Alberta’s increasingly cool capital city of Edmonton is experiencing a restaurant renaissance. Gateway to Jasper National Park and home to North America’s largest shopping destination (the 800-store West Edmonton Mall), this prairie metropolis of one million people is now eating both stylishly and abundantly. We’ve summed up what’s new, delicious and coming soon across the city.
Both a critical and commercial favorite when it opened in 2011, this minimalist 32-seat trattoria downtown is still one of Edmonton’s hottest tables. Chef-owner Daniel Costa cooks up creative riffs on Italian classics. He might top his arugula salad with decadent fried short ribs, stuff his homemade agnolotti with roasted parsnips or pair his game hen — cooked “Under a Brick” — with an almond and lemon gremolata (a zesty herb condiment). And while we love a restaurant whose menu reads, “We encourage sharing,” you may want to keep the sublime sweet-salty chocolate torta dressed with hazelnuts all to yourself.
Say cheese, please. This classy snacking, drinking and dining venue from the owners of Edmonton’s long-standing Hardware Grill offers a mozzarella bar in its high-ceilinged space in the restored Alberta Hotel building. They’re tempting turophiles and their friends with an assortment of cheeses, from smoked fior di latte paired with fig-onion jam to burrata served with tomato confit and basil pesto. If you don’t live on cheese alone, you’ll also find small plates such as duck sausage sliders or the tavern’s take on “K.F.C.” (that’s Korean fried cauliflower here), alongside heartier fare that includes an ancho chili and coffee-rubbed steak topped with a sunny-side-up egg. To drink? Try one of their custom cocktails; Hayman’s Sloe Grog mixes gin, sloe gin, pineapple, lime and bitters, while The Solstice combines Yukon-brewed spirits with green chartreuse and maraschino liqueur.
Nevermind the peculiar name (it’s pronounced “Range Road”) — chef-owner Blair Lebsack and his partner Caitlin Fulton have opened Edmonton’s newest buzz-worthy farm-to-table bistro. Sure, everyone’s menus these days are seasonal, but Lebsack puts his locally grown dandelions and sustainably raised bison where his mouth is, serving what he calls “untamed cuisine,” with unique dishes such as roasted pheasant with pine needle custard and cured Alberta lake trout paired with a salad of radish, chervil and begonia. One regular special, called “Questionable Bits,” is a whole-animal eating adventure that might include cow tongue and bone marrow one day, or chicken hearts and liver the next. Untamed, indeed.
If refined dining is more your scene, head for this white-tablecloth room downtown where the dark banquettes and white brick wall give the space a comfortably chic bistro feel, appropriate for either a business meet-up or a night of conviviality. The menu leans French, with well-executed classics such as steak tartare and duck rillettes taking their place beside the kitchen’s own creations that might include pan-roasted pintade (guinea fowl) served with grilled asparagus and farro or a locally raised pork chop with butternut squash caponata. Whatever you order, pair it with a side of the addictive hand-cut frites with a truffle aioli dip.
Ingenious? Eccentric? You never quite know what the young chefs will cook up at this always-lively tapas-style joint, set in a little house near the University of Alberta campus. The ever-changing small plates start fairly simply with bar bites such as patatas bravas (roasted potatoes with spicy Sriracha mayonnaise) or “devils on horseback” (bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with blue cheese) that pair well with selections from the lengthy list of beers and whiskeys. Adventurous diners have plenty of fodder for their food yearnings, though, from the miso-braised pork belly served over steel-cut oats with pickled mushrooms and seaweed to the beef heart Bolognese. Go bold or go home.
Edmonton foodies are eagerly awaiting two more spots slated to open their doors this fall.
Woodwork takes its name from, well, wood. This collaboration between chef Mike Scorgie and cocktail concocter Andrew Borley, setting up shop in a renovated space in the landmark 1915 McLeod Building downtown for a November opening, will specialize in wood-fired cooking and wood-aged spirits.
Named for Edmonton’s geographic location on the 53rd parallel, North 53 plans to emphasize all Canadian ingredients, and most of its wines will be native as well. It’s expecting a soft early November opening among the eclectic shops and restaurants on 124th Street.
Photos Courtesy of Three Boars Eatery, Corso 32 and Ellen V Photography