Online Dating: Desperate or Genius?

Not wanting to come across as a desperate single woman, but really spurred on by the feedback I received from family, friends and followers after writing my post about speed dating about a month ago, I thought I’d take this time to continue on this path and broach the subject of online dating. I would say that ten years ago when I was still eighteen, that was seen as taboo. Who needs to find friends or love on the Internet? We all thought we would have no problem getting dates. After all, our parents did it the old-fashioned way. We could do it, too.

Well, fast forward to the 2010s and these services that I thought I would never use are now somewhat of a phenomenon. As the human race has become busier in general, we seem to devote less time to meeting new people in-person and more time towards things like work (careers are where it’s at). Don’t get me wrong, it is important to educate yourself – either through school or life – and to make sure you know who you are as an independent person while ensuring you can provide for yourself no matter what. But, maybe that drive gets in the way of exploring the traditional avenues of making new acquaintances that could potentially lead to a significant other.

Verging on thirty years of age, I am at a crossroads. Being that I’m no longer in school, the possibility of sitting next to a guy who could become my next boyfriend is gone. Most of my girlfriends know a dozen other single friends who want to be set up, yet don’t have any single guys to recommend. My married friend’s friends are already wed or engaged, so whenever I go to group events or house parties, I’m basically the only single person there. Short of going to the bar, where else can I turn?

I’ll go where everyone else goes nowadays. ONLINE.

An amazing Single Girl's Guide to Online Dating graph created by Joanne Chao. Grabbed from Graph.net.

An amazing Single Girl’s Guide to Online Dating graph created by Joanne Chao. Grabbed from Graphs.net.

I’m no expert. So far, this hasn’t worked out that well for me. However, I do believe that sharing my experiences may be a form of therapy and also be helpful to anyone else who’s currently in the same boat.

Over the last few years, I’ve tried five sites including eHarmony, Plenty of Fish (POF), eVow, OkCupid and Zoosk with basically the same results, meaning nothing long-term has come out of using them. Sometimes I get frustrated, wanting to quit using them all together, but there’s always the question of “what if?” That’s not to say all these sites are made equal. Some are definitely better than others. Here’s a rundown of my observations from each.

eHarmony

A screenshot of eHarmony's login page.

A screenshot of eHarmony’s login page.

The biggest thing with this site is that it can seem like a daunting process to fill out every aspect of your profile. It’s a lot to get through at the beginning and if you opt to fill out the Q & A questions – there are close to a thousand – you’ll probably be devoting hours or a couple of days, time that not all of us necessarily have.

What I disliked most about eHarmony when I signed up for it a few years ago, as well as right now, is that going through the Quick Questions, Makes or Breaks and Dig Deeper steps before you even hit eH Mail – the site’s own e-mail type system – is extremely time-consuming if both parties aren’t quick to respond. I always find that, part way through, someone typically disengages and disappears during guided communication (what is wrong with them?), which can be disheartening because you had hoped to make even the smallest connection and that’s lost before you truly have a chance to get to know them.

This is why I always ask those I’m interested in if they would consider going the eH Mail route first – skip all the questions and let’s meet as soon as possible – and sometimes it works. My friend (the one who convinced me to try the site out again this time around) is now seeing where it might go with a guy who opted to do just that. If the guy doesn’t want to skip ahead and they prefer to go with the guided questions, that’s completely fine with me, but at least have the decency to see it through to the point where you can message freely and just be honest – either you’re still interested or not – and go from there. No one wants to be left hanging and wondering where the other went and why they just stopped replying. Perhaps the flightiness comes from the prevalent idea nowadays that there is always something better for you out there.

Another thing I wish I could see is how frequently your so-called matches visit their profile (I couldn’t find a spot on any of the profiles I was given that showed me that information); I have no idea if they have signed in within the last day, week, month or longer, so you might try to reach out and not hear back for a good while. The same goes for knowing if they are subscribers or free users because that will give me a better sense of how quickly we might be able to develop a conversation. If your match is waiting for the next free weekend before he can respond, it’s going to take a whole lot longer.

This site has made me doubtful that paid dating sites (an expensive one at that – try looking for promo codes online before signing up) are better as I have yet to actually meet one of these men in real life. Nevertheless, I now have a yearlong membership and I’ll continue to put it to use. You never know what can happen in that amount of time. I’ll keep trying.

Plenty of Fish (POF)

A screenshot of POF's login page.

A screenshot of POF’s login page.

According to some, it’s the hook up dating site of the Internet, not at all my intentions. But, it’s free and, if you’re willing to stick it out, there are, I’m sure, some decent guys, men, or manboys on there. It gets a bad reputation because there are a lot of people simply seeking out casual relationships as well as those that post inappropriate or provocative pictures (no, we really don’t want to be scrolling through profiles and all of a sudden see a picture of your package) or basically ask for a booty call as soon as you send a response (just because I said hello back, it does not mean I want to sleep with you…I don’t know you!).

The guys on there also tend to refrain from fully reading what you’ve written and tend to send messages that used absolutely no effort. I hate to say it, but, as humans, we base a lot on appearance and image, so I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little picky. It goes both ways though. I just wish that everyone using this service at least absorb the whole profile a person has decided to share, not just a portion of it before making a decision as to whether or not to respond. It also still frustrates me to no end when people say they want to meet you (stupid “meet me” function) and don’t bother sending you a message (have the balls to say something) or replying when you take the first step and put yourself out there.

There are success stories to be found. My good childhood friend had great luck and found a wonderful man on POF and they’re now engaged to be married this coming summer, so there’s hope!

Although, how long do you hold onto that hope for? I’ve been on my fair share of dates with people I’ve met on this site and, while I wouldn’t say any have been outright terrible, none have been amazing either. Just for fun though, I’ll tell you about the first guy I met from this site. He took me out for brunch on the weekend. We had a good time and great conversation, even mentioning things we might be able to do later in the year when festivals and such rolled around. I’ll be honest and say I wasn’t really that attracted to him physically, but he was very nice and I could picture hanging out with him again. But, guess what? I never heard from him after that date. Quite a bit of time passed by and he saw that I still had a profile on POF, so he messaged me. Do you know what he said? He told me that he didn’t understand why I was still on the site. He thought I was so awesome and was surprised that someone hadn’t already snapped me up. I didn’t feel like having that discussion with him, but, in the back of my mind, I thought to myself, “what a weird guy; if you thought I was such a great catch, why didn’t you pursue anything further.”

I do not understand how guys think. They don’t seem to get us either. Therein lies the problem.

Zoosk

A screenshot of one of the main pages before logging into or signing up for Zoosk.

A screenshot of one of the main pages before logging into or signing up for Zoosk.

This site is a bit like POF. They tout themselves as being free, but there are certain aspects that you need to pay to use. For example, every day you are sent an e-mail with one SmartPick. You have 24 hours to tell Zoosk whether or not you are interested in this person. If you are, and the match is as well, the site puts you in touch with one another. However, there’s a cost associated with that service and without putting out the money, you’re left unable to indicate your feelings towards the profile you’ve been given. The same goes with them notifying you of people who have viewed your profile. You can see who looked at your page, but to view their profile requires that you pay. Of course, there are ways to bypass these issues. You can always sit there scrolling through hundreds of profiles until you find that person again and just message them yourself.

The site seems to overlook the fact that most people are smart enough to use the site within the boundaries of the free features. The extras aren’t really that great. Yes, I cannot message others without paying, but I can download their chat function and converse with someone for free that way.

Regardless of those basic problems with Zoosk, I just found the caliber of people to not be what I was looking for. Also, it seems like they have some sort of built-in preset messages for people to choose from, including some of the cheesiest pick-up lines I have ever heard. Here are some of the ones I received:

Are you a parking ticket? Because you have fine written all over you.

I’m a thief, and I’m here to steal your heart.

I lost my phone number. Can I borrow yours?

Is your dad an astronaut? Because someone took the stars from the sky and put them in your eyes.

Why aren’t you in jail? It’s illegal to look that good.

Are you a leprechaun? Because I think you’re my lucky charm.

I think you’re all capable of being a little more original than that. I’d much rather have someone just say hello and ask me how my day was than be subjected to this, even if it provided a good laugh in the process. I nixed this site quickly because it wasn’t what I thought it would be.

eVow

A screenshot of eVow's main page.

A screenshot of eVow’s main page.

This is brought to you by the creators of POF and it is their version of a serious dating site. It’s not meant for hooking up, casual dating or friendships. You’re meant to find someone who wants to seriously date or get married within the next few years.

That may very well be the intention of some people on there, but, to me, it still seems like a mishmash of people. Also, from observation, it tends to be filled with divorced single dads (nothing against any of you; good on you for taking care of your kids, but I always worry about suddenly finding myself with an instant family or the possibility of it not working out yet there being additional attachments with the children) and a lot more smokers (on POF no one is a smoker, on eVow a lot more people are – they’re being more honest I guess), neither of which are my thing or what I currently want.

Perhaps if you’re okay with the idea of starting a family sooner as opposed to later, this may be the place for you.

OkCupid 

A screenshot of the OkCupid.com on my desktop, which encourages you to start building your profile immediately.

A screenshot of the OkCupid.com on my desktop, which encourages you to start building your profile immediately.

A friend of a friend told me that she met her boyfriend on OkCupid and that she had the best results on this site, so, naturally, I went home and signed up for it right away.

I found it really interesting to find that while it’s free, it is quite similar to eHarmony. There are hundreds of questions (or more) that you can answer and your responses are compared to those of other users. Your compatibility with them is then calculated – you can see how good you’d be as a couple or as friends and even if you’re more likely to be enemies. It’s almost more refined, in a way, than eHarmony is. The fact that they used your similarities to decide whether or not you would get along with a person is common sense. We gravitate towards those who share the same values and likes as us, but there is also the notion of opposites being attracted to one another. How does that fit in? So, I was looking at this with a healthy dose of skepticism.

There is also a lot of crossover on all of these dating sites. You can see I’ve tried almost all of the major ones and I can tell you that you will see duplicate profiles. Here’s another story of mine.

I started seeing this one guy that I met on POF. He was sweet, well-educated, but also socially awkward in that he was extremely shy and never really knew what to say or how to keep his side of the conversation flowing. He happened to also have a profile on OkCupid that I found after our first meeting. Based on OkCupid’s system, what was our likelihood of being a good match, you ask? Not great. According to the site, we were only about 42 percent compatible. I did find it harder to talk to him because it usually came down to me having to come up with things to do or discuss, but I wasn’t giving up so easily. There were moments when I could see him being more open and loosening up, so we went out several times. However, periodically I would see that he’d viewed my profile on OkCupid again and that the percentage shown for our likelihood of being a good couple would have changed slightly. He’s in school doing a PhD to become a mathematician, so maybe he wasn’t satisfied with the low score we originally received and thought that by answering more questions or altering his responses, we might be a great match after all. Being that his life revolved around numbers, it probably would have meant a great deal to him if the site told us we would work out. Ultimately, we didn’t and I had seen the signs.

Currently, I’m not using the site anymore, but based off of that situation, maybe OkCupid is on the right track.

Online Dating Tips:

  • Use current photos where you’re clearly visible so people know what you actually look like (you’re not a blurry head in real life) – maybe it can be viewed as a bit shallow, but, I think, it’s also a precaution in the online world. Also, please don’t steal some model’s photo from the Internet.
  • Don’t have every picture of yourself being a mirror selfie. I am certain that you know someone who is willing to take a proper photo of you.
  • Show yourself doing things that interest you.
  • Avoid posting only pictures of all your trucks, motorbikes and your pets (although the pets are probably adorable). We want to see who you are.
  • Show yourself at your best, not your worst – no one’s dream date is the guy who looks absolutely hammered on his profile. The same goes for when you meet in-person.
  • Don’t copy and paste some generic text into your description because we notice when we read the same thing from one profile to the next.
  • Pay attention to your spelling and grammar. You’ll come across better if you take the time to write proper sentences and paragraphs.
  • Do take a bit of time (not a lot, just a little) to write something interesting about yourself, so we can work with something to get conversation going.
  • Don’t just say “hey,” “you fine,” etc. Obviously, we’re all on here for different reasons, but if I clearly say I’m looking for a relationship, not stating that I want something casual, the online equivalent of a wolf whistle, if you will, is not going to capture my attention.
  • Follow through with messages and meetings – if you took the time to reach out to me and I actually respond, do yourself a favour and reply or make real plans to get together.

These sites can work. Although, they’re not for everybody. You do almost feel like you’re shopping, and there is a certain amount of trust involved. I always say people can lie easily online, but they can also lie to your face. You just have to be smart and go with your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. But, sometimes, I think the hardest part about going the online dating route is syncing what you see on the screen with who you meet face-to-face. Conversation in e-mail might go really well because you both have plenty of time to craft the appropriate things to say (not that most guys do), but once you have nothing to hide behind and you are literally with that person, it can be an intimidating situation for some. That’s when you can tell for sure whether or not a relationship will move along.

This clip with Kristen Wigg having a date with someone she met online while on Jimmy Kimmel Live! is obviously a joke, but it is hilarious and a great amplification of the awkwardness that can happen during a first meeting with someone as well as the weirdness that can follow.

I certainly won’t count this out as an option because it has become so commonplace. People I know seem to be more open to talking about their knowledge of the sites or how they met their significant other through these means. The stigma that society once placed on online dating is slowly dissipating. By refusing to put myself out there in this way, I feel like I might be limiting my chances.

If you happen to still be on the lookout for someone who will be your best friend and who makes you feel loved and happy, you owe it to yourself to give this a try. Like speed dating, the worst case is that you go on some bad or awkward dates, but get some practice and come out with some good stories to tell. Maybe you just make a few friends (you never know, new contacts can increase your probability of meeting people the “normal” way). Or, the best outcome is that it works for you and you find exactly what you’re looking for. Like life, timing is everything. This might be your time. So, take a deep breath and a leap of faith because this could potentially be the start of a brand new day!

 

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Downtown Dining Week, Why Not YEG Restaurant Week?

The Downtown Business Association (DBA) is celebrating the end of, what I suspect was, another successful run of Downtown Dining Week (DTDW) in Edmonton, Alberta. For the eleventh year in a row, they have brought diners out to try menus from 30 different restaurants located in the city’s core. Over a period of ten days, people were able to sample a variety of menus that included $15 lunches as well as $25 or $50 dinners.

An ad for Downtown Dining Week that I pulled from the Edmonton Journal website.

An ad for Downtown Dining Week that I pulled from the Edmonton Journal website.

Being that I work in the area, I took every chance I had to eat at as many places as I could over the 10-day period. It only amounted to five meals for me, but, personally, I couldn’t imagine having such rich meals for both lunch and supper every day in such a short amount of time anyway. I especially savoured the opportunity to visit restaurants that have a reputation for great food, but that I may not typically go to on a whim because of the prices, which meant I ventured over to the Hardware Grill, Madison’s Grill, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Sorrentino’s Downtown and Normand’s Bistro. All of them did an excellent job of helping us to watch our wallets while delivering top-notch food, even when the dish was as simple as a pulled pork sandwich.

Although, in my opinion, a few establishments should have worked a bit harder to entice people; they could have ventured away from their regular dishes to experiment with something new, or refrained from picking the least expensive plates from their usual selection of fare (if it costs the same to dine with them during DTDW as it does on any other night, it means it isn’t really “specialty-priced” as per the description on the DBA site) as part of the attraction of the event is that it provides deals where they aren’t typically found, making it a lot more affordable. Regardless, the majority of the DTDW menus had variety, giving you the choice of more than one item per course that ranged from salads and sandwiches to hearty pork and steak dishes or fish to pastas. Every lunch consisted of two courses and each dinner had at least three (appetizer, entrée and dessert).

The Downtown Dining Week menu at Madison's Grill, along with their regular menu.

The Downtown Dining Week menu at Madison’s Grill, along with their regular menu.

Now, my qualm with DTDW is that it continues to remain the same size. The food festival, if you will, hasn’t really expanded year after year. In fact, it may have even shrunk slightly in terms of the number of restaurants participating. Some of the same restaurants come back annually, others are replaced with new ones (the Confederation Lounge, Tavern 1903, Normand’s Bistro, The Burg, De Dutch (see previous review) and Fionn MacCool’s are the latest additions). I like that there are repeats because, if I didn’t have a chance to go to one the previous year, maybe I’ll be able to visit the next time. However, I would love it if the list of new places partaking got bigger every March.

To me, Edmonton is a city with a burgeoning food scene that deserves to be showcased. More and more chefs and entrepreneurs seem to be taking the leap and succeeding at making Alberta’s capital first-rate in terms of the availability and assortment of quality places to dine out. In my mind, DTDW should be growing, not just sustaining. I picture it being at least as large as Calgary’s The Big Taste, which is citywide and has more than 70 “Revolutioneateries” getting involved over ten days. Ideally, it would become similar to NYC Restaurant Week, lasting about three weeks (sometimes extended) and runs both in the winter and summer seasons.

Of course, this might be wishful thinking on my part. I can only speculate as to the difficulty of putting something like this together. I’m sure the DBA has attempted to increase the number of establishments taking part in DTDW. I asked my friend who works for the urban planning office with the City of Edmonton what streets constitute the downtown area and while she wasn’t able to answer me right away, I did Wikipedia it. According to the information logged on the wiki, downtown Edmonton is bounded by 109 Street, 105 Avenue, 97 Street and 97 Avenue. If that’s the case, the DBA has stuck within the appropriate grid. Yet, some consider surrounding communities like Oliver to the west to also be part of downtown. That would include everything from 109 Street up to 124 Street from Jasper Avenue to 105 Avenue. Can you visualize how amazing DTDW would be for all you foodies out there if that area were included?

More delicious food like this dish from Hardware Grill - Fresh Burrata Mozzarella!

More delicious food like this dish from Hardware Grill – Fresh Burrata Mozzarella!

Dishcrawl, an online community of culinary enthusiasts, with a branch in Edmonton has organized events focused around various parts of the city, 124th Street being one of them. I attended a crawl where we walked door-to-door between eight establishments tasting samples and drinks, but not full-out meals. I think that those restaurants, having participated in Dishcrawl’s Neighbourfood event, would be highly interested in adding their names to a dining week list (I could be wrong; I don’t know how it ultimately affects the costs and revenues for the restaurants, but the publicity that may lead to repeat business is a big positive for them, I would think).

Would that mean the DBA would still be the sole host of Dining Week in that type of incarnation? Maybe not. It would likely mean several separate dining weeks spread out throughout the year, or more hands in the pot with a joint event put on by the DBA and the 124 Street Business Association (really, any number of other groups that are willing to take part) to make this something that brings the Edmonton restaurant community and food lovers together.

It’s all about providing extra exposure to those that participate, no matter where they are located, and expanding the dining week (or month!) theme so that Edmontonians can truly appreciate the diversity of amazing food that exists in this city while, hopefully, finding some new favourites. That’s the goal I see!

Edmonton Restaurant Review: The Harvest Room

My mother joined me downtown at the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald for lunch last week. I was armed with an Opentable reservation and a Groupon (a fantastic opportunity to try restaurants that you may not have thought of before or might not usually be able to afford) for the Harvest Room.

Housed inside the almost 100-year-old hotel (it opened in July of 1915) since 1991, the restaurant continues the chateau-style look with dark woods, distinctly patterned carpets and armchairs, light walls, vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows. Perhaps it may be seen as a little dated, but, essentially, it fits with the overall ambiance of the establishment. The room exudes an air of class and elegance, making it seem a little fancier. Yet, it’s not so stuffy that one would feel uncomfortable. Like the history of the building, which was seen as the epitome of high-class back in its day, it should be thought of as a place that warrants you putting a bit of effort into your dress (not ball gown or cocktail dress fancy, but at least business casual).

The bright Harvest Room with a view of the open kitchen.

The bright Harvest Room with a view of the open kitchen.

What I love most about the space is the large windows that brighten the space up with sunshine during the lunch hour. Come summertime, I expect that the double doors will open up to invite patrons out onto the patio, which overlooks the river valley. I have been out on the adjoining patio while having lunch and drinks with friends at the Confederation Lounge and it’s wonderful to be able to soak up the rays with good company and fantastic views.

On this particular occasion, my voucher allowed both of us to dine on the executive lunch buffet for $14 per person (usually double the cost). This included the daily soup, three cold salads with various toppings and dressings, a variety of cold cuts, a choice of four different sandwiches and wraps, a hot dish, and dessert. While it’s not an extensive selection, it was certainly more than enough for our meal, and the choices were all meant to be healthy, which I can appreciate. They also at least attempt to have some vegetarian options available. And, from other reviews I’ve read, they are quite accommodating – a diner who was allergic to an ingredient in the hot dish provided was made pasta to order instead.

A plate with smoked salmon wraps, lamb osso bucco and salad.

A plate with smoked salmon wraps, lamb osso buco and salad.

I have had the opportunity to eat there a few times now, and I have to say that the service received is always excellent. The servers are polite, water is refilled diligently, emptied plates are cleared away quickly and we’re checked on periodically to make sure the meal is going well. This is likely one of the reasons why the Harvest Room has an 86% rating on Urbanspoon, besides the food.

Voted to No. 4 on The Tomato‘s 2013 list of 100 best eats and drinks in Edmonton, Alberta – pushed off in 2014 by a hearty dose of newcomers to the city’s burgeoning food scene – because of their Dungeness crab cakes, I would say that, even with the simplicity of some of the buffet choices, the quality of the food is still there, and it is a good indication of what the food on their regular menu is like.

The chicken and rice soup was steaming hot (my mom loved it for that reason alone), the lettuce and greens provided for the salad were fresh, the Caesar dressing was house made, the smoked salmon wraps were delicious (sometimes instead of cold cut meats, they put out a plate of smoked salmon – amazing!), they did not skimp on the meat in the roast beef sandwiches, the veggie sandwiches were filled to the brim with roasted Portobello mushrooms, eggplant and red peppers, the hot dish – lamb osso buco – didn’t wow us, but the lamb was cooked very nicely, and the dessert of warm bread pudding – like a combination of banana bread and carrot cake (literally two of my go to sweets) with raspberries and caramel sauce – was my favourite.

Warm bread pudding with caramel sauce drizzled on top for dessert.

Warm bread pudding with caramel sauce drizzled on top for dessert.

Know that, should you go for the buffet, the items change on a daily basis, so, if you’re hoping to eat the same thing as you did on a previous visit, you may be out of luck. I’m not sure what will be in store for me the next time I make my way to the Harvest Room for lunch, but I am certain that it will be an enjoyable and fairly light meal.

As we walked out of the restaurant, I turned back to take a look at their regular menu. Throughout our lunch I couldn’t help but notice the “couple” across from us on what seemed like a first date. They each ordered an appetizer, entrée and dessert, and I wondered how much the guy had spent on their feast. After perusing the menu, I made note that an entrée alone was around $30 to $40, so I imagine he paid a hefty price to make a good impression (good luck to him!).

The 2013 lunch menu pulled off of the Harvest Room website.

The 2013 lunch menu pulled off of the Harvest Room website.

Would I go back to the Harvest Room regularly? Probably not. But, I do like it every time I go, and will most definitely be back once more. As long as the Hotel Macdonald sticks around, I think the Harvest room will as well. The city deserves to maintain some of the historical significance of what our downtown used to be like and, conceivably, what it can be again in the future. Maybe not in the sense of the classical refinement, but, more along the lines of the caliber of excellence that the Fairmont has strived to bring to Edmonton in the last century.

The Harvest Room is open Monday to Friday for lunch. They are also open seven days a week (including statutory holidays) for breakfast and dinner. On Saturday and Sunday only, they serve Royal Tea and provide a tour of the hotel.

Edmonton Restaurant Review: De Dutch Pannekoek House

De Dutch hails from British Columbia and landed in Edmonton, Alberta back in November of 2012. The entrance to the restaurant was obscured for quite a while by the construction down Jasper Avenue, so I think it remained off the radar for most until earlier the following New Year. However, customers began to learn of its existence and, by March of 2013, it had made its way onto The Tomato’s first annual list of 100 best eats and drinks in the city, coming in at number 17.

Housed on the main floor of the Cambridge Building, I finally had a chance to try it out just last week when my soon-to-be ex-co-worker (and my good friend) decided to have her going away lunch there. A group of eight of us went together.

Walking up to the door, the place is a bit unassuming, but once you enter, it’s nice and bright with a modern look, colourful seating and accents, spotless tables, and hardwood floors. We had to wait a moment for the hostess to seat us, but, as we had made a reservation ahead of time, our table (inside a private room that can hold around 10 to 12 people comfortably – I loved this because we were able to converse without disturbing other diners) was already prepared.

The De Dutch menu - so many choices!

The De Dutch menu – so many choices! The Bitter Ballen in the bottom right side of this photo sounded good as well. Next time!

Since we were all ravenous, we immediately cracked open the large menus – likely around 6 to 8 pages, although I didn’t count – and were overwhelmed by the selection. The restaurant is only open for breakfast and lunch (7 days a week), so every item on the menu is available all day long until they close at three o’clock. Like the options at Cora or Tutti Frutti Breakfast and Lunch (not to be confused with Tutti Frutti Frozen Yogurt), it seems endless, so it took some of us much longer to make a decision than first suspected.

Ultimately, a few of us ended up ordering the chicken quesadilla, which was probably the most basic of the bunch. It came with your choice of side including kettle chips and dip, garden or Caesar salad, or soup as well as salsa and sour cream for dipping. It tasted good especially with all the condiments, but it wasn’t really anything super special.

One person tried a Frying Dutchman Burger, the Canadian in particular. Filled with two 1/3-pound patties, Edam cheese, DeBakon, dill pickle, mayo and house made De Dutch relish, our co-worker raved about the latter condiment throughout our meal.

Others went with the star of the menu, the pannekoeken. De Dutch says that the dish has a circumference of 37”, a diameter of 12” and can be cut into 113 square inch bites. Seeming more like a crepe, it is thin and looks airy, but is actually rich and built solidly with egg and buckwheat, so that my friends were able to dump all the toppings in The Hash (hash browns, mushroom, green pepper, onion and cheddar with your choice of ham, DeBakon, sausage, turkey bacon or veggies topped with hollandaise sauce) onto the pannekoeken and roll it up without it falling apart. The two people who indulged in that meal couldn’t stop saying how good it was and polished off their plates without a problem.

Another co-worker ordered the Abby Perogie pannekoeken. Made with hash browns, DeBakon and onion inside the pancake and topped with cheddar and sour cream, everyone who sampled a bit of her lunch said they would order that next time they ate there.

The chicken quesadilla - good, but maybe carry the pancake theme into this dish by using the pannekoeken as the shell instead.

The chicken quesadilla – good, but maybe carry the pancake theme into this dish by using the pannekoeken as the shell instead and adding some DeBakon and hash browns for extra flavour and texture.

Do I think that there are things that De Dutch can do a little bit better? Certainly! I would suggest that they make the quesadilla a bit different from the norm by adding DeBakon or hash browns into it, or substituting the usual salsa for their house made relish; there’s no reason why the pannekoeken can’t be turned into something more finger food friendly like a quesadilla to give that dish a Dutch twist. Everyone at the table was also a bit perturbed to hear that the establishment was charging my friend $1.50 for a cup of hot water with lemon. I certainly don’t think a simple cup of hot water on its own should warrant a cost as that’s basic. However, there is a debate as to whether or not the lemon should be complimentary or have a price associated with it. After all, it’s an extra that is an expense for the restaurant. Perhaps they should lower the charge a little, although it’s not my place to say. But, I will note that the friends I dined with were unhappy to hear it was that high.

Despite those couple of shortcomings, it was a very enjoyable meal with a great group of people. The service was wonderful as the two servers, who watched over us for the hour, checked in to make sure our food was good, refilled our water (even brought us a jug) and drinks, and doted on our friend’s baby (if you have children, I’d recommend going here as they at least have high chairs and don’t mind you bringing in a stroller). As the restaurant is located downtown, it’s a fantastic location for lunch during the work week.

I do hope to make it back there soon, so I can try something new!

Edmonton Restaurant Review: Tropika Malaysian & Thai Cuisine (West)

About two weeks ago, my friend Ashley and I braved the cold weather on the way to West Edmonton Mall to stop at Tropika Malaysian & Thai Cuisine for dinner. I’ve been going to the 149 Street and Stony Plain Road location ever since it opened. It’s a favourite of my family’s and, therefore, we eat there frequently.

Ashley and I selected the restaurant for the evening because it is one of the establishments listed on The Tomato’s 2013 list of the top 100 eats and drinks in Edmonton, coming in at number 36. While we’ve gone separately before, we had never been there as a duo, and as it is on the list we’ve currently decided to tackle, we thought it would be a great opportunity to enjoy a supper together.

The food is consistently good and the service is impeccable (the servers make sure to refill your glass of water even when it’s still half full and they come by to clear away things like cleaned off satay sticks, so your table stays clutter free), which is why it holds an 86% positivity rating on Urbanspoon.

Some of my favourites - pad Thai, sambal bunchies and Tropika homestyle chicken - amazing food, plenty to go around!

Some of my favourites – pad Thai, sambal bunchies and Tropika homestyle chicken – amazing food, plenty to go around!

The menu at Tropika is extensive, but my parents and I have narrowed down our favourite dishes to satays (beef and lamb) with peanut sauce, Indonesian spring rolls, roti canai (Malay bread), pad Thai, sambal bunchies, Tropika home style chicken, stir-fried eggplant with chicken in Thai’s bean sauce and sayur lemak hot pot (vegetables in coconut milk).

What I love about going there for a meal (really any Asian restaurant is like this) is that it brings individuals together by allowing you to linger, converse comfortably and encourages sharing. The dishes served are meant to be split between everyone at the table, allowing you to try several items as opposed to limiting yourself to merely one or two things.

On this particular occasion, we did only end up ordering a couple of plates as it was just the two of us. Unfortunately, we did not order the sambal bunchies that were specifically singled out on the Tomato’s list. We attempted to have it made without the prawns since Ashley is allergic, but unlike the traditional sambal sauce made simply out of chili peppers, Tropika’s sauce is made using shrimp paste as well, so there was no getting around that for her. However, I can still vouch for those who voted to have it added to the Tomato’s top 100. Sambal bunchies, a mix of fried green beans, tomatoes, prawns and sambal sauce, is addictive because of the spicy flavours of the sauce mixed with the acidity from the tomato and the nice crunch of the beans.

I especially like to have the sambal bunchies with their pad Thai, which we did order this time. Again, the prawns were cooked and placed in a side dish. The stir fried rice noodles are cooked with chicken, fried tofu and egg in a Thai style sauce, topped with crushed peanuts and served with bean sprouts, lettuce and a slice of fresh lime on the side. The taste of the pad Thai is so good that sometimes my family orders two plates because one isn’t enough to go around. This evening, it was no different. One plate was plenty for the both of us, but we each probably could have eaten a whole order on our own if we wanted to indulge. Instead, we ordered two Indonesian spring rolls to complement our pad Thai.

My plate that evening out with Ashley - pad Thai and an Indonesian spring roll - so delicious!

My plate that evening out with Ashley – pad Thai and an Indonesian spring roll – so delicious!

The spring rolls are a good size, made with pan-fried chicken, Chinese mushroom and shredded jicama inside a crisp flour shell that is coated with peanuts. It comes with a side of chili sauce for dipping. I was happy to introduce this scrumptious appetizer to Ashley, and I’m pretty sure she really liked it as she told me, “I could have 20 of these. Well, I can definitely have at least 2.” When someone has eyes bigger than his or her stomach when it comes to their appetite, you know you’re on the right track.

As long as Tropika continues to serve up interesting dishes with layers of contrasting yet complementing flavours, I will continue to support the restaurant, and I’m certain that, if you try it, you will find some new menu items to call favourites as well.

Should you be unable to make it to a physical location, you can still treat yourself by having them deliver (free within a 6 km radius from their south side or west end locations and only $4 outside of those areas). Or, if you happen to be in a rush and want to get takeout on the way, you can save 10% on all orders over $30.

Have you been to Tropika before? What’s your go to dish?