As a north-side kid, I never did much dining south of the Yellowhead growing up. Either finding parking was too much of a hassle, restaurants were already fully booked, or my pizza-loving older brothers would be quicker on the draw when my parents asked where we wanted to eat out.
That unfortunately resulted in about a decade-and-a-half of chain restaurant dinners, early onset culinary ennui and a simmering sibling rivalry. In fact, it wasn’t until I got to university that I finally began to discover what Edmonton dining has to offer.
But the year is 2021, and thanks to food delivery services, the ingenuity of the folks at the Downtown Business Association, and a darned global pandemic, Edmontonians everywhere (yup, even you youngsters on the north side) can bring downtown home with this year’s Downtown Dining Week.
Running until April 25, Downtown Dining Week is a little more virtual this year, but just as delicious as ever. The event features 48 participating restaurants, each offering anything from $20 lunches and fast casual meals to $65 three-course feasts.
As is the norm these days, the Downtown Business Association has pivoted Downtown Dining Week to meet the realities of the pandemic. That has meant providing takeout options and partnering with hotels to offer in-room dining, but also allowing restaurants to extend their outdoor patios by closing part of 104 Street to vehicle traffic.
The increased room for outdoor patios is something that Puneeta McBryan, executive director of the Downtown Business Association, is particularly excited about.
“[We] worked with our restaurants to ensure everyone had a takeout-friendly menu that they were really proud of, and that they were aware of and taking advantage of the city’s temporary patio program,” McBryan says. “We’ve now seen way more patios opening up downtown this past week than I think we’ve ever seen in April in Edmonton!”
McBryan also stresses the importance of continuing to support local small businesses and restaurants, even as the pandemic drags into its 13th month.
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“Honestly, I get it. The pandemic has taken a massive toll on all of us, mentally, emotionally, and for anyone who’s had precarious or inconsistent employment, it’s taken a devastating financial toll, too,” McBryan says. “But if you’re someone who does have any expendable income, I can’t emphasize enough how critical it is that you spend that money locally at every opportunity right now.”
Patrons will also have a chance to leave Downtown Dining Week with their wallets — and stomachs — a little heavier thanks to the Downtown Dining Week Instagram contest. Two $50 restaurant gift cards are being given away every day until April 25. All you need to do is follow the contest rules on Instagram to enter the draw.
So pick up your phone (or windbreaker) and get plugged into Downtown Dining Week. Whether you’re stuffing your face with Rosewood Foods’ irresistible breakfast sandwich or getting lost in the delights at Sofra Turkish Restaurant, supporting local has never tasted quite this good.