Crash Hotel opened earlier this month in Edmonton’s downtown core, offering affordable room just across from the ICE District and offering casual dining spaces to attract both tourists and locals. The revamped and historic Grand Hotel is now home to two establishments: the fun, arcade-centric Denizen Hall and the laid-back lounge, Crash Hotel Lobby Bar. I found myself crash landing at the latter and really enjoying my experiences.
You may remember the 103 Street space as the somewhat sketchy and run down Grand Hotel. With the arena and new developments across the street, it’s no surprise that Urban Sparq Hospitality wanted to revamp the space. Power houses The Pint and Knoxville Tavern are well established bars in Edmonton and Denizen Hall is well on its way to becoming a space for pre-game drinks. New Beercade is also becoming popular. It’s Crash Hotel Lobby Bar that can be missed if you blink too fast.
Chef Nathin Bye (previously of Wildflower Grill and Ampersand 27, and youngest winner of Gold Medal Plates) is helming Crash Hotel Lobby Bar’s kitchen. Bye says it’s quite different working for a hospitality group that’s main focus is drinks and beverages, but in a good way though. He’s able to express his creativity in the kitchen while serving reasonable portions of food for a cheaper price tag. It’s great for the small plates menu — casual fare, bar food favourites, with a breath of fresh air.
The space is intimate compared to Denizen Hall. The Deni is nice for a large groups of people, a space where you can be party after a good game. Alternatively, Crash Hotel Lobby Bar has some old rock, mixed with old hip-hop tunes for a laid-back vibe. Amidst dark wood paneling, bar, booth, and countertop seating are available, making for a very relaxed atmosphere.
My initial visit left me wanting to come back for more. Diane and I shared the CRASH Chicken Drumsticks (Honey Mustard Carolina). The drumsticks are hickory smoked and then glazed with a honey mustard sauce. It was a nice balance of smoke and sweet. Portions as mentioned before, were quite reasonable. Three large juicy drumsticks for $12 is a winner in my books.
The Brussels ’n Bacon by far is my favourite thing on the menu. Crispy Brussel sprouts with smoky bits of bacon are a classic but it’s the fried chickpeas with Moroccan spices and sweet chilli that really make this dish genius. Shaved radicchio gave the dish some bitter bites but since the rest of the dish was so delicious, I reordered it on my next visit. It was notably less bitter the second time around, with a touch more spice. Loved it!
We also shared the Alberta Beef Short Ribs, done in a classic Korean marinade of soy, mirin, and Asian pears. It’s a dish I make at home quite frequently. Despite it being brined and slow-cooked, I thought our pieces were tender but missing the fat that I so happily associate with short ribs. The star of the dish for the night was the housemade hickory sticks, again utilizing the kitchen’s smoker. The pickled mushrooms were a delight and had a surprising chili pepper bite to it. I’d give this dish another go for my next visit.
My second visit came a week later. Joe went with his gut instinct and stuck with bar food eats, ordering the CRASH Chicken Drumsticks but with St. Louis BBQ sauce. I preferred the Honey Mustard Carolina variety. This version had a hint of acidity that didn’t quite balance out the smoke as I would have liked.
A second batch of Brussels ’n Bacon confirmed that this dish is a must-order. Sticking with the theme of bar food eats, I just had to order the CRASH Burger, a patty covered with braised short rib, fried egg, aged cheddar, and lettuce, sandwiched between a brioche kaiser bun and lavishly topped with a fried onion ring. Sides include a deep fried pickle and your choice of fries or salad. Our server sold me on the side salad, a smaller version of the menu’s Roasted Beet and Greek Yogurt.
The burger is challenging to share but is doable if you really get a firm grip. There’s a lot going on. The braised short rib is on top of the burger patty, making it for a meat-lover’s dream come true. There’s an oozy egg in the middle, contrasted texturally with a fried onion ring. I recommend putting the onion ring in the burger itself. Compared to the other dishes on the menu, most of which are smoked or have smoky notes, the burger could have used just a touch more seasoning. I enjoyed it nevertheless, easily eaten without feeling overly unhealthy. Thanks to the salad.
This salad is amazing. Every bite of the Roasted Beet and Greek Yogurt Salad brings something new to the palate. Sometimes it was a bite of kale, or a mix of fresh greens. Sometimes it was a sweet bite of roasted squash, another roasted beet. The crunch and tartness of pomegranate seeds, glazed with burnt Mediterranean honey, sourced from a local Greek grocer and imported from Greece. The dollop of yogurt was a heft portion for my small salad, but I appreciated the generosity.
Vintage cocktail and martinis are available for dinner, whilst a separate Crash Hotel Cafe menu serves coffee and breakfast during the morning. Hotel restaurants sadly have a stigma as being only an option if you’re visiting the city and staying in the hotel. Crash Hotel Lobby Bar is far from that, a space where you can work and relax, or go for an after work drink. As a part of my own community, I think it’s a perfect fit. Service was attentive and extremely efficient. They’re currently offering a social media promotion for a free $15 gift card voucher when you sign up for their newsletter. Take advantage while you can and crash land here! Enter through the hotel lobby doors (south of Denizen Hall) and check it out!
Bonus: Better yet, visit my Instagram account and enter for a chance to win a $75 gift card to Crash Hotel Lobby Bar (perfect for two people, a meal + drinks!). Contest will run until February 8, 2017.
Crash Hotel Lobby Bar
10266 103 St.
Disclosure: Giveaway prize was provided to me by Crash Hotel Lobby Bar. I was approached by Crash Hotel Lobby Bar to run a giveaway but both visits were of my own accord and meals were not compensated. All opinions are of my own.