Don’t call it a comeback. In 2014, in its first year of existence, RGE RD swept the Best Overall and Best New categories in Avenue‘s annual ranking of the Best Restaurants in Edmonton. In 2015, RGE RD slipped, but only to second place, proving chef Blair Lebsack and general manager Caitlin Fulton were still doing a lot of things right. So perhaps it was only inevitable that they would eventually reclaim the top spot.
While some things have changed over the last couple of years – including exterior renovations and a big interior expansion that can allow the restaurant to seat up to 20 more people – many things that Edmontonians love about RGE RD have stayed the same. That includes its hyper-local farm-to-table philosophy, resulting in such beloved menu staples as the Questionable Bits – an appetizer using offal that changes daily – and the Pig Roast, with at least two different preparations of pork (usually loin and belly) on one sumptuous, filling plate.
Dishes at RGE RD may have seasonal variations, but they never stray too far from what customers know and love. That mixture of consistency and daring keeps people coming back for a dining experience that is always a knockout. –Glenn Cook 10643 123 St., 780-447-4577, rgerd.ca
2nd Corso 32
Sharing is caring at Corso 32. Not only does the celebrated Jasper Avenue Italian eatery encourage the sharing of its dishes, but now the top spot in Avenue’s Best Overall category – which it has held three of the past five years – is being spread around, too. Still, second place is a good place to be, and it’s easy to see why Corso 32 has been so consistently near the top.
It still takes weeks to get a reservation, but once you’re in, the ambience at Corso is clean and modern. The servers are personable and knowledgeable, with the expertise to recommend, for example, a red wine that pairs perfectly with both chicken and pork dishes.
Those dishes themselves, though, are the biggest reason Corso remains near the top. It’s the Italian food you know, but with modern twists. You could fill up on antipasti alone if you want, but you’d be missing out. Pasta dishes are made with familiar ingredients combined in new ways, but with the flavours still perfectly balanced. Desserts are elevated with the use of fine local ingredients.
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It’s food made with love, and love is meant to be shared. –Glenn Cook 10345 Jasper Ave., 780-421-4622, corso32.com
Last year, Rostizado by Tres Carnales received accolades from across the country, including a first-place finish in Avenue‘s Best New Restaurant category. But the praise hasn’t stopped the homestyle Mexican establishment from tweaking, inventing and pushing to be better, securing it a spot in this year’s Best Overall category.
The popularity of the eatery is most evident when arriving for dinner. The wait for a table can sometimes be upwards of an hour, but hungry diners are still more than willing to wait.
You could chalk it up to the lively atmosphere or attentive service or even the retro TV screens and turntables that are part of the decor, but it was the rotisserie chicken and pork that first hooked diners on the Latin eatery. And while the deceptively simple menu, filled with sharable items and an array of delectable sides, has served Rostizado well, the recent addition of a succulent AAA Sterling Silver New York striploin – served, not with the pickled vegetables and salsas of its predecessors, but rather a chipotle and mostaza (mustard) rub – will keep local foodies salivating. –Cory Haller #102, 10359 104 St., 780-761-0911, rostizado.com
For those who have been paying attention, it’s no surprise that Cibo made this list. The Italian eatery has consistently ranked in our list in years past, and secured spots in Best Lunch, Best Steak and Best Italian this year, proving that it is a heavyweight contender when it comes to Edmonton’s food scene. When the Best Restaurants judges met last November, Cibo’s owner and chef Rosario Caputo was consistently mentioned for his authentic flavours and modern presentation. But the proof is in the pudding – or, in this case, the pasta – and Cibo never fails to deliver. –Cory Haller
Since opening its doors in 1996, Hardware Grill has been a favourite in the city, both for business lunches – its historic downtown location is just a stone’s throw from a number of major office buildings – and for upscale dinners. In fact, its dishes were mentioned twice as we polled Edmontonians for their Favourite Things to Eat in our July 2015 edition.
It’s not hard to see why Hardware Grill is a perennial favourite, though. Chef Larry Stewart’s bold Canadian flavours with distinct French and Italian influences keep people coming back for dishes like crab-crusted cedar planked salmon, crispy pork belly or the signature lobster mac ‘n’ cheese. –Glenn Cook
Usually, the cycle works this way: A restaurant opens up to a lot of fanfare, gets some rave reviews, and then, after a year or so, becomes just another spot on the culinary scene. Japonais Bistro’s rise has bucked that trend. It didn’t open to a lot of fanfare back in 2013. But, by continuing to perfect its very modern menu – which sees Japanese cuisine fused with Italian, French and even Mexican influences – Japonais is now one of the go-to spots in the city. Salmon carpaccio and spaghetti served with cod roe are examples of out-of-the-box thinking, as is the most eclectic sushi-roll menu in the city. –Steven Sandor
The Marc has been a constant on Avenue‘s Best Restaurant lists. Consistency is key with this buttoned-down French restaurant; the service is excellent and the menu always impresses. The sleek black-and-white decor transforms what should be a rather boring bay in a downtown office building into a cozy dining environment. With so many notable restaurants opening up in the past two or three years, The Marc often doesn’t get the recognition it deserves for being one of the original spots that elevated Edmonton’s food culture. –Steven Sandor
Talk about a facelift. Two years ago, North 53 debuted on the Edmonton food scene with an adventurous and locally sourced, but pricey, menu. Since then, owner Kevin Cam made massive changes, opting for a more accessible menu that would better compliment the best cocktail selection in the city. Boy, has it worked – North 53’s take on popcorn chicken has become the Edmonton culinary version of crack – one bite and you keep eating them. With roasted chicken, fried chicken, stews and pork buns, North 53’s signature is elevating comfort food to new levels. We love the rethink of the restaurant. –Steven Sandor
It has become such a staple in Edmonton that it is often overlooked. But what would Edmonton’s culinary offerings be like without The Red Ox Inn? The small restaurant tucked away in Strathearn was likely the first rustic fine dining eatery in the city, serving a blend of high-concept comfort food. The duck breast alone best represents the concept, with a lightly smoked flavour and accompanied by a creamy farro risotto. The dish is both rich and sweet, but not overly pretentious. Another great example has to be the lamb carpaccio, a dish that illustrates what can happen when a chef is not bound by tradition. A tandoori aioli, paired with pickled shallots and arugula, make this starter a triumph that is accessible to all. –Cory Haller
The plates might be small, and the room might be even smaller, but the atmosphere and the flavours at Tzin are definitely big enough to warrant inclusion on this year’s list of Best Restaurants.
The first thing you notice walking into the 104th Street wine bar is just how small it is. But you’re not packed in cheek-to-jowl, and with pillows and a rich, warm decor, it feels cozy, like an old friend’s parlour.
Of course, most old friends can’t cook like this. Rich, spicy flavours from the Iberian peninsula abound in dishes based around lamb, potatoes and seafood. And the extensive wine list definitely lives up to the corkscrew that forms the T in Tzin’s logo. –Glenn Cook
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