25 Best Things to Eat

5th annual list of the best treats across the city

Photography Curtis Comeau and Curtis Trent

We decided to move our fifth annual instalment of the 25 Best Things to Eat to the summer, to take full advantage of farmers’ markets and food trucks, as well as restaurants, grocery stores, food shops and bakeries. Our  worthy foodie, Gail Hall, ventured throughout the city in search of the best eats. This edible list is presented in no particular order. Use the list as your road map to a culinary tour of the city – and see if your taste buds agree.

Butter Prawns with Egg Floss at East 

With so many options of delectable Malaysian street food, don’t overlook this showstopper. It’s a mountain of tempura-battered wok-fried prawns under a cloud of egg floss. The floss is a swish of scrambled eggs that’s lightly fried, making it airy. Like so many dishes from this part of the world, it’s a perfect balance of sweet and hot, with crunchy, light textures. (16049 97 St., 780-457-8833, eastedmonton.ca)

Dolsot B-Bim Baab with Beef at B-Bim Baab

This Korean restaurant creates authentic dolsot, a traditional sizzling comfort dish that arrives in a hot stone bowl. The dish is well worth the drive to the industrial part of town. Your server will toss some -gochujang hot sauce into the mix of steamed rice, crispy vegetables, sprouts and beef topped with a fried egg. (9543 42 Ave., 780-433-1239, bbimbaab.com)

Chicken and Waffles at The Common

Order this dish and you’ll soon discover why waffles are no longer just sweet breakfast fare. They’re also a healthy entree: A crust of crisp Corn Flakes blankets a juicy, buttermilk marinated chicken breast that sits on house-made bacon waffles. Top with some goat cheese and finish with an ancho chili blackberry pure and maple gastrique. It’s a perfect balance of texture and taste. (9910 109 St., 780-452-7333, thecommon.ca)

100 Km Salad at Pangaea Market (Now Closed)

Edmonton’s newest organic food store now has a deli counter wih hot and cold house-made dishes. The 100 Km salad is made from locally sourced barley, carrots, parsley and vinaigrette. Eat it on its own or pair with one of the Market’s sandwich creations. (10150 104 St., 780-425-9890, pangaeamarket.ca)

The Dhal Nachos at Dhala Dhala 

“Combo plate” is an understatement. It’s six to eight dishes in one, created by owner Chelsea Burke, and it’s packed with a range of flavours – not surprising given Burke’s Irish and East Indian heritage. The dhal of caramelized onions and tamarind is tossed with lemon masala, finished with grilled paneer, fresh salsa, coriander chutney and topped with sweet and salty cashews. It’s served with large nachos on the side for a Mexican twist. (Available at 124 Street Grand Market, 780-299-8389)

The Xiao Long Bao (steamed pork dumplings) at Shanghai 456

While the location at the City Centre Airport cafeteria is a bit odd and easily missed, the restaurant is worth the effort. All the dumplings are made completely from scratch, starting with the dough. The pork dumplings have more filling than initially appears. Each hand-wrapped savoury pork parcel is delicately steamed to produce more than a mouthful of juicy, hearty goodness. (49 Airport Rd., Municipal Airport Building 18)

Pecorino Cheese from The Cheesiry

Sheep’s cheese from Kitscoty, Alberta? Yes indeed. Artisanal cheese maker Rhonda Zuk Headon studied in Tuscany and came back to start a delightful addition to the hand-crafted artisanal cheese industry in this beef-centric province. The pecorino is a firm cheese, both earthy and floral. Great on its own or use it in place of Parmesan. Available at Paddy’s Cheese, Everything Cheese, Blush Lane, Cavern and the City Market on 104 Street in the summer. (780-522-8784, thecheesiry.com)

Ackee and Salt Fish at A Yah Mi Deh Jamaican Restaurant and Bakery (Available on Saturdays only)

Move over jerk chicken. Ackee and salt fish just happens to be the national dish of Jamaica, and for good reason. This is a stick-to-the-ribs combo of salted cod and sauted ackee (a yellow-fleshed fruit originally from West Africa), sweet peppers, onions and tomatoes. Include a side of dumplings for an authentic Jamaican breakfast experience. (4435 118 Ave., 780-479-1900, ayahmideh.com)

Tonpei Yaki at Izakaya Tomo

This new spot for Japanese tapas is unlike any other Japanese experience in E-town. This dish comprises a light egg omelette wrapped around shaved pork and shredded cabbage with a mayonnaise okonomi sauce (think Worcestershire, but thicker and sweeter). It’s topped with a sprinkle of bonito flakes – mackerel that’s steamed, aged, air dried and flaked – that dance from the heat of the dish.  (3739 99 St., 780-440-9152, izakayatomo.net)

Breakfast Bagel at Zenari’s

This 28-year-old restaurant is an institution in Edmonton and its breakfast bagel weighs in as a winner. One half of a toasted bagel is topped with a poached egg and melted provolone cheese. The other half is layered with capicola, a generous slice of tomato and more melted provolone. It’s bagel breakfast heaven. (Manulife Place, 10180 101 St., 780-423-5409)

The Meatball Sandwich at Cibo Bistro

The slow-roasted pork and veal meatballs alone are worth every bite, but Cibo turns this into a knock-your-socks-off sandwich, using an organic baguette from its neighbourhood’s organic bakery, a generous slather of garlic aioli, tomato basil jam and wilted arugula, prosciutto di Parma and caciocavallo cheese (smoked mozzarella).  (11244 104 Ave., 780-757-2426, cibobistro.com)

The Pork Belly Sandwich at Drift 

Nevin and Kara Fenske’s craft sandwiches are influenced by their experiences while travelling. But locally sourced ingredients also inspired them. Their take on the Vietnamese bnh m sandwich is brilliant. A light sourdough bun (exclusively designed and made for them) easily holds juicy slices of slow braised pork belly topped with house-made condiments including hoisin glaze, chili mayo, pickled carrots and daikon. (107 Street and Jasper Avenue, 780-966-7328, driftfoodtruck.ca)

The Fisherman’s Pie from Little Jack Horner

This is a seriously delicious taste of the coast – think shepherd’s pie with a Maritime flavour. The pie filling is a savoury mixture of wild salmon and smoked cod stewed in an exquisite, velvety sauce with peas and carrots. It’s topped with a mash of piped whipped savoury potatoes. Added bonus – it’s gluten-free. Available at farmers’ markets including: Strathcona, Collingwood, City Market on 104 Street, Salisbury, St Albert and Baseline in Sherwood Park. (780-419-6029, sfm.ca)

Grilled Cheese at The Bower

Walk through the non-descript front door of the lounge formerly known as Halo and you’ll find a cozy, comfortable old library that just happens to be a mature nightclub. Drinks and food have a classic, fun feel. The grilled cheese is a hearty sandwich, cut into slim fingers. Made on locally sourced bread, with lots of gruyre cheese, it’s slowly grilled with butter. For a variation, try it with Tuscan shaved ham. (10538 Jasper Ave., 780-423-4256, thebower.ca)

Vietnamese Pork Spring Rolls at The Golden Bird

The ubiquitous spring roll. Yes, I know every Asian restaurant has its own version. But these pork spring rolls are the closest to the ones I experienced on my culinary tour of Vietnam. Long rolls are tightly wrapped around a generous portion of ground pork and carrots. The rolls come with a dipping sauce, but try it with a side of the house-made kimchee.  (10542 97 St., 780-420-1612)

Lobster & Potato Lasagna at Holt’s Caf 

This is a rich dish, but a must try and worth every calorie. Thinly sliced potatoes are layered with fresh lobster, bchamel sauce and Parmesan cheese, then baked and gently finished with a pernod tarragon cream. Caramelized scallops and spinach sit on top of the dish. Holt’s Caf definitely knows how to work with fresh seafood in this land-locked province of ours. (10180 101 St., 780-425-5300 ext 62902, holtrenfrew.com)

Savoury Waffle with Lox and Poached Eggs at Under the High Wheel

I just love all-day breakfasts and this one, with its focus on locally sourced ingredients, is a keeper. Light and slightly crunchy waffles are topped with lox and two poached eggs, done to your liking, finished with lemony hollandaise and herb oil and served with a side of mixed greens and berry salad. (8135 102 St., 780-439-4442, underthehighwheel.com)

Bucatini al Rag at Lit Italian Wine Bar

This dish truly lives up to Grandma Covelli’s recipe from the Campania region in Italy. A generous portion of Bucatini pasta (spaghetti-like in shape with a hole running through the centre) is served al dente, smothered in a rich rag sauce of ground beef, tomatoes, wine and spices. Pair with one of the many hearty reds offered on the Lit wine list. (10132 104 St., 780-757-6688, litwinebar.ca)

Cauliflower Dip at Canteen

This new sister caf to Red Ox Inn has several vegetarian dishes that pack a lot of flavour. A particular favourite is the starter of pured cauliflower served with a toasted baguette in its own little pan. Who knew a ubiquitous cruciferous vegetable could be so good? The secret? A vadouvan blend of Indian curry spices that has a French culinary connection. (10522 124 St., 780-485-6125, canteenyeg.ca)

Barbecued Pig Wings at Kelly’s Irish Pub

This meaty appetizer goes well with many of this pub’s bevies. Three generous pork ribs are Frenched (some of the meat is cleaned off the bone) to look like wings. But make no mistake, this is house-smoked pork, slathered in house-made coffee barbecue sauce and served with shredded carrot. And it is not your typical pub fare.(10156 104 St., 780-451-8825, kellyspubedmonton.com)

Melitzano-Salata from Theo’s Greek Kouzina

Mama Theo re-creates authentic family recipes from Greece and this dish is a favourite. It’s very similar to its Middle Eastern counterpart, baba ghanoush; roasted eggplant is pured with olive oil, lemon juice, and just enough garlic and salt to produce a balance of sweet and tart. Have lots of pita on hand as this dish is more than a two-dipper. And, it’s gluten-free and vegan! Available at farmers’ markets throughout Edmonton, Sherwood Park and St Albert. (780-457-0971, theosgreekkouzina.com)

Peppermint Ambrosia by The Chocolate Doctors

Move over Nutella. The Chocolate Doctors are in town, creating pure, raw chocolate goodies that are sourced from non-GMO organic and fair-trade ingredients. The peppermint ambrosia is more than just a delicious spread. Use it for hot chocolate, chocolate milk, over fruit or ice cream or just eat it right out of the jar. It’s also vegan and raw food-diet friendly. Available at farmers’ markets (City Market on 104 Street, 124 Street Grand Market), Noorish Cafe, Health Matters, the Italian Centres, Blush Lane Organic Market and the Organic Box. (780-761-0611, thechocdocs.com)

Briskets and Gravy at Sloppy Hoggs Roed Hus

Your nose will guide you to the door of this smokehouse that has captured the essence of southern barbecue right here on latitude 53. Servings are overly generous; house-made corn bread holds mounds of thinly sliced juicy brisket topped with gravy, served with sides of fries and barbecued baked beans. Don’t worry, the restaurant has take-out containers. (10406 118 Ave., 780-477-2408, absolutelyedibles.com)

The Italian Bride Sandwich at Swiss 2 Go

Take one fresh-baked, house-made pretzel bun and stud it with kosher salt, then fill it with prosciutto, roasted red pepper, sun-dried tomatoes, sliced bocconcini and fresh basil. Drizzle it with extra virgin oil and balsamic vinaigrette. You’ve got one unique sandwich, created by owner Drita Keller. Now open wide. (17104 90 Ave., 587-520-9400)

Cinnamon and Sugar Doughnut at Bliss Baked Goods

Even though doughnuts are such a big trend that they’re close to overtaking cupcakes, it’s still hard to find a truly fresh-baked doughnut in Edmonton. Look no further. Bliss Baked Goods’ sourdough yeast doughnuts are made daily from scratch without dairy or nuts. One bite of this light creation and you’re hooked. Just get a few napkins to wipe the cinnamon and sugar off of your clothes. (14208 118 Ave., 780-453-0101)

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