Edmonton Restaurant Review: DIE PIE

Die Pie Vegan Pizzeria

DIE PIE (11215 Jasper Avenue) entered the Edmonton food scene back in the fall of 2017 as the first plant-based pizzeria in Alberta. I was intrigued by the notion of a vegan restaurant attempting to circumvent the average Albertan’s love of meat, meat and more meat on what is a beloved meal for most. Don’t get me wrong, a well-made vegetarian pizza can be quite satisfying, but I’m not going to lie, 95 per cent of the time, any pizza I order is going to have chicken, bacon, sausage, beef, or prosciutto on it. It’s just a fact.

Yet, the time had come for me to delve into the offerings at DIE PIE. After a late afternoon bridal event, my friends and I were looking for a spot to eat downtown. This place came to mind as it’d been on my evergrowing list of eateries to try for a while. When we arrived, it was prime dinnertime on a Friday night, so we were told that it would probably be at least a 30 minute wait. We opted to put our name down on their list. In the meantime, we planned to find a table at another nearby restaurant to grab some drinks or snacks. However, as luck would have it, a few customers departed as we were about to leave and we managed to snag three bar seats.

The bar at Die Pie

The space itself is small and simply decorated; they’ve kept things minimal, mural wall notwithstanding. The service at the bar was decent as we were given menus and water quickly, and our questions were answered informatively. Our orders were also put through relatively fast once we had made our decisions. Eventually, a table opened up and we were given the choice to move, which we happily accepted for ease of conversation among the three of us.

Where I think I started to get frustrated was with the wait for our food. It took close to 40 minutes before our items finally made it out from the kitchen. Is that normal for DIE PIE? Is it because vegan food takes that much longer to prepare? Do they make the pizza dough from scratch as soon as your order is placed? I have no clue. Either way, if you ask me, it was just too long. Thankfully, I was in good company, so I didn’t dwell on the time all that much. Still, it’s something that DIE PIE should be more cognizant of.

In the end, was the wait worth it? Honestly, I don’t think it really was.

Mac & Cheese

One of my friends ordered the Mac & Cheese ($19). It’s described as a combination of cheddar sauce, pickled baby jem tomato salad, shallots, “bacon” breadcrumbs, and aged cashew parmesan. Maybe it was creamier as soon as it was dropped off at the table, but when I sampled it, I didn’t find it had a great texture on the pasta and I didn’t think it was cheesy enough. The “bacon” breadcrumbs were a nice addition though. I also made sure to try a pickled baby jem tomato. It was plump and juicy, but surprisingly spicy. For a second, I thought maybe it was a chili pepper disguised as a tomato. My guess is that they pickled it in spiced brine as that’s the only explanation for the heat. Anyway, it was an interesting take on mac and cheese that I’m not super keen to go back for.

Pierogi Pizza

My other friend settled on the Pierogi Pizza ($20) with the regular crust — gluten-free is an option for $2 more — as it’s one of her favourites at Boston Pizza. Now, if I’ve had BP’s version before, it’s been years, if not decades (did they even have it on the menu decades ago?) since I would have eaten it. Therefore, I really didn’t have a standard to compare this to. I thought it was good though. The crust of the Neopolitan-style pizza is very thin, crisp along the edges, and chewy in the middle. So, plus one for DIE PIE in that respect. The toppings of cheddar sauce, shaved potato, feta, sour cream, green onions, and “bacon” parmesan worked here. It very much tasted like pierogi fillings without being too heavy.

Black Garlic & Truffle Pizza

I’m always a sucker when it comes to menu items that mention truffle, so I had my heart set on the Black Garlic & Truffle pizza ($22). It consisted of hemp havarti, wild mushrooms, and mustard greens (more like a spring mix). I didn’t particularly like the texture of the vegan cheese and most of the pizza was made up of undressed salad. The wild mushrooms, few as there were, were probably the best part in terms of heartiness and texture. For flavour, it came down to the black garlic and truffle, which was good, but not enough to save this creation. In my opinion, it certainly doesn’t warrant the highest price tag on the pizza menu.

While I found the staff to be friendly and attentive, at least when it came to filling our water glasses, overall, DIE PIE isn’t a restaurant that would pull the carnivorous me back. Perhaps I don’t appreciate what they’re doing because I’m not an actual vegan. Yet, I’m all for veggie dishes when they’re done well. Based on the regular menu items that we selected this time, I can’t say that I was wowed at all. I really wanted to like the food, but personally, I won’t return to DIE PIE to spend my hard earned money there again.

Edmonton Restaurant Review: Hanjan

Japchae

During a full-day bridesmaid dress excursion across Edmonton, my ladies and I decided to stop for lunch in the afternoon. Hanjan was our final choice for sustenance, so we all made our way over to the south side (3735 99 Street). Although the space was a tad chilly, it’s super spacious inside with both an expansive main floor and additional seating upstairs, too. The style is sort of modern industrial with a touch of the rustic. They’ve also emulated a dreamy outdoor patio vibe inside. It’s definitely like nothing else in the city.

The main floor of Hanjan.

With only two front of house staff on hand for such a large venue, the service wasn’t bad either. What really helps at Hanjan is that each table has a “bell” installed. Press it, and your group number pops up on a waiting list that hangs behind the counter. They can see who needs them and they’ll come over as soon as they can. It’s really quite efficient and it helps to avoid those sometimes inconvenient popovers where your mouth is clearly full, but the staff still have to ask if everything is going okay. We’ll just ring you, if we need you. I love it.

Anyway, once we’d all gathered, we got our orders in. Two of my bridesmaids went for the classic Bibimbap ($15 each), another went for the Fried Rice Bokkum Bap ($15), and I went for the Japchae ($16). We also shared an order of the Bulgogi Fries ($10), and I grabbed a Matcha Latte ($5).

Banchan

To start, we were given complimentary banchan that included kimchi, bean sprout salad, fish cakes, and mashed potatoes. All of them were quite delicious. I found the mashed potatoes to be an interesting choice for banchan though. I’d never seen that presented before at other Korean restaurants. Usually banchan encompasses more pickled or fermented veggies, so this was a change. My favourite was probably the small slices of fish cake though. Easy to tell what it was with the flavour, but not too overwhelmingly fishy. The texture was pleasant and it had a nice chew to it.

Bulgogi Fries

Shortly after, we received our Bulgogi Fries. The thin cut potatoes were perfectly crispy and then topped with small pieces of bulgogi beef, tomatoes, scallions, and their house sauce. Our whole group raved about them. We even tried to find out what the house sauce was made of, but our server told us that it’s a secret that he wasn’t even privy to. That’s fair. I didn’t think they’d actually tell us. My only constructive piece of criticism with this dish is that it’d be ideal if they layered the ingredients more between the fries. I found that, once we got down to the bottom of the bowl, there wasn’t much left of the toppings other than plain fries.

My friends’ plates actually all took a little longer to come out from the kitchen than mine. I also didn’t really sample them myself, so it’s hard for me to judge. However, everyone seemed to enjoy their selections.

The Fried Rice Bokkum Bap was carefully cooked to ensure that none of the egg was raw as was requested by my very pregnant friend. She paired the pork, veggies, and rice with some of the kimchi banchan to amp up the overall flavour. The Bibimbap bowls looked hearty and well-balanced with a variety of veggies and a decent helping of beef. A beautifully fried egg was placed on top to finish it off. On the side was a dish of gochujang sauce (red chili paste) to be stirred in until mixed to your liking. A little bit sweet, savoury, and spicy, it was pleasant and not overly hot on the palate, which was great for my one friend who isn’t particularly keen on extremely spicy foods.

Japchae: glass noodles in soy sauce with beef and veggies

For my lunch, the Japchae hit the spot. I don’t know why, but I’m obsessed with glass noodles, especially of late. How are they made to be clear? This dish was presented still steaming with the al dente stir fried noodles evenly coated in soy sauce and tossed with beef, veggies and roasted sesame seeds. I polished off the entire plate without hesitation.

Matcha Latte

Towards the end of our meal is when my Matcha Latte finally showed up. I’ll caveat this note by saying that I was warned it would take our server a while to make my beverage and that he was also not good at latte art, so he set it up to keep my expectations low. Interestingly, it wasn’t even piping hot when I got it. But, that was actually okay for me. It was warm enough to enjoy, but cool enough that I was able to drink it quickly to ensure we were done at Hanjan in time to make our next dress appointment.

When we were ready to pay, we were asked to make our way over to the counter. Their electronic system allowed for our bills to be easily split. The transactions were quick and we were off in no time. Overall, Hanjan is a friendly place with both traditional and fusion Korean dishes available. The atmosphere (minus the too cold air conditioning that day) was wonderful, and the food was satisfying. I’ll definitely be back to try some more of their offerings soon.

Edmonton Restaurant Review: Tokyo Noodle Shop (AYCE Location)

Sashimi

All you can eat (AYCE) sushi is fairly hard to come by in Edmonton, and when you find a place that offers a menu like that, it can cost a pretty penny. As such, it’s important that you get a decent value for what you’re paying. I recently found out that Tokyo Noodle Shop, a longtime tenant on Whyte Avenue (I do have a soft spot in my heart for that place because it’s where Kirk and I had one of our first dates), opened a second location on the south side of the city. Situated at 10430 61 Avenue, the owners took over the space vacated by the short-lived Takami Sushi. Here, they now provide patrons with a brand new AYCE option.

The Tokyo Noodle Shop website vaguely mentions that they have AYCE sushi under the location listings of their homepage with no other mention of it anywhere else. Therefore, I had to search online for more information. Other diners had posted the menu on review sites or on their blogs, so I had a general idea of the cost (expected to be around $34 per person) and the items that would be available.

My friend and I decided to head over there for an early supper — they open at 4:00 pm — on a Sunday afternoon before we had a scheduled Paint Nite event. Upon arriving, we found that the building provides free parking around the back, so the restaurant has both an entrance there as well as at the front. We walked into the former and found ourselves navigating a long hallway (filled with crowded booth seating along one wall) to make it towards the staff who asked if we had a reservation. Unfortunately, we did not, but they managed to accommodate us even though they were apparently fully booked for the evening. There were a couple of tables situated right by the front door waiting area (where we were seated), making for a slightly awkward placement. Thankfully, not many customers came in from there, so it didn’t get crowded or cold at all.

All You Can Eat Sushi Menu

The table had been laid out with drink menus, a pen, and two AYCE sushi sheets (already prepared for your second order). As we looked it over, I noticed that the pricing had been revised since I’d last found an online review from late-December with a copy of the menu included. Rather than one flat rate through the week, they had changed it to have one cost Monday to Thursday and then another Friday to Sunday and on statutory holidays. It makes sense though. They’ve essentially matched what you’ll find at Watari. In my opinion, that’s their biggest competition; therefore, if Tokyo Noodle Shop sees themselves as on par with what you can find at Watari, then they may as well act as if they deserve to charge the same. On the plus side, they’ve also mirrored the different pricing for children and seniors, so you can expect to save a bit there.

We quickly filled out our first sheet, focusing heavily on the sashimi and tataki with a few other selections from the sushi, maki and appetizer categories. At first, service was quite quick. Salad, beef sashimi, and appetizers didn’t take too long to come out from the kitchen and, next thing you knew, everything had been placed on the table.

Beef Sashimi and Bean Sprout Salad

Each of us ordered the Bean Sprout Salad. I found this to have less of a sesame flavour compared to other places with much more prominent amounts of ginger. Not my favourite, but it was crisp and fresh. The Beef Sashimi is limited to three plates per person and comes with about four to five slices per plate. The meat was deep red in colour, doused in a pleasantly acidic sauce and covered with onions. Very tender cuts owing to the thinly shaved beef and quality of the meat.

Appetizers

Our other appetizers consisted of the Agedashi Tofu, Crabmeat Puff, Deep Fried Scallop, and Cheese Wonton. The Crabmeat Puff was a fried wonton filled with shredded fake crab meat and maybe a little bit of Japanese mayo to hold it together. It was alright, but lacked major flavour. Initially, I thought that the Deep Fried Scallop was decent. It wasn’t greasy and the scallop flaked apart easily. However, they didn’t serve it with any sauce, which could have been a nice touch. I ended up ordering a second one on our follow-up sheet, but I didn’t like it as much that time. The scallop seemed mushier, so I suppose that’s a hit or miss.

The Agedashi Tofu was good. I’d just recommend that you don’t let it sit in the sauce for too long otherwise the fried exterior gets soggy. Also, allow the morsels to cool off a bit before eating (best to split them apart to let the heat out) to prevent burning your mouth. My favourite out of the appetizers was definitely the Cheese Wonton. Again, the consistency is not exactly there at Tokyo Noodle Shop. The first Cheese Wonton I had was literally filled with cream cheese by itself. But, in our next round, the cheese had been combined with yellow corn. Admittedly, both versions were good. This was like a meatless take on the crab and cream cheese wontons I’d come to love from Panda Hut Express without my friend having a potential allergic reaction from consuming the crustacean.

Spicy Tuna and Shrimp Avocado Maki with Inari and Chop Chop Scallop Sushi

I wasn’t overly impressed with the maki, which came in orders of six pieces each. The two of us shared the Spicy Tuna. I found that to be okay in terms of flavour as there was definitely a kick of heat, but there was very little filling. Same goes for the Shrimp Avocado Maki as those barely seemed to have anything other than rice. The Chop Chop Scallop sushi was also average at best. While the nori wrap was crisp, I found that the scallop was diced much smaller than I’m used to and the seafood was tossed with way too much mayo, making it the only thing I could really taste. The Inari sushi was alright. I love the sweet sheets of bean curd and these were fine. I do suggest eating the whole piece in one mouthful as they do not bite apart easily and, if you try to split it with your teeth, you’ll end up with a mess.

Hidden under the Cones category, you’ll notice Tuna and Salmon Tataki on the menu. I have to say that the Tuna Tataki wasn’t my favourite. It was served with ponzu sauce and crispy fried onions, which were delicious; however, I didn’t like the texture after the tuna was seared on the edges. It was like it’d been overcooked and the sides were dry and scratchy in the mouth. The Salmon Tataki was fantastic though. Some have complained that the yuzu black pepper sauce is too peppery, but I thought it was perfect when I tried it. The salmon was especially good and soaked up the zesty sauce nicely.

Look at all of the sashimi!

At Tokyo Noodle Shop, the price of the AYCE menu accounts for up to 30 pieces of sashimi per person at the table. In all, we were able to order 60 pieces between us and we maxed it out. My friend stuck to the standard Salmon and Tuna sashimi. I split my selection between those and the Butter Fish. This was most definitely the highlight of our meal. Every single piece was accounted for and the portions were generous, especially with the salmon. Although I did think that the butter fish and tuna could have been thawed out a bit more (they were colder and icier towards the middle of the cut of each fish), they were still fairly fresh and of a decent quality. The meat was smooth — no discernible tendons — and had a light bite to the fish. The salmon sashimi was spectacular. The pieces we received had an excellent ratio of flesh to fat, making them incredibly succulent. The salmon almost melted in our mouths. Next time I’m at Tokyo Noodle Shop, there’s no doubt that I’ll stick to more of the salmon for the best experience.

My friend ordered more of the Inari Sushi

From our first sheet, only one item was missed. It was the Sunny Roll under the House Specials. It comes with eight huge pieces (we saw another table get something similar) and we chose to forego checking it off on our second submission as we didn’t want to end up being too full to finish everything. We just repeated a few of our favourites like the beef sashimi, agedashi tofu, and cheese wontons. All super snackable portions that we knew we could manage after devouring so much sashimi.

Green Tea Ice Cream

One thing I really do like at Tokyo Noodle Shop is that they include dessert in the price. It’s just a simple scoop of Green Tea Ice Cream, but that was enough to make me happy. Honestly, it was a little bit icy, but it tasted great. I’m a sucker for green tea desserts and this hit the spot.

I absolutely believe that this AYCE sushi option presented by Tokyo Noodle Shop is a fantastic addition to a city that is truly lacking in this realm. Sure, the service towards the end wasn’t the best (we kept putting our second order sheet towards the edge of the table and they skipped over us a number of times; I had to wave someone down to get it placed in the end), but overall, we were treated well. The space is clean, the staff are friendly, there’s a variety of items, food came out fast, 99 per cent of our order was correct, and we never felt rushed. Since it’s similarly priced to others in Edmonton and it’s on the south side, there’s a good chance that I’ll be back here more frequently.

Edmonton Restaurant Review: The Local Omnivore

Sausage Party

Before the Christmas holiday, I was scrolling through Instagram when I came across a post from GetintheLoop. They were offering $100 in local gift certificates to those who could prove that they were following their page. I wasn’t sure if I was too late to benefit from this, but I took a chance and screenshot my information, so they could verify.

Shortly after I sent my direct message, I received a reply asking for my mailing address. Within a few days, an envelope showed up that included $50 to spend at The Local Omnivore (10933 120 Street). In my mind, it was perfect because I’d been wanting to try this deli for a while. Although owners Mark Bellows and Ryan Brodziak had run their food truck of the same name for about two years prior to launching their brick and mortar restaurant in 2015, I’d never even tried their offerings then. Therefore, this visit had been a long time coming.

We walked into the place to find a crowded entrance. Some of the patrons were clearly attempting to pay for their bill at the till. But, I couldn’t tell if another group was waiting for a table or an order to go. The painted wood pallet wall indicated that guests still waiting for companions in their party should hold back on grabbing a table. Otherwise, you should have been able to seat yourself. This being our first visit, I opted to double check before walking in. We were told to go ahead and select any of the empty chairs in the eccentric — walls marked up with graffiti, an exposed cement floor, table tops of linoleum tiles — diner space.

At first, we selected a table located at the far end of the bench that runs along the concrete wall. After a few minutes, one of the servers spotted us there and told us that, even though we were instructed to sit wherever we wanted, this was the only table we couldn’t actually have. It’s apparently the only spot that can comfortably sit a group of five, meaning it had to be left open for larger groups. Fine. That’s when I noticed an available table tucked into the corner over towards the entrance. It was cozy minus the slight breeze whenever someone opened the door. Thankfully, the cool air dissipated quickly in those cases.

While The Local Omnivore serves brunch daily until 3:00 pm, I wasn’t super keen on trying anything from that selection. Ultimately, I decided that Kirk and I would head over there on a Saturday afternoon for a late lunch/early supper to take advantage of their regular sandwich, burger, and shareable menu. The two of us ended up splitting the Roast Vegetables ($9.99), Total Recall Philly sandwich ($15.50) with a side of Pirate Poutine ($9.99), and Butcher’s Board Sausage Party ($21).

I do have to say that the service was not ideal here. After they asked us to switch tables, it took at least five minutes for one of the servers to bring us some menus. She did come back fairly quickly to take our order; however, I’d say about 15 minutes later, another server came over to ask if we had gotten any drinks and inquired as to whether or not our food was on the way yet. Because of her lack of confidence, we assumed that they’d forgotten to put our order through; I was especially worried when I noticed that a duo who came in much later received their items before us. All in, I’d say that we waited about 30 minutes until our dishes were finally brought over.

Everything looked great when presented though. As I snapped photos, the aromas made my mouth water even more. Kirk kept eyeing all of the plates, mostly upset about the melted slices of Swiss cheese sliding out of the sandwich.

Roast Vegetables

I’ll begin with the Roast Vegetables. This was a mix of carrots and Brussels sprouts topped with sweet cider beets and pickled daikon. They were lightly seasoned and still earthy in flavour. I would have preferred the carrots to be less crunchy and that the veggies be more charred. Honestly, the best part was having the preserved beets and daikon, adding both a natural sweetness and acidity that balanced well together. For the price, I’ll admit, there are many other places that do roasted vegetables better than this and in ways that are more unique.

Total Recall Philly

The Total Recall Philly is The Local Omnivore’s take on a classic Philly cheese steak sandwich. Theirs includes a foot long sesame bun filled with a zesty cheese sauce, green peppers, mushroom, onion, Swiss Cheese, and a generous amount of roast beef. I was able to discern the sauteed mushrooms along the bottom of the sandwich and I found one piece of green pepper, but I didn’t notice much in the way of onion. It could certainly have used more of the veggies to round it out better. Kirk didn’t like how soggy the bun got either. On the other hand, I enjoyed the fact that it was a straight up bun, no crazy toasting, as I hate bread that is too hard. The zesty cheese sauce, Swiss cheese, and roast beef are what makes this delicious. I found the shaved meat to be a good thickness, easy to bite apart, and quite succulent.

Pirate Poutine

When the Pirate Poutine was brought over, it came in a separate bowl rather than on the same plate as the sandwich. I thought they may have given us a full order, but upon paying, I confirmed that it was actually put through as a side. Considering that, I feel like the side portion is quite decently sized and great for sharing. The shoe string pirate fries (seasoned with a paprika based mix) were doused in vegetarian gravy, cheese curds, and green onion. Based on the description, the potato itself wasn’t as skinny cut as I expected. There was still a little width to each stick. Granted, the outside of the fries were not all that crisp, so they got soggy fairly quickly. We ate this fast though as it turned out to be one of our favourite things at the table. In fact, the gravy was so good that Kirk truly thought it was made using meat. He was surprised to learn of it’s veggie origins when I broke the news to him.

Sausage Party with Pirate Poutine

Under the Butcher’s Boards category is where you’ll find the Sausage Party platter. This includes three of The Local Omnivore’s smoked sausages: Garlic Uke, Hot Italian, and Yellow Curry. Pots of house-made preserves are served on the side. Two of them were repeats of what already came with the roasted veggies, so we had hefty portions of the pickled daikon and sweet cider beets. More traditional pickle slices came in another (Kirk said these were super garlicky). In the last was plenty of grainy honey mustard. Initially, I chose to taste test each of the sausage flavours by themselves. The meat was well-blended, allowing for an easy chew and didn’t taste too fatty. The Garlic Uke was somewhat standard in terms of flavour profile, but easily the most approachable and probably the best one to pair with the preserves. In the other cases, I didn’t believe that the preserves paired well with the sausage. I kept thinking that the honey mustard and the beets were just too sweet and the pickled daikon was too acidic to go with the Hot Italian and Yellow Curry options (both of those offered a noticeable amount of heat). In my opinion, the sausages were all best when appreciated on their own merits.

I’m a bit on the fence about The Local Omnivore. I felt like we were approached as a nuisance to the staff. They were never all that attentive or friendly to us from the second we walked in, and it was almost like they had a mentality that the service didn’t matter. That’s how it came across to me, anyway. Perhaps they were having an off day. That being said, there’s no doubt that they make some excellent smoked meats and poutine. Ultimately, if the hospitality doesn’t bring me back, the hints of greatness in the food might do the job.

Edmonton Restaurant Review: Gregg Mediterranean (Sherwood Park)

Lebanese Coffee with Baklava

While working on my YEG Food Deals project, I’ve made a number of connections with Edmonton and area businesses. One in particular caught my eye when they tagged my @yegfooddeals Instagram page in a post about their $10 lunch deals.

The share came from Gregg Mediterranean located in Sherwood Park (25 Sioux Road). I decided to reach out to them to discuss a possible collaboration. They replied, but I didn’t hear much after our initial conversation.

A week or two passed and I received a new message from the business asking us to come in and try their menu. Kirk and I welcomed the invitation, heading out one Sunday evening during that run of bitter cold weather caused by the polar vortex.

When we arrived, it was quiet; only one other table was occupied. The owner, Tamara, greeted and seated us right away. She gave us a few minutes to look over the menu and then came back to ask if we had any questions. Of course, I wanted to know what the most popular items were to help with my decision. To that, she replied, “would you like us to select the dishes for you?” Both Kirk and I are always up for an adventure, so we gave her an enthusiastic thumbs up.

Pickled Veggies

The first thing we received was a plate of pickled vegetables. These were likely complimentary because I do not recall seeing them as an option on the menu. Kirk seemed to enjoy them as he ate the majority. I sampled what I think was a radish, which I didn’t mind. It was very acidic and had an interesting texture from soaking in the brine. Definitely not crispy. The carrot was harder and didn’t take in the brine as much, so it still held some of it’s density and tasted less pickled overall. I guess, for me, they were a little too wet. I like drier pickled veggies like the carrots, daikon and cucumber on a Vietnamese sub or the diced pickled turnips we found on other dishes here.

Blue Hawaiian Cocktail

As we snacked on the veggies, we also sipped on our drinks. Tamara had suggested a Lebanese beer called Almaza ($6 to $7) for Kirk. It’s a basic pilsner that is light, ever so slightly bitter at the end, but otherwise smooth and easy to drink. I chose the Blue Hawaiian cocktail ($9). Presented in a tall glass, this blue drink was deceivingly strong. Granted, I drank it pretty fast at first, but the pineapple juice masks a lot of the alcohol, so don’t go too crazy on these.

Shish Combo with Rice and Garlic Sauce

Not long after, we were given our first main plate. This was the Shish Combo ($24) — a skewer each of the chicken, beef, and kafta — served on a pita with a parsley tomato mix and a side of rice. It’s a sizable amount of food that’s perfect for sharing, especially when you want to try a few different meats. The beef skewer wasn’t the most tender; however, it was nicely seasoned. My favourites were the chicken (charred and juicy) and the kafta. I wasn’t sure what to expect of the kafta, but the seasoned, minced beef was incredibly flavourful on its own. I tossed some of the homemade garlic sauce into the rice and I was in heaven. Some garlic sauces I’ve had in the past have been potent. Gregg Mediterranean has found a good balance with theirs. It’s creamy and tasty without being overwhelming. As far as I know, my body didn’t smell like garlic the next day.

As we were working on the skewers, Tamara came back with a Half Mezza platter ($24) that included four appetizers of Sujuk over Hummus, Falafel, Grilled Halloume Cheese, and Chicken Wings. I’m not sure if Chicken Wings are a regular Mediterranean dish. Either way, these were delicious. The zesty glaze was slightly sticky, but not heavy. The sauce kept the meat succulent and, even though there was cilantro on it, I didn’t even notice that the herb was there. I’ve seen halloume cheese more and more, but I’ve never really eaten it. It reminded me of the texture of Indian paneer, just grilled. I should have eaten it when it was warm. Although it was still good cold, I think it lost any elasticity it may have had as it sat out. Regardless, I sandwiched the cheese in between pieces of pita and smeared some hummus on it. The satisfying hummus was super smooth and creamy with a hint of spice from the beef sausage tossed on top. Falafel was not exactly Kirk’s cup of tea, but I quite liked the balls of chickpeas, fava beans, parsley, cilantro, and onion. They remind me of fritters, perfect for dipping in more hummus or garlic sauce.

Fattoush Salad

To accompany everything else, we also received a bowl of their Fattoush Salad ($10). A combination of fresh lettuce, cucumber, tomato, peppers, parsley, onion, and red cabbage tossed in a vinaigrette dressing and topped with pita bread chips, this was simple yet tasty. In particular, I was a fan of the crunch from the salt and pepper seasoned chips as they added extra texture and flavour.

Our meal was completed with a Lebanese Coffee ($3) for Kirk and two styles of Baklava ($5) for us to split. I don’t drink coffee, so I can’t say much about it. It smelled concentrated and was served in a small cup like an espresso. Kirk found it quite strong and didn’t need much of it. The desserts came as Asabeh, a finger-like pastry, and a more traditional Baklawa that’s layered. In the latter, the sheets of filo were wonderfully flaky before hitting a base of chopped nuts soaked in sugar syrup or honey. I tend to find this particular kind of baklava to be too sweet. I loved the Asabeh though. Here, the filo is stuffed with the chopped nuts and a bit of the syrup or honey and then rolled into a tube. There’s a lot less liquid and more of the pastry, so it’s well-balanced and less saccharine.

When we finished eating, Tamara sat with us and we chatted. Gregg Mediterranean has been in business for over four years. Sunday nights are slower for them, but that’s supplemented by deliveries through SkipTheDishes. Additionally, on weekends, they do a lot of catering. The whole thing is family-run with Tamara handling the front of house and her husband, Rakan, taking care of everything in the kitchen (he’s keen to keep the family recipes to himself for now). Their young daughter spends her time in the restaurant, too, giggling and having fun behind the counter.

As more and more chains come into Sherwood Park, they’re noticing an effect on the smaller local eateries, which is unfortunate to hear. Kirk and I honestly cannot wait to go back to Gregg Mediterranean. The hospitality that Tamara and Rakan showed to us is rarely matched elsewhere. For the value and quality of the food, Gregg Mediterranean far surpasses anything you’ll find at a big box business. I count myself fortunate to have learned about this restaurant and I will recommend them to anyone.