What can you tell me about the food scene in Edmonton?
Wondering if any hounds can share insights on Edmonton. Are there lot's of farmer's markets, gourmet shops, ethnically diverse quality restaurants etc? I found some food & wine festivals online and wondered what else is happening. Is Edmonton a great city for Chowhounds?
I thought some other local Chowhounds might "chime" in before me but here is my wholly personal view. As with many other topics, Edmonton is a "solid" city, not necessarily and perhaps unfortunately "great" but solid.
There are a number of "farmers' markets", the big established ones being Strathcona and St. Albert (sorry, lumping in St. Albert as part of "greater" (?) Edmonton) and downtown now on 104th Street. To be candid, I do not frequently go to either. I used to frequent the downtown market when it was in its own quarters more to buy mushroom from Mo-Na than anything else and even when we lived on Strathcona Drive I rarely got up early enough to beat the crowds at the one on the southside. I head up to the small version at the Callingwood shopping centre on the occasional Wednesday or Sunday.I do envy a city like Vancouver when it comes to local produce on sale at the Granville Island or Lonsdale Quay locations, but their climate and coastal locale permits that.
For its size, there are a number of decent "foodie" if not gourmet shops, I always enjoy meandering through the aisles in the southside or downtown Italian Markets. Decent cheese selections there and elsewhere. I sometimes drop in on spec when I see what appears to be a food-oriented shop whether that be southeast asian in the "deep" (smile) south or Arabic off 134th Avenue.
I think the city pretty much has the ethnic market covered when it comes to restaurants along with its chain laden spots elsewhere. There are a number of good private spots like the Blue Pear, Red Ox Inn, Jack's Grill, Hardware Grill, Piccolino's, etc.
There are a number of decent blogs which cover the local food scene including Only Here For The Food and of course the old stand-by, now The Tomato edited by Mary Bailey.
If you are new to Edmonton, welcome. I came here in 1980 after spending most of my life in Montreal apart from time in Quebec City and three years in Halifax and it is now "home" for me.
re: Bob Mac
Just to add to Bob's post, I think that Edmonton has grown quite a bit food- wise in the last few years. Lots of new, independent restaurants have opened up recently and (to me anyway) the bigger farmers' markets seem to attract bigger and bigger crowds. A few new neighbourhood farmers' markets opened up in the last year or so. Food events like Indulgence sell out pretty quickly. And it seems like there is a new Edmonton-area based food blog every day. Too many for me to keep up with!
One thing I have found with the food scene in Edmonton is that there isn't really one reliable "area" for restaurants. Lots of the city's gems are stand-alone destinations in obscure strip malls which, upon first glance, actually look a little dodgy, and make it hard to plan on a nice evening, with a bottle of wine (or more?), without also having to factor in cab costs.
I used to live in Toronto and I loved that you could go to a nice restaurant, then wander out to a martini bar, and then end up at a decent pub, all in relatively close proximity. There aren't many neighbourhoods, from my experience anyway, where you could say the same thing here.
That said, there are some great finds, like Bob said, as to specialty shops and markets, and we have enjoyed some memorable meals here too. :)
I agree, some of our best food shops & restaurants are tucked away in different corners of the city and definitely take some time to discover.
I would say we have in the ballpark of 4-5 new full-service restaurants open each year (for recent examples I can think of the Marc, corso32, Zinc, Niche, Pampa) and a bunch of more casual lunch or take-out spots.
So when you compare to a city like Toronto, even adjusting for a per-capita basis, we don't quite have the same level of 'scene' they do.
I have lived here for 4 years now and there are still places that are on my list to try. Have only repeated a few favourite spots, normally 2-3 times a month my wife and I like to try somewhere new.
Since this is the biggest city in the area, I have never had a problem getting speciality ingredients for recipes, including ethnic.