Tag Archives: Edmonton restaurants

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

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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

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

Edmonton Eateries: Part 3

Lining up for lunch at MRKT in downtown Edmonton

Lining up for lunch at MRKT in downtown Edmonton

After spending 10 days in my birth city of Edmonton, I’m ready for a third instalment of good, affordable eateries, in this case lunch spots. While Edmonton’s roads aren’t getting any better,  the food scene continues to improve, though it’s surprising how many downtown spots are only open Tuesday to Friday for lunch.

The chefs at *Cibo Bistro are noted for serving high-end dishes like seared duck breast, stuffed rabbit leg and house-made pasta with stinging nettles to a discerning dinner crowd. But four days a week, they turn their considerable talents to more affordable lunches at this lofty-ceiling, rustic Italian restaurant along central Edmonton’s busy 104 Avenue.

Fabulous meatball sandwich and golden beet soup at Cibo Bistro

Fabulous meatball sandwich and golden beet soup at Cibo Bistro

Consider my $13 combo, delivered by a most engaging server, Chance. It starts with a luscious bowl of golden beet soup, the small chunks of grapes adding a touch of sweetness to a thick kale base. Then it’s on to Cibo’s first-rate signature meatball sandwich—hefty pork and veal meatballs atop a thin layer of prosciutto and smoked caciocavallo, and tomato basil jam smeared on a toasted baguette. It’s a fabulous, creative lunch and a bargain for the quality, size and execution.

Cibo Bistro
11244 104 Avenue, Edmonton
Lunch Tuesday to Friday 11:30 am-2 pm, dinner Tuesday to Saturday 5 pm-10 pm. Closed Sunday and Monday

Another good lunch bet is downtown’s popular MRKT, where a sandwich/salad and soup combo also goes for $13, washed down with a good pot of French press coffee. My braised, shredded beef sandwich is nicely complemented by caramelized onions, smoked gouda and a Spanish tomato sauce, served on a ciabatta bun. I choose the fish soup, featuring small pieces of scallop, shrimp and basa.

MRKT's downtown Edmonton space is cool and casual

MRKT’s downtown Edmonton space is cool and casual

It’s all good stuff though not quite as flavourful as the ingredients might suggest. The space is certainly interesting—a subway-like tube wrapped in wood paneling, with mostly long and tall shared tables, which are increasingly de rigeur in fashionable, casual eateries.

Braised beef sandwich and fish soup at MRKT

Braised beef sandwich and fish soup at MRKT

MRKT
10542 Jasper Avenue, Edmonton
Lunch Tuesday to Friday 11 am-2 pm, wine bar Tuesday to Saturday 5 pm-late

The corner of Stony Plain Road and 142 Street, in Edmonton’s west end, has been a graveyard for restaurants. Indeed, the most recent resident, Blue Chicago Speakeasy, still maintains its peeling presence a good decade after closing. If and when a nearby apartment tower and western extension of the city’s light-rail transit get built, perhaps the upsurge in area traffic will increase the demand for good eateries.

In the meantime, here’s hoping Cafe Rista, a little place that’s somewhat hidden on a side street a block to the north, has better success than its neighbours. The family-run business has a lot going for it—good Italian espressos, breakfast bagels/sandwiches and a list of fresh paninis, wraps and salads at lunch. My flavourful Italian panini ($8.50) has a generous layering of spicy meats and melted mozza, and the large bowl of the day’s chicken noodle soup is almost big enough to swim in.

Cafe Rista's not kidding about its "large" bowls of soup

Cafe Rista’s not kidding about its “large” bowls of soup

Cafe Rista
14213 103 Avenue, Edmonton
Weekdays 7 am-5 pm, Saturday 9 am-2 pm. Closed Sunday

Had a stressful morning? Just head over to Padmanadi Vegetarian Restaurant, an oasis of calm on the northern edge of downtown Edmonton. It’s a lovely space, with light yellow walls, arrangements of long bamboo stalks, unique triangular chairs and, presiding over all, a beatific jade Buddha.

Padmanadi Vegetarian Restaurant is an oasis of calm in downtown Edmonton

Padmanadi Vegetarian Restaurant is an oasis of calm in downtown Edmonton

Padmanadi carries on the curious custom of vegetarian restaurants naming dishes after the various meats they’re trying to replicate. In my case, it’s the savoury chicken curry, the tofu resembling and tasting very much like, you guessed it, chicken. It comes in a nice, mild sauce with chunks of potato, broccoli spears, a mound of jasmine rice and a couple of crispy spring rolls filling the plate. This $12 meal includes a little bowl of hot and sour soup and chrysanthemum tea, both beautifully presented.

The elegantly presented hot and sour soup is part of the full-meal lunch at Padmanadi

The elegantly presented hot and sour soup is part of the full-meal lunch at Padmanadi

In sum, forget the arguments about faux meat. This is good food, with friendly, relaxed service in a place that allows you unwind for an hour.

Padmanadi Vegetarian Restaurant
10740 101 Street, Edmonton
Tuesday-Friday 11 am-2 pm

In the bedroom city of St. Albert, just north of Edmonton, is The Enjoy Centre. How can’t you love a name like that, especially when it’s dedicated to plants and a food emporium under several acres of glorious glass? The centre is a legacy of the Hole family, whose famed St. Albert greenhouse business lives on here and is hopefully beyond the financial troubles that plagued the centre’s early years.

The Enjoy Centre in St. Albert is a light-infused mix of plant and food

The Enjoy Centre in St. Albert is a light-infused mix of plants and food

Upon entering the building, you walk through a ground floor devoted to the Amaranth Whole Foods Market, a bakery and a deli. Take the long, slow escalator to the light-filled second floor to shop for perennials and enjoy a fine coffee, panini or fabulous, arranged salad at the aptly-named Glasshouse Bistro & Cafe, with views over Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park. It’s one of those places you just want to linger and, well, enjoy.

A fine roasted veggie and quinoa salad at the Glasshouse Bistro & Cafe in The Enjoy Centre

A fine roasted veggie and quinoa salad at the Glasshouse Bistro & Cafe in The Enjoy Centre

Glasshouse Bistro & Cafe (in The Enjoy Centre)
101 Riel Drive, St. Albert
Daily, coffee bar opens at 10 am, the dining room and counter-service lunch bar at 11 am