That’s right. I’m doing a post on my top Edmonton dining experiences for the year. Wrapping up 2016, I’ve come to realize that although I love to make lists, I have yet to publish one on this blog. I have never done a post about my favourite restaurants, my current obsessions, or a “Best of” anything and I think I’m overdue. So here it goes, my most memorable eats of 2016, from new trends to new restaurants to outstanding pop-ups, in no particular order. Goodbye 2016, you’ve been a blast!
I have no doubts that 2016 was Edmonton’s year of bubble tea. If 2017 can usurp the number of bubble tea franchises that opened this year, I will be astonished. Opening downtown in March, CoCo Fresh Tea and Juice was the first to our big chain BBT scene and has since opened a second location in south Edmonton. It was followed quickly by the appropriately named chain Quickly. There was a bit of a lull in the summer, a prime time for the popular Taiwanese drink. Late fall brought Edmonton two more franchises: Chatime and Gongcha, which solidified downtown and Whyte Avenue as bubble tea hot spots.
Seoul Fried Chicken was the talk of the town early in 2016 with their flavourful Korean fried chicken. Old Strathcona is lucky to have them and with “seven ways ’til Sunday”, fried chicken lovers can get their fix of the SFC OG, the classic BBQ, or Garlic and Soy. My personal favourites: Onion Lover and Golden Kari.
Chicken became a hot topic in Edmonton throughout the year, long lines forming at Nando’s and Popeyes. I have yet to visit either but I can tell you that I thoroughly enjoy eating at Northern Chicken. Following through on their successful pop-up events, chefs Andrew Cowan and Matt Phillips are offering good ol’ fashioned fried chicken with inventive and tempting sides. Heat seekers should get the Hot Fried Chicken and don’t forget to order a side of Dorito Mac ’N Cheese and Peanut Potato Salad.
Kickstarter-funded Chartier wins my heart (and stomach!) for 2016. Every meal I’ve had at Chartier has been fantastic and it just keeps getting better. From their bread window to brunch to dinner, a trip out to Beaumont is well worth it for this French-Canadian restaurant. Don’t you dare leave without a ordering heaping plate of poutine!
Daniel Costa’s modern trattoria-style eatery Uccellino opened alongside its sister restaurants, Bar Bricco and Corso 32. Central and Southern Italian fare provides for for a laid-back, casual dining experience in the light airy space, half of which is open for walk-ins. I will forever remember the not-so-ordinary spaghetti, tossed with Bottarga Di Muggine, chili, lemon and pangrattato. Thank goodness Edmonton has this little bird.
It took me a little while to warm up to Cafe Linnea, the menu quite unlike any other brunch spaces in Edmonton. Scandinavian French-inspired cuisine offers a light but fulfilling experience and the atmosphere alone made me feel at home. Normandy-style buckwheat crepes, oeufs-en-cocotte, and duck eggs with steel cut oats are just some of your options at this no-tipping establishment.
Izakaya Dorinku brings back my absolute best memories of the year, ones from my travels to Japan. That’s another story for another time. With pressed sushi, chicken karaage and a fantastic bowl of ramen, Dorinku extends Whyte Avenue’s eats further east and a great space for late night bites with friends.
Not all of my memorable eats have been at established brick and mortars. I was introduced to authentic Mexican fare by chefs Israel Alvarez and Matthew Marcotte of COMAL Mexican Table Dinners. Dishes like the esquites, the mole, and their spread of tacos opened my eyes to what seemed like a whole new cuisine. I have high hopes to attend another event in 2017 and can’t wait to see more from these guys.
You don’t have to be seasoned chefs with international experience to make memorable food. Closed Monday by Canteen Kidz was a concept that I wish more restaurants would replicate. Canteen’s chef Mike Nguyen stepped down for one night to showcase some of his youngest and most creative in the kitchen and the night was beyond cool. I look forward to seeing the names of the Canteen Kidz again, one day perhaps manning their own space.
It doesn’t look like Baijiu is opening this year, but both pop-up events run by North 53’s second venture has me looking forward to their opening date. Chef Alexei Boldireff is serving up small Asian plates with bright and bold flavours and their cocktail menu is sure to impress. Keep an eye out for what I predict to be one of 2017’s best new restaurants.
Edmonton’s food scene continues to grow every year but 2016 was exceptionally outstanding. I’m looking forward to 2017 and my 5th year blogging. My memorable eats is in no way, shape or form, a full picture of what Edmonton has to offer. Establishments like Local Omnivore and Bar Clementine are still on my list (yet another that I should publish!) and I have yet to make my schedule work for Chef Christine Sanford‘s pop-ups.
What are your favourite eats for 2016? Leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts!