This article by Twyla Campbell originally appeared in our Info Edmonton Fall/Winter Guide.
We may be feeling housebound during these restricted travel times, but we can still get a taste of the world right here in Edmonton—from the bold and bright flavours of Southeast Asia and the curries of Africa and India to some tasty but tongue-twisting dishes of Scandinavia. If you’re not hungry now, you will be once you’re done reading. Get out that map. It’s time to plan your route!
Out of the few remaining diners in Edmonton, the adults-only DaDeO is perhaps the most intriguing. With its shiny counter, chrome stools, and vintage Brunswick bowling alley paraphernalia lining the long narrow space, it’s not certain if you’ve entered a bowling alley or a malt shop. What is undeniable is the rock-solid, flavourful New Orleans-style food first served by the original owners in the early 90s and now by Karen Thiessen, a loyal customer who purchased the restaurant when it went up for sale in 2001. If you’re looking for crab cakes, gumbo, jambalaya, or po’boys slathered with herb aioli and stuffed to the brim with tiger shrimp, fried oysters, blackened chicken, or pulled pork—made from Thiessen’s mother’s own recipe—this is the place to get them. That herb aioli is reason alone to stop by, and if you’ve ever dipped DaDeO’s piping hot sweet potato fries into it, you’ll understand why. While the mini table-top jukeboxes are for decoration only, lively golden oldies from the overhead music system will have you bopping in your seat the whole meal through. Some things never change, and in the case of DaDeO, that’s a good thing. Diners still receive a complimentary tiny, fresh-baked biscuit with jalapeño jelly before the meal, Bananas Foster is still flambéed tableside, and drinks like the Disco Lemonade and the classic Louisiana Hurricane are still potent. Where’s the best seat in the house? Hard to say: I am a fan of the cozy Naugahyde booths with the Arborite-topped tables, but the place for people-watching is from the tables right by the window facing Whyte Avenue. Try and score one of those, if you can. 10548a Whyte Ave., 780-433-0930. dadeo.ca
The rice paper spring rolls on XO Bistro’s menu are made from a specific brand sourced directly from a supplier in Vietnam. If the restaurant runs out of this paper, the spring rolls come off the menu because, to owner Thuy Dinh, there is no substitute that works or tastes better. This is the type of attention to detail that sets XO Bistro apart from other restaurants. Another is the coffee menu. If you’ve been to Vietnam and discovered the wonder of egg coffee, you’ll be pleased to hear that XO Bistro has it (and other creamy concoctions) on their menu. An egg coffee is made of egg yolks whipped with vanilla-infused sugar and sweetened condensed milk that sits like a fluffy cloud on top of strong, hot coffee. It’s like having dessert and coffee at the same time! Some dishes have anglicized names to help explain the items to those unfamiliar with Vietnamese cuisine: bành xéo, a pancake stuffed with seafood, is called a Viet crepe taco; the bành mí is listed as a Viet sub; and bò lúc lắc is called shake-it beef cubes. Regardless of the wording, it’ll be the fantastic flavours that you remember most. Go for the chicken wings doused with a sweet and spicy fish sauce or the bun bo Hue, a spicy soup originally made for the royal family in the city of Hue, and order a piece of pandang cake, even if it’s to take home and eat later. This intricate and Instagrammable dessert tastes as beautiful as it looks. Two locations: 10236–103 Street, and 5021 Mullen Road. xobistrobar.com
It takes only one step inside this renovated heritage building to feel like you’ve wandered into someone’s home—and in a way, you have. The Naidoo family has been offering their South African-Indian food for over 25 years in Edmonton—first at Block 1912, followed by Narayanni’s which they opened in 2010. While the matriarch, Selva, is in the kitchen making the foods taught to her by her mother and grandmother, Daya (or “papa” to regulars) pads about the room enquiring about customers’ general well-being. He’s also in charge of making desserts, and you’ll want to save room; his desserts are legendary. Daughter Youmashni welcomes guests and explains what vegan, gluten-free foods, and tomato-based curries are hiding under the silver domes at the buffet. The Naidoos use high-quality ingredients including grass-fed proteins and vegetables sourced from farmers’ markets and local producers. Make sure to order roti, a freshly made flatbread, to help scoop up all the rice and saucy offerings. The food has a moderate degree of spice attributed to chilies, but it’s the kind of heat you crave the moment you finish eating. A dollop of the cooling yogurt condiment called raita and a chilled pistachio chai helps to temper the spice. The dishes at Narayanni’s follow the Ayurvedic food philosophy that revolves around balance through six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent. As their website states, “This is food made with care and seasoned with love.” It’s true, and apparent in every bite. 10131–81 Avenue. narayannis.com
At Three Vikings—a Scandinavian-themed pub reflecting the Danish heritage of one of the local owners—you will not only eat good food, but you’ll also learn words like frikadeller, smørrebrød, and raggmunk while you’re at it. Frikadeller is a seasoned, fried pork patty served with rødkål (red cabbage) and mashed potatoes. It may seem like a simple offering, but as with most simple dishes—and tasty food in general—what makes it great is the quality of ingredients. Take the pølse for example. This isn’t your everyday hot dog; this is a foot-long bison and pork Danish sausage made by the meat kings across the street at Meuwly’s that comes topped with a red pepper sauce, sweet pickles, and crispy onions on a Bon Ton Bakery bun. You’ll need a big appetite and two hands for this one. The Vikings’ support of small-scale producers and local food artisans is commendable, and the proof is in the pudding—or as it’s called here, risalamande, a sweet rice dish with saskatoon berries and almonds. For drinks, the restaurant features an impressive list that includes craft beer from around the world, as well as ciders, wine, mead, akavit, and a host of interesting non-alcoholic libations, too. If you’ve never tasted the culinary delights of Scandinavia, now is the time to try. Skål! 10713–124 Street. threevikings.ca