on Your Field experience at home, with pre-order kits available for pick-up this week from Highlands Golf Club, Royal Glenora Club, and Meuwly’s.
  • NAIT released a patio guide featuring restaurants run by NAIT grads.
  • Battista’s Calzones reopened this weekend after repairing damages sustained in a fire.
  • DRTY Ice Cream has faced several set backs this year, but owner Abby Ulanimo is persevering.
  • The Culinary Cook-Off was held this past weekend, to benefit the arts program at Highlands School. Congratulations to the winning teams, including the Highlands Golf Club, Von’s, Bloom, and Red Balloon Sweet Co.
  • Edify checked out the hot dogs at Pub 1905.
  • Edify also chatted with the owners of Blue Plate Diner and Northern Chicken as they struggle to keep up with rising canola oil prices.
  • St. Albert follows in Edmonton’s footsteps in permitting alcohol consumption in specific park sites starting in July.

What I Ate

    • We picked up dinner from Nourishak on Friday night. They have a cute and charming interior with cozy nooks, but we opted for take-out. My sous-vide chicken sandwich was satisfying (I liked the crunch from their house-made potato chips), and both Mack and Emily loved the addictive seaweed chips. Their lemonades were also great – I can see us returning for cold drinks on a hot day!

Nourishak

Take-out from Nourishak

    • We indulged in some Little Bear Gelato after our market run at the Edmonton Downtown Farmers’ Market on Sunday. It was the perfect day to enjoy a sweet treat in the sun – I love their Belgian chocolate flavour.

Little Bear Gelato

Belgian chocolate gelato from Little Bear

Food Notes for May 9, 2022

Openings

  • Pei Pei Chei Ow started serving breakfast and lunch take-out at Whiskeyjack Art House in early May. They are open Wednesday to Friday 8am-3pm. Find them at #102, 11051 97 Street.
  • Nuttea, specializing in nut-based “mylk tea”, hosted their grand opening on May 7, 2022 at 8204 Gateway Blvd.
  • It looks like Japonais Bistro will be opening a second location in Windermere.
  • Vish is opening up its first Canadian franchise location at 10326 124 Street. Their concept is an “urban hummus bar”.
  • Serengeti BBQ, serving up East African cuisine, is now open at 8815 118 Avenue.
  • Y-Not Indian Bar & Bistro, focused on Indo-Chinese and Nepalese cuisine, opened on May 4, 2022 at 3311 34 Street.
  • The Golden Spoon, serving South Asian food, opened recently at 3820 17 Street.
  • Gigi’s, a “walk-up window ice cream shop creating ice cream inspired by cheesecake”, opened in Spruce Grove this weekend.

Closures

  • After 18 years in business, the owners of Langano Skies has announced that they will be closing in late June. It may not be the last we see of Amsale and Paul Sumamo: “While this may be sad news to some, please understand this is not a final goodbye – but a “see you later”…We’re hoping to continue serving our food at Edmonton’s summer festivals & have some extremely exciting plans in the works – so be sure to keep your eyes peeled!”

Upcoming Events

  • The Backyard is hosting a live music series that starts called For the Love of Downtown. It starts May 19, 2022 and runs every Thursday into September, and admission is free by donation to local charities, and food from partner restaurants will be available during the events.

Local News

Urban Agriculture and Farming

  • Did you know that Canada is celebrating the Year of the Garden in 2022? People are encouraged to plant something red to celebrate their pride.

What I Ate

  • Mack and I stopped by Hoang Long’s third location, in the former Al Centro space (9892 Jasper Avenue), last week for some iced Vietnamese coffees. We found out they make their own doughnuts and macarons in-house, and also serve Flirt Cupcakes. Their signage could use some work, but they are open Monday to Saturday 10am-6pm.
  • Hoang Long 888

Sweet treats from Hoang Long 888

  • Mack and I had a date night at Dalla Tavola Zenari on Friday! We had a lovely meal (the lasagna would have been big enough to share) with great service. I am looking forward to returning, hopefully on the patio!
  • Dalla

Lasagna bianca and salsicce crostoni from Dalla

  • Comfort in a bowl from Kasey Ramen was the perfect way to start off the week.
  • Kasey Ramen

Kitakata ramen from Kasey Ramen

Food Notes for May 2, 2022

Fu’s Repair Shop Aims to Celebrate Chinese Culture

The folks behind a new bar and restaurant called Fu’s Repair Shop hope it can showcase Chinese culture in a different way.

Since opening in early April in the former Prairie Fish and Chips space, partner and head chef Winnie Tsing Chen says the response from guests has been overwhelmingly positive. “I think Edmonton has been needing a place like this for a very long time now, and we are so glad to be able to provide it,” said Chen.

Fu’s is a project spearheaded by Chen and four individuals who co-own The Common and 9910, which includes Justin Der, who separately also owns the clothing store Foosh. The establishment’s name, which obscures the fact that food or drink will be served, is deliberate and is connected to some of Der’s family heirlooms.

“Who is Fu? It’s a mystery just like our repair shop exterior,” said Chen. “‘Fu’ is also a double nod to the Cantonese word for fortune or good luck. A framed swatch of the character hangs on Justin’s family wall, saved from the baby carrier used for Justin’s dad 70 years ago.”

Fu’s seems to be joining a national trend of hip, Asian-inspired restaurants that have popped up in other cities across Canada over the past decade, such as DaiLo in Toronto, and more recently, Gwailo in Calgary. But for Chen, the impetus for Fu’s was much simpler.

“The inspiration behind Fu’s was just wanting to open a fun place … that serves fun, delicious food that we want to eat and cook, serve drinks that we want to make and drink, in a place where we would want to hang out,” said Chen. “We love dim sum and Chinese food, and we wanted it for more than just brunch.”

The food menu will be familiar to those who have frequented dim sum restaurants, including dumplings, rice rolls, and lotus-wrapped sticky rice, but it also features some more fusion-style dishes, such as five-spice duck tacos and green onion cake panzanella salad (as a fun aside, the food items are all priced to end with .88; the number eight is considered lucky in Chinese culture).

Chen shared that the menu is both a practical compilation but also an homage to what she has enjoyed eating over the years. “The dim sum is basically a ‘greatest hits’ of our combined favourites, keeping in mind what is achievable given our budget, kitchen size, team, and equipment availability. And the rest of the menu is things I was inspired by during our mini food trip to Vancouver back in January, some personal favourites, and other delicious dishes from some personal travels from when I was young.”

One of Chen’s family recipes also made the cut. “My proudest dish has to be Mr. Chen’s beef noodle bowl, just because it is my dad’s personal beef and soup recipe,” said Chen. “My family used to have a noodle shop in Chinatown when I was younger and that was my favourite dish that my dad would make. I’m really happy to be able to bring it back. It also makes me really happy to see him smile when I get to tell him about how we’ve sold out of soup on a particular day.”

On the drinks side, social media has been buzzing about Fu’s boozy bubble tea. “I think I’m lucky that while everyone else spent their lockdown downtime making sourdough, my girlfriend and I spent our time mastering boba and cheese foam,” laughs Chen. “While our food menu leans heavily Chinese, we wanted our cocktail menu to be more pan-Asian just to open up the options for ingredients and flavour profiles we can explore.”

Fu’s has allowed Chen to build on her personal connection with Chinatown through the intentional sourcing of ingredients.

“My parents were immigrants to Canada and I grew up in the Boyle Street area, just blocks away from Chinatown, so Chinatown has always felt like home to me,” said Chen. “We use Delta for our rice noodles, and I go to United Grocers, 99 Supermarket, and Hiep Thanh to pick up our produce, dry goods, and spices. I’m really hoping this can be my platform to contribute my part to support Chinatown and its businesses and revitalization.”

Due in part to Fu’s unconventional exterior and how it leans into some Chinese tropes in décor, there have been some questions about whether the restaurant could be seen as commodifying Chinese culture. Chen believes those who visit Fu’s for themselves will see what they are trying to achieve.

“I never thought for once, ‘Hey, I think we can make lots of money off Chinese food or Chinese culture.’ My goal with the menu is to share some of my favourite Chinese dishes, but also just have fun with the menu and enjoy what I cook. We just want to let the food and experience speak for itself, and I think that in itself is the essence of celebrating the culture.”

Chen is optimistic that Fu’s could act as a bridge for guests to further explore Chinese culture, including through visiting businesses in Chinatown.

“I would really like diners to leave the experience wondering, ‘What else is out there? Where did this come from?’ And even though I may have been inspired by hip and trendy places around the world, I’m also trying to translate my memories of family vacations, home-cooked meals from my parents and grandma, and childhood memories of my favourite restaurants in Chinatown that are sadly no longer in business,” she said.

“That food and that vibe, even though not visually the same as Fu’s, is a feeling I’m trying to recreate with the food and experience.”

Openings

Closures

Upcoming Events

  • 11 Edmonton area restaurants are participating in Le Pizza Week from May 1-14, 2022.
  • EdmontonEats will be hosting a new series called World Community Feasts at Avonmore Community League, starting with their first event on May 13, 2022. Cindy Lazarenko will share recipes from her Ukrainian roots. Tickets are $25 each.
  • Ice District will be hosting tailgate parties during the Oilers’ playoff run.

Local News

Urban Agriculture and Farming

What I Ate

  • I am really hoping local meal kits, possibly my favourite pandemic pivot, continue to thrive. We tried Momma Tong’s frozen bun bo hue kit that we picked up at the Chinatown Transformational Collaborative pop-up at the Edmonton Downtown Farmers’ Market back in February. Although the noodles took longer to cook than I was expecting (I probably should have pre-soaked the noodles), the soup had great flavour and it made for a great lunch.
  • Momma Tong’s

Momma Tong’s Bun Bo Hue

  • For lunch at Dagu Rice Noodle with Linda last week, I tried one of their crossing the bridge soups for the first time! The do-it-yourself process felt a little like having an individual hot pot, and having access to unlimited noodles was a nice bonus.
  • Dagu Rice Noodle

Crossing the bridge soups from Dagu

  • The return of fair weather also means the return of picnics! We dined on take-out from Backstairs Burger, including the Chip Shop Sammich.
  • 5th Street Food Hall

Chip Shop Sammich and fries from Backstairs Burger

  • We tried Banh Mi Cali for the first time on the weekend. We shared the charbroiled beef and charbroiled pork banh mi. The bread was outstanding, and though it was pricier than #yegchinatown competitors, they were pretty satisfying sandwiches.
  • Banh Mi Cali

Our Banh Mi Cali order

Food Notes for April 25, 2022

Felice Café Embraces Local at Stadium Yards

The founders of Felice Café, a new café and market located near Commonwealth Stadium, are hoping their love for local is infectious.

Felice (the musical term for “happy”), which opened on April 25, is the brainchild of couple Michelle and Tim Brouwer.

In addition to serving drinks and treats, Felice features a market where local vendors can display and sell their products for a flat monthly fee. This support of entrepreneurs extends to allowing participating businesses to access a devoted loft space at Felice where they can network, have meetings, and host classes.

“I just wanted to create a place where local businesses can come together and support each other better,” said Michelle Brouwer. “Across my vendors, under this one roof, the support they’re offering each other is overwhelming.”

So far, Felice has partnered with 20 local companies, ranging from food to personal goods. The café side will serve locally-sourced products to enjoy on-site, in addition to housing items from the same brands for customers to buy for at-home consumption. The companies include Bakenary, Benny’s Bread, Caramunchies, DRTY Ice Cream, The Cove Tea Company, Mala Foods, Mama Han Pastries, Maestro’s Empanadas, and On the Edge Coffee.

“We purchase items wholesale and don’t rebrand,” said Brouwer. “We sell everything under that local business’s name. We want them to increase their sales, and assume the food wastage costs on our end.”

Felice is the Brouwer’s first foray into food and hospitality and came as a result of the pandemic.

“I was raised in an entrepreneurial family as my mom owned a local home decor store,” said Michelle Brouwer. “I worked in health care and never owned a business before. I took stock of my life during COVID and thought about my passions. Music and love of local were the main things. A café seemed to fit the model where I could wrap all of these passions in.”

Michelle & Tim Brouwer
Michelle and Tim Brouwer of Felice Café

With 3,100 square feet of space, Felice has ample room for its owners’ ambitions. Inside there are 35 seats, and outside two patios are currently under construction, with licensing in process. “You can have your coffee in the sun in the morning and beer in the sun in the afternoon,” said Brouwer.

In the near future, a series of after-dark events under the Felice Noir banner will offer entertainment.

“We have a professional sound system that musicians can plug into and play,” said Brouwer. “Anyone who wants to perform — musicians, slam poets, comedians — will have an opportunity. We love local talent and wanted to give them another avenue.”

The café is located at Stadium Yards, a rental development built by Rohit Communities. In February 2020, Rohit organized a high-profile competition called “The Cut” to fill the commercial unit, but the pandemic ultimately sidelined the winner of that contest. When the Brouwer’s original space fell through, they were overjoyed to come across the unit at Stadium Yards, and thought it fit well with their vision.

“Rohit really wanted a community-focused business that serves the community,” said Michelle Brouwer. “It’s kind of a food desert in this area. We want to be that community anchor and hangout spot.”

Brouwer shared that the young professionals that make up most of the tenants at Stadium Yards are their target demographic, and in recent weeks, many residents have expressed excitement about the forthcoming opening. But she said Felice also hopes to attract Edmontonians from elsewhere, too.

“It’s close to public transportation,” said Brouwer. “It’s close to the stadium. People who park nearby and are going to an event will stumble upon us.”

Brouwer believes that Felice represents some of the best of what Edmonton has to offer. “Felice was born out of a love of wanting to support local, and I think we need more of this. All of my vendors are sharing their passions. It’s infectious.”

Openings

Local News

What I Ate

  • Mack and I finally made it to Stopgap Coffee – it’s a charming, bright space that offers some great coffee!
  • Stopgap Coffee

Our drinks from Stopgap Coffee

  • We had some Friday night Thai from Viphalay.
  • Viphalay

Take-out from Viphalay

Food Notes for April 18, 2022

Nourishak Switches Gears for Downtown Crowd

Korean-fusion restaurant Nourishak recently relocated their restaurant from the west end to Downtown, and in the process, is revamping their menu to suit a different population.

Kiwook Lee, marketing director with Nourishak, shared that their intension is to provide a bridge to Korean cuisine. “Our goal is not just selling Korean foods but to build a strong formula that can convince and open minds to enjoy Korean recipes,” said Lee. “Even though K-culture is moving into the mainstream, Korean foods are not always a comfortable choice.”

Nourishak first opened in the west in April 2021, and functioned as a “testbed” as they better understood which menu items did well. “We served Korean authentic food menu such as Korean BBQ, including bulgogi, kalbi, and dakalbi, and also K-donair with Korean BBQ meat and sauce,” said Lee. “The menu received great feedback from our customers so we made a decision to run more menus like donairs with Korean recipes.”

In February, Nourishak relocated Downtown, and over the past few months, have been working to build up a customer base. Some of their fans have followed them from their previous location, but Lee is optimistic that the foot traffic Downtown will continue to increase. “We believe the pandemic is at the end of the corner and workers are starting to come back,” said Lee. “The area of our cafe has a lot of professional and engineer workers around. We are taking our own pace by carefully observing the customers’ needs and trying to build a strong set up for our business.”

Nourishak will be introducing a vegan menu shortly in response to the trends they have observed, and will also be opening up a patio as the weather permits.

Lee is hopeful that Nourishak can play a role in introducing more Edmontonians to Korean culture. “We believe more people are open to knowing about Korean culture and we hope to introduce Korean recipes and let the people find the joy and beauty in them.”

Openings

  • Fu’s Repair Shop has taken over the Prairie Fish and Chips space (9902 109 Street) and is offering dim sum brunch, dumplings, and cocktails.
  • Hoang Long’s third location, Hoang Long 888, is now open at 9892 Jasper Avenue.
  • Mario’s Poutine & Pizzeria is now open at 8943 82 Avenue (the former Cheese Factory restaurant location).
  • Stuffies Pastries Cafe, a BC-based chain, hosted their grand opening this past weekend. They specialize in custard-stuffed pastries. Find them at West Edmonton Mall
  • Oodle Noodle has opened a new location in Fort Saskatchewan at 110, 9382 Southfort Road.

Closures

Upcoming Events

  • Biera, Garneau Block, and Little Duchess are hosting a joint pop-up at Ritchie Market on April 23, 2022 to showcase natural wines and some snacks.
  • Kasey Ramen is hosting their second pop-up at District Cafe on April 24-25, 2022. Their first pop-up sold out, so if you’re interested, make sure you jump on the tickets when they become available.
  • Save the date for the ninth annual Culinary Arts Cook-off, which supports arts programming at Highlands School. The event will take place on May 14, 2022 and will highlight cookies.
  • Join Linda Hoang for a Jane’s Walk in Chinatown on May 8, 2022. Registration is required.

Local News

  • 124 Market is gearing up for the 2022 season, and announced they will be expanding into a third location this summer. On Saturdays from June 5 – October 8, the 124 Market can be found at Manchester Square.
  • Taproot featured the couple behind Stopgap Coffee, and has an update about the progress being made in the Barto Residence which will eventually house Vintage Fork.
  • Chicken King, which has been open for about a year at 10951 101 Street, is worth seeking out, says Boyle McCauley News.
  • Linda’s most recent Lindork Does Life vlog showcases Ernest’s at NAIT.
  • Blues on Whyte opened their expanded patio last summer without the proper permits, and will likely now have to close it as it puts them over their allotted capacity.
  • On a related note, the City opened their Summer Patio Program to enable businesses to “create safe and accessible spaces for everyone.”
  • Kind Ice Cream’s Highlands location just celebrated their first birthday.
  • Edmonton-based Tiffin Fresh Kitchen will be opening up an outpost in Kelowna soon.
  • Hungry Zine’s Issue 02 is now out.
  • The Journal highlighted several local “anti-foodie foodies” who have sprung up as a response to food influencers, including Ramneek Singh, Salvador Garcia of Fat Sal, and Brotherhood of Plates.
  • John Williams of Blue Plate Diner will be stepping back from the day-to-day responsibilities at the restaurant.
  • The new Roxy Theatre features a kitchen named after long-time supporter Gail Hall.
  • This week’s episode of Let’s Do Coffee involves a chat with MilkCrate’s Steven Brochu and how he kept his business going during the pandemic.
  • The latest episode of Let’s Meet For a Beer features Peter Keith of Meuwly’s.

What I Ate

  • After what felt like a long week, we decided to kick off the start of the long weekend with pizza from High Dough. No regrets.
  • High Dough

Pizza for days from High Dough

  • It’s hard to avoid Mini Eggs at this time of year, and I happily indulged this season. The Mini Egg donut at Farrow hit the spot this weekend.
  • Farrow

Mini Egg donut from Farrow

Food Notes for April 11, 2022

Ghost Kitchen Incubator Markt Brands to Launch this Fall

Markt Brands has leased a 10,000-square-foot space in south Edmonton to house up to 25 ghost kitchens, offering food entrepreneurs a chance to get into the restaurant business at a lower cost and with less hassle.

The space at 99 Street and 34 Avenue, which will be carved into bays of 200 square feet each, is set to launch in October. Markt CEO Kyle Ferbey said his experience in the food industry over the past two years led to the idea.

“We’ve seen two big trends in the pandemic,” said Ferbey, who separately operates 16 Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen franchises in Edmonton. “The first is a shift to a delivery-based model. Our delivery numbers at Popeyes increased from 3% to 20%. Second, there are rising costs that make it more difficult to start and operate a restaurant.”

Markt’s model is similar to CloudKitchens, an American-based startup that operates in more than two dozen states and recently launched in Toronto. Markt vendors will pay $5,000 a month for basics like rent, utilities, and pest control, as well as marketing support, third-party delivery app coordination, and securing other backbone services such as accounting at competitive rates. Ferbey compares this overhead cost to an estimated $500,000 to launch a conventional brick-and-mortar restaurant.

“The goal is to eliminate a lot of the major challenges to open a restaurant and set them up as a success,” said Ferbey. “I think there’s a lot of that out there, people who are too afraid to start a restaurant because it’s too financially risky. If someone comes to us and has really great food, we can help them create something great by eliminating the hassles and headaches.”

So far, Markt has nine confirmed vendors, whose concepts include Chinese, Filipino, Thai, burgers, and vegan food.

“We have a mix of people who have never owned a restaurant in their lives to people who have owned restaurants and want to try a new concept, and one gentleman who wants to expand a concept,” said Ferbey. “One woman is currently working at 7-Eleven and has always dreamed about opening a restaurant. We are taken aback that she trusts us.”

Nghia Truong and his wife Nin are among the vendors who have already signed on to Markt. Along with his parents, Nghia ran Sweet Mango and then its successor, Mini Mango, for 13 years. Due to health-related challenges, the family decided to sell the business in 2020, but they are now looking to get back into the hospitality industry in a different way.

“Being a restaurant owner is one of the most challenging ordeals,” said Truong. “When you’re putting your heart and soul into making the best product, and if you have a young family, it makes it even harder. When we first opened Mini Mango, my son wasn’t even one yet. It took a lot of years of sacrifice and time away from my kids to make it work.”

Truong has known Ferbey for more than a decade as a regular customer at Mini Mango, and he’s keen on letting Markt do the heavy lifting so he and Nin can concentrate on the food. They’re considering up to three concepts for their ghost kitchen: a scaled-down version of Mini Mango, offering vermicelli bowls and banh mi sandwiches, a drink concept featuring Vietnamese coffee with boba, and packaged Vietnamese cakes.

“Anyone with a food concept can just focus on making food,” said Truong. “They cover all of the maintenance and nuances of running a restaurant, and the startup will be one-tenth of the traditional restaurant. It’s much more feasible and realistic.”

Truong was also swayed by Markt’s vision for expansion. If successful, Ferbey’s intention is to build additional locations in Edmonton and, eventually, throughout the country.

“By expanding our footprint, it gives vendors an option to rapidly expand their brands across Canada,” said Ferbey. “If we have 25 locations in Canada, people could licence their brand across Canada within a matter of months.”

But it will all come down to good food. “We look at it as a restaurant incubator with people who want to share incredible food with the world,” said Ferbey. “Food brings us together.”

COVID-19-related News

Openings

  • El Corazon, a Mexican restaurant located in the West Block Glenora (14101 West Block Drive, #150), opened last week.
  • Burger Daddy is now open at 4351 167 Avenue.

Upcoming Events

  • The Lions Club is hosting a wine and cheese tasting fundraiser on April 30, 2022 at the St. John’s Cultural Centre. Tickets are $65.
  • Urban Pedal Tours start up in April, with public and private tours now available to be booked.
  • Chef Table Living announced their new season of Food Bike Tours, running May 7-September 24, 2022. Tickets start at $139 per person, and each include stops at four businesses.

Local News

What I Ate

  • We had a lovely time last week at our favourite staycation getaway, Prairie Creek Inn. I always look forward to their breakfasts and it’s such a treat to be able to eat outdoors in the spring.
  • Prairie Creek Inn

Hot breakfast from Prairie Creek Inn

  • We also stopped by Rocky Mountain House and grabbed some take-out from Cucina, a restaurant offering Korean and Italian dishes on the same menu. I really enjoyed their bulgogi poutine.
  • Cucina

Bulgogi poutine from Cucina

Food Notes for April 4, 2022

Pandemic Pivot High Dough Becomes Permanent Fixture

High Dough, the Detroit-style pizza pivot from Three Boars, celebrated two milestones this past week: it commemorated its second birthday amidst opening up a second restaurant.

Pizza was never meant to be a long-term solution when High Dough was born in March 2020, said chef and co-owner Brayden Kozak.

“Transitioning to High Dough in the moment was a temporary plan while we weathered the storm of COVID, but that just never ended. Any chance of opening back up for dine-in just seemed so far that we kept rolling with High Dough. But we were happy with how quickly it took off, and we eventually wanted to look for a more suitable permanent location.”

Although the Three Boars space in Garneau has housed High Dough for two years, it hasn’t been ideal. The ovens at the restaurant weren’t meant for pizza, and as a result, the cook times were lengthy, and they often had to cap orders as a result. “We just couldn’t maximize our outputs at the Garneau location,” said Kozak.

After some shopping around, they settled on a space across from Strathcona High School, which in a previous life had been a commissary for local chain Royal Pizza. They installed high output ovens, and they have access to a larger garage door to easily receive sizable supply orders.

“It was necessary that this location could absorb the business from Garneau,” said Kozak. “We were really focused on this location being designed for high-volume delivery more than dine-in and pickup.”

As was the case with Garneau, the Strathcona branch offers counter service only, but the larger space made it possible to install four booths for seating. It will also sell pizza by the slice, but likely just at lunch. If all goes well, Kozak said, High Dough will open additional locations in the future, taking a page out of the playbook for Farrow, which he also co-owns.

The Garneau storefront will continue to operate as a High Dough for the time being, but not forever, Kozak shared.

“It is a highly underutilized restaurant space, and we want to get back into the groove to have a fully dine-in restaurant,” said Kozak. “But the High Dough concept doesn’t work in that space. The tables are small, and with the cook times on the pizza, who wants to sit there for 45 minutes to wait for pizza to show up?”

However, fans of Three Boars will be disappointed to learn that it will likely not return. “It’s probably going to be something else,” said Kozak. “For me personally, I’ve had two years to grieve the death of Three Boars. Three Boars had a time and a place, and the people who worked there made it what it was. To try and reopen that place from scratch doesn’t feel right.”

He doesn’t have a specific timeline in mind, but is hopeful that the shift will happen within the year.

At the very least, Kozak is looking forward to being able to interact with diners again soon.

“I miss hosting people. A large part of the job is creating an atmosphere that people want to come and enjoy. The bar and the patio was my favourite spot in Three Boars. It feels strange with no one in there.”

Openings

  • Calgary-based PACT Coffee is now open at 10370 82 Avenue (formerly a Starbucks).
  • High Dough’s second location in Strathcona, at 7341 104 Street, is now open.
  • Yomie’s Yogurt, offering an “authentic natural yogurt drink”, is opening on April 9 at 10746 82 Avenue.
  • American-based chain Dickey’s Barbecue Pit is opening in Edmonton on April 21, 2022 at 5125 Mullen Road.

Upcoming Events

  • Sorrentino’s annual Garlic Festival celebrates its 30th year for the month of April, and returns with garlic cooking classes, wine dinners, and a special garlic-focused menu.
  • The Century Grill concept (which closed many years ago) is taking over Hart’s Table on April 14, 2022.
  • Chef Table Living will be hosting 118 Food Walk Tours from April 16-May 7, 2022. Tickets are $82.

Local News

Beyond Edmonton

  • Calgary hosted a “pay what you want” market that aimed to reduce stigma of food insecurity by posting suggested prices but allowing customers the opportunity to anonymously pay what they’re able to.

What I Ate

  • Our first Downtown Dining Week meal saw Mack and I sharing two different $20 deals (the beauty of take-out)! – the Stonair from Farrow and my favourite Hangover Burger from Jack’s Burger Shack. Mack loved the Doritos crunch on the sandwich, and waffle buns are a fun novelty. By combining combos we also got to split fries, a milkshake and dessert.
  • Downtown Dining Week

Farrow and Jack’s Burger Shack Downtown Dining Week features

  • Our next Downtown Dining Week meal was another mash-up to enable us to try more restaurants: Tiffin, Dagu, and Smoke BBQ. The portions at all three restaurants were massive, and my family all had leftovers to take home. We were especially impressed with the burnt ends from Smoke BBQ, and continue to be impressed by how crispy their fries remain after being carted home in a box.
  • Downtown Dining Week

Take-out for four adults(!) from Downtown Dining Week

  • It might be the best Downtown Dining Week deal this year – 2 breakfast sandwiches and 2 coffees from District Cafe for $20. So delicious (hard to argue with either truffle mushroom or bacon and egg), and it was even tastier enjoyed in the sunshine.
  • District Cafe

Breakfast sandwiches from District Cafe

Food Notes for March 28, 2022

Downtown Dining Week Returns

Downtown Dining Week, an annual event organized by the Edmonton Downtown Business Association (EDBA), returns as more staff are anticipated to resume working in offices.

Running March 30 – April 10, 2022, this iteration sees a record sixty restaurants participating. A dozen establishments are involved for the first time, including several restaurants that opened during the pandemic such as 5th Street Food Hall, Envie, Jack’s Burger Shack, and May. Restaurants range from fast casual eateries to more formal dining options, offering multi-course dinner, lunch, and brunch menus for $20, $35, $50, and $65.

The focus of this year’s event is on staff returning to the core. “Many workers returning to the office are looking forward to socializing with their coworkers and going for lunch at an old favourite or new spot,” said Tracy Hyatt, marketing and communications manager with the EDBA. “If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that people crave that face-to-face interaction and restaurants are so important for socializing.”

Last year’s Downtown Dining Week coincided with the start of indoor dining restrictions, so the event had to be reconfigured entirely for take-out and delivery. With the lifting of restrictions earlier in March, the vast majority of participating restaurants this year are highlighting table service options. “Profit margins are super slim for restaurants, so nothing beats dine-in where people can order a drink and also try something off the regular menu,” said Hyatt.

Still, there are some options for those looking for alternatives to dining indoors, including several restaurants that are equipped with heated patios, such as The Cask & Barrel, Rocky Mountain Icehouse, and The Common, and fast-casual eateries, including A Bite of Brazil, Buok Fresh Korean Kitchen, and District Cafe, that will offer take-out. Hyatt also recommends checking with individual restaurants that offer table service to confirm if their menus are available for take-out.

Hyatt is hopeful that the community will rally around local restaurants. “Everyone is eager to support our Downtown businesses given what they’ve been through for the past two years and this is a great opportunity to do it.”

Openings

  • Felice, a new cafe, is opening soon at Stadium Yards.
  • Vancouver-based Community Taps and Pizza has opened a location in Edmonton in the former Have Mercy space (8232 Gateway Blvd).
  • Hello Mochi, which started out as a vendor at farmers’ markets, has opened a brick and mortar shop at 6191 Currents Drive.
  • Alberta Donair, which also started as a vendor at a farmers’ market, has opened a location for pick-up and take-out at 9235 35 Avenue.
  • Bent Stick Brewing’s tap room is now open on Happy Beer Street at 9926 78 Avenue.
  • Calgary-based Blanco Cantina Tequila Bar will be opening an Edmonton location.

Upcoming Events

  • Five Edmonton restaurants are participating in the first ever Filipino Restaurant Month in April, organized by the Philippine Department of Tourism and the Philippine Consulate General in Calgary. The five restaurants are: Bro’Kin Yolk, Cebuchon & BBQ, Filistix, Manila Grill, and Max’s Restaurant.

Local News

Urban Agriculture and Farming

What I Ate

  • I met up with some friends for lunch at La Bosco Cafe for the first time. It was much busier than I expected, but I liked the casual vibe of the place, as we lingered over a long conversation undisturbed. I also brought home some sweets to enjoy, including this delectable strawberry danish, which tasted as good as it looks!
  • La Bosco

Strawberry danish from La Bosco Cafe

Food Notes for March 21, 2022

Kasey Ramen Grows With Help from the Community

In just 16 months, upstart Kasey Ramen has transitioned from a home-based business offering ramen kits to hosting pop-ups in an Edmonton restaurant.

Kasey Ramen proprietor Allen Gao has had a keen interest in food for years. “Since high school, I’ve had friends over and cooked food for them,” said Gao. “It’s my way of showing that I care about them.”

After graduating from the University of Alberta in 2020 with an environmental engineering degree, Gao was unable to secure a job in his field. So, while working in engineering-adjacent positions, he started to further explore his passion for food.

“Ramen was the one food that stumped me,” said Gao. “All other times I could crack open a recipe and make it work. But I couldn’t crack ramen. And ramen was one of my favourite foods growing up.”

Gao then stumbled upon a YouTube channel called Way of Ramen that changed everything for him. “Ryan Esaki was the first person on the internet making really good videos of how to make ramen,” said Gao. “Through Way of Ramen I was able to discover a whole community of online ramen makers doing it professionally or at home.”

In November 2020, Gao made his first ramen kits under the Kasey Ramen banner (“Kasey” is the sound of the initials in Gao’s Chinese name, “Kechao”). He gave 15 kits out to friends as samples, and sold 15 more to individuals he was connected to on social media. Once it grew to a point where he was selling to people he didn’t know, he knew he had to move into a commercial kitchen.

In September 2021, the folks behind District Café offered him in-kind use of their bakery space to make his noodles. A month later, he was connected to Ark Café, which had commercial kitchen space available for rent. Both businesses now serve as pickup locations for his ramen kits, which sell out every week within hours of being posted online.

“The limiting factor was actually being able to make enough noodles,” said Gao. “Prepping at District has allowed me to grow exponentially. I did 40 servings a week in September, and then 60, and now I’m doing 150.”

Kasey Ramen will host its first pop-up at District Cafe on March 27 and 28. “I’m excited to serve people and see people eat the ramen,” Gao said. “I’ve only seen online feedback, and sometimes it’s difficult when it’s just through a screen.”

Gao defines ramen as “any noodle dish that has some sort of Japanese flavouring, like soy sauce or salt, that has some sort of alkaline noodles.” His approach involves pairing his scratch-made noodles to the soup being served. For instance, for a recent kit that included ground pork instead of pork slices, Gao made a softer, chewier noodle, so it could better grip the sauce.

After Gao was laid off from his job in November 2021, he focused on Kasey Ramen full-time. While he is the sole employee, he credits the support he has received from friends and family, from designer Ivy Mak, who creates each kit’s illustrated instruction sheet, to his girlfriend Shannon Wong, who bakes the treats offered alongside each week’s kit. Still, he acknowledges the challenges of making such a business sustainable.

“The last thing I want to do is sacrifice my integrity to make a bad product,” said Gao. “I could see how it could be tempting to use the shortcuts that some restaurants use. I feel like for me, the entire brand is about accessibility and craftsmanship.”

Gao hopes to host one pop-up a month, but will continue with the ramen kits when possible. Ultimately, he would like to open his own restaurant, and help further educate diners to want better ramen. And though it hasn’t been easy, he couldn’t imagine doing it anywhere else.

“It’s really scary to think about my own ramen shop, but in a city like Edmonton where the community is so supportive, I am not afraid of failing.”

COVID-19-related News

Openings

  • Selfishly, it’s always great to have another coffee shop within walking distance of our house, and even better when it is located in a heritage home! Stopgap coffee is now open in at 9749 111 Street.
  • Smokin’ Barrels Cocina Latina is a new Latin American restaurant that opened on March 21, 2022 at 13119 156 Street.
  • Social Canadian House is now open at 15845 97 Street.
  • Ancaron is a shop that opened recently in Old Strathcona at 10336 82 Avenue, offerings frozen Korean macarons.
  • Waffloos is the latest in a string of Calgary imports to open in Edmonton this year. Find them at West Edmonton Mall in Phase III.

Closures

Upcoming Events

  • After a two-year hiatus, the Friends of the Royal Alberta Museum (FRAMS) is resuming their Dining with Friends events with a twist, called Dining with Authors. Although the March 29, 2022 event is now sold out, involving a conversation with an author alongside a paired meal, keep your eyes peeled for future events now that they’re back.

Local News

  • Ben Staley of Restaurant Yarrow shared in a lengthy Instagram post that he will be leaving his position in May to pursue a career in design/architecture.
  • 142 Bistro Bar is the latest restaurant to offer a menu item in support of the Ukrainian crisis.
  • Restaurants are gearing up for Downtown Dining Week, which runs March 30-April 10, 2022, including Continental Treat Fine Bistro, a newcomer to the event.
  • Stephanie recently hosted a birthday party in the private space at Brew and Bloom (her rental and decor fees were covered by the restaurant).
  • Popular products at T-Rex Distillery include their garlic pickle vodka and vodka garlic pickles.
  • Meals on Wheels is looking for volunteers for both meal prep and delivery.

What I Ate

    • We hit up some of our favourite Chinatown haunts over the weekend, including Ying Fat, Shan Shan Bakery, and King Noodle House for #PhoToGo! Every day is the perfect day for soup.

King Noodle House

Bun Bo Hue from King Noodle House