In 2016, I skipped putting this annual list together, but I thought I’d give it another go today. After all, it has been a pretty amazing year consisting of plenty of wonderful meals shared with family and friends at both places new and old.
Edmonton has seen a number of fresh faces to the food scene over the past twelve months, some of which I’ve made it to, others I have yet to visit (the checklist keeps on growing). So, as always, this is a personal collection of my favourites, culminated by the dishes I have had the pleasure of trying and the service I happened to experience myself.
Here are my top 24 Edmonton eateries for 2017 (click the links to read/share previous reviews):
I’ll never look at gnocchi the same way again. Who knew that it could be that fluffy? Apparently, chef Ryan Hotchkiss can work wonders with the dish. By foregoing the traditional ingredient of potato and replacing it with pâte à choux in the Parisienne style, the pasta becomes lighter with a consistency that melts in the mouth. I also dream about their parmigiano soup. It’s absolutely to die for.
If you want to impress a date or a colleague, take them here. The space has a refined elegance that overlooks the river valley with views of the High Level Bridge and the Legislature. Chef Scott Downey puts together beautiful plates of locally sourced ingredients that can be ordered à la carte or as a tasting menu to create a meal one won’t easily forget.
Part of Nate Box’s Edmonton empire, this eatery has shifted from a small coffee shop into a full-service restaurant with a complete breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner menu. Have a dessert, too. The pavlova and chocolate cake are delicious and decadent.
This restaurant provides a mix of Korean and Japanese cuisine in a stylish, open environment. Service is always friendly, even though they could work on increasing the number of staff on busy evenings. Otherwise, the food — Kimchi Bomb, Rice Pop, Okonomiyaki, Udon Carbonara, Philato Sushi, and the Snowbowl — has never disappointed.
They specialize in Japanese street food, so everything is meant to be shared or eaten in smaller portions. I especially like the Dorinku Appetizer Platter because it allows patrons to sample a number of things. Make sure to check out the specials menu as well. That’s where their version of Udon Carbonara is often listed and I highly recommend it.
I’ve actually lost count of the number of times I’ve been to Earls this year. But, we go for good reason: consistent quality of the dishes and the affordability whenever we eat there during happy hour. My top picks: Hawaiian Coconut Prawns, Avocado Super Toast, Warm Spinach & Three Cheese Dip, and Steak & Sushi.
Another Canadian chain restaurant makes the list. You may be wondering why? Yet, I challenge someone to tell me that there’s a better place to find an Ahi Tuna Club. I was quite devastated when they took that item off of their menu at one point and it seems I wasn’t the only one because the business opted to bring it back. Although, in its absence, I found that the Butcher’s Sandwich was a pretty tasty alternative.
I used to frequent this place after work for the super inexpensive cocktails, but my visits subsided over the years. Fast forward to this fall and I’m a complete fan once again. Their lengthy happy hour from 4:00pm to 7:00pm every weekday offers some excellent prices on drinks and appetizers, including their awesome Truffle Lobster Mac & Cheese and Power Play Perogies.
This is another fantastic bar inside the Mercer Warehouse. They offer Chinese food with modern twists. The Spicy Stir-fried Cabbage is better than any other cabbage dish I’ve ever had. The fact that they can transform a mundane veggie into something I’d crave, means they deserve serious props.
I love their creativity when it comes to their Tuesday burger nights. The fun names and ingredients are what got me to drive all the way to Beaumont for a meal. It was worth the trip.
11. RGE RD
This is such an adorably petite restaurant; it feels like dining in a friend’s house. We opted to do their multi-course road trip dinner and it was really neat to see how ingredients from across Canada came into play as we worked our way through all of our dishes during the evening.
12. Sabor Restaurant
Sabor is a downtown restaurant fit for a night out. It’s a classy spot to spend a few hours over drinks and food with good friends, especially if seafood and Mediterranean cuisine is your thing.
The lobby bar of a hotel isn’t the first place one thinks of when it comes to delectable food. However, chef Nathin Bye has brought elevated pub-style dishes to the table. Located just a block away from Rogers Place, it has become an ideal spot to grab a cocktail and a bite before heading to an event.
Grab a pot of Makguli (Korean Rice Wine) to share with the group. Sip it as you nibble on a variety of complimentary snacks. Then, go to town on Ssam and Kimchi Bokumbap.
The owners gave Central Social Hall’s Edmonton location a total overhaul. They also refreshed the menu, and their hard work paid off. I was thoroughly impressed when I stopped in a few times this year. They’ve now got a great mix of items, some of which are not only healthy, but really tasty, too. I’m talking about you, Beautiful Salad.
16. Splash Poke
Poke is one of the biggest trends of 2017 and, aside from all of the versions to be found at various chains, within a month or two, Edmonton welcomed two separate local businesses focused on the dish. I like both of them, but Splash has surprisingly won me over because it’s a little more wallet friendly and the portions are generous. My suggestion is the Tropical Bowl. It’s my top choice whenever I have lunch delivered through DoorDash. Or, go ahead and build your own.
17. North 53
I hadn’t been to North 53 in a while. My friends and I opted to go for brunch one Sunday morning though and it was awesome and affordable. Sadly, it seems as though brunch is no longer there, but I’d still give the establishment a thumbs up for their share plates and fine cocktails.
18. Cibo Bistro
I’m so glad that this restaurant has been getting the recognition it deserves in Edmonton. I’ve been singing its praises for years now. From in-house cured meats to daily fresh made pasta, any yearning for true Italian food can be filled here.
19. The Bothy Wine & Whisky Bar
Whisky isn’t my thing, but that’s okay. The Bothy provides some great comfort food options such as the Traditional Chicken Pie. Mostly, I enjoy creating my own cheese and charcuterie plate. The last one I put together had an assortment of smoked applewood cheddar and organic chevre with smoked duck and lamb sausage.
This is a quaint brunch spot on Whyte Avenue. I particularly like their Savoury Belgian Waffle as the smoked salmon with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce pair so well with the sweet waffle. They also serve excellent desserts.
21. Have Mercy Southern Table & Bar
Fried chicken with a doughnut. Enough said.
They’re the big sister to Edmonton’s breakout business of 2017, Doughnut Party. They specialize in cake doughnuts versus those fluffy yeast-based confections. For whatever reason, and I still don’t understand, I like Moonshine more. Maybe it’s because they’ve got a greater density, so they help to quash a craving for sweets better. Or, perhaps the flavours come through more. If you ever pass them by and you see Horchata listed on the board, pick up a box.
Funnily enough, I’ve been here a few times now and I’ve never reviewed this ramen shop. The Spicy Garlic Miso Pork is the bomb, and their umeboshi eggs are prepared perfectly. They even offer a ramen bowl and a beer for a special price during certain hours and it’s a stellar deal.
I overheard the manager of this location talking about how they freshly prepare their chicken for each and every order. They’d rather that it take a few minutes longer to bring the food out than provide a meal of lesser quality to their guests. I have no comparison to any other Nando’s location, but this one totally won me over. The marinades are so flavourful and the chicken is always succulent. For fast-casual dining, it’s quite nice and comfortable. Plus, for the money, patrons get a ton of food and protein.
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