Edmonton Restaurant Review: The Common

I remember when The Common (@TheCommonYEG) used to be on 124 Street in the tiny location that is now The Bothy. Even though I had heard good things about it, I never went. Then they moved to their current spot on 109 Street and 99 Avenue, building up a reputation as the hang out for Edmonton hipsters galore and I still never made a point of going there. That is until about a month ago. My friends and I had been discussing places where there would be the potential of meeting some decent single guys around our age and this gastro-lounge with a vintage yet modern vibe came up as a possibility.

The wall of vinyl records and vintage finds at The Common.

The wall of vinyl records and vintage finds at The Common.

In addition, The Common had made it onto The Tomato‘s annual list of 100 best eats and drinks in Edmonton for two years back-to-back (No. 33 in 2013 and No. 41 in 2014), and as we are diligently making our way through said lists, it became clear that this would be the destination for our next outing. Known for their small, but eclectic menu with the stars being dishes such as the poutine, pork belly lettuce wraps, roasted mackerel, and the chicken and waffles, we knew our evening there had to include dinner as well as dancing.

Since my friend had been in the past, she suggested we meet there at 6:3o, so we could grab a table for the night. It seemed a little early considering we were planning on staying to dance, too, but I’m glad we arrived when we did. The bar area by the entrance wasn’t full by any means, but most of the seats in the other two rooms were already taken. We lucked out with a booth right by the dance floor and settled in for a long evening of food and drinks. While we waited for our third to show, the two of us ordered beverages. She had an Alley Kat Main Squeeze and, I, a Foundry Cider, both of which were nice and refreshing. I took in the surroundings. Comfortable, but also cool, the place uses a mixture of clean lines, geometric patterns and odd finds for the decor.

Our first round of drinks for the evening!

Our first round of drinks for the evening!

When our girlfriend joined us, we looked through the selection of seasonal dishes and each opted for something different, so we could sample several things. For those who require gluten-free options, they had quite a few items on the menu that fulfilled that criteria. What surprised me most was, despite there being just a few servers that I could see and it being a full house, the service was excellent. Our food was ready relatively quickly and our server came by to check on us and our drinks regularly, ensuring that we could get refills when we needed them.

The food came to our tables looking wonderfully presented – colorful and appetizing – and in portions that were just the right size. Not too much and not too little. I was also pleased with the prices for all the items. Considering the quality of the food, everything was nicely affordable.

Between the three of us, we ordered the Jackson Steak Salad, the Duck Confit, and the Short Rib and Risotto, all of which were delicious. I typically am not a huge fan of blue cheese, but as part of the Jackson Steak Salad, it paired very well with the perfectly cooked meat, artichokes and mustard dressing. The Duck Confit was interesting because rather than showing up on the plate as a full duck leg as per a traditional dish, the shredded duck meat was incorporated into a cylinder that consisted of baby potatoes, shitake mushrooms, edamame and spiny lettuce with sides of orange slices and green beans. The layered flavours and textures in that dish – salty meat and tangy fruit – made me wish I had ordered that for myself. Of course, that thought didn’t last for long. I’m a sucker for braised beef and the short ribs were nothing short of fantastic. The spinach risotto, pine nuts, chanterelle mushrooms and carrot puree came together very well. It was definitely the heaviest entrée we tried, but it was perfect for a full night out.

Once we finished our meals, we continued to imbibe a variety of beers until our friend was ready for round two of food. Having only ordered the salad, she was adamant that she wanted more to eat, and the chicken and waffles were calling her name (we also told her to order it because we’d seen so many people eating it that we were really curious about that entrée). It’s definitely a hearty dish with the fried chicken strips and the waffles, but I could certainly see why they were so popular. The tender chicken with the crunchy breading combined with the crispy on the outside and soft on the inside buttery bacon waffles, goat cheese and a sweet yet spicy blackberry and chile sauce was pretty incredible. Our friend had no issues polishing off her plate.

We were done dining just in time for the music to start. That night it was a mix of funkified sounds that brought in some old school Jackson 5 type songs to get people up and moving. While we would have been up on the dance floor much sooner, it took the staff a bit of time to clear away a couple of the tables that were in the space, and, as there’s little room until they’re moved, we happily talked with some of the other patrons while we waited. Everyone there was extremely personable, making for a fun time.

Me and my girls!

Me and my girls!

Verging on almost thirty years of age (at least for a couple of us), we called it a night at around 11pm. Perhaps if we started our evening a little later, we may have lasted longer into the wee hours of the morning, but, alas, we were all sleepy from the carb coma and also needed to make our way home before public transit became scarce. Prior to leaving though, we still made sure to bust a few nerdy moves, satisfying our goal of dinner and dancing after all.

As we wove our way through the crowded rooms towards the door, I could see that the lounge was packed to the brim, every seat filled with people having a great time. And, that’s The Common’s goal: elevating the way we think about and approach spending an evening with those we love – through good food (I must try some of the appetizers and desserts next time), drinks, conversation and music.

I can’t wait pay this place another visit tomorrow!

The new dinner menu - May 2014! Looking forward to trying something different!

The new dinner menu – May 2014! Looking forward to trying something different!

The Travelling Concertgoer: San Francisco Photostream

Walking from the BART station to see the Rolling Stones at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, CA on May 5, 2013

Walking from the BART station to see the Rolling Stones at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, CA on May 5, 2013

I’m not sure about you, but I haven’t met anyone in my life who has said they don’t enjoy music. Most find a genre they like and the majority are pretty passionate about music in some form or another. Whether they’re a musician or just a lover of the lyrics, beats and rhythms that make up the variety of songs out there in the universe, there is literally something for everyone.

I’m one of those passionate ones. I find artists I love all the time and I remain a devoted fan throughout the majority of an artist or band’s career. The genres of music I listen to run the gambit. Everything from top 40 to rap to folk to country can probably be found in my playlist, so I’m lucky that I live in a city that has become one of the major stops on many a concert tour. However, there are still some artists that don’t quite make it to my city, let alone my country because they either haven’t managed to crack the North American market to the point that it’s worth their time to tour here extensively or they’re such bloody legends that they know people will follow them instead. I’ve travelled to New York and Montreal to see Kylie Minogue, Toronto to see U2, London, England to see Girls Aloud and this coming December to New York once again to see P!nk. But, just earlier this month, I booked a whirlwind trip to San Francisco to see the Rolling Stones.

Prior to the Rolling Stones announcing their 50 and Counting tour, they were still one of the bands on my musical bucket list, if you will. I admit when I was younger I wasn’t much of a fan. I never really listened to them much and wasn’t necessarily inclined to, but after about a year of working full-time at my first “real” job after graduating from university, in an effort to create a regularly occurring social event for my friends and I, I decided to start a movie club. One month, in 2008, we chose to see Shine A Light, a documentary about the Rolling Stones that was directed by Martin Scorsese. I went in excited to see it because it was a documentary about one of the world’s biggest bands seen through the eyes of one of the best filmmakers and I wasn’t disappointed. That was the day I fell in love with their music and the characters that make up this long lasting group that, despite the pitfalls that rock and roll has brought to others, has stayed together with its original lineup for half a century.

Last year when the Rolling Stones announced their November/December shows in London and New York I thought my chance was finally here. The last time they had come to Edmonton, AB was back in 1997, so I wasn’t holding my breath that they’d grace my hometown with their presence, but maybe they’d come to Vancouver? Well, it was a long wait before they officially announced cities and dates for 2013 and while the west coast of Canada didn’t make the cut, San Francisco did.

I was more than determined to see them. With Mick, Keith, Ronnie and Charlie between the ages of 65 and 71, this could very well be the last time they’ll perform on a tour like this and I couldn’t miss out. And, I wouldn’t call it fate exactly, but I do think it was by luck that I happened to come across the band’s $85 link on their website the morning the tickets for San Francisco went on sale. The catch with those tickets is that you could only purchase them in pairs and you wouldn’t know where your seats would be until you arrived at the venue and picked them up. That was perfectly fine with me! A chance to see the Rolling Stones at half the price of even their lowest priced tickets in the main sale meant I couldn’t go wrong.

The concert was superb. I loved seeing the crazy array of people at the venue. The audience was having such a great time, dancing like there was no tomorrow and Mick Jagger literally is more energetic at his age than I am right now. They played many of their hits, but with their extensive catalog, I missed hearing songs like Wild Horses or Ruby Tuesday. I can understand why people follow them around from city to city on their tours. They are notorious for changing up their sets every show, so they’re never exactly the same, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll hear your favourite song.

This is their set list from Oakland, CA on May 5:

  1. “Get Off Of My Cloud”
  2. “It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll (But I Like It)”
  3. “Live With Me”
  4. “Paint It Black”
  5. “Gimme Shelter”
  6. “Little Red Rooster” (with Tom Waits)
  7. “Dead Flowers”
  8. “Emotional Rescue”
  9. “All Down The Line”
  10. “Doom and Gloom”
  11. “One More Shot”
  12. “Honky Tonk Women”
  13. “Before They Make Me Run”
  14. “Happy”
  15. “Midnight Rambler” (with Mick Taylor)
  16. “Miss You”
  17. “Start Me Up”
  18. “Tumbling Dice”
  19. “Brown Sugar”
  20. “Sympathy for the Devil”

Encore

  1. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”
  2. “Jumping Jack Flash”
  3. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”

Even after a 2 and a half hour show, I still wished it was longer. But, alas, I can now say that I have seen the Rolling Stones live. The experience was certainly worth the trip, and though they’re the reason why I booked a vacation to San Francisco, I do try to make the most of my time in the cities I visit.

Over my three days in the home of the Golden Gate Bridge, I visited the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero and perused the stalls at the weekly farmer’s market, walked the streets of Chinatown, shopped around Union Square, ate at Tadish in the Financial District (apparently the oldest seafood restaurant in San Francisco) and at Bask SF (only a year old), walked up Lombard Street, followed Columbus Avenue from California Street past North Beach and all the way down to Hyde Street Pier and then down to Pier 39 to see the seals. I regret the shoes I brought with me because I thought those flats would kill me by the end of the trip, but I made it and it was fantastic.

Another trip and plenty to document it! As my friend said, she knew I must have just returned home and finally gotten Wi-Fi because I started Instagraming one photo after another to share with everyone. She also asked me how long I was there for, and when I replied that I was only there for three days, she was pretty amazed at how much I managed to do in such a short time span.

San Francisco through my eyes is here for you to view. Hopefully it inspires you to visit, too. Maybe for a show, maybe not. Either way, it’s worth seeing and with many things within walking distance of one another, you can cover a lot more ground than you think.