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Feb 6, 2008 02:18 PM

Dinner for 20 people in Edmonton

I am looking for advice on a nice restaurant in Edmonton to take 20 people for dinner this sumer. We are taking our immediate family for dinner to celebrate our wedding and so we want somewhere fancy. I looked into the Harvest Room at the MacDonald Hotel and like it but they do not do big groups and their private rooms are expensive for a small group. Any suggestions for me? (I grew up in Edmonton but live in San Francisco now so I can't get there in person to look at places in person now.)

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  1. Characters has a really nice private room as does Il Portico, both would fit the bill for a nice restaurant, great meal. Blue Pear does large groups but I am not sure how big you need to be. Also Sage has a big space available for a larger party, but not private. I am unsure if Characters or Il Portico charge for their private rooms. Both have nice pics & info on line about events.

    13 Replies
    1. re: cleopatra999

      How is the food at both of these places? I have Il Portico on my list but was unsure of Characters as the rooms look kind of dated (glass blocks?) on their website.

      1. re: mlsabo

        I have had some of my favorite meals at Il Portico and always exceptional service. Character's I have not been to in a couple of years, we were impressed with everything except the size of the veg that went with. The service was great and the manager was very helpful with their novel of a wine menu. We actually went on a tour of the private rooms. They were brand new at the time, did not feel that they were dated, I really liked the space. However I like the space at Il Portico better.

        I prefer either of these 2 spaces to The Blue Pear for an event. TBP is great (although our last meal was lacking), BUT it is nothing great for atmosphere. Very contemporary/sparse.

        Il Portico has a really nice patio too, which is something that you might want to think of for that time of year. There are very few nice patios here for an event. The Hotel Mac would definitely be the nicest one.

        1. re: cleopatra999

          Just as an FYI for the OP, I have had only disappointing meals at Il Portico. I know many people who have had excellent experiences there, but being burnt 3 times means they are on my "cannot recommend" list. I would be cautious with them.

          1. re: yen

            just goes to show how personal these opinions can be. We have gone 3x as well, and thoroughly enjoyed each time. It is the only place I highly recommend for higher end Italian. In fact it was my number one choice for a rehearsal dinner I was planning last year, unfortunately did not end up being my choice.

            I guess the fact is, is that there is never going to be a restaurant that gives a perfect experience to every diner that walks through their door.

            Bob Mac what is your experience with Il Portico? I am not a huge fan of Sorrentino's, BUT I have never been to the downtown location. I really enjoyed it the first time I went, but it slide down hill after that. It is now somewhere around typical chain Italian.

            1. re: cleopatra999

              I think the downtown Sorrentinos, while very nice atmosphere and has a private room where I have eaten before, isn't as good as the one in little italy. Mind you I foolishly had the Duck at an italian restaurant.

              1. re: Bryn


                LOL...if you only knew how hard I worked on owner Carmello [aided and abetted by Chef Song] to get duck added to the menu

                1. re: Bob Mac

                  I was really excited too, but the tart cherry sauce to go with it was anything but tart, the duck was well cooked, but the veggies were all pureed. So everything was generally soft.

              2. re: cleopatra999

                Absolutely, though im starting to think they just had it in for me :)

                1. re: cleopatra999


                  It has been too long since I last went there for dinner to offer an informed opinion. In fact it may have been way back when the Corsi brothers from Vancouver [Quatro on Fourth, Gusto Corsi] were part, perhaps total, owners.

                  Sorrentino's can be problematic. I think there is downtown and then there is everything else and yes, it can deteriorate to your "typical Italian chain" depending upon who is cooking.

                  I live close to the Wolf Willow location but since I regularly eat downtown I am less inclined to go there.

                  Now they have opened another of their "cafe concept" spots in the basement of Edmonton Centre East so I more often than not will drop in there for a panini and a coffee and perhaps some frozen stuffed ravioli or tortellini to put in the freezer for an emergency "too tired to cook" dinner.

                  1. re: cleopatra999

                    Like cleopatra I've had better experiences at Il Portico than at Sorrentino's (granted, I haven't gone to the little Italy location but I have been to the downtown one three times in the last year).

                    What about someplace like the Manor Cafe? I've only been there for brunch - anyone know how the dinners are?

                    1. re: anonymoose

                      Dinners used to be really good - we'd eat there 2 or 3 times a year as a family. Last year (or the year before? Im drawing a blank), the prices went up, the quantity went down, and the quality became a bit more inconsistent. We stopped going. I don't know if there was a change in the kitchen or what, but hopefully they've managed to recapture there previous consistency.

                      Cafe de Ville has decent food in the same area as well. But when the OP says atmosphere really matters, and names places like Harvest Room and Hardware Grill, i don't think Manor Cafe (in an old house) or Cafe de Ville (kitschy paris bistro theme) would do the job. Just like why Sage, or Wild Ginger, probably wouldnt do the job either.

                      One place that is often forgotten is Gini's. Anyone been lately?

                      1. re: yen

                        Yeah, I thought I'd bring it up anyway, as people's perceptions of fancy can be different. Cafe de Ville or Manor Cafe may not be as fancy as the Hardware Grill but they certainly do have atmosphere!

                        Oh and speaking of atmosphere, what about the Hotel Selkirk in Fort Edmonton Park? I know they do weddings there, but I've only eaten there for a business lunch and a cocktail reception.

                        1. re: anonymoose

                          re: fancy - point well taken.

                          As for the Hotel Selkirk, I've only ever had drinks there. Can't speak to the food at all.

          2. In terms of spacing, im assuming you'd prefer everyone to be seated together?
            If so, i recommend the Blue Pear. Good food, good wine, and the most flexible space. My friend booked the whole restaurant for their wedding reception and it worked out well. Only issue? No fancy view - something really nice about the Harvest Room.

            Red Ox Inn (well reviewed on this site) uses banquettes only, so you'd have split tables. I'd probably avoid them.

            Hardware Grill has had up and down reviews lately, most people saying decent but not worth the money. But it;s a really nice space with an amazing wine list if you're looking to splash out for that. Other places that have spaces that would work really well include Characters. The food hasnt been reviewed in a while, but it was decent high end food, gorgeous space, but to me, the food didnt match the price. Madisons is just off the River Valley (a block down from the Mac), and i've had good experiences there. It's a nice space as well. But no one else ever mentions it when they talk food. Same with Unheardof, though the space isnt quite as good, and neither is the location.

            Copper Pot got 2 good, 2 bad reviews lately, but has the 2nd best view after Hotel Mac.

            Im sure someone will toss in the obligatory Jack's Grill, reference, but i'd pass on that personally.

            Lastly, don't forget summertime is festival season. Depending on the dates, some of these restaurants may book up early, depending on if location is central to whatever festival is going on (whyte avenue and the fringe, downtown and capital ex, for example).

            Hope that helps.

            1 Reply
            1. re: yen

              I would echo the Madison Grille in the Union Bank Inn. They have beautiful private rooms and great dining room. The food and chef (Blair Lebsack) are excellent. I believe the chef has been invited to one of Wolfgang Puck's restauarants to showcase new Alberta cuisine.

            2. You might want to inquire about Sorrentino's downtown. One of their two private rooms likely can accomodate 20 people. I am not sure if the large oval table can which would probably be the best.

              Give Christine a call [day manager] about crafting a menu unless you prefer to go the a la carte route. If working with Chef Sonny Song you will do well regardless of what others may think of their daily fare.

              8 Replies
              1. re: Bob Mac

                What is funny is that Sorrentino's was the only place I was not considering, as last summer I had a bad experience there (dead bugs in our salad, live ones buzzing around our heads and a completely unfazed waiter)! But that was at the Sherwood Park location and the photos of Downtown look beautiful. So maybe I will reconsider as the ambiance is very important to me as well as the food.

                1. re: mlsabo

                  Service is a continuing problem virtually everywhere in this Province including Sorrentino's

                  mlsabo, the ambience reminds me to a certain degree of the Pat Kuleto Italian restaurant that was off the lobby adjacent to Union Square in San Francisco that we had our last lunch at before heading to the airport the only time we visited San Fran. Can't believe it is over 10 years ago because we swore we would be back sooner.

                  Bryn may get a kick out of this because I recollect that I had some terrific roast duck served with a sauce with grappa infused cherries.

                  Also remember that it was a boiling hot day in June and their conditioning was on the fritz and all the wood fired ovens and rotisserie made it a hot and smokey lunch but I could not resist the duck.

                  1. re: Bob Mac

                    My Italian Meat Professor was going on about Grappa yesterday, so that sounds awesome, especially with the smokiness.

                    1. re: Bryn


                      Maybe it was this "thread" but my wife and I unexpectedly dropped into Sorrentino's downtown after a reception at the Mac.

                      I had the duck, she the veal scallopini.

                      Nice evening. Terrific albeit expensive bottle of Pio Cesare Barbera.

                      Great, friendly service but I used to be a regular and my wife...well she is just a much nicer person than I am so they look forward to talking with her [grin].

                      Both our meals were good but not outstanding. My duck was a little tough but the tart sauce was unlike your unfortunate experience, quite tart while still having enough fruit. The breast was a little tough and the confit, not quite the fall off the bone with enough fattiness to add to the flavour.

                      Same green beans and potatoe which each. Unfortunately the green beans were overcooked to the point of being much. No problem for my wife as she is allergic and would not have eaten them. I on the other hand like them especially the small haricot vert I used to get at Debaji's barely cooked. These reminded me of the dreadful "wax beans" mom used to cook out of a can. I know there were not those but too cooked without texture.

                      Mixed reaction overall.

                      Not the "hey, we have to get out more often" reaction we had prior to Xmas at...sorry Yen...Jack's Grill.

                      1. re: Bob Mac

                        Lol. No need to apologize - i knew it was coming. :)

                        Just to be clear (and fair), I like Peter Jackson - great guy - and i used to love his food. Im glad people still do, and that his business is successful. It just isnt the place i would choose to spend my money these days, that's all.

                2. re: Bob Mac

                  I am glad I am starting early, some places are already booked. I like the Hardware Grill a lot but they only take reservations two months in advance and I am not sure I want to take that chance with them, I prefer to book this quite soon. I am curious about the Unheardof restaurant as it actually has one of the highest set menu prices after the Harvest Room....

                  1. re: mlsabo

                    Unheardof gets very little mention here, but I think it is great. Or at least did -- I haven't been there in about 3 years, but have reservations for their "first Thursday of the month free wine night" in March. Their seafood bisque is the best soup I've ever had!

                    The main room wouldn't be suitable for 20 people, due to layout, but they do have an upstairs space that should hold that many (never seen it, but would assume it to be that large).

                    I think their 5 course price is now $75, but it is a lot of food, and very good quality. Value for money easily equal to, or better than, Blue Pear's $85 menu. It isn't as modern of a menu as some places - good old Alberta traditional big meat - but from looking at their website recently it looks like they might be moving forward a bit.

                    1. re: Dan G

                      Your assumptions serve you correctly :) The upstairs room is large enough to accomodate more than 20 people.

                3. I think the Century Grill has a private room that can hold 20. It is very nice and they will do a set menu for you if you wish. I have done several nice dinners for board meeting and celebrations.

                  I am also a big fan of the service at the Union Bank Inn and its restrauant Madison's Grill. We were there a few months ago and the attention to detail was wonderful.