I’ve been to Central Social Hall‘s downtown Edmonton location a handful of times over the last few years. Usually, I was there not solely for the food, but for an activity such as Paint Nite. Despite having tried several of their dishes, I’d never taken the time to photograph anything or blog about it. So, a couple of weeks ago, when my friend and I made plans for dinner, I thought it would be a great opportunity to do just that.
Additionally, the Jasper Avenue spot was recently renovated, and I was curious to see what changes they’d made. When we stepped through the doors, the first sight of the bar was pretty similar to before; however, quick glances towards the two sides confirmed that they really did do some updates. Instead of a majority of bar stools and tables, almost all of the seating is now in booth form with a number of raised platforms. The stagnated height of the booths help to give all diners an outside view through the large windows. They even improved the lighting with updated fixtures and it looked like their patio was revamped as well.
The restaurant still takes a seat yourself approach. The problem is that they do so without having any signage to indicate that. I always feel slightly awkward when I walk in there because I’m not quite sure what to do and there’s a tendency for the staff to kind of ignore the fact that someone is standing there. In any case, we eventually chose a low booth table over by the windows and, within minutes, our server followed cradling our menus in her arms.
Although I did take a bit of time to go over the options again, I had actually previewed everything online. Some of the same dishes remained from prior to the renovations. Yet, I wasn’t inclined to eat something I’d already had in the past. My mind was made up to sample something new. Ultimately, my friend decided on the Honey Fried Chicken Sandwich ($16) and I went with the Beautiful Salad ($17).
Thankfully, our wait for food wasn’t long because I was starving. Shortly after ordering, our plates were brought out, and I have to say that the presentation was quite lovely. I mean, there aren’t a whole lot of ways to layout a sandwich and fries, but the visual was still appealing. Where they excelled on the appearance was with the salad; it was especially pretty to look at with bright pops of colour coming from the vegetables and the ingredients prepared and placed artfully. Compared to my recollection of the gloppy, one-note, Chicken + Waffles I’d had previously, this was a welcome surprise.
The Honey Fried Chicken Sandwich had a fresh bun that wasn’t too crusty. The chicken was even in thickness throughout and had a crisp, light breading. Dill pickle slices (my friend loves them) were placed on the bottom of the sandwich with a bed of rainbow slaw and a sheet of melted cheddar cheese on top. An appropriate amount of mayo and BBQ sauce finished it off. While it was a slightly messy meal, in the name of good food, my dining companion was able to overlook that. Served on side was a bowl of fries. They refrained from becoming soggy and they were garnished with some herbs, so they were the perfect accompaniment.
My Beautiful Salad should probably be renamed the “Never-Ending Salad” as it seemed to go on and on (it’s not a complaint). A tasty avocado hummus provided the foundation on which a huge pile of carrot ribbons, radish rounds, spinach leaves, cucumber slices, grape tomato halves, quinoa grains and toasted sunflower seeds lay. Everything had been tossed with a refreshingly sweet and tangy apple cider vinaigrette. A healthy dose of grilled herb chicken came with the salad, too. The meat was tender, flavourful and nicely charred. Even though I think that salads at restaurants tend to be pricey, I’d go back for this one in a heartbeat.
Since I was so good with my main meal, I opted to indulge with a dessert. Unlike their main dishes, these lack a bit in the creativity department. All of them are served in small mason jars. I don’t necessarily think that dessert in cups showcases them in the best way, but in Central Social Hall’s case, I suppose it works. I selected the Lemon Cream Pie ($8). It’s fairly simple in design. The base consisted of pieces of almond shortbread. On top of that was a big scoop of lemon curd and then another dollop of chantilly cream with a fresh sprig of mint. I could have done away with half of the cream as I’d rather have more of the rest. The lemon curd was pleasantly zesty — not too sour with just a hint of sweetness — and the almond shortbread was so delicious. The cookies offset the mouthfeel of the custard-like curd by bringing in a contrasting texture, and they had that butteriness and crunch to them without falling apart on the tongue or being overly hard.
In the end, we were in and out of the restaurant within two hours or so (it should be mentioned that we arrived early at around 5pm before the dinner rush). Overall, the service we experienced was excellent and the food was an improvement over what I remembered. With Central Social Hall being so close to my workplace, I’m definitely more inclined to come back more often now that I know it has changed for the better. It’s also a great place to keep in mind for happy hour and daily specials because they offer some stellar deals.
The mozzarella walnut salad is hands down the best salad I’ve ever had. Ever. We sat out on the new 3-tiered patio on the west side of the building. It’s huge! As with inside dining, the different levels give everyone a great street view, with the added bonus of the new Jasper Ave stage directly in front. Service was great and definitely my new favorite patio in Edmonton!
Hi Dawn! Thanks for your comments on Central Social Hall. I’m happy to hear more opinions on the place and I will definitely keep that mozzarella walnut salad in mind for next time. It sounds wonderful!
Thank you so much for the review on your blog!!
It sounds like you’ve been with us through thick and thin, and I’m ecstatic to hear you enjoyed our newly renovated space, our fresh local focused food program, and the product of our updated experience-focused service training program 🙂
Your blog post is very fair and honest, and I appreciate you taking the time to come in on your own accord to review us!
As with any review I come across, I hope to get in touch with you to get a few more details about your visit, and to personally thank you for your feedback!
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss.
Regional Operating Partner
Central Social Hall
Hi Vance! Thanks for the message. I’ve sent you an email. Talk to you soon.
Pingback: Crystal’s Double Dozen: A Born and Bred Edmontonian’s Top 24 Eateries for 2017 | Fa(shion).Fi(lm).Fo(od).tography
Pingback: Edmonton Happenings: Avenue Magazine Best Restaurants & Downtown Dining Week 2018 | Fa(shion).Fi(lm).Fo(od).tography