In my experience, the best way to get to know a city is through its culinary scene. When I moved to Edmonton from Vancouver nine years ago, I set out to discover Alberta’s capital bite by bite. What I discovered was a city vibrant with culture and bursting with great food.
So take a stroll off the beaten path and let your taste buds be your tour guide by indulging in Edmonton’s lesser-known, and much loved, unique restaurants. Once you’re fueled up, you’ll be ready explore this northernmost metropolis to the fullest and give summer the send-off it deserves.
Sugared and Spiced Bakery
You could spend an afternoon strolling down Whyte Avenue (Edmonton’s hippest street), trying to decide where to eat, and not even know you’ve passed the sweetest little bakery to pop up in recent memory. Sugared and Spiced is Old Strathcona’s best kept secret, tucked away in an alley between 83rd and 82nd Avenue.
I like to stop in for a coffee and a Passion Fruit Meringue Tart before catching an indie play or improv show just steps away at The Varscona Theatre. I’ve also been known to use this bakery as a jumping-off point for a self-guided culinary tour: start here, then explore the rest of Old Strathcona by venturing down the street to The Almanac or Holy Roller for creative hand-made cocktails, and finish off by stopping in at Ampersand 27 for some tasty charcuterie.
El Cortez Mexican Kitchen + Tequila Bar
Located just off of Whyte Avenue is a cantina offering up the kind of tacos that dreams are made of. El Cortez serves up dishes like Carnitas Al Pastor, Lime Crema Shrimp Tostadas and the finest Churros this side of the North Saskatchewan. What’s more, the patio out back has a premium view of Edmonton’s shiny new mural by Spanish street artist Okuda San Miguel. I like to take the party downstairs after dinner to El Cortez’s tequila cellar, where the city’s best DJs come out to play.
Pro tip: check Twitter and Instagram for inside information about El Cortez’s legendary secret shows. Musical guests like Elle King, Our Lady Peace, The Sheepdogs, Hollerado and Chantal Kreviazuk have already stopped in practically unannounced.
Scoop n’ Roll Creamery
If you’re in the mood for something sweet, Scoop n’ Roll is one food truck that you’re going to want to track down. I’m talking fresh ice cream made right before your eyes, served in rolls, with combinations like matcha, peach and raw honeycomb. Follow them on Instagram to get the inside scoop on where they’ll pop up next. Pair this treat with a stroll through the river valley or a ride on the High Level Bridge Streetcar and you’re in business.
City Market Downtown
Locals and tourists can all agree—farmer’s markets in Edmonton are where it’s at. Summertime means that my personal favourite, City Market Downtown, moves outdoors and takes over 4th St. Promenade. Every Saturday from late May until early October you’ll find food trucks, live entertainment, fresh produce, hand-made clothing, jewellery, art, and more. I love to spend a morning perusing the stands, then pop over to Meat Street Pies, Moonshine Doughnuts, or Theo’s Greek Kouzina to grab all the makings of a perfect picnic.
Can’t get enough shopping? Step into one of the many independent boutiques that line 4th St. Promenade, including my favourites: The Helm, Habitat Etc., and Jacek Chocolate Couture.
Picnic at The University of Alberta Botanic Gardens
Speaking of picnics, The University of Alberta Botanic Gardens are a natural stop following a trip to City Market Downtown. The new Aga Khan Garden is a picturesque place to lay down a blanket and enjoy a relaxing meal al fresco. Look carefully around the central water features and you might spot some of the 16 bronze animals hidden there. Then, spend the rest of the afternoon frolicking through the flora and fauna.
Patios that Locals Love
Make the most of the last precious days of summer on patios that are perfect for soaking up the sun. These adorable eateries, nestled in residential areas, are ideal for getting away from it all and unwinding with friends.
Biera is a gastropub just south of Whyte Avenue that has some of the best food (and beer) in the city. Brews are made in-house by Blind Enthusiasm, and inventive plates like Sunflower Seed & Rye Risotto are great for sharing family-style. Plus, the twinkling string lights hanging above this patio set the scene for a perfect date night. After dinner, I suggest heading to Mill Creek Ravine for beautiful views and instagrammable backdrops.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Little Brick has one of the best patios in town. This historic home-turned-cafe has breakfast items that are to die for. Pair a cappuccino with their eggs benny with thick cut bacon and your day is off to a great start. From there, it’s a short walk to River Valley Adventure Co. where you can hop on a guided Segway tour, or take to the water and paddle your way through the river valley with Haskin Canoe.
Looking for something with a little je ne sais quoi? Well, you’ve found it on the patio at Café Bicyclette. This adorable café located in the heart of Edmonton’s French quarter is famous for its brunch and features a smattering of French classics and a great selection of patisserie favourites. It’s also conveniently located in La Cite Francophone, a French community hub that boasts a lively market, plays host to various live theatre events, and features live concerts throughout the year.
I haven’t stopped exploring Edmonton since I moved here nearly a decade ago, and now that you’ve had a taste of what the city has to offer, I hope that you to continue digging in. Check out Edmonton’s legendary festivals and attractions, or use Explore Edmonton’s plan your trip tool to build your own customizable itinerary. Trust me, you’ll leave with a great taste in your mouth.
Top image: Biera (© Bri Vos, Detour Photography)