25 Best Things to Eat in Edmonton 2009

Our first annual list of fabulous fare from local restaurants, bakeries & markets.

The quest to name the best 25 things to eat in Edmonton is not as easy as it sounds, especially when you love all good food things as I do. How do you choose? From memory? Definitely. Referrals from other foodies you trust? Of course. Beyond that, we tried for a mix of the spots that are well known and not. A few things I’m sure of: This list is just the tip of the iceberg; this food is freshly prepared and hand-crafted; and sometimes you’ll have to get into your car and drive to try it. But I guarantee that you will discover it’s worth the time and travel.

The Ural Burger at Highlevel Diner

Lots of burgers are on the radar these days, but how many establishments can boast that their burger recipe has been successfully prepared and served for more than 25 years? Highlevel’s juicy burger is five ounces of pure, very lean ground beef, served on a stone-ground whole wheat bun with an array of homemade condiments – corn relish, beet relish and ketchup. Yes, the ketchup is homemade, but if you really need it, Heinz is available. (10912 88 Ave., 780-433-0993)

Spaghetti & meatballs at Saccomano’s Pizza Pasta & Deli

The recipes are authentic Italian, handed down from grandmother to grandson. Prepare yourself: The meatballs are three to four inches in diameter – or as the owner describes them, “orange-sized.” They’re hand-shaped and served in a fresh tomato sauce over spaghetti pasta. This particular dish is only available on Wednesdays, but other hot Italian dishes are available at the steam table every day of the week. (10208 127 Ave., 780-478-2381)

Chocolate bars at The Cocoa Room by Kerstin’s Chocolates

All of Kerstin’s 43-gram chocolate bars are divine creations, handmade, using single-origin chocolate, but the light touch of Malden sea salt with dark milk chocolate in the Fleur de Sel bar is heaven-sent. Who knew that sweet and salt could work so well together? Pair it with port wine for a perfect ending to dinner. Kerstin’s chocolate bars are also available at the Italian Centre Shop South, Bon Ton Bakery and Transcend Coffee. (10139 112 St., 780-990-0011)

Biscotti at Bon Ton Bakery

Every bakery and caf has its version. But Bon Ton’s are delicate and buttery and available in three flavours – almond and fruit, chocolate-dipped and, for the health-conscious biscotti lover, multi-grain. These biscotti may be small in comparison to their competition, but they are packed with flavour and melt gently in your mouth. (8720 149 St., 780-489-7717)

Brioche with brandied raisins at Tree Stone Bakery

By 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday, there are lineups outside this bakery’s door – for good reason. For over 10 years, Nancy Rubuliak has produced authentic European baking without taking shortcuts, right down to milling her own flour for optimum flavour and freshness. The brioche with brandied raisins are a testament to her use of butter and eggs in generous proportion, with an added touch of brandied raisins to create her version of a traditional French bun. (8612 99 St., 780-433-5924)

Fairwind’s farm goat cheese

Both the feta and chevre-style goat cheese are made in Fort Macleod – yes, we do make great artisanal cheese in Alberta. The chevre comes in plain and a variety of flavours and is smooth, soft and not as “grassy” tasting as you might think. Try it on a bagel – you may never go back to cream cheese. Available at Planet Organic, (7917 104 St., 780-433-6807, and 12120 Jasper Ave., 780-452-4921); and Sobeys Urban Fresh, (10404 Jasper Ave., 780-429-9922); and inside College Plaza. (8215 112 St., 780-438-5064)

Gelati at Fantasia Gelateria e Caff

Once only available year-round in its 10 most-popular flavours through select retailers (or in all its glory at summer festivals), Fantasia’s gelati now also have a permanent retail home and commissary location at the University of Alberta Enterprise Square. The gelateria makes a total of 72 gelati and sorbet flavour creations, although just 24 are available in the winter. The most popular flavours: Lemon and mango sorbet; pistachio, white chocolate raspberry swirl and nutty chocomania gelati. U of A Enterprise Square. (10230 Jasper Ave., 780-757-5759)

Cosmic power cookie from Planet Organic Market

These 85-gram cookies are filling and loaded with natural goodness – oatmeal, spelt flour, sunflower, pumpkin and flax seeds, coconut, raisins, chocolate chips, cane sugar, molasses, soy milk and cinnamon. They’re available at both Planet Organic locations and fit the bill in the afternoon when you need an energy boost that’s both healthy and sweet. (7917 104 St., 780-433-6807, and 12120 Jasper Ave., 780-452-4921)

Crab cakes at Louisiana Purchase

For over 21 years, Louisiana Purchase has prepared Creole- and Cajun-inspired food. The crab cakes are a menu mainstay – substantial patties tightly packed with real crab meat blended with diced red pepper and onions, and dusted with cornmeal and Creole seasoning. Lightly sauted and finished with a garlic and green onion cream sauce, they can be ordered as an appetizer or a full entre with vegetable and starch sides. (10320 111 St., 780-420-6779)

Grilled vegetable sandwich at Colonel Mustard’s Canteen

The sandwich menu is as colourful and eclectic as the decor. The grilled vegetable sandwich is a satisfying vegetarian option of grilled eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, sweet potato, artichoke and lots of asiago cheese served up on a toasted baguette. Just remember that sandwiches are available to eat in the restaurant only until 5 p.m. After that, it’s take-out only. (10802 124 St., 780-448-1590)

Hummus at The Happy Camel

Smooth and with a good balance of chickpeas, lemon, tahini (sesame paste), garlic and spices, it’s one of the best hummus dips in the city. Try it with The Happy Camel’s own pita (white, whole wheat or multi-grain). Available at The Happy Camel’s retail and production location in the west end, or the Strathcona and St. Albert farmers’ markets. (6404 177 St., 780-487-7482)

Italian sandwich from Zenari’s

Made fresh daily, this is a labour of love: soft Italian bread dough is rolled out like a strudel, topped with thinly sliced mortadella, medium capicolli and Genoa meats, mozzarella cheese, sliced fresh mushrooms, basil and oregano. It’s rolled, sprinkled with poppyseeds and baked, and sold warm by the slice. Buon appetito! Manulife Place. (10180 101 St., 780-423-5409)

Hot dogs and smokies at Fat Franks

You’ve seen the carts on street corners, at festivals and at storefronts. Did you know that Fat Franks are available year-round at the Commerce Place Food Court? All products are custom-made by Schneiders to Fat Franks’s specifications – hot dogs containing 80-percent beef and 20-per-cent chicken and, for the smokies, pure pork shoulder. While the honey ham made the company famous, the jalapeno cheddar is by far the most popular smokie. (10125 102 St., 780-421-4496)

Chicken shawarma at Sunbake Pita Bakery

This Lebanese bakery not only makes fab pita, but great piping food to go, too. The meat of the chicken shawarma is cut and cooked right at the bakery. Tight layers of fresh chicken breasts are skewered and shaped into a donair-style cone, marinated for three days and slow-roasted. It’s thinly sliced and wrapped in their fresh pita with pickled turnips, cucumber and homemade garlic sauce. Go for extra sauce. (10728 134 Ave., 780-472-8405)

Soft Alberta beef Tacos at Mxico Lindo

Give your head a shake.This is not Taco Bell. In less than two years, Chef Ivonne Garces has successfully tuned in our taste buds to true Mexican cuisine. The soft tacos are handmade round corn tortillas. Top them with Alberta beef fajita steak, onions and cilantro for a simple and authentic Mexican taste treat. (16604 109 Ave., 780-444-7151)

Mac-n-cheese at the Blue Plate Diner

First and foremost, this is a don’t-mess-with-it simple dish. Just get over the fact that elbow macaroni pasta is replaced by cavatappi (corkscrew). It’s prepared on the stovetop (as it should be) and the bchamel (white sauce) is mixed with lots of cheddar, mozzarella and asiago cheese, to generously coat the pasta. It’s available for lunch or dinner and pairs well with a side salad for a complete “just like mom” kind of meal. (10145 104 St., 780-429-0740)

Multi-layer cake (frst pckler) at Artistic Bake Shop

This is a seven-layer authentic European cake. From the bottom up, the layers are: shortbread cookie base, mixed berry jam, chocolate buttercream, chocolate cake, vanilla buttercream, vanilla cake, raspberry buttercream, almond paste – all coated in a rich chocolate ganache. The cake comes in two sizes: eight servings or 16 servings. Lovely with a cup of tea in the afternoon. (6820 104 St., 780-434-8686)

Cinnamon buns at the Sugar Bowl

It’s best to go early (before 9:00 a.m.) any day of the week to get a cinnamon bun hot out of the oven. These buns are legendary. They’re true, straightforward, large and sweet dough-twists, oozing with cinnamon, sugar and butter – more of a European-style “kuchen” pastry without the cream cheese topping that most North American cinnamon-style buns are known for. Enjoy this baked sweet treat with some butter and a latt. (10922 88 Ave., 780-433-8369)

Mussels at Caf Select

It’s comforting to go back to the original location and enjoy a dish that has been on the menu forever and tastes just as good as it did the first time. The Atlantic mussels are a mollusk lover’s dish. The serving of shellfish is generous (approximately 30) and simply prepared in traditional French style – steamed in a light white-wine-and-butter sauce with chopped onion and parsley. Make sure you order lots of French bread to sop up the sauce. (10018 106 St., 780-428-1629)

Cran-apple sage sausage rolls from Cooks Corner

These were first showcased last summer at the Edmonton Downtown Farmers’ Market and are a brilliant collaboration of two market vendors: Irving Farm Fresh Meats and the Cooks Corner. Combine Irving’s English-style fresh sage sausage with Cooks Corner’s delicate pastry, add cranberries and green apple, and you have a winner. Available at several locations around town including Cooks Corner. (9203 111 Ave., 780-479-8175)

Shrimp lollipops at Wild Tangerine

Three to an order just isn’t enough to satisfy the jumbo shrimp lover in you. These appetizers are lightly seasoned and seriously coated in finely shredded phyllo pastry, then lightly deep-fried and served piping hot on skewers with a cool wasabi-yogurt dipping sauce. Napkins are a must. If you plan to share, order more. (10383 112 St., 780-429-3131)

Turkish egg and spinach pizza (ispanakli pide) at Sofra

This little Turkish restaurant is big on authentic flavour. Its pita is handmade per order and is as delicate and light as a cloud. It’s the same fine dough that lines the canoe-shaped pizzas, or pide as they’re called in Turkish. The egg and spinach pizza pairs wonderfully with a salad. Order an extra one for takeout and enjoy it for breakfast the next morning. (10345 106 St., 780-423-3044)

Sweet potato fries at Dadeo Diner & Bar

Still the best in town, these sweet potato fries are freshly cut (not frozen) from sweet potatoes. Lightly breaded and substantially seasoned with Cajun spices, the fries are spicy and sweet at the same time. The herbed mayonnaise adds just the right amount of cool to balance out the collision of flavours in your mouth. No wonder it’s the most popular item on the menu. In fact, Dadeo goes through three tons of sweet potatoes per month. (10548A 82 Ave., 780-433-0930)

Ukrainian Kalyna platter at Culina Highlands

Formerly Bacon, Culina Highlands has taken all the elements of the popular Ukrainian fusion bowl to create the Kalyna platter. It’s a lazy-cabbage-roll-inspired kind of dish, with kimchee and brown rice cabbage rolls, kubasa, beet salsa, perogies, sour cream, fresh dill and bacon gremolata. Think of it as a new generation of very tasty Ukrainian food that uses local ingredients. (6509 112 Ave., 780-477-2422)

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