The Hat (@TheHatYEG) calls itself the oldest public house in downtown Edmonton – having opened a little over 100 years ago – and the venue seems to hold a lot of memories. I know that over the last several years, for a variety of reasons, I’ve had plenty of wonderful get-togethers with family, friends and colleagues in the venue. If only its walls could talk. I’m sure that they’ve seen and heard more than I can imagine.
Reservations are accepted through OpenTable. Pretty much all tables accommodate four people with space for larger parties at the back. It’s a narrow room, but they’ve made good use of it. The bar takes up about three-fifths of the one side, and gives singles (or duos when the place is full) a spot to dine. The TVs that line the walls often have some sort of sporting event or movie showing just in case you need something to look at when everyone at your table is too busy eating to hold a conversation.
It can get noisy when the resto pub is packed, but usually after work hours on a weeknight, it’s not so bad. Dim lighting, neon signs, wood and brick walls, padded black booths and stools, and an intricate tin tiled ceiling gives the establishment a sense of nostalgia and creates a comfortable atmosphere to chat and sit with a drink for a while.
If you’re hungry, there are a number of dishes that will satisfy. My recommendations include: Mac and Cheese, Californian Chicken Burger, Funky Crunchy Chicken Sandwich, Perogy Nachos, Wings ($4 on Wednesday) or Chicken Morsels (if you’d rather not deal with bones) and the Spinach Salad. I’d also suggest that you upgrade to sweet potato fries if you decide to go with a sandwich or burger. The portion sizes are definitely generous. If you’re just a little peckish, you can probably split most of the plates between two people.
My favourite dish is certainly the Mac and Cheese, which is made maki roll style. Presented as four large flat cylinders of KD sized macaroni that is shaped, stuffed with cream cheese, garlic, jalapenos, roasted red peppers, then panko breaded and served with sides of wasabi and sweet & sour chili dip, it was the first time I had seen mac and cheese prepared this way. It’s more than enough to share (although, you might not want to), especially if you order an appetizer of chicken morsels to go with it.
One day I would also like to try one of their desserts. In particular, I think the Cheesecakechanga sounds awesome, but I never have room for it. Perhaps I’ll have to go just for a sweet treat sometime or maybe I should work backwards and start with dessert instead.
The restaurant is pretty much an institution. Having had its ups and downs and its facelifts throughout the century, it still stands alongside places like the Fairmont Hotel MacDonald and longtime businesses like the Edmonton Journal, which have been around about the same amount of time. I hope the establishment will be there long after I’m gone, so that more people can continue to build their own personal experiences there. The Hat certainly holds a spot in my heart.