Edmonton Restaurant Review: Chartier

Start with dessert first: Banana Phone on a vintage plate.

I follow a lot of Edmonton’s local and surrounding restaurants on social media. Included in the mix is Chartier, a French-Canadian eatery out of Beaumont. Known for their elevated take on rustic dishes, it wasn’t their regular menu that pulled me into their establishment. Instead, I was enticed by their weekly Tuesday night burgers, specifically the Fall menu from September 19 that was posted on Instagram.

Chartier has a great story. Starting with the name, owners Sylvia and Darren Cheverie dug into the history books to learn of a man named Father Morin who travelled to Ottawa from Alberta in 1895 to petition for a post office to be placed in the small French colony from which he came. In order to do so, he needed to present potential names for the community. Of the three possibilities, ‘Beaumont’ is the one that stuck. ‘Chartier’ went unused until the couple launched a Kickstarter as a way to fund their dream of opening a local eatery. It ended up becoming the most successful restaurant campaign in Alberta and Canada on the crowdfunding platform, raising over $107,000 in just two months.

Approximately one year after they had raised the money, the restaurant opened in March of 2016 to rave reviews of chef Steven Brochu’s offerings. Another year and a half later, Chartier was listed as one of 30 finalists vying to become Canada’s Best New Restaurant for 2017 by Air Canada. That accolade, along with a unique, limited-edition menu, spurred my first visit.

My boyfriend and I drove from south Edmonton to downtown Beaumont within 20 minutes. There were no problems finding free on-street parking right outside the building, so we made it there for our 6:00 pm reservation (booked online through Yelp) with a few minutes to spare.

Entering through their threshold, you’re welcomed by a cozy waiting area that houses a cabinet of their own pantry items and branded products. Immediately past that space, a large bar and dining room is to be found. On this evening, the majority of their vintage, colourfully painted mismatched chairs were already filled with happy people. We were seated at a table for two near the kitchen. There, I was able to take peeks at the chefs as they worked. I also took my time appreciating the design of the venue. With cinnamon-maple stained columns and beams as well as reclaimed wood paneled walls, and a large barn door, that country charm really came into play.

The Fall Burger Menu

To get the night started, my other half ordered one of the draught beers. It seems that they only have a few on tap. Therefore, the choices were minimal. But, it’s okay because he still found a new beverage to try. As he waited for his drink to come, the two of us paged through a handful of sheets printed with their menus. To be honest, I barely even glanced at their usual dinner selection. Although, I will have to make a point of coming back to sample it down the road. My mind was completely set on those burgers. Of the four options, we decided to split the Messy Bun and Uggs ($21) and the PSL ($20).

The Messy Bun and Uggs was described as a six ounce sheep burger stuffed with bacon and cheese. It was put onto a house made messy bun (basically a cheese bun) and topped with smoky BBQ sauce and caramelized onions. Overall, it was well-made; both of us appreciated the juiciness of the meat and the barbecue flavour. Yet, it felt as though something was missing. Ultimately, it came down to the taste of the patty. The meat lacked that gameyness that is so strongly associated with sheep or lamb, and while it’s not always a palate pleaser for some, that’s what we had expected and wanted out of the meal. As it turned out, the burger simply tasted like beef.

Our side for this main was the Salade de Chartier. Tossed arugula, spinach, kale, pickled Brussels sprouts, and red onions were combined with roasted root vegetables in a peach maple mustard vinaigrette and topped with finely grated Sylvan Star Grizzly Gouda and candied walnuts. It was certainly a hearty salad, but I thought it started to become too salty. Sure, there were plenty of flavour profiles throughout the dish — tangy dressing, sweet walnuts, bitterness from the greens — but they were all overtaken by that single note in the end.

PSL with Wedge Fries

Our favourite of the pair of entrées was the PSL burger. Short for Pumpkin Spice Latte, I felt that this was where the kitchen’s creativity really excelled. The PSL consisted of a six ounce beef patty covered with whipped pumpkin chèvre, cinnamon, truffle, onion relish, sautéed mushrooms, and roasted garlic. It was literally autumn in burger form. What amazed me most was the fact that none of the flavours overwhelmed the others. I was able to pick out every ingredient with each bite that I took; I thought it was superb. In particular, I loved the use of cinnamon. I learned long ago that cinnamon is an amazing spice that can be used in all sorts of recipes to give them that je ne sais quoi quality. Here, it helped Chartier raise the pedestal of what a burger could be while simultaneously remaining down-to-earth. The side of hand-cut wedge fries were also delicious. Crisp on the outside with plenty of fluffy potato on the inside, I couldn’t stop eating them.

Banana Phone

Having reviewed the desserts earlier in the day, I knew I couldn’t leave without ordering one. We elected to go with the Banana Phone ($11). As I suspected, we chose well (our server even agreed that it was her preferred plate). Toasted banana bread served with brûlée banana, banana cream, and a scoop of tonka bean and Tahitian vanilla ice cream, this was worth the extra calories. Being easy to come by, bananas, which are often eaten as a quick snack, aren’t usually given lofty goals. But, in this instance, they were everything. I will admit that the banana bread was initially drier than I would have liked; however, the ice cream and the banana cream sauce quickly mitigated that potential misstep. What I truly appreciated was the simplicity of the banana halves torched with a thin layer of crunchy caramelized sugar. The sweetness wasn’t overwhelming; it was just right.

Now that I’ve actually eaten there firsthand, I can say that the praise they’ve received is deserved. Not only is the food at Chartier top-notch, I’d say the service is as well. The staff is welcoming, friendly and team-oriented.

Before we even left, my boyfriend was already planning our next date night at Chartier. As such, it’s safe to say that we’ll be back. Perhaps I’ll even attempt to drop by on occasion to pick up some baked goods from their bread window. From what I understand, they open the window strictly on weekends from Friday to Sunday. Yet, lately, on Instagram, I’ve noticed photos and posts about their lineup during the week as well. Either way, they’re definitely doing a good job of drawing me in again.

Until next time, Chartier!

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Edmonton Restaurant Review: Sloppy Hoggs Roed Hus

My dad's Brisket & Buffalo Chili with cornbread at Sloppy Hoggs.

My dad’s Brisket & Buffalo Chili with cornbread at Sloppy Hoggs.

I have actually mentioned Sloppy Hoggs Roed Hus in a previous review about their now closed sister restaurant Absolutely Edibles (AE’s). I’m still not entirely sure why AE’s shuttered its doors after 19 years both serving and catering food – perhaps it was an expired lease – but I’ll miss it. Judging by the updated website, they still do catering. Out of which location, I can’t be certain, yet the good news is that Sloppy Hoggs is still open for business. They even carried over the AE’s brunch menu, albeit with a minor change or two.

Sloppy Hoggs itself is geared more towards Southern style cuisine, so the look of the restaurant consists of many large booths – perfect for the communal-like atmosphere reminiscent of a friendly barbecue – that can fit between six to eight people. The tables at the center of the space can be reconfigured to accommodate larger parties as well. I quite like it. It’s nice and sunny inside due to the large windows, it’s clean, and the booths are comfortable.

When it comes to the menu, the food is very much of the hearty variety. Items such as jambalaya, beans & rice, chicken & waffles, BBQ chicken, pulled pork and wild sausage pepper the list. However, it should comes as no surprise to anyone who has been following my previous posts that I love mac and cheese. No question, it’s one of my favourite dishes. It’s delicious and the concept is simple, but if not executed properly, it can really be a disappointment. Therefore, when I saw the choice of mac & brisket, I had to find out for myself if it was up to snuff. My dad joined me on this first outing to the restaurant last year, opting for the brisket & buffalo chili.

My first observation when the food arrived was that the portions were quite large. The bowl of chili that my dad ate could probably have fed two people. I sampled a bite of the slow-simmered mix of beef brisket, buffalo, beans and veggies and was glad to see that the consistency of the dish didn’t come out as a pile of glop. There were various textures evident in the chili, which I liked. The beef brisket was nice and succulent. Cheddar cheese and sour cream helped to cool the flavour down a bit, too. The only problem with this order was that the chili wasn’t served at a hot enough temperature. We asked that the server return it to the kitchen to be reheated. When it came back to the table, it was so hot that steam was rising from the bowl. The chili also came with a side of my dad’s choice. He decided on the corn bread. It was more crumbly than I would prefer, but it tasted great.

My Mac & Brisket at Sloppy Hoggs. So good!

My Mac & Brisket at Sloppy Hoggs. So good!

The mac and cheese half of my mac & brisket dish started off a little underwhelming. On the menu, it’s described as a creamy pasta infused with bacon and jalapeno, and while it was a smooth cheesy sauce (baked over with extra cheddar!), the added flavour profiles didn’t really come through at first. It turns out that I just needed to stir it up, so that everything was more properly distributed (so much for working my way across the plate in an orderly fashion). Once the spiciness and smokiness from the jalapeno and bacon started hit my taste buds, I changed my mind about this selection. The ten ounces of slow-smoked brisket was the perfect compliment to the skillet of mac and cheese; the tender beef was generously coated with barbeque sauce that played well with the rest of the ingredients.

The service we received was excellent and the amount of food for the price was justified. As a result, based on that one occasion, I was inclined to go back again. As it happens, I was pushed to do so sooner than I planned and rather unexpectedly. I still had a Groupon in my possession for the aforementioned Absolutely Edibles when they closed. Thankfully, they chose to transfer any unused vouchers over to Sloppy Hoggs instead, hence my second trip to the restaurant earlier this year.

This is when I found out that they were offering the old brunch menu from AE’s on the weekends. Maybe they always served those brunch items in the past, but I’m not able to verify that. All I know is that I can still get the waffles with the works or the pulled pork waffle (see my previous AE’s review), and that makes me happy. The one major difference I made note of between their latest iteration of these brunch dishes and the ones that were previously available at AE’s is that they no longer seem to come with those fantastic sweet potato fries. Those have now been substituted with regular hash browns. Granted, I’m okay with that. The small cubes of pan fried potato were crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, and made even more delicious when smothered with tangy ketchup.

I was too full to eat any more, but I couldn’t stop until the plate was taken away from me. You’ll probably have a hard time stopping, too.

Edmonton Restaurant Review: The Next Act

My PB & J burger - it was awesome!

My PB & J burger – it was awesome!

The Next Act (@NextActPub) had been on my radar for a while. I had been told by a friend that they make the best mac and cheese in the city, and the restaurant had also made The Tomato‘s list of 100 best eats and drinks in Edmonton in both 2013 (No. 61 & 62) and 2014 (No. 49). Needless to say, it was a must try. However, it kept getting pushed back until I could find the perfect opportunity to go to Old Strathcona (I don’t go there often).

As it happened, my favourite Edmonton festival, The Fringe, rolled around in August. During a full day of shows the first weekend of the festival, we had plenty of time to kill between two of them, so we planned to go to The Next Act for lunch. Issues ensued with our first show of the day and, despite running around all morning, we missed it, so we trudged our way to the restaurant earlier than intended. Since it was hot out and we were sweating bullets, we opted to skip the patio and sit indoors where there was air conditioning.

The interior of The Next Act.

The interior of The Next Act.

Looking very much like a traditional diner with a bar added in, it’s lined with booth tables along the walls and has raised tables and bar stools all situated in the middle. The decor is a little dated, but everything is kept clean and in good condition. We grabbed the last small booth available and our server greeted us with a big smile on her face as she laid out menus on the table. Honestly, I was so beat that I couldn’t even peruse the items right away. Instead, we sat there fanning ourselves with the menus for several minutes, trying our best to cool off.

Eventually, we relaxed and started eyeing all the possibilities. They are touted for their Director and Critic burgers as well as their grilled cheese sandwich, but neither of us went for those. My friend ordered the Cornmeal Crusted Halibut sandwich and I selected the PB & J burger (the only one without a showbiz related name), both accompanied by a side of the House Salad. Water and beer – I was so excited to see that they had Crabbie’s Ginger Beer – were also imbibed.

The House Salad is a great mix of greens, pea shoots, almonds, grapes and strawberries with housemade white balsamic honey vinaigrette. The vegetarian side was a nice balance of bitter, sweet and tart. I did not sample my friend’s halibut sandwich, but crusted with cornmeal and layered with sundried tomato salsa, arugula pesto, mixed greens and mayo, I was told it was delicious. Afterwards, I mentioned to people that I ate the PB & J burger here and I was met with looks that bordered on disgust, but, if you think about it, it’s just the whole idea of a savoury and sweet pairing. A thick, juicy burger patty topped with crunchy peanut butter, bacon jam made in-house and cheddar cheese, it was awesome! I will probably try to replicate as best I can at home because I want to eat it regularly.

On a quick note, we loved the art work on the walls. I can’t really remember the artist’s name, maybe CJ, but I do recall our server saying it was the work of one of the other staff in the restaurant. A mix of modern silver framed photographs and circular painted canvases, the pieces were sort of otherworldly and real, and surprisingly more affordable than I would have thought. The colour helped to liven the decor up, too. My guess is that the artwork is rotated regularly.

It took forever for me to give The Next Act a shot, but I finally did, and I’m certain that whenever I find myself on Whyte Avenue in the future, it will now be one of my go to choices. The stellar food and service with a smile left me beaming by the time we left.

For a more in-depth look at this establishment’s involvement in the local community and its efforts towards sustainability visit The Local Good to read my profile of The Next Act.

Edmonton Restaurant Review: The Parlour Italian Kitchen & Bar

The living room-like entrance to The Parlour.

The living room-like entrance to The Parlour.

Century Hospitality Group‘s (@centuryhg) latest offering, The Parlour Italian Kitchen & Bar (@TheParlourEdm), has been open for a little over 10 months now. My first visit was with a friend prior to attending the Arcade Fire concert in August. We met up at her office and walked over to the restaurant through a blistering heat wave. Situated behind the Denny’s on 104 Avenue, it’s in a distinctive brick block that may have been an old warehouse, although its facade looks newer. A large vintage looking sign with lights along the border indicated we were in the right place.

The entrance to the building is to the side through the patio, which is fenced in to save diners from a view of the street or the parking lot. It’s spacious with tables set far enough apart to give a greater sense of privacy and enough umbrellas or shade to keep it a bit cooler during sweltering weather. As lovely as it would have been to sit outdoors, it was too hot for the both of us, so we decided to venture inside. As you walk in, you’re greeted by a welcoming mantle place that makes you feel at home. Obviously, we were still at a restaurant, but it is meant to seem casual, relaxed, comfortable and retro despite the patina of sleekness over the whole atmosphere. I loved it. The server took us to a booth in the far corner, giving us a view of the bar and the pizza oven as well as the vast expanse of the layout, which includes a second floor that has many larger booths that are good for groups.

Since it was a Monday, we chose to go with their all day happy hour special ($10 on any of their specialty pizzas and $5 for all wines or beers on tap). We each selected a pizza – my friend went with the Short Rib and I ordered the Truffle – and got a couple pints of beer.

As soon as the pizza was dropped off at our table, we immediately dug in, meaning I forgot to take photos right away. But, no matter! The pizza looked and smelled wonderful and upon taking our first bites, we were sold on the place. A friend told me that she thought the crust was too soft, but I didn’t think it was. The crust is perfect for folding. The truffle pizza was absolutely decadent. Topped with truffle salami, fior di latte, Parmesan, fresh thyme and shaved truffles, I was in heaven. While I wouldn’t pay the usual $25 price of the pie, I would gladly go back on a Monday or during happy hour to get it for more than half off, and I’ll bring people with me! The short rib pizza didn’t disappoint either. Coming with braised Alberta Beef short rib, fire-roasted Serrano peppers, shaved pecorino and EVOO, it had a good amount of heat coming through, great for those who appreciate some spice without losing their ability to taste anything else.

To finish off, we capped our dinner with a couple of desserts. My companion selected the Chocolate Torta, which I expected to be more like a layered cake, but it actually seemed akin to a slab of brownie. It was rich, dense and presented with berry coulis, strawberries and salted caramel gelato. The Banana Panna Cotta called my name and it was also different than what I had pictured in my mind. Most other panna cottas I have tried have been closer to custards, but this had a slightly more gelatin-like texture to it. The banana flavour was subtle and paired excellently with the salted Nutella ganache, candied hazelnuts and fresh berries. Particularly, I was glad that it was a lighter dish.

The staff were commendable – friendly and attentive – during our entire meal. I’ve heard mixed reviews from friends about the establishment, and I think it might get a bad rap for being a Century Hospitality Group restaurant, but I really enjoyed my food and my time there on this occasion, especially at these prices. I look forward to going back with friends and family. It’s just a nice, laid-back place to catch up with people and I like that I never felt rushed. Plus, I like the way they think there. The backs of our drink coasters said, “Age, like glasses of wine, should never be counted.” As I sat there chatting with my friend of 17 years, I certainly felt younger than 28!

The back of one of the drink coasters. It's a cute touch.

The back of one of the drink coasters. It’s a cute touch.

Edmonton Restaurant Review: The Glass Monkey

Beets Salad

Beets Salad

It was a beautiful July evening when my friend and I got together for a needed catch up. After all, I hadn’t seen her in over a month, which is long by our standards. She had just gotten home from Europe, so not only did she have to share the details of her trip, but we also had to talk about things such as relationships, online dating, speed dating events and just the boring day-to-day things that we find interesting (although, others might not).

On this occasion we chose to visit The Glass Monkey (@GlassMonkeyYEG), which is on the south side of the city in the Lendrum strip mall. The restaurant took over the space left vacated by Jack’s Grill. Opening in December 2013, it took me a while to get there. A group of us had planned to do a birthday dinner there at one point; however, life got in the way and we failed to get that figured out again. So, this time I suggested to my friend that we try it and, of course, she was completely game. Readers of The Tomato named the establishment as one of the places in Edmonton with the best eats and drinks, landing high on the 2014 list at No. 10 because of their charcuterie plates and roasted broccoli, so we suspected we couldn’t go wrong.

Venturing there on a Wednesday, I wasn’t sure how busy it would be, so I made a 5:45 reservation through OpenTable. I thought it best to give ourselves a bit of a buffer because you never know how bad traffic can be during rush hour. Surprisingly, we arrived fifteen minutes early. Walking through the doors, there were plenty of available tables since it was well before most peoples’ dinner time, meaning there were no issues getting us seated when I indicated to the host that we were more than prompt. The interior is mostly wood surfaces mixed with wood and aluminum seating, creating both a homey and modern feel.

The Glass Monkey's patio space.

The Glass Monkey’s patio space.

Yet, since it was such lovely weather, the two of us opted to sit out on their patio, which is situated to the side of the restaurant and fenced off to save you from a view into the parking lot. The patio sets were nice with comfy chairs that were good to lounge on for a few hours. Trees provided a bit of shading in some spots and hanging flower pots and small bushes provided a bit of decoration.

Both of us ordered a bottle of Yukon Deadman Creek Cranberry Wheat Ale for refreshment in addition to the unlimited filtered Q Water. They actually have a decent selection of bottled beers at prices that seem fairly equivalent to other restaurants I’ve been to this year. Wines, on the other hand, are quite costly, something that other reviewers have mentioned as well. There are a few choices that seem to be reasonably priced for a 6 oz. glass. The problem is that there are very few of them and it seems that they decided to have much more expensive bottles available by the glass – between $17 to $25 each; a bit too much to swallow because they’ll really cause your total bill to jump up quickly. Needless to say, that’s one of the reasons we steered clear of the wine.

For dinner, their menu is fairly extensive; perhaps not that adventurous though. Put together by chef Darcy Radies (@DarcyRadies), previously of the much loved Blue Pear, the dishes were a mix of Jack’s Grill favourites and plates that covered everything from salads to pastas to pizzas and mains that included meat, fish, chicken and veggies. There’s enough variety to ensure that everyone can find at least one thing they want to eat.

My dining companion chose the Home Made Pappardelle while I decided to sample two items – Beets Salad and the Jack’s Grill Beef Carpaccio – in order to get a better idea of their offerings. I had a fork full of the pappardelle and it was savoury. The pasta was fresh and not too thick, and it was covered with a wonderful pile of tender slow roasted pork shoulder marinating in its own juices as well as wild mushrooms. I asked for both of my dishes to come at the same time. The salad was made with roasted red and yellow beets, goat cheese, balsamic glaze, pine nuts and arugula. The sweetness of the beets with the creamy, slightly tangy goat cheese and balsamic dressing, the earthy pine nuts and the bitterness of the arugula was a great combination. I was unsure of what to expect with the beef carpaccio. Every restaurant seems to prepare the dish differently – not hugely so, but enough that you notice – and The Glass Monkey was no exception. Unlike other establishments, the beef carpaccio came without any sort of starch or greens. Instead, the thinly shaved beef was the star of the show, served with grainy mustard, olive oil, and shaved Parmesan cheese. On its own, the beef was deliciously light and the flavours really popped. Being me though, I did marry some slices of the beef with my salad and I was entirely satisfied by the last bite.

Jack's Grill Bread Pudding

Jack’s Grill Bread Pudding

To top off our meal, we shared the Jack’s Grill Bread Pudding – another migratory dish – so as to ensure that we still had room for a stop at Tutti Frutti on the way home. The bread pudding was a good sized slab that was covered with torched sugar and sat in a bath of caramalized rum sauce with a large dollop of whipped cream on the side. A very toothsome dessert, it was extremely sweet. I actually think a smaller portion (maybe a quarter the size of what I ate) would have been perfect. More than that was overkill. It was good though, just too much for me.

What I really liked about The Glass Monkey was the casual atmosphere, the service and the fact that the server didn’t rush us out after we finished our dinner and had already paid. He even brought us fresh filtered water before we left, showing me that they want you to settle in and have a good time. When we finally did leave, the tables inside the restaurant were about full. There were couples and large parties having what looked like a great time. Judging from my one experience there as well as what I saw others enjoying, I would highly recommend that people try this new Edmonton eatery on their next outing.