Your Dining Destiny

An influx of immigrant restaurateurs, a neighbourhood revitalization initiative and a renewed community spirit are helping make 118th Avenue a hotbed for ethnic cuisine and casual dining.

Plate of Papusas from El Salvador

Creative Quality Catering est. 2010

Owners Merrick Gluska and her husband, Bryan, sometimes have to close the bistro to operate their catering company from the same kitchen. So call ahead to make sure the doors are open so you can try their handmade pasta, which changes daily and is always under $10. (8903 118 Ave., 780-757-8999,

owner’s pick: Mile-high pies ($4 per slice)

Habesha Cuisine and Hookah Lounge est. 2008

Sammy Berhane’s restaurant and lounge offers delicious Ethiopian food, attentive service, comfortable private booths in a fine setting and a hookah menu with everything from cola- to coconut-flavoured herbal smoke. All this variety has made it the block’s most popular new spot to dine with friends. (9515 118 Ave., 780-982-1482)

owner’s pick: Meat combo: four stews, a side salad and injera bread ($14.95)

Mareeg Caf & Restaurant est. 2009

Abdi Ali’s diner is one of at least five African restaurants to join the street in the last decade – including two directly across the street. His forte is meaty Somalian stews, most for $10 or less. (9420 118 Ave., 780-757-2223)

owner’s pick: Chicken stew with seasonal vegetables ($10)

El Rancho Spanish Restaurant est. 2004

Like other restaurants on 118th, El Rancho has a new faade, which along with renovations from last fall, has reinvigorated the six-year-old Salvadoran and Mexican restaurant. It also offers a daily South American breakfast menu. Owners Alba Arevalo and her daughter, Dora, are quite popular at the annual Taste of Edmonton festival, where their pupusas – a Salvadoran take on tacos – are a commodity. (11810 87 Ave., 780-471-4930)

owner’s pick: Pupusas ($2.50 each)

Popular Bakery est. 1993

The Soares family moved the bakery to its new, bigger building in 2004 but even before that, journalists have been struggling to describe its success without punning the name. Let’s just say the bakery, canteen and grocery has very, um, sought-after pastries. (9307 118 Ave., 780-471-1770)

owner’s pick: Quarter chicken, marinated and slow-flame grilled, served with salad and rice or roasted potatoes ($9.95)

Alberta Avenue Farmers’ Market

Rooted in the neighbourhood revitalization initiative, this is one of the city’s only year-round farmers’ markets. Every Thursday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., farmers such as Greens, Eggs & Ham and bakers such as Jumping Monkey Snacks sell their goods at the community hall. (9210 118 Ave., 780-477-2773,

Pho King  est. 2010

The Nguyen family took over a formerly austere diner and added Vietnamese cuisine to the street. For patrons who still want all-day offerings of pancakes or simple cheese-burgers, they’ve still got ’em. (9103 118 Ave., 780-757-7277,

owner’s pick: House special pho (rare flank steak, brisket, tendon, tripe and beef meatballs) ($8.95)

Handy Bakery Ltd. Euro Canadian Catering est. c. 1940

The European eatery has been around since the Second World War and has spent the last 35 years as a Portuguese bakery, though the pristine facade makes it look like one of the new kids on the block. The Frias family refreshed it when they bought the bakery in 2004 and merged it with the restaurant next door, which is small in size but big on continental cuisine. (8660 118 Ave., 780-477-8842)

owner’s pick: Custard tarts (95 cents each or $10.50 for a dozen)

Battista’s Calzone Company est. 2010

After 10 years away from the oven, Battista Vecchio returned to the same space where he once ran a pizza joint. This time, he says, “I wanted something quick and ready to go.” There are four things on the menu – all calzones, of course. (8309 118 Ave., 780-758-1808, battistascalzonecom

owner’s pick: Mamma Mia calzone, featured in the 25 Best Things to Eat on page 32 ($8.50)

Safron’s Caribbean Delight est. 2006

The son of Ms. V, as in Ms. V’s Caribbean and Canadian Cuisine on the north side, Safron Bambury says he puts his own twist on everything his mother taught him. The service at this 20-seat diner is fast and friendly. (8307 118 Ave., 780-474-9005)

owner’s pick: Oxtail, served with coleslaw, rice and peas ($11.50)

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