Category Archives: Edmonton

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

An Indian-Food Remedy in Edmonton, Alberta

You have to filter through all the flavourful pistachio bits to get to the heart of this lovely chai at Edmonton's Remedy Cafe

You have to filter through all the flavourful pistachio bits to get to the heart of this lovely chai at Edmonton’s Remedy Cafe

I seldom eat Indian food on a road trip. It’s not that I don’t love the rich, complex dishes typical of this cuisine.

It’s just that it tends to be fairly expensive—often exceeding $15 per plate, lunch or dinner—for my travelling budget. Plus the atmosphere is generally dark and formal.

So it’s delightful to discover Remedy Cafe, Zee Zaidi’s growing little kingdom of Indian food joints in Edmonton, Alberta. The eats and drinks are great, the prices most affordable and the spaces bright and roomy, with a counter-service, fast-food vibe (though the bathrooms in the flagship, 109th Street store require a long hike to the nether reaches of the building).

You can certainly order standards like samosa appetizers and butter chicken, served in a copper bowl, with a side of naan. But the lunchtime highlights are the substantial wraps, featuring traditional Indian and Pakistani dishes like tandoori chicken or chana masala stuffed inside a toasted tortilla, with some dipping sauce to spice things up to your heat tolerance. It’s a unique, tasty, stuff-your-gut meal for about $9.

A filling, spicy chicken wrap with a nice dipping sauce

A filling, spicy chicken wrap with a nice dipping sauce

Wash things down with a range of original-recipe chais, steeped over several days, or coffees produced in little siphon pots or through a pour-over filter. Later in the day, join the university crowd swigging from a roster of 70 types of beer.

Remedy Cafe
8631 109 Street (four other Edmonton locations)
Weekdays 7:30 am-midnight, weekends 8 am-midnight
Remedy on Urbanspoon

A short drive to the east, hole-in-the-wall Boulangerie Bonjour is doing one thing extremely well, and that’s making sourdough breads. I love the tangy taste and slight chewiness of a good sourdough, and Yvan Chartrand and team certainly delivers with its wild yeast culture, or levain. The organic wheat and rye grains are from Alberta farms and milled at the bakery, where the loaves are baked on a stone oven hearth.

A fine roster of sourdough loaves to choose from at Boulangerie Bonjour

A fine roster of sourdough loaves to choose from at Boulangerie Bonjour

The only problem is choosing: A traditional loaf, a rye raisin walnut or a sundried tomato and olive? Best to get a raw-milk cheese to go with it, though it’s hard to beat the simplicity of just toasting a slice, or two or three, with a generous smearing of melted butter.

I just want to tear into this sourdough baguette

I just want to tear into this sourdough baguette

Boulangerie Bonjour
8608 99 Street, Edmonton
Tuesday to Friday 8 am-5:30 pm, Saturday 7 am-5 pm. Closed Sunday and Monday
Boulangerie BONJOUR on Urbanspoon

My Best Road-Trip Meals and Drinks of 2014

This simple but superb BLT at Magpie Cafe in Sacramento, California was one of the best sandwiches I ate in 2014

This simple but superb BLT at Magpie Cafe in Sacramento, California was one of the best sandwiches I ate in 2014

Two themes dominated my 2014 road-trip eating adventures in western North America. One was the preponderance of top-end chefs setting up shop in food trucks and churning out imaginative, excellent and most affordable fare (maybe the release of the fun movie Chef is an instance of art imitating life).

The other theme is how geographically diverse these winners are. Yes, the ethnic cauldron of Los Angeles produced many of my top choices. But so did unheralded southern Washington; take a bow Walla Walla and Tri-Cities. So did a lot of places not considered culinary hotbeds. I’m thinking of you Logan, Utah, Idaho Falls and Salmon (both in Idaho), and Mayne Island, a tiny place in B.C.’s Gulf Islands.

Best Breakfasts

Restaurant breakfasts are often the least healthy meal of the day. The holy pairing of grease and carbs bring together eggs cooked in butter, fat-laced bacon, oily hash browns and yet more butter smeared on a whack of toast. Alternatively, you can toss a pound of gluey, syrup-drenched pancakes down the hatch.

Waffles are pretty traditional but certainly enticing looking

Waffles are pretty traditional, but this one is certainly enticing

So it’s nice to see more eateries throwing a healthier curve at the morning equation. Heck, when well done, it can even taste better than the old comfort fare, without the post-meal need to curl up in the fetal position.

Lotus Cafe is a treasure in touristy Jackson, Wyoming. Where it really shines is its imaginative breakfast bowls, like a sprouted buckwheat granola or a raw acai with a ton of fruit and other healthy goodies. Even the oatmeal is unique, featuring nutmeg and cardamom and a topping of pecans, dates and figs.

A beautiful stamped-tin ceiling is just one of Lotus Cafe's many charms

A beautiful stamped-tin ceiling is just one of Lotus Cafe’s many charms

Lotus Cafe
145 North Glenwood Street, Jackson, Wyoming
Daily 8 am-9 pm (reduced winter hours)
The Lotus Cafe on Urbanspoon

Ironically, there’s not a lot of bacon on the menu at Bacon & Eggs in Walla Walla, Washington. And you can get tofu or egg-white omelettes. But what catches my attention, and taste buds, is the Texas eggs, served atop brown rice and black beans, with a heavenly slice of house-made cornbread.

A delicious, healthy bowl of Texas eggs

A delicious, healthy bowl of Texas eggs

Bacon & Eggs
503 East Main Street, Walla Walla, Washington
Thursday to Tuesday 8 am-2 pm. Closed Wednesday
Bacon & Eggs on Urbanspoon

Not often does a lowly breakfast sandwich make me swoon. But it certainly does at Crumb Brothers Artisan Bread & Cafe, in Logan, Utah. It’s the excellence of all the ingredients—from an ethereal ciabatta bun to lemon aioli—plus the painstaking execution that propels it into the stratosphere.

Breakfast sandwiches don't get any better than this

Breakfast sandwiches don’t get any better than this

Crumb Brothers Artisan Bakery
291 South 300 West, Logan, Utah
Weekdays 7 am-3 pm, Saturday 8 am-3 pm. Closed Sunday
Crumb Brothers Artisan Bread on Urbanspoon

Best Coffee

Yes, the fresh-roasted coffee is great at Iconoclast Koffie Huis in Edmonton, Alberta. As is the ultra-cool coffee bar, built from repurposed wood in this old warehouse. But it’s the half-hour conversations with co-owner Ryan Arcand and assorted regulars that make this a great coffeehouse in an era of heads glued to screens.

Iconoclast's roaster is in back of the coffee bar in this refurbished warehouse

Iconoclast’s roaster is in back of the coffee bar in this refurbished warehouse

Iconoclast Koffie Huis
11807 105 Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta
Weekdays 9 am-5 pm, weekends 9 am-5 pm
Iconoclast Koffiehuis on Urbanspoon

Honourable Mentions: They both boast custom-built Slayer espresso machines and excellent coffee. Where they differ is in their decidedly unique locations: SnowDome Coffee Bar in a Jasper, Alberta Laundromat, and Strom Coffee, inside a refurbished Airstream trailer in Richland, Washington.

Best Bakery

purebread is based in the B.C. resort town of Whistler. But I encountered it at a Vancouver farmers’ market, where folks were lined up to buy its creative roster of breads—how about a sour cherry chocolate, a Disfunction Ale or an amazing fig loaf studded with hazelnut slices? The sign of a great bakery is when you can’t stop buying… or eating. Indeed, the crumbly slice of cornbread vanishes before we’ve walked a hundred feet.

Amazing fig loaf studded with hazelnut slices from pure bread

Amazing fig loaf studded with hazelnut slices from pure bread

purebread
1, 1104 Millar Creek Road (another location in Olympic Plaza), Whistler, B.C.
Daily 8:30 am-5 pm
Purebread on Urbanspoon

Best Sandwich

In a crowded list of contenders, tiny food truck The Goodwich, in downtown Las Vegas, stands out. Why? Because co-owner and high-end chef Josh Clark believes you can take almost any first-class ingredients and slap them between two slices of bread to create amazing, affordable sandwiches.

Josh ... is putting high-end ingredients into most affordable sandwiches at The Goodwich, in Las Vegas

Josh Clark is putting high-end ingredients into most affordable sandwiches at The Goodwich, in Las Vegas

The Goodwich
1516 South Las Vegas Boulevard, Suite A, Las Vegas
Tuesday to Sunday 11 am-10 pm, except 4 pm closing Sunday. Closed Monday
The Goodwich on Urbanspoon

Honourable Mentions: Magpie Cafe, in Sacramento, California elevates the generic BLT to godly status with orange heirloom tomatoes, thick slices of bacon and caper aioli on a fresh baguette. Simply excellent. Yes, the oven-roasted turkey on sourdough is outstanding at grungy Junkyard Bistro in Salmon, Idaho. But what slams it out of the park is the fabulous side of chunky potato salad.

Best Burrito

This deserves its own category in 2014, since I spent some time in the global burrito hotbeds of San Francisco and Los Angeles. The best of the best was longstanding, family-run La Azteca Tortilleria, in East Los Angeles. The killer ingredients include a fresh-ground, toasted corn tortilla, good steak and, the kicker, a whole chile relleno dipped in egg and then fried. I hoover down this messy puppy in the front seat of my car in under five minutes.

Siblings Chris and Cynthia Villa at Los Angeles's La Azteca Tortilleria

Siblings Chris and Cynthia Villa at Los Angeles’s La Azteca Tortilleria

La Azteca Tortilleria
4538 East Cesar East Chavez Avenue, Los Angeles
Daily 6 am-3:30 pm except closed Monday
La Azteca Tortilleria on Urbanspoon

Best Food Truck

At El Fat Cat Grill, in Kennewick Washington, chef-owner Felix Sanchez is mixing Mexican and Asian influences to come up with tasty, affordable gems like crispy tortillas smothered in pork, chipotle mole sauce and jalapeno coleslaw.

Chef Felix Sanchez mixing Mexican and Asian influences at his El Fat Cat Grill truck Asian fare

Chef Felix Sanchez mixing Mexican and Asian influences at his El Fat Cat Grill truck
Asian fare

El Fat Cat Grill
539 North Edison (behind the Edison carwash), Kennewick, Washington
Weekdays 11 am-7 pm. Closed Saturday and Sunday
El Fat Cat Grill on Urbanspoon

Best Burger

Almost as good as the fresh-ground, perfectly cooked burger at The Bird, in Jackson, Wyoming, is the full page of the menu advising you how to order your meat. Let me summarize: Don’t dare ask for well done.

The "rules" at The Bird

The “rules” at The Bird

The Bird
4125 South Pub Place (South Highway 89), Jackson, Wyoming
Monday to Saturday the bar opens at 4 pm and the kitchen at 5 pm, Sunday opening is 10 am
The Bird on Urbanspoon

Best Pizza

Una Pizza + Wine’s Twitter feed lets you know how long the wait is at this exceedingly popular little joint in Calgary, Alberta. So best arrive early to order an outstanding, thin-crust pie—like roasted crimini mushrooms with smoked mozza and truffle oil—along with a mountainous kale Caesar salad topped with a boiled egg.

Una Pizza + Wine
618 17 Avenue SW, Calgary, Alberta
Daily 11:30 am-1 am
Una Pizza and Wine on Urbanspoon

Best Exotic Cuisine

Korean food is celebrated for its barbecue, plus all those interesting little dishes that come as appetizers. But at Hangari Bajirak Kalgooksoo, in Los Angeles’s Koreatown, the standout is a huge bowl of Manila clam kalguksu with a boatload of engorged, hand-cut noodles.

Clams and hand-cut noodles in this lovely bowl at Hangari Bajirak Kalgooksoo

Clams and hand-cut noodles in this lovely bowl at Hangari Bajirak Kalgooksoo

Hangari Bajirak Kalgooksoo
3470 West 6 Street, Suite 9, Los Angeles
Daily Monday to Saturday 10 am-10:30 pm, Sunday 10 am-10:30 pm
Hangari Bajirak Kalgooksoo on Urbanspoon

Best Fusion

Guerrilla Tacos owner-chef Wes Avila is storming the Los Angeles food world with a truck that’s spinning out stunning delights like a summer squash taco with runny chile and cashews.

Wes Avila concocts a summer squash taco at his Guerrilla Tacos truck

Wes Avila concocts a summer squash taco at his Guerrilla Tacos truck

Guerilla Tacos
826 East 3 Street (other area locations), Los Angeles
Wednesday 10 am-2 pm, Thursday-Friday 9 am-2 pm, Saturday-Sunday 9 am-1 pm
Guerrilla Tacos on Urbanspoon

Best Sushi

I don’t often get sushi on a road trip: it’s expensive and, all too often, generic. But at Koi Sushi—in a food court, next to a Walmart in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico—chef-owner Angel Huerta Ramirez fashions amazingly creative plates of affordable fare, featuring local wahoo and other creatures of the sea.

This wahoo sashimi plate was to die for

This wahoo sashimi plate was to die for

Koi Sushi
Plaza San Lucas, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Daily noon-9 pm

Best Pie

I don’t eat dessert. But when I’m offered a taste of a wee blueberry-raspberry pie with a port reduction sauce, at The Street Grill truck in Richland, Washington, I ignore spiking blood-sugar levels and keep shovelling till there’s not a crumb left.

The Street Grill
300 Knight Street (John Dam Plaza), Richland, Washington
Monday to Saturday 11 am-5 pm. Closed Sunday

Cast your eyes on this blueberry-raspberry, port-reduction pie and jump in your car.

Cast your eyes on this blueberry-raspberry, port-reduction pie and jump in your car.

Best Beer

Among the many pints and 22-ounce bombers I sampled on the road, the standout was a complex, flavour-filled Widmer Brothers Brewing (Portland) ale aged in bourbon barrels.

Widmer Brothers Brewing
955 North Russell, Portland, Oregon
Sunday to Thursday 11 am-10:30 pm, Friday-Saturday 11 am-11 pm
Widmer Brothers Pub on Urbanspoon

Honourable Mention: The combination might seem odd, but Wild Rose Brewery’s (Calgary, Alberta) seasonal cherry porter was a knockout. I stocked up on the one-litre bottles while they lasted.

Best Experience

At Farm Gate Store, on B.C’s Mayne Island, the divine grilled sandwiches are just the exclamation point on a fabulous rural shop that features local produce, meat and killer flower arrangements.

Co-owner Shanti arranges her farm-cut flower bouquets, a bargain $11

Co-owner Shanti arranges her farm-cut flower bouquets, a bargain $11

Farm Gate Store
568 Fernhill Road, Mayne Island, B.C.
Monday to Saturday 10 am-6 pm, Sunday 10 am-5 pm

Best Meal(s) of 2015

Why would I drive 1,100 kilometres (620 miles) for a meal? When it’s the best Mexican food I’ve devoured all year and served by wonderful owners Bertha Moreno and daughter Jessica. I thus trek all the way from Calgary not once but twice in a three-month span, to Morenita’s Mexican Restaurant, in Idaho Falls of all places.

Bertha Moreno and daughter Jessica serve up fabulous fare at Morenita's Mexican Restaurant

Bertha Moreno and daughter Jessica serve up fabulous fare at Morenita’s Mexican Restaurant

Sure, I was headed on to other destinations. But nothing made me happier in 2014 than plunking myself down at a nondescript Morenita table and letting Jessica keep bringing me fantastic plates of inventive Mexican food. Like an unforgettable taco ranchero—an open, crispy corn tortilla piled with sauteed pork loin, salsa fresca and avocado, doused with house-made sauces, all for $2.50.

Traditional tacos and tostadas elevated to star status

Traditional tacos and tostadas elevated to star status

Things were going so well, I threw caution to the wind and ordered a sampler bowl of menudo, something I swore I’d never touch again after a rubber-band greasefest with my appalled sisters in some dusty Mexican village. Here, the broth is perfectly seasoned, the little hominy balls a delightful surprise and the, gulp, beef tripe sufficiently tender I might order it again. Just not for a year or two.

Morenita’s Mexican Restaurant
450 Whittier Street, Idaho Falls, Idaho
Monday to Thursday 10 am-9 pm, Friday-Saturday 9:30 am-9 pm, Sunday 9:30 am-8:30 pmMorenita's Restaurant on Urbanspoon