Park and Dine
Pairing up parks with delis for perfect picnics.
Photography by Daniel Wood
If 124th Street was the setting of a sitcom, Dahlia’s Mediterranean Bistro would be the hangout where characters converge. It has the right elements – great food, friendly service and an owner who never forgets your name.
Owner Fadi Smaidi opened the bistro two years ago after watching his father run Boustan, a well-known Lebanese restaurant in Montreal. Dahlia’s has a great sandwich list, including a grilled Gruyere ($7.45) that simply melds caramelized onions and cheese on marbled rye bread. Sure, an onion sandwich sounds simplistic, but the tanginess with a hint of oregano makes for a distinct dish. Smaidi even elevates a turkey sandwich ($7.45) above boredom with layers of artichoke hearts, feta cheese and sundried tomato dressing on a ciabatta bun. The salty bite of the artichokes blends well with the creamy Feta. Some sandwiches, such as the chicken with roasted peppers and spinach-basil pesto ($7.45), are served on sourdough – but they all come with a side of potato chips.
For the salads, Smaidi draws on his Lebanese heritage, providing options including fattoush and tabouli ($3.95 small/$5.95 large), which proves parsley is more than a garnish by mixing it with finely chopped tomatoes, onions and bits of cracked wheat. It’s washed with lemon-mint dressing, and it goes well with a side of falafel balls and tahini dip ($4.95). (10235 124 St., 780-488-7656)
NEAREST PARK: Paul Kane Park is located on 122 Street and 103 Avenue, just two blocks east of Dahlia’s. Surrounding a pond, the park has lots of benches and even better seating under a tree.
Hot Off the Press
Press’d is easy to find despite its nondescript spot in the basement of City Centre West. Just look for the lineup of people leading into the mall.
The sandwich selections aren’t for the ham-and-cheese crowd. Founded by former University of Alberta Golden Bear basketball players Gavin Fedorak and Scott Gordon along with Grant Fedorak, who played at Simon Fraser University, the gourmet deli’s most daring dish is named the Golden Bear ($5.79 for a half sandwich, $8.79 for a full order).
Served on your choice of four breads, the smoked chicken sandwich features baked brie, roasted apples, spinach and sweet fig jam. When you bite into it, the first thing to hit your tastebuds is the chicken. But, as you chew, you feel the sweetness of the fruit and cinnamon. It’s like apple pie with chicken, only delicious.
Too adventuresome? Try the Blazing Buffalo ($5.29/$8.29). It’s like a hot wing sandwich, and the heat is about equal to a medium order of wings at the pub, so it’s not overpowering. Vegetarian options include the Buenna Bella ($5.29/$8.29), where the roasted portabella mushroom is the star, served with a basil pesto. (Edmonton City Centre West, 10200 102 Ave., 780-758-0919, and 11214 Jasper Ave.; online ordering coming soon at pressdsandwiches.ca)
NEAREST PARK: Press’d has plenty of seating, but you can’t escape the fact that it’s in the lower level of a mall. Instead, take the pretty brown bag to the escalator and head to Churchill Square across the street. There’s plenty of space to sit down and people-watch.
Fast and Healthy
Carrot-shaped lights dangle from the ceiling behind the front counter and beside the blackboard menu of soups, sandwiches and meats. A quirky nod to the deli’s name, Careit Urban Deli, yes, but mainly the name reflects co-owners Cameron Jordan and Louis Charles Hamel’s desire to provide local, healthy options for busy people with multiple day planners and two BlackBerrys on their desk, but nothing in the fridge.
One of Careit’s specialties is a spinach salad with Spanish onions, red peppers, pine nuts and mushrooms ($8.95). The dressing is made with tangy goji berries, a Chinese fruit that’s become very popular in health food stores because it’s rich with antioxidants. For your fix of protein and amino acids, try the quinoa salad ($1.69/100g), already packaged at the lunch counter. Served cold, the nutty grain is mixed with bits of apricot, parsley and raisins.
Paninis are made with fresh bread from the Portuguese Canadian Bakery. The chipotle chicken and havarti ($8.95) features finely sliced grilled chicken with vegetables. It has a kick that could send picnic ants running in fear. The Montreal-smoked meat panini ($8.95), stuffed with sauerkraut, pickles, mustard and layers of smoked and cured brisket, steers slightly from the health theme, but it’s satisfying nonetheless. (9672 142 St., 780-488-1110, and 5236 199 St., 780-486-1123)
NEAREST PARK: Crestwood Park (96 Avenue and 144 Street) is a short walk from Careit. It has many amenities, including basketball nets, a tennis court and a playground. A green area with tall trees has a single coveted picnic table in the middle, so bring a blanket for the grass.