Every year, the editorial team at WHERE Edmonton Magazine reviews the new restaurants that have opened in Edmonton and awards their pick for the Best New Restaurant. Here’s a look at their choices in 2017 for the overall best new restaurant, new casual, new bakery, and new menu categories!
Best New Restaurant
When one imagines a brewpub, usually a basic burger and fries with the hockey game on in the background comes to mind. But Christine Sandford—head chef at Biera, which is attached to Blind Enthusiasm Brewing—has elevated the menu to fine-dining heights. And with a beautiful open space featuring the brewery tank visible behind a glass wall, the restaurant offers a unique and memorable dining experience. Sandford has worked in the industry for over a dozen years, spending some time interning with Belgian chef Kobe Desramaults, and has put that training to use in crafting this upscale brewpub’s menu. Her menu made it a clear winner for our Best New Restaurant Award, as she uses innovative cooking techniques to expertly pair each beautifully plated dish with the brewery’s craft beer.
Diners here need to start with the soft, house-made sourdough bread that you can savour with a salted lard spread. The tender, charcoal-grilled ACME Pork Shoulder is almost upstaged by the accompanying beets, which have been dehydrated, rehydrated, and glazed to give them a pleasant fig-like texture. Finish off your meal with the Sourdough Ice Cream, which will hit that sweet spot.
2nd: The Butternut Tree
Chef Scott Downey’s return to Edmonton has led to a welcomed fine-dining establishment, which focuses on often underused and underappreciated Canadian ingredients. For several years Downey trained at Michelin-starred restaurants in New York and Denmark that have influenced the unique ways he showcases his food.
The highly seasonal and concise menu is frequently shifting, but you’re guaranteed an incredible dish no matter what you order. An early stand-out is the broccoli, which is served on cereal grains with chunks of succulent boar belly and a soft-boiled duck egg. With large, wall-length windows, the restaurant offers a gorgeous view of the Alberta Legislature and river valley. From the plating to the view, the Butternut Tree will impress any diner or client you bring with you to experience it.
Derived from the word “boondocks,” meaning off the beaten path, this restaurant is another honourable mention that focuses on the flavours and foods of the region. Chef Ryan Hotchkiss’ small 38-seater features a focused menu with sharing plates such as the tender Gnocchi Parisienne—with Brussels sprouts, kabocha squash, and breadcrumbs—and Beef Tartare, which gives a flavourful kick with pickled celery, mustard aioli, and horseradish.
Located in the central downtown area near Ice District, Bündok also serves up a delightful lunch. Must-tries (especially for the wintertime) include the soul-pleasing Parmigiano Soup with peas and bacon, and the crisp Fried Chicken Skin, seasoned with honey mustard and thyme.
Best New Casual
1st: OTTO Food & Drink
This neighbourhood pub dishes up great food and Alberta craft beer that’ll convince you to hang around. Sausages—crafted by Steven Furgiuele of Fuge Fine Meat—rule the menu here and they’re served up sharing-style with delicious sides. Try the Otto Dog, a smoked bratwurst spiced with caraway, garlic, and a smoked gouda, and the crispy Garlic Fries make for the perfect accompaniment.
2nd: ‘Ono Poke Co.
Chef Lawrence Hui was one of the first to bring this popular Hawaiian dish, poke—a raw fish salad—to the prairies of Edmonton. With a myriad of fresh flavours, each feature poke was crafted by Hui based on influences he picked up while touring Maui and learning from its chefs. Uncle Tom’s Surf Poke was named after one of those chefs, and it’s a combo of ahi tuna with fresh onion, cucumber, and sea asparagus with a spicy tobiko aioli.
3rd: Die Pie
With influences from East Indian and Asian cuisines, chefs Neil Royale and Karuna Goodall have crafted a vegan menu of pizzas that will please even the most obsessive of carnivores. The “Pulled Pork” pizza features a slow-cooked jackfruit that sits atop a Neapolitan-style crust with a chipotle aioli, cashew mozzarella, and pea shoots. The soups and salads here—including the savoury Kale Caesar with a sunflower parmesan, crispy chickpeas, and King Oyster bacon—are not to be skipped over.
Best New Bakery
1st: La Boule Patisserie & Bakery
Opened in late 2016, this mother- and daughter-run fine bakery serves up some elevated treats, from artisanal breads to delicate French treats. Their creative eclairs come in a range of flavours, from Passion Fruit to Pistachio—or if you’d prefer something savoury, the Pecorino, Mushroom & Herb Cruffin is equally delightful. Housed in a cute, Parisienne space, you’ll want to hang awhile with an excellently brewed latté.
2nd: Sugared & Spiced
Amy Nachtigall started her baking business with an innovative cake club that gave its members reasons to celebrate three times a year when a gloriously decorated Triple Chocolate or Lemon Raspberry Cake would be delivered to their door. Now with their new storefront, their treats like Girls’ Night In Cookies—chocolate, caramel, and raspberry dessert wine—can be enjoyed year-round.
3rd: Zwick’s Pretzels
Begun as a catering service, Zwick’s first storefront is a hit with savoury pretzel lovers. Pretzels can come freshly buttered—and then dipped in anything from a Dill & Onion Cream to a Chocolate Ganache—dusted with a savoury garlic powder, or covered with spicy scallions and Mozza cheese.
Best New Menu
1st: Parkallen Restaurant
A beloved restaurant in its neighbourhood for over 35 years, Parkallen has done an impressive job reimagining its identity and condensing its near-novel-length menu down into a diner-friendly size. Chef Joe Rustom selected some of his finest signature dishes, including classic Mediterranean and Lebanese foods such as the fresh fatouche and tabouli salads, while still serving customer favourites. Don’t worry—you can still order their thick-crust pizza, though their classic Margherita now comes with a welcome new ingredient: fresh basil. And their notorious wine cellar still offers an amazing selection for your meal!
2nd: Wildflower Grill
When they took over the restaurant earlier in the year, the new owners wanted to maintain the best aspects of Wildflower’s established philosophy, while making some innovative changes. Owner James Kim brought on Chef J.P. Dublado to further the restaurant’s mission of working with Canadian producers, while allowing him to add his Asian influence to the menu. The seasonal menu currently features Icelandic Cod with a tamarind fish broth, radish, and smoked tomato—a mouth-watering combo of flavours.
3rd: Buco Pizzeria + Vino Bar
Opened in 2015 and managed by the younger members of the Sorrentino’s Restaurant family, Buco’s new brunch menu adds delightful dishes to the city’s offerings. The delicious Sunny-Side-Up Pizzetta is topped with free-range eggs, pancetta bacon, smoked caciocavallo, and potato—and it pairs perfectly with one of their speciality brunch cocktails, such as the Peaches N Cream, with grappa, peach puree, and white tea.