I’ve had a lot of food made to order. Which is the way, for the most part, it should be.
But never doughnuts. Not that I ever eat them; their doughy sweetness sends my blood sugars soaring.
Still, when we walked into Edmonton’s Ohana Donuterie and saw that the doughnuts are not fried until you order them, we figured we had to give it a shot; two bites in my case.
These are not your conventional doughnuts. They are called malasadas, a Portugese-derived yeast doughnut, rolled in sugar, that’s also popular in Hawaii. At Ohana’s, you can get them filled—in our case, with a simple vanilla cream.
And really, you don’t want to complicate things. You want to concentrate fully on these puffy, soft, yummy bombs.
While some folks were ordering them to go, they are best consumed at a table, warm from the fryer and perhaps chased with an espresso. They are also pretty substantial; a single doughnut is a fair-sized snack, costing $2.75 if filled.
Ohana is a year-old partnership of two guys, Adam and Kevin, who started with a food truck and added a fixed, hole-in-the-doughnut location in Edmonton’s Strathcona district. It’s a good thing I live in Calgary.
10347 80 Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta
Monday to Thursday 8 am-9 pm, Friday 8 am-10 pm, Saturday 9 am-10 pm, Sunday 10 am-9 pm
There’s a good case for making Edmonton the number two coffee hot spot in western Canada, behind Vancouver. Of course, Edmontonians aren’t as precious about how they roast and prepare their coffee as the wet coasters.
Still, there are always new coffee shops popping up in Alberta’s capital. After profiling half a dozen places a couple of years ago, I figured it was time for a fresh visit up north.
The first stop was The Colombian Coffee & Roastery, next door to the venerable Vi’s for Pies in the city’s leafy Glenora neighbourhood; the roasting happens at the back of the long, narrow space. It seemed like an odd, generic name, until I learned co-owner Santiago Lopez was from Colombia and that some of the roastery’s beans come from a family farm there. Talk about farm to cup.
The place was hopping on a dreary Saturday morning, with lots of folks ordering avocado toast to go with steaming mugs of java. Good stuff, evidence that if you build a good coffee shop in a nice district, the neighbours will come.
Somewhat harder to find is ACE Coffee Roasters, on a little side street south of Whyte Avenue in Edmonton’s Strathcona district. It’s a lovely, spacious place with high ceilings, exposed ductwork and a gleaming marble coffee bar.
My Americano was one of the better ones I’ve had in Edmonton. The coffee is nicely chased with donuts baked at partner Café Leva in Garneau.
In the attached space, separated by a glass wall, is the company’s Caffe Tech, where you can drop a few grand on high-end home and commercial espresso machines. Think I’ll just let the expert barrista pull the shots for me.
The Columbian Coffee & Roastery
1, 10340 134 Street NW, Edmonton, Alberta
Weekdays 7 am-6 pm, Saturday 8 am-6 pm, Sunday 9 am-3 pm
ACE Coffee Roasters
10055 80 Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta
Wednesday to Sunday 8 am-4 pm. Closed Monday and Tuesday
I’m a big fan of eating at restaurant counters, because it gives me a front-row view of the kitchen.
At Edmonton’s fabulous, newish Prairie Noodle Shop, I’ve discovered another benefit of sitting on a high counter stool: it’s only a few inches from bowl to mouth. All the better to slurp up that liquid and noodle goodness without wearing it.
Really, there is no elegant way to attack these gorgeous ramen bowls. Just lift your chin occasionally to admire the beautiful composition and then dive back into exploring all the complex flavours and textures.
The big plastic spoon is needed to savour the rich pork broth, simmered for 16 hours and, in my case, jacked up with miso, garlic and house-made chili oil. The chopsticks are required to grab the slender ramen noodles, the tender chunk of roasted pork belly, the smoked, shredded pork shoulder and the half umeboshi egg. Then it’s back to the spoon to scoop up niblets of sweet sesame corn.
There’s a lot going on in this big bowl forged by chef/owner Eric Hanson—a bargain really at $15.50 for this much originality and quality.
Prairie Noodle Shop
10350 124 Street, Edmonton, Alberta
Monday 11 am-2:30 pm, Tuesday to Saturday 11 am-2:30 pm, 4:30 pm-10 pm. Closed Sunday
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.
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).
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.
14816 Stony Plain Road, Edmonton, Alberta
Tuesday to Saturday 11 am-6 pm, except 5:30 pm closing Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday
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.”
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.
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.
It’s upscale comfort food, in a relaxed setting. Even when the shit hits the fan.
10704 124 Street, Edmonton
Monday-Tuesday 11 am-10 pm, Thursday to Saturday 11 am-11 pm, Sunday 11 am-late. Closed Wednesday