Suburban Disappointment: Square One Wye Road

Mack and I always seem to end up in Sherwood Park when we’re having a meal with Grandma Male. Though it’s typically driven by convenience (given she lives on the far east side of Edmonton), it’s also given us an excuse to scour the suburb for independent eateries. Though I wouldn’t say it’s easy to come by, like Edmonton, once you start looking, they’re everywhere.

The most recent addition is Square One Wye Road, which opened back in December. It was immediately intriguing because not many establishments in Sherwood Park have identified themselves as such in their name. The inclusion of “Wye Road” was a loud and proud statement, and if they lived up to their promise of being a unique, “contemporary speakeasy”, it would put the Park on the culinary map in a new way.

Square One Wye Road


Like nearly everything else in Sherwood Park, Square One is located in a strip mall. On that Sunday evening in April, it was quiet, with only three other tables occupied. With its central oval-shaped bar featuring television screens and banquet-lined room, my first impression was that it very much mirrored a Cactus Club Café lounge. I did appreciate the pressed-tin underlay on the bar, but the sophistication didn’t jive with the random portrait of Darth Vader on the wall. I assume the owners were attempting to be quirky, but it really seemed out of place.

Square One Wye Road

Mack with Vader

I tried an Amelia Earhart cocktail, comprised of gin, June flower liqueur, pineapple juice and sage. Great presentation, and quite refreshing.

Square One Wye Road

Amelia Earthart

The menu was relatively small, which we hoped would mean the kitchen was focusing on their strengths. It was also great to see local producers named on the menu, including Sylvan Star and Irvings. We ended up ordering arrancini ($11) to share, and an entrée each.

We knew it would be hard for Square One’s arancini to live up to Daniel Costa’s version at Corso 32, and unfortunately, we were right. They were lacking in flavour and forgettable.

Square One Wye Road


The mains fared somewhat better. Mack’s enjoyed his grilled Lois Lake salmon ($24) well enough, though noted that the risotto lacked the horseradish punch that had been promised.

Square One Wye Road

Grilled salmon with horseradish risotto, burnt orange butter sauce and jicama slaw

My patty melt ($17) was the equivalent of a diner burger, and it was a bit odd to find it on the same menu as Mack’s decidedly more refined dish. That said, the chopped steak patty had been grilled to a nice medium rare. I did find the pimento cheese to be a bit strong, however, given the beef really should have been the star of the dish.

Square One Wye Road

Patty melt with fries

Grandma Male enjoyed her steak sandwich ($19), commenting that the meat was quite tender. The issue on her plate, as it was on mine, were the fries, which had been egregiously over salted. It was a shame, given how hot and crispy they were. Service had been friendly but timid thus far, but I have to say our server handled the criticism about the salt content very well, thanking us for the feedback in the context of being a new restaurant.

Though I recognize the desire to appeal to the widest cross-section possible, I think Square One needs to refine their menu further to live up to the identity they’ve crafted on their website. To become a destination, or even to attract the locals, it has to rise above the rest of the upscale casual chains and assert a distinguishable identity; the use of Alberta product is a good start, but just one facet. I would also hope that as time passes, the kitchen becomes more consistent. I think there is a lot more room for independents in Sherwood Park – let’s hope Square One (with some improvements) is here to stay.

Square One Wye Road
Unit 32, 993 Fir Street, Sherwood Park
(780) 705-4321
Open daily 11am-2am

Just Trust the Chefs: The Parlour Kitchen & Bar

I have a lot of respect for the Century Hospitality Group. They are one of the most successful local restaurant companies, reaching a total of eight properties this year, but they don’t rest on their laurels. They were the originators of the “alley cuisine” trend in Edmonton with their back alley Hundred burgers, created a pop-up dining room in a pedway, and this year, reached culinary heights with Corporate Chef Paul Shufelt’s win at the local Gold Medal Plates competition.

As Century Hospitality continues expanding their reach into neighbourhoods like Magrath and soon, Terwillegar, they have not forgotten about the core. Lux and Hundred have become stalwarts in the downtown restaurant scene, and now, a few blocks west, the Parlour Italian Kitchen & Bar offers an additional CHG dining option.

Situated on Capital Boulevard, Parlour was the only storefront on that cold Friday December evening that was drawing any foot traffic (yes, I am discounting Denny’s). In the future, once the Boulevard streetscaping is complete, in addition to the construction of more retail along this signature street, one can only hope this will change.

The Parlour


No doubt, Century Hospitality excels in creating trendy, upscale casual environments. Parlour is no different, with a bold, masculine space accented by a vintage-inspired “EAT” fixture (we saw a similar sign at Olympic Provisions in Portland). What sets this dining room apart from the others, however, is the grand mezzanine, which takes advantage of the building’s lofty ceiling, and the curved bar anchored by a tiled pizza oven.

The Parlour


The menu at Parlour is large, ranging from the requisite sandwiches, pastas, and larger entrees, but with the oven front and centre, it’s no secret that pizza is their focus. Comparisons can be drawn between their pie and the Neapolitan style made popular in Edmonton by Famoso, but Parlour stresses that the deviating tomatoes and cheese they chose were selected because of their superior flavour when compared with their standard Neapolitan counterparts.

We opened our meal with an order of arancini ($12). It was a generous serving, but for me, they were rolled a bit too large, decreasing the ever-important shell-to-rice ratio. That said, the spritz of lemon provided a welcome freshness to the dish.

The Parlour


I don’t normally build my own pizzas, typically trusting the tried and true formulas crafted by the kitchen, but on this occasion, I couldn’t get the idea of a meatball pizza out of my head. So on a base of fresh mozzarella, I requested the heritage angus meatballs ($16).

The Parlour

Pizza tiers

I probably should have left the creativity to the chefs, as the delicate base did not seem intended for the weight of such hefty toppings (the meatballs themselves were tasty, and I’m certain well suited to pair with spaghetti).

The Parlour

Heritage angus meatball pizza

The crust, thin but satisfyingly chewy was better served with a lightweight layer. Mack’s order of Gamberi ($17) showcased the dough best, with what should be their signature sauce going forward, a sriracha pesto, and fire roasted garlic prawns that made me rethink my opinion that seafood and pizza don’t mix.

The Parlour

Gamberi pizza

As if we weren’t full enough, we opted for dessert. The tiramisu ($9) was beautifully plated, a modern take on an Italian classic. Cookie crumbs surrounded a bed of espresso-soaked lady fingers, with marscapone gingerly piped on top. The crumbs added a unique texture not normally associated with lush tiramisu – it’s a dish I’d definitely order again.

The Parlour


Service was friendly throughout the evening, and even as the restaurant filled up, we were never forgotten. Although our server didn’t expect to be busy on that bitterly cold night, we weren’t surprised – diners are interested in what’s next for CHG.

Our parting shot – by the door, a gumball machine had been repurposed to dispense cherry tomatoes. We couldn’t resist taking a photo.

The Parlour

Eat your veggies!

The Parlour Italian Kitchen & Bar
10334 Capital Boulevard
(780) 990-0404
Monday-Saturday 11:30-late, Sunday 4-11pm

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!

Patio Seekers: The Confederation Lounge at the Hotel Macdonald

After work on Friday, I was struck with the immediate urge to seek out a patio. If there was a blessing to be had with our recent spell of wet and wild weather, it would be the carpe diem philosophy with which we now approach sunny days.

Living downtown, Mack and I have no shortage of al fresco options within walking distance. From those best suited to soaking up the sun, people watching, or a quiet escape, there are patios to match every mood. On that day, I wanted to enjoy a green vantage point, so immediately thought of The Confederation Lounge at the Hotel Macdonald.

Hotel MacDonald

The Mac

A less formal option than The Harvest Room, The Confederation Lounge has tried in recent years to offer more casual dishes. I recognize it is a delicate balance, as the Mac would not want to jeopardize their bread and butter clientele who prefer the familiar steak and potatoes fare. Still, it would be nice to see the occasional feature menu which might help attract diners who may not select a restaurant based on its views alone.

We were directed to choose a seat anywhere on the patio, all sheltered under a draped metal canopy. It was about a little more than a third full, with most diners appearing to have transitioned directly from the office to begin their weekend. Though the surrounding vista, in all its lush summer glory was exactly what I was looking for, the nondescript jazz being piped from the speakers behind us was unnecessary. I would have much preferred no deliberate soundtrack, as the comforting lilt of the nearby water fountain was fitting enough for the setting.

Hotel MacDonald

Picturesque fountain

Not a surprise, prices were on the steep side, both for libations and food. Mixed drinks were $14, and though the menu touted the inclusion of local ingredients, we were reminded of the fact that these were indeed hotel prices.

Hotel MacDonald

Raspberry 75 and Triple-Pepper Caesar

We had no intention of having a full dinner, but were interested in some nibbles. Their one-page menu focused very much on salads, sandwiches, and entrée plates, with only half a dozen truly sharable plate options. We settled on the item most unlike the others, a butter chicken poutine ($20).

Service waivered – although our food arrived quickly, our initial wait for service numbered fifteen minutes. Though our server was friendly and seemed like he was doing his best, it was clear he was being run off his feet. With the Hotel MacDonald’s reputation of being customer-driven, we expected better on this front.

However, the poutine itself was great! In our experience, poutines often receive failing grades because of poorly made fries that can’t stand up to the gravy, resulting in a mash of soggy potatoes. The Confederation Lounge’s fries were delightfully crisp, and remained so all the way through. The tandoori chicken (mostly dark meat, cooked until tender) was sauced in a relatively mild dressing, and was a tasty topping for the fries. Our only minor complaint was that the chicken pieces could have been diced further, as poutine shouldn’t require a knife to eat!

Hotel MacDonald

Butter chicken poutine

It’s difficult to think of a patio that allows such wondrous river valley views, but based on their current food menu, I’d likely return just for drinks.

The Confederation Lounge at the Hotel Macdonald
10065 100 Street
(780) 424 5181

Charity Auction Dinner: Ric’s Grill

Last fall, the Edmonton Sun’s Graham Hicks approached Mack to see if he would like to be a part of the 2009 ATCO and Edmonton Sun Christmas Charity Auction. He would be paired up with a restaurant, and people would bid on the chance to have dinner with him, with proceeds going to charity (coincidentally, my agency is one of the four that benefit from the funds raised).

Ultimately, a bidder paid $140 to have dinner with Mack at Ric’s Grill downtown, and we arranged to meet up with the winning party this past Wednesday.

Though we were expecting a pair of diners, we ended up being joined by four people – it turned out the bidder, Terri Lynn, had actually done this once before, having secured the opportunity to dine with Vinomania’s Gurvinder Bhatia and CBC’s Ron Wilson the year prior. Along with Terri Lynn’s friends Kelly, Sue, and Ginette, the night was filled with good conversation, and of course, wine (a lovely Malbec that my usual sweet palate didn’t mind at all – good choice Ginette!).

Mack didn’t get much choice in the restaurant that he would be paired with, but since each establishment had donated a certificate that would cover most of the costs (in this case, $300), we were thankful that Ric’s Grill stepped up to the plate. My last meal at Ric’s was nearly two years ago, and given the experience I had, I wouldn’t have considered coming back without a push.

Although our server gave us a tad too much time and space (perhaps she was deterred by the amount of laughter emanating from our table), it was a solid evening overall. Mack, the goat cheese lover between the two of us, enjoyed the almond goat cheese crostini ($12) starter, a cheesy, rich cousin of garlic toast.

Our steak dinners were equally agreeable. My six ounce, bacon-wrapped filet mignon ($31) was nicely prepared, perhaps on the medium rare side of medium. My side of celery root and cauliflower soup was the standout part of my meal – creamy and well seasoned. The crispy leeks (reminding me a bit of fried onion straws) added some textural flair.

Celery Root and Cauliflower Soup with Crispy Leeks

Bacon-Wrapped Filet Mignon with Chef’s Potatoes

Mack’s sirloin Oscar deluxe ($33) was topped with sautéed prawns, scallops, asparagus and housemade Béarnaise elicited no complaints. He said that the scallops in particular were cooked well.

Sirloin Oscar Deluxe with Rice Pilaf

I’m glad I had the opportunity to visit Ric’s Grill again. And while we don’t usually eat out at steakhouses, I would consider giving them another try in the future. It was good to meet all of you – thank you for a great night!

Ric’s Grill
10190 104 Street (2 other Edmonton locations)
(780) 429-4333

Not a Diamond in the Rough: Fuego

To celebrate Mack’s birthday, Martin and Patti took the lot of us out for dinner at Fuego. Martin had been there for lunch one day, and enjoyed his visit.

Fuego is part of a larger company that includes a lounge, champagne bar, and catering service, under the umbrella of Dining on 50th. I was a little weary of their “international cuisine” tagline, but was willing to see what this Yellowknife restaurant had to offer.

Walking downstairs into the space, I was immediately struck by how busy it was. Though we knew many restaurants in the city are closed for the holiday season, I somehow still didn’t expect a nearly full house. Dimly lit, the decor was simple – red walls, sleek leather chairs, and pictures of a lake sunset encased in false windows.

Mack and me

The dining room was bracketed by a small bar and a stage – Fuego hosts local musicians on a nightly basis. The talented Shea Alain was our entertainer that night, performing acoustic, low-tempo covers of everything from “My Girl” to Fort Minor’s “Where’d You Go”.

Fuego has quite a large menu, and though there was some Latin American influence, it seemed to be put together with a purpose to please – the grilled ostrich seemed out of place. More focus might do it some good. Regardless, everyone was able to find one dish that appealed to them. Most of us also ordered appetizers.

The baked caramelized onion soup ($9) was rich, and packed an unexpected heat. Underneath the melted cheese and bread was a dense web of onions that I struggled to finish. Mack’s jumbo bacon scallop skewer ($15) was beautifully garnished with greens and a star, but was a touch overcooked. He gobbled it up, and said it was still pretty good.

Caramelized Onion Soup

Jumbo Bacon Scallops

My herb chipotle crusted whitefish filet ($26) was a bit disappointing – though the fish was nicely cooked, where I was expecting a hard shell, I was met with more of a pesto-like robe on the fish. Moreover, the beurre blanc was unappetizingly sour, to the point where I could have done without the sauce all together. I loved the balsamic glaze on the sweet potato fries though – the sauce made it more like a treat than a side.

Herb Chipotle Crusted Whitefish

Mack’s grilled arctic char ($34) was more of a success – the caper aioli was the perfect accompaniment. Mack also loved the crispy potato chips on his plate.

Grilled Arctic Char

Everyone else around the table seemed to enjoy their dishes (dishes were definitely over-sauced though), and despite the fact that the entire restaurant was serviced by just a single waitress, the kitchen was speedy and we weren’t left waiting long for our food. It is also worth noting that the restaurant was quite accommodating towards a gluten allergy in our party.

Bison Ribeye with Chimichurri Sauce

Beef Striploin with Brandy Madagascar Sauce

Grilled Seafood Stuffed Salmon Filet with Pesto Sour Cream

It was a nice night overall at Fuego, with wonderful ambiance provided by the live entertainment, and good company. Decent food, but I can’t say I would recommend it as a destination.

4915 50th Street, Yellowknife
(867) 873-3750
Lunch: Monday-Friday 11:30am-2:30pm; Dinner: Monday-Saturday 5-10pm

101 Combinations: Twisted Yogurt Creations

Not wanting to waste our trip to Sherwood Park last week (I realize I make Sherwood Park sound like Camrose or something, but any public transit routes I’m not familiar with might as well be), I asked Mack and Grandma Male if they were up to visiting a new frozen yogurt place I had heard about. They agreed.

Twisted Yogurt Creations opened up in August of this year, and alongside Kiwi Kiss, might mean the frozen yogurt trend has finally caught up to Edmonton. Unlike Kiwi Kiss’s take-out facade, however, Twisted Yogurt provides seating options, and amongst their bright green walls and fun light fixtures, it reminded me of the chic frozen yogurt bars in the States.

Twisted Yogurt interior

The self-serve nature of the shop caught me off guard, though I soon understood why it was set up that way. With eight base yogurt flavours, fresh fruit and about three dozen dry toppings to choose from, customers were encouraged to experiment and find their favourite combinations. For that reason, I think Twisted Yogurt is definitely more family-friendly, and indeed during our visit, a father was there with his young daughter, out for dessert. Twisted Yogurt also serves coffee and cookies, and in the new year, may look at serving hot food, such as waffles to be topped with yogurt and fruit.

The friendly clerk explained how the process worked – each yogurt dispensing machine had three levers, two of which dispensed the two listed flavours, and a third that dispensed a twist of the two (one or two flavours change every week). Once we chose our yogurt base (we were encouraged to mix and match), we would then select whatever toppings we wanted. The last step was to get our creation weighed and paid for, at 49 cents an ounce.

Mack dispensing yogurt

Mack and Grandma Male chose the strawberry kiwi, while I opted to try both the very berry and pomegranate acai flavours. I stuck to the more traditional fresh fruit toppings, while Mack decided to garnish his yogurt with a sprinkling of gummy bears.

At the dry topping station

While I’m sure the final “weigh in” could end up being pretty expensive, we were all fairly conservative with our amounts, and our three cup order rang in at just under $12, not too bad for a sweet treat before dinner. I loved the pomegranate acai, which balanced between a fruity flavour and the tang one expects from frozen yogurt. More than anything else, I think I liked all of the options I had – possibilities are priceless!

Our creations!

I had the chance to speak to Twisted Yogurt owner Michael Bossio after my visit, and he said that they will be opening up three to four more stores in Edmonton over the next six to eight months. More than that, they will soon obtain the “live and active cultures” seal, which means that their product has more than 10 million probiotic cultures per ounce – a boon in the current state of probiotic mania. Michael is very proud of their frozen yogurt, particularly the tanginess that comes from using genuine yogurt.

I for one am very happy about the forthcoming frozen yogurt boom in Edmonton, and look forward to experimenting with more of my own creations at Twisted Yogurt!

Twisted Yogurt Creations
#138, 1020 Sherwood Drive, Sherwood Park
(780) 416-1133
Sunday-Thursday 10am-9pm, Friday-Saturday 10am-10pm

Edmonton’s Best Kept Secret: Fo Guang Tea House

One of my strictly vegan coworkers was raving about a great lunch she had had recently. I asked her about the restaurant, and it turned out not to be a restaurant, but a temple. Another coworker had taken her to the Fo Guang Tea House, located in the basement of the International Buddhist Progress Society temple on the Boardwalk downtown. Since February, the temple has been offering a vegetarian lunch service on Tuesdays to Fridays that is open to the public in an effort to introduce the community to healthy, flavourful, non-meat cuisine. All of their seventeen entrees are priced at just $5, a price I can’t believe in these times. The temple actually doesn’t make a profit, and relies on volunteers to prepare and serve the food.

A group from my office made the trek to the temple on a blustery spring day. We entered the building, paid for a meal ticket, and headed down to the basement dining area. The room was already spotless (as one would expect it to be), but awash in cream table dressings, it looked even more immaculate. Flowing music blended in with the background, and among good company, it resulted in one of the most relaxing lunch hours I have experienced in a long time.

We were welcomed by a handful of staff, and directed to a long table that had been set up in anticipation of our group. To ensure we would be finished our meal in the allotted one hour time, we had preordered so that the kitchen would have our meals ready shortly after our arrival. The rice dishes came with soup, which today, was a warming broth that tasted like winter melon. I had decided on the braised tofu and vegetables on rice, though the laksa was recommended to me as well. A mixture of stir-fried Chinese vegetables accompanied the tofu, which had been cooked perfectly, retaining its moisture.

Braised Tofu and Vegetables

I’m not sure what else I need to say about the Fo Guang Tea House except that it is the best kept secret in the city – where else can you find a nutritious, tasty meal for $5 in the downtown core? The temple is also hosting a vegetarian food fair on June 8, featuring over 50 dishes.

Fo Guang Tea House (in the International Buddhist Progress Society temple)
10232 103 Street
(780) 424-9744
Lunch offered Tuesdays to Fridays, 11am-2pm