Category Archives: Edmonton

Edmonton’s Little Village offers great Greek-to-go

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Theo Psalios runs a great little Greek takeout joint in Edmonton

I could easily eat more Greek food. But there’s something about sitting down at tables covered in blue-and-white tablecloths and ordering platters of sleep-inducing fare that keeps me away.

So when a place like Edmonton’s Little Village offers quick, flavourful Greek food to go, I’m all over it.

As the name suggests, it’s a tiny, strip-mall-style deli. There are a few stools for in-house dining. But most folks, I suspect, are picking things up to eat at home or on the road.

They can choose from display cases brimming with chicken legs, lamb shanks and other Greek standards like spanakopita, moussaka, lemon potatoes and dolmades.

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Display cases brimming with great Greek food

We decide to eat in, allowing us to watch the action and chat with owner Theo Psalios, who has 20 years in the restaurant business and most recently migrated here from a food truck of the same name. The trucks still operates for some events like the Thursday night 124th street market, where we pick up an excellent lamb burger.

At the bricks-and-mortar location, I order keftedes—meatballs made of beef, pork, bacon and mint, smeared with tzatziki sauce and wrapped with some veggies in a pita ($8.50). My sister gets a slab of moussaka ($7.50).

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A marvellous medley of meatballs

What immediately stands out is the quality and freshness of the food and the skill that goes into its preparation. What I also like is ordering a la carte at the counter and being done in under 15 minutes. Which at a full-bore Greek restaurant might be the time it takes for just the retsina to arrive.

Little Village
14816 Stony Plain Road, Edmonton, Alberta
Tuesday to Saturday 11 am-6 pm, except 5:30 pm closing Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday
780-244-0885

Edmonton’s Northern Chicken delivers even when it’s hot inside

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Northern Chicken co-owner/chef Matt Phillips stays cool even when things are hot inside

Here’s what an entrepreneurial restaurant owner does when disaster strikes: Turns it into an opportunity.

We’re walking past Edmonton’s heralded new Northern Chicken. There’s a sign on the door saying the fried-chicken joint is forced to close for the night because of a vent failure. No problem (for us), as we’ve just finished eating at the nearby 124th Street Thursday night market.

We press our noses against the glass just to see what the inside looks like. A few seconds later, a bearded guy pops out to apologize and explain the closure. That’s fine, we say, other than to note that we’re from Calgary and I’m a food blogger. As we’re waiting for the lights to change, out he pops again.

“I’ve got eight pieces of chicken I can serve you,” says co-owner and chef Matt Phillips. “There’s also a long list of beers and whiskies, if you want a drink. It’s a little hot because of the vent malfunction, but you’re welcome to sit inside.”

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Moist, tender chicken with a delectably crisp skin

So, more out of curiosity than hunger, in we go and order three pieces of medium-heat chicken and an outstanding can of Bench Creek Brewing’s (Edson) Apex Predator, a seasonal double IPA. The chicken, fried at a lower than normal temperature to give the skin a lovely crunch, is outstanding.

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Matts pours us a superb Bench Creek double IPA

You’d expect Matt to have disappeared by now, to fret over the mechanical breakdown. But no, he leans against the counter and chats with us for 15 minutes, explaining the restaurant’s philosophy.

Before opening Northern Chicken last November, Matt and co-owner Andrew Cowan had been chefs in numerous Edmonton restaurants, perfecting their fried-chicken recipe along the way. Where I really notice the chef’s touch is in the sides: roasted asparagus salad, whipped sweet potato, charred-onion potato salad, honey thyme cornbread and one of the best, freshest cole slaws I’ve tasted.

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You won’t find imaginative sides like this in most fried-chicken joints

It’s upscale comfort food, in a relaxed setting. Even when the shit hits the fan.

Northern Chicken
10704 124 Street, Edmonton
Monday-Tuesday 11 am-10 pm, Thursday to Saturday 11 am-11 pm, Sunday 11 am-late. Closed Wednesday
780-756-2239

Unique Pork Sandwich at Edmonton Portuguese Bakery

Hearty, cheap pork bifana sandwich at Edmonton's Portuguese Canadian Bakery

Hearty, cheap pork bifana sandwich at Edmonton’s Portuguese Canadian Bakery

There’s nothing like an old-school European bakery. Nothing fancy. Loaves in white, whole wheat, hearty rye. No descriptive words like artisanal, stone hearth, wild yeast or multi-generation sourdough starter. Just bread and buns, stacked in bins and tossed into plastic bags for customers.

Portuguese Canadian Bakery, in the east end of Edmonton, is like that, though it does bake those wonderfully chewy corn breads, in yellow or white. There’s also a grocery and a little lunch room, where you can order sandwiches piled with deli meats.

But I’m here for something new for me: a pork bifana sandwich on a kaiser roll. Essentially, it’s breaded pork cutlets, grilled till they have a nice crispy skin. Mustard and mayo are the offered garnishes. Really, anything more would distract from that crunchy pork essence.

A perfect light lunch, for four bucks and change. Toss in a sizeable couple of round corn breads ($1.00 apiece) and a few cold cuts, and I’m stocked with sandwich fixings for a few more days. 

Portugese Canadian Bakery
5304 118 Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta
Weekdays 7 am-6 pm, Saturday 7 am-5 pm. Closed Sunday

Edmonton’s Coffee Scene Perking Up

Coffee Bureau is just one of the new cafes that has popped up in Edmonton

Coffee Bureau is just one of the new cafes that has popped up in Edmonton

Until recently, Edmonton’s coffee scene was best described as slumbering. But suddenly, it’s jolted to double-shot life, to the point where it’s surprisingly surpassed Calgary.

Consider that four (that’s right, four) new, independent coffee shops have opened in the first half of this year. Indeed, two— Coffee Bureau and the basement Lock Stock Coffee, attached to Red Star Pub—are across the street from each other on formerly moribund Jasper Avenue.

Lock Stock Coffee is a little basement space attached to Red Star Pub

Lock Stock Coffee is a little basement space attached to Red Star Pub

A third, Barking Buffalo Cafe, has joined the action on fashionable 124 Street, where Credo added a second outlet a year earlier. The last of the new arrivals, Little Brick Cafe and General Store, is part of Nate Box’s growing empire, which includes two newish downtown locations, Burrow (in an underground light-rail transit station) and District Coffee.

Little Brick Cafe is in a charming historic building in the Riverdale neighbourhood

Little Brick Cafe is in a charming historic building in the Riverdale neighbourhood

If there’s a theme to this caffeinated surge, it’s this: Hole-in-the-wall spaces with limited seating and a firm focus on crafting fine espresso-based drinks and offering just a few baked treats. It’s also interesting that the roasts in these places lean to the dark side, a pushback, perhaps, against the lighter beans long fashionable in aficionado coffee circles.

Coffee Bureau is symbolic of the new-look Edmonton cafe. It’s elegantly spare, containing maybe a dozen seats at pine tables and benches along the front window and a side wall decorated with good, local art. Yet it doesn’t feel cramped. The nice, darker espresso beans are from Edmonton’s new Ace Coffee Roasters and the muffins and croissants from Garneau’s Leva Cafe.

Featuring beans from Toronto micro roaster Pilot, Barking Buffalo Cafe is a unique combination of coffee shop and clothing designer/retailer Salgado Fenwick. It’s another caffeinated 124 Street option to those who don’t want to line up for the uber popular, excellent bakery Duchess.

Barking Buffalo Cafe shares space with a local clothing designer/store

Barking Buffalo Cafe shares space with a local clothing designer/store

Not to be left out, Edmonton’s south side will soon be joining the fun. The Woodrack Cafe is set to open on 109 Street later this year, and long-time local roaster Transcend Coffee will move into the new Ritchie market in 2016.

Will all these new coffee shops survive? Who knows. This much choice doesn’t seem to have hurt Seattle or Portland.

One thing’s for sure. Edmonton is embracing micro coffee shops with a religious fervour. Perhaps that explains why, of the new entries, only Little Brick is open on Sunday.

Pigging Out at Edmonton’s Farrow Sandwiches

Mason jar pour-overs at tiny Farrow Sandwiches in Edmonton

Mason jar pour-overs at tiny Farrow Sandwiches in Edmonton

Following in the footsteps of Vancouver’s Meat & Bread and fellow Edmontonian Elm Cafe, Farrow Sandwiches is bringing a decidedly minimalist approach to the city’s Garneau neighbourhood.

Like the former, Farrow offers a rotating menu of just four sandwiches, along with some high-end coffee. Like the latter, the space is tiny. Tiny as in three high window seats and a counter, a coffee-making space and a wee grill that collectively spans a few paces. Think food truck with indoor ordering.

The industrial soundtrack might be enough to make an oldster like me just grab my butcher block-wrapped sammy and head to a streetside picnic table or my car, anyway. (I was the oldest customer by a factor of at least two, but I can generally hang with the young’uns.)

Besides, in a place like this, it’s all about the food. I go with the popular, breakfasty Grick Middle ($7), the only constant on a menu that includes a daily vegetarian option. When it’s this simple, the details count and they nail them with a chewy Portuguese roll, thick strips of bacon, a slightly runny egg, rosemary aioli and a knockout tomato jam.

A fabulous egg and bacon sandwich on Portuguese, with a tomato jam kicker

A fabulous egg and bacon sandwich on Portuguese, with a tomato jam kicker

There are three types of non-espresso coffee, all from high-end beans like Stumptown and Drop Coffee. One is brewed (“fast”), one is “slow”—a pour-over into a big Mason jar—and the third is a cold brew. The two young owners of this new eatery obviously have a passion for sandwiches and coffee and are wisely sticking to their expertise.

Farrow Sandwiches
8422 109 Street, Edmonton
Weekdays 8 am-4 pm, weekends 9 am-4 pm. Closed Tuesday
Click to add a blog post for Farrow Sandwiches on Zomato

Edmonton’s Credo a Different Breed of Coffeehouse

Half a dozen types of excellent muffins steadily emerging from the kitchen makes Edmonton's Credo a special coffeehouse

Half a dozen types of excellent muffins steadily emerging from the kitchen makes Edmonton’s Credo a special coffeehouse

Here’s how you make a coffeehouse stand out.

Obviously, you need fine coffee. Edmonton’s Credo nicely meets that standard.

A nice Americano, using Intelligentsia beans

A nice Americano, using Intelligentsia beans

But it’s the house-baked goodies that blow the doors off. Credo smartly keeps things relatively simple, offering just a few treats like cookies, lovely pans of granola bars and muffins.

Muffins, you’re thinking? Big deal. But how many places offer a half dozen varieties at a time? Credo does, every day.

Here’s the real kicker. Most coffee shops bake one batch of muffins early in the morning. Once they’re sold out, they’re gone. And if they’re not all gone by, say, noon, they’re often wrapped in plastic, to keep them “fresh”. But to me, plastic wrap spells “stale”, usually enough to send me running for the exit.

Credo, though, has the ingenious idea of simply baking more batches as the day wears on. Thus the muffins are always fresh and often warm from the oven.

How about a fine cornmeal, cheddar muffin, with a bit of kick?

How about a fine cornmeal, cheddar muffin, with a bit of kick?

Such as the fabulous cornmeal and cheddar muffin I recently devoured. It had a lovely texture, with a bit of crunch from the cornmeal and a wee kick from, I’m guessing, some jalapeño. Did I mention it was just out of the oven and artfully angled, with its brethren, in its baking tin?

I could have ordered a blueberry muffin, a bran or a cranberry cornmeal instead and been just as satisfied. Indeed, it took all my willpower to not down a couple more.

So, by simply deciding to make great muffins, and lots of them, Credo is always going to be a go-to coffee shop among the dozens competing for my attention when I’m in Edmonton.

Credo Cafe
10134 104 Street and 10350 124 Street, Edmonton, Alberta
104 Street location: weekdays 7 am-6 pm, Saturday 8 am-6 pm, Sunday 10 am-6 pm (slightly reduced hours at the second, new location)
Credo Coffee on Urbanspoon

In other Edmonton coffee news, the cleverly named Burrow has opened in the underground concourse of a downtown light-rail transit (LRT) station. With an efficient espresso bar (using Four Barrel beans) and pastries and light breakfasts and lunches to go, it’s aimed at snagging the 20,000 transit users a day who walk by.

It’s part of Nate Box’s expanding city empire of little coffee/food places, joining Elm Cafe and District Coffee. Guess you could call it a box set.

Burrow
Central LRT Station concourse west (Jasper Avenue near 102 Street)
Weekdays 7 am-5 pm. Closed weekends
Burrow on Urbanspoon