As you weave through the tangled web of LRT construction along 95th Avenue in Strathearn, the faded sign above Ralph’s Handi Mart does little to advertise itself as the Mecca for local fried chicken lovers it has become. This small corner shop has been feeding the Strathearn community for decades, and its chicken has garnered a reputation in Edmonton’s food scene as a true hidden culinary gem.
As you swing the heavy front door open, the bell chimes above you and the scent of deep-fried goodness reaches your nostrils. The bell signifies that you’ve made it to the right place, and you have to follow your nose beyond the rows of cola bottles to track down what you’re looking for. Nestled in between shelves filled with bottles of Tylenol and puffed wheat squares is a tiny box stacked with crispy, golden fried chicken, lit red by the warming lamp. You’d almost miss the action if it weren’t for the construction workers, businesspeople and local Strathearnites lined up behind this box of edible gold.
When the clock strikes 11 a.m., piece after piece of chicken is pulled, boxed and paid for as fast as possible. A woman named Sue prepares my box in a pleasant, precise manner, but there’s little time for chit chat as the masses parade through the door looking for lunch. During lunch service, Ralph’s transforms from a simple convenience store into a renowned eatery with the hustle and bustle to match some of Edmonton’s top chicken joints.
Ralph’s Handi Mart chicken is not a gentleman’s chicken; it’s chicken for the people. It’s unabashedly unrefined. It’s soul food, slightly greasy and unrelentingly gluttonous in its natural form. It’s for the late-night crowd and the construction crews, and for tired parents with hungry kids. It’s food you could probably bribe a Folk Fest security guard with if you’re in a pinch. Ralph’s fried chicken is simply the most honest chicken in the city. There are no bells and whistles, what you see is what you get. This small, unassuming convenience store has stayed true to the simplicity of its original recipe all this time.
Ralph’s Handi Mart fried chicken keeps me coming back for that reason, and I always make sure to have an extra napkin handi in my glove box the next time I make a happy mistake and get lost in the LRT construction detours near Strathearn.
9508 87 St NW | 780-465-5615
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