We asked 25 notable locals to share their favourite meals, treats or drinks. Their picks include grilled piri piri prawns from Sabor, donair pizza from Pizza Unlimited and Fried Chicken and Bananas Foster from DaDeO.
By Steven Sandor, Cory Schachtel, Victoria Dean | June 27, 2019
Favourite pizza joints. Who makes the best Caesar in the city? Doughnuts that bring back memories of your childhood. A steak that’s grilled to perfection. Avenue asked 25 notable locals to share their favourite meals, treats or drinks and compiled a list of things you have to try in places you have to checkout. Whether you’re southside, on your way to Whyte Avenue, going to the west end or spending time in St.Albert, make sure you make time to taste one of these delicious dishes.
When it comes to sweet treats in the city, Avenue 2018 Top 40 Under 40 Greg Caswell swears by the Raspberry Bismarck from Doughnut Party. He shares that not only is it a delicious dessert, but it brings him back to a childhood favourite.
“It reminds me of a doughnut I used to eat when I was growing up in Moose Jaw, that I had a similar obsession over,” Caswell says.
Unlike other bakeries, Doughnut Party uses real raspberry jam for the pastry filling, which takes it to the next level. Caswell says it makes all the difference.
“For bringing up the bittersweet emotion of nostalgia, while also occupying my thoughts on most days, this is a winner for me.” — Victoria Dean
Deputy City Manager, Communications + Engagement, City of Edmonton
Chicken Alcron from Bistro Praha
When Catrin Owen moved from Wales to Edmonton in 1984, she left behind a “pretty pitiful” food scene. She didn’t miss the era of overcooked vegetables in the United Kingdom, but she did miss home, until she found a certain gourmet eatery.
“If it hadn’t been for the Bistro Praha, which was my sanctuary in 1984, I think I might have got back on a plane immediately,” Owen says. “What I was craving was the coziness, the ambience and the European feeling of a place. That had it.”
Most of us love Praha’s schnitzel and the pan fries, but the Chicken Alcron is Owen’s favourite. “It’s gorgeous — super moist, with really buttery mushrooms. Definite comfort food,” she says. And that feeling extends beyond the dish itself. “Because many of [the staff] are still there, they’ve since become the people I gravitate to when I need comfort. A glass of champagne and some good Czech food can be a port in a storm.” — Cory Schachtel
Tom Ruth still considers himself a new Edmontonian — though he’s lived in the city for five years now, having touched down here after running Halifax Stanfield International Airport.
He says that he’s amazed at how much variety there is in the Edmonton food scene, and he and his wife are always discovering new places to have great meals.
About four years ago, they were walking downtown and decided to head into Sabor. “We loved the atmosphere of the restaurant,” he says.
Since then, he thinks he’s been back there 15 to 20 times. If he’s with a group, he gets two or three orders of the grilled prawns to share, with a dusting of piri piri that offers a satisfying kick. “I find that the service is impeccable whenever I go there. And you can never go wrong with the shrimp.” — Steven Sandor
Richard Wong knows all about hospitality. As the general manager of the Sutton Place Hotel when it launched in 2003, and current general manager of the Edmonton Convention Centre, you could say top-notch service is in his blood.
“It goes back to my culture,” Wong says. “I was born in the Fiji islands in the South Pacific. Our culture is about community, family, hospitality.”
And Wong’s favourite dish is from a fine Edmonton hotel; the eggs and sausage breakfast at community-owned Union Bank Inn.
“I go there because of the consistency, the service, and the atmosphere,” he says. “It’s just a comfortable place.” While Wong admits he was never a big breakfast guy, he always has time for Union Bank Inn. “I go there as often as I can. I like my eggs sunny-side up. I like the maple sausage. It’s almost a bit too much food but I know if I go there hungry, I’m going to eat well. And if I’m not hungry, I eat all of it anyway.” — Cory Schachtel
Jay Ball is a self-proclaimed Caesar expert. That being said, deep down, he’s a traditionalist. If you put bacon strips or roasted asparagus spears as garnishes, he isn’t the biggest fan.
“If I wanted a salad or an appetizer — I’d order one,” he says. “I prefer to drink my calories.”
And when it comes to a traditional Caesar, he says the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald is where to go.
“It’s the perfect mix with just the right amount of horseradish, Grey Goose, ice and no crazy unnecessary garnishes. Simple and very tasty, one is never enough. The Confederation Caesar, along with the famous Hotel Macdonald ambience, is my go-to drink — every time.”
The famous Confederation Lounge will soon be undergoing renovations, but that doesn’t faze Ball. Even if the room’s wood panels give way to a more contemporary, brighter look, he’s sure the atmosphere will still be great. As long as no one tries to mess with the Caesar, that is. — Steven Sandor
10065 100 St. NW
Artistic Director, Citadel Theatre
Empanadillas from Bodega
When Daryl Cloran moved to Edmonton to become the Citadel Theatre’s new artistic director, it was a dream come true. But finding a good place to eat was a shot in the dark.
Luckily, his new home and theatre were each close to two of Bodega’s three locations, and as fans of small, shared meals, it instantly became his and his wife’s favourite spot. “We really like to go somewhere where we can try different things and share amongst the two of us. So we were really drawn to it for that.”
Bodega’s variety keeps them coming back, but they always order one plate in particular. “We’ll try a whole bunch of other stuff but the one thing we get every time is the empanadillas, because they’re so good,” he says. “I’ve had a lot of bad empanadillas in my day, but these are so light and flaky and really melt-in-your-mouth savoury. They’re small but packed full of flavour.” — Cory Schachtel
General Manager, Rogers Place; Vice-President, Oilers Entertainment Group
Beef Satay Pho from Pho Hoan Pasteur
Susan Darrington grew up in Edmonton, but, before returning home to take over the management duties at Rogers Place, she worked at CenturyLink Field in Seattle and Allianz Parque in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
When she got back to Edmonton, she had to get reacquainted with the weather. Her uncle took her to Pho Hoan Pasteur, and she fell in love with the broth. It’s now her go-to place when she needs to warm up.
“In February, you can get 28 straight days of minus weather, and this soup is the best thing to warm up with on a cold day.” — Steven Sandor
Andrew Usenik, in his time as the singer of Ten Second Epic, ate out a lot. “We did three records in Vancouver,” says the Top 40 Under 40 alumnus. “And in the area of town we were, there were so many Malaysian restaurants.”
After hanging up the microphone, Usenik longed for local Malaysian cuisine until Island Cafe & Bistro opened, once again, in the area where he works.
The roti special — Malaysian flatbread, chicken curry, spring rolls and salad — is Usenik’s go-to dish. “The couple that runs it are lovely, and they bug me about the fact that I don’t order enough different things on the menu,” he says. “But it is literally the best bread I’ve ever tasted — ever, anywhere.” — Cory Schachtel
9923 170 St.
Owner, Smith and Wight Opticians
Ravioli Prawns from XIX Nineteen
As a child, Karim Walli didn’t have an expansive palate because, sadly, he couldn’t. “I was born in Africa where food is lacking, and when you get it, you make the most of it,” he says. The first food adjustment he made when he came to Edmonton in 1981 was to the portions and convenience — “I’m embarrassed to say it, but a Big Mac was a wonderful thing.”
Since then, his tastes, like the city’s, have evolved. “What is really phenomenal about Edmonton is that it has developed a very diverse and integrated food market as immigrant families have arrived here. And the local palates have changed based on the Canadian philosophy of openness and diversity,” he says.
That integration is represented well by XIX Nineteen’s Ravioli Prawns. “I find it’s a cultural collision between Italian and Asian food, where the ravioli and lobster is typically Italian, but when you add the sambal prawns, it has the kick of the Asian world,” Walli says. “It’s where the two are able to collide comfortably and tastefully, rather than extremely.” — Cory Schachtel
While St. Albert Mayor Cathy Heron has noticed more franchise restaurants since starting on city council in 2010 (she was elected mayor in 2017), she’ll always prefer established places with charming decor that use local ingredients — especially if they make short ribs.
That’s why she frequents the Riverbank Bistro. “We have a lot of great locally owned restaurants, and the Riverbank is a perfect example,” she says. “It’s in an old building that’s right on our river.” There’s an outdoor patio overlooking the water, with subdued lighting and dark leather chairs inside.
“It’s got great atmosphere,” Heron says. “There’s a lounge side, for happy hour, or a really nice brunch on Sundays. But really, their suppers are just fantastic. I love short ribs and they’re hard to do. And they do them well at Riverbank.” — Cory Schachtel
Colonel J.P.S. McKenzie was born in Ontario, raised in British Columbia, and had visited Edmonton a few times growing up. But it was during his first military stint, from 2005-2010, that he fell in love with the city, and St. Albert, where he and his wife have lived each time he’s been stationed here. As self-described foodies, their standards are high, especially when it comes to burgers. “Even from a butcher, we don’t have prepared patties of any sort in our house. My wife won’t allow it. So for her to find a place that she really likes is rare.”
That place is Jack’s Burger Shack, a hip joint with daily delivered meat and fresh buns. It’s one of the many things that makes this their second home. “We love the Burger Shack,” he says. “I like a little bit of heat, so I go for the Inferno Burger. And it will always hold a special place for us because after our daughter was born last March, it was the first place we went out to as a couple to have a lunch with the baby.” — Cory Schachtel
Co-Owner, The Creative Hive; Co-Owner, Storyteller Productions Inc.
Latte from Coffee Bureau
For those on the lookout for their next caffeine fixes, Dez Melenka says it is a must to stop by Coffee Bureau for what she believes is “the perfect latte.”
The adorable cafe located on Jasper Avenue opened in 2015 and has become a hotspot ever since. According to Melenka, not only are the drinks great, but the service is wonderful.
“Their staff always remember who we are and love to catch up while they make coffee,” Melenka says. “It reminds me of growing up in a small town where people are genuinely interested in what’s happening in your world.” — Victoria Dean
After attending the University of Alberta, Mark Korthuis went back home to Saskatoon. Seven years later, he returned to Edmonton with his family, became president and CEO of the Mental Health Foundation, and found his favourite dish, which has direct ties to Saskatoon, and Korthuis.
“The three brothers who own The Greenhouse are originally from Grenada,” Korthuis explains. “They moved to Saskatoon, and I became friends with them. But this was long before they were in the restaurant business.”
Now with two locations, The Greenhouse offers a wide-ranging menu it describes as “80 per cent healthy, 20 per cent naughty,” the best example being Korthuis’s favourite dish, the You Jerk Chicken Salad.
Korthuis says to make sure you get The Greenhouse’s special sauce. “I always tell them it’s gotta be in grocery stores. So as part of my side hustle, knowing nothing on how to make hot sauce into a billion-dollar business, that’s one of my pipe dreams in my old age.” — Cory Schachtel
Whyte Avenue is home to a lot of food hotspots, but if you’re looking for a quick bite to eat, Checkers Pizza has a bit of everything: Chicken wings, donairs, pizza and pasta. According to photographer Aaron Pedersen, the beef loaf is Checkers’ best.
“Whenever I’m on Whyte, I try to grab one,” says Pedersen.
The loaf is loaded with pepperoni, salami, onion, mozzarella cheese and pizza sauce creating a combination Pedersen considers perfection.
“It’s like a pizza sub stripped down to the basics and baked,” says Pedersen. “Dirt cheap as well!” — Victoria Dean
“I think I had it the very first time I went to Corso 32 and, to be honest, I was a fussy eater, who didn’t actually like trying something like Goat Cheese Ricotta. But my wife convinced me to try it and I fell in love. It’s my favourite thing on the menu. It’s creamy and smooth with a luxurious taste and combined with the crostini, it makes a fantastic start to a meal.
“We took friends of ours to Corso for their first time there. My buddy was a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy, so I was curious if he would be into it. We started with the Goat Cheese Ricotta and he said ‘let’s just order a couple of more of these.’ If you go to Corso 32 and don’t order it, that’s a failure! I would encourage people to move to Edmonton, get a job, go to Corso 32 and order the Goat Cheese Ricotta. Even if you don’t like your job, don’t like the winter, you’ll think Edmonton’s great!” — Steven Sandor
Associate Professor, University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry; Team Physician, Edmonton Oilers and Edmonton Eskimos
Bananas Foster from DaDeO
Dr. Dhiren Naidu makes bananas an important part of his daily diet. For breakfast, he often has them with toast or blends them into a smoothie. But, he really loves bananas when they’re flambéed and served with ice cream. The contrast of the warm bananas and brown sugar with the cool ice cream is a combination that can’t be topped.
And, while Bananas Foster is a dish that you’ll find throughout the American Deep South, Naidu believes DaDeO’s version compares with anything you’d find on the other side of the border.
“My first real experience was at DaDeO where they make it table-side, complete with the butter and brown sugar melt, followed by the bananas, rum and the flambé! Since then — it was many years ago — I’ve tried it in the Deep South, on cruises and even made it at home. But, the presentation and authentic nature of DaDeO’s is second to none.” — Steven Sandor
Töpörtyű (pork scratchings) from Budapest Delicatessen
Budapest Delicatessen is a small shop owned by the Taborosi family that specializes in house-made Hungarian food. The scents from their delicious dishes linger around the place on 111th Avenue.
“In the early morning when I walk my dogs, I always get this smell of cured and smoked meat that come from Budapest Delicatessen,” says executive chef at the Edmonton Convention Centre, Serge Belair.
As a food expert, Belair credits the shop’s töpörtyű as one of his favourite dishes in Edmonton. Töpörtyű, which translates to pork scratchings, is deep-fried pork rind that is served as crunchy, bite-sized pieces.
“It’s like eating popcorn. Once you start, you can’t stop!” — Victoria Dean
It’s been a busy 15 months for Byron Martin, founder and artistic director of Grindstone Theatre. It opened its first permanent home a year ago this April (the company started in 2012). Between managing, directing and acting, Martin doesn’t have time to cook.
“I eat out every day,” Martin says. Given the Grindstone’s Old Strathcona location, he has plenty of options, including his theatre’s bistro. But when he wants something special, he goes to a nearby institution: Vons Steakhouse.
“It holds so strong in my memory because growing up, my dad always cooked our steaks at home well-done,” he recalls. “And when my parents took me there, and I had a medium-rare steak — wrapped in bacon — it changed my life. I remember thinking this is what steak is supposed to taste like.”
A life-changing moment, but no hard feelings between him and dad, right? “He is a good cook. It’s just a preference. But I can’t remember the last time I had a steak he made.” — Cory Schachtel
Puff Puff (fried dough) from Koultures Afro-Continental Restaurant
After traveling over 11,000 km for school, Moréniké Ọláòṣebìkan missed the comforts of home. Enter Uyioghosa Oyairo, who hosted parties full of delicious Nigerian delights. “I told her, you should start a restaurant someday.”
Moréniké Ọláòṣebìkan then spent a few years in Ontario and, when she returned found that her friend had done exactly that, with Koultures.
Ọláòṣebìkan, a Top 40 Under 40 alumna, finds refuge from her busy life in Koultures, where she can “have a moment where I pretend that I’m in Nigeria again.” And nothing brings back home more than Puff Puff, fried dough similar to a Timbit, only “way denser, and greasier, and delicious.” — Cory Schachtel
Alison Hughes, whose novel Hit the Ground Running was nominated for a 2017 Governor-General’s award, is not vegetarian, but she’s a fan of the Vegetarian Maki at Kyoto, thanks to some family members.
“I discovered it when my teenage boys went vegan, and were thrilled that they didn’t have to totally give up the taste of sushi. In solidarity, I ate it with them, and just loved it. It’s not just a few sticks of dry carrot and cucumber; they really plump it up with shiitake mushroom and bean curd and avocado. Some wasabi, soy and ginger, and you got the whole taste.” — Steven Sandor
Donair Pizza from Pizza Unlimited and Fried Chicken
Derek Hudson has found the solution to choosing between two food favourites: Donair Pizza.
“It’s amazing. It’s like having a donair and pizza all at the same time,” says Hudson.
This masterpiece can be found at Pizza Unlimited and Fried Chicken. It’s loaded with classic donair ingredients like the special meat, jalapeño peppers, onions, tomatoes and sweet sauce. It is a go-to in the Hudson household.
“It’s a family favourite,” says Hudson. “My kids are grown, but when they all end up at our house, then, inevitably, somebody phones Pizza Unlimited and Fried Chicken, and orders the giant donair pizza.” — Victoria Dean
3911 106 St., 780-757-7777
University of Alberta Adjunct Assistant Professor and Trainer at Champs Boxing Studio
Fettuccine from Vivo Ristorante
There really is nothing like classic Italian cuisine, and with their fettuccine, Edmonton’s Vivo Ristorante is acing it, according to Farha Shariff.
It’s a creamy dish that includes four different types of cheese and made fresh with local ingredients. — Victoria Dean
Provost and Vice-President, Academic at MacEwan University
Louisiana Jambalaya from Louisiana Purchase
Craig Monk was surprised to find, shortly after returning from one of his trips to the Deep South, there was a restaurant just steps from the MacEwan campus that offered jambalaya that compared to the food he’d eaten on his trip.
“It was something to find food as good as I’d had on my travels, and it was in my neighbourhood,” he says.
And why does he love jambalaya? Because he can have ham, chicken, sausage and shrimp — he doesn’t have to choose. “It really is like a buffet on a plate.” — Victoria Dean
The Bend Lounge is a neighbourhood pub, and it might be one of the best-kept secrets in the city. Sorry, Riverbend residents, that’s all over now.
“I found a rare gem of a neighbourhood pub that serves delicious food far beyond pub grub and comparable to any other restaurant in the city,” says Grose. “The Bend Lounge in Riverbend has a chef that’s very serious about his craft and has put together an incredible menu.”
It’s a neighbourhood spot that does anything but try simple pub food. Pubs don’t do fried Brie with cranberry jelly, or tarts filled with asparagus and Gruyere cheese. But Grose’s favourite item is the plate of Cajun Pot-Skins, with spiced chicken and bacon, and a mix of cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses. Dip the pot-skins in sour cream and you’re good to go — because sour cream makes everything better. — Steven Sandor
Julien Arnold will be part of a cast celebrating the music of Johnny Cash in Ring of Fire, a special summertime offering from the Citadel Theatre that runs from July 20-August 11. All of the cast will play the songs live, and Arnold will be portraying an older version of the Man in Black in a stripped-down version of the Cash musical that was a Broadway hit.
But, when Arnold isn’t celebrating a musical legend, you might find him at Accent Lounge, enjoying the gently smoked salmon with capers, red onions and a cream cheese infused with dill.
“The atmosphere there is a relaxed European vibe. It’s got an Old-World feel and I like that. And the music is not too loud for my old ears.”
That’s right. Save the volume for the Citadel stage. — Steven Sandor
8223 104 St.
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This article appears in the July 2019 issue of Avenue Edmonton